Is CPI the next target in Bastar?

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By Anil Mishra

Living in fear Joga’s family insists he is not a Naxalite
Living in fear Joga’s family insists he is not a Naxalite Photo:  Anil Mishra

ON 13 SEPTEMBER, Katram Joga waved his son Mahendra goodbye as he left for work at the panchayat office in Konta. He was carrying files containing a proposal to restart schools in South Bastar. A few hours later, Mahendra heard that his father had been arrested and jailed for being a Naxal.

The CPI worker’s arrest assumes significance because he is one of the main petitioners in the Supreme Court against Salwa Judum. In Dantewada, nine CPI members have been arrested recently. While Joga is accused in the Naxal ambush of 76 CRPF jawans on 6 April in Tarmetla, two others (current and former CPI district panchayat members Sudru Kunjam and Lalaram Kunjam respectively) were arrested in connection with the Naxal attack in July on Congress leader Awdesh Gautam’s house.

In the Tarmetla case, judge Konta Amrit Kerketta has declared 82 people identified by 25 eyewitnesses have been declared absconding. But there is doubt about their authenticity. Alarmingly, the chargesheet, of which TEHELKA has a copy, shows that the statements were recorded four months after the incident.

According to the statements, the witnesses were busy grazing cattle in Tarmetla when the Naxal ambush happened. When TEHELKA spoke to two of the eyewitnesses, they denied having talked to the police.

The police’s case against Joga is based on their testimonies and five others. Joga’s colleagues dispute the police version. They allege that Joga had become a target of the police after he filed a PIL against the Salwa Judum.

CPI National Secretary D Raja told TEHELKA that Dantewada SSP SRP Kalluri is trying to destroy the party’s support base. He has asked Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh to intervene.

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