A year after a convoy of Congress leaders was ambushed in Chhattisgarh, Chief Minister Raman Singh has demanded an inquiry by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) into the political conspiracy surrounding the massacre. Twenty-seven people, including senior Congress leader VC Shukla, state Congress president Nandkumar Patel and his son, and Salwa Judum founder Mahendra Karma were killed in the attack. The only leader to escape the attack was former chief minister Ajit Jogi, who has been accused of being involved in the attack by his own partymen.
“From the beginning, charges of political conspiracy have been levelled. It is time for the truth to come out. The matter must be investigated properly, till we come to a conclusion,” Singh said.
Following the attack, the state intelligence revealed that they had prior intimation of an attack in Darbha. A letter dated 19 March 2013 released from the police station in Darbha said that around 100-150 Maoists are expected to gather and attack police stations in Byanar or Darbha. Another letter dated 10 April 2013 mentioned that the Maoists had formed three small teams to kill Mahendra Karma and former Salwa Judum leaders Ajay Singh and Vikram Mandavi. Their security personnel were also instructed to take special caution. That Jogi and other Congress leaders were not warned is hardly likely. In this case, charges have also been leveled against Konta MLA Lakhma Kwasi, who is a Jogi supporter.
Though present at Darbha, Kwasi was not harmed in the attack. Many Congress leaders now say that they had advised a change in the route but Kwasi insisted on getting to Darbha via the Jeeram valley, where the ambush took place. People now also question the changes made at the last moment to the itinerary. As per schedule, the meeting at Sukma, which was to be held on 22 May, was postponed to 25 May, and other meeting was added on the same day at Darbha. With these inexplicable changes, the talk of a political conspiracy theory gained currency. Two days later, on 27 May 2013, the investigation was handed over to the NIA.
Jogi says, “Those who use lies as weapons will never succeed. The whole episode should be investigated thoroughly.”
The NIA claims that it has not given a clean chit to any politician. It has arrested eight people and issued arrest warrants against 27 Maoists. The agency has concluded that nearly 100 Maoists were involved in the ambush, but has not been able to conclude whether politicians were involved. This is being seen as an indication of sorts that under new bosses, the agency may extend its investigation to another level. Several eyewitnesses are waiting for their testimonies to be recorded. One of them, Daulat Rohra, who was VC Shukla’s spokesperson, told TEHELKA that he received a phone call from the NIA on 26 June with regards to recording his statement, but has not received any intimation since. Daulat was with Shukla at the time of attack in his vehicle.
NIA Inspector General Sanjeev Singh says, “Our investigation is still ongoing. When the investigation is over, we will file a chargesheet in the court. At the moment, we have not ruled out any situation. We still have to examine several points.”
On the other hand, the NIA has asked police superintendents to catch the Maoists involved in the attack. It has handed over the names, addresses and other vital information regarding those involved in the attack. Two Maoists in Bastar — Kosa, 38, and Deva Kudyami, 35 — have been arrested. The police arrested these two from Darbha Chandameta village. Apart from the duo, the police has also arrested Jyoti alias Pramila, Banjami Sanna, Aata Markam and Mukka Maravi. The NIA is trying to determine where the instructions to kill Congress leaders came from. All options are open before NIA. If links of arrested Naxalites can be traced back to some political person, then Chhattisgarh politics will not be the same again.