Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Naxals ambush search party

Raghvendra Rao Posted online: Wednesday, Feb 10, 2010 at 0144 hrs

New Delhi : A 300-man Chhattisgarh Police party, dispatched to find 12 “missing” persons in order to produce them before the Supreme Court by February 15, was ambushed by the Naxalites early on Tuesday and had to make a tactical retreat. Special Police Officer (SPO) Hari Ram, who was acting as the police party’s guide, lost both his legs in a landmine explosion while another policeman sustained injuries.

Hearing a petition filed by Himanshu Kumar of the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram, the Supreme Court, on February 8, had ordered the Chhattisgarh government to produce before it 12 persons alleged to have gone missing after having filed petitions seeking a CBI probe into the deaths of 12 persons in an anti-Naxal operation in Dantewada district. The apex court had given the state government time till February 15 to produce the 12 petitioners.

Following the SC directive, the Chhattisgarh Police, on the night of February 8, sent a police party from the Injaram base camp in Dantewada. The personnel were headed towards Gachchanpalli via Gorkha. Seven of the 12 alleged missing persons are residents of Gachchanpalli, believed to be a Naxal hotbed.

At around 5 am on Tuesday, as it was about to enter Gorkha village, the police party first met with a landmine blast and then came under heavy fire from the Naxalites. SPO Hari Ram lost both his legs in the blast. “In fact, one of his legs could not be recovered,” Dantewada DIG Shiva Rama Prasad Kalluri said over phone. Another constable sustained severe injuries. The Naxalites, believed to be present in large numbers, fled when the police returned fire.

Deciding to wait till day-break, the party decided to suspend the operation and made a retreat. SPO Ram was first taken to a primary health centre in Konta and then airlifted in a chopper first to Jagdalpur and then to Raipur.

Chhattisgarh Police officials said the toll could have been much higher had the police team decided to use vehicles instead of going on foot.

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