M A I N   N E W S

Bodies of PCC chief, son found; Bastar toll 27

Raipur, May 26
Bullet-riddled bodies of the abducted Chhattisgarh Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel, his son and eight others were today found in Bastar, a day after the brazen Maoist strike on a Congress convoy that has sparked national outrage with leaders condemning it as an attack on democracy.

The bodies of Patel, his son Dinesh and eight others, mainly security personnel, were recovered from Jiram valley in Bastar division, police said. With this, death toll in Saturday's attack has risen to 27.

Top leaders, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and party vice president Rahul Gandhi, visited the poll-bound state in the wake of the deadly attack yesterday.

Asserting that the country will never bow before Naxalism, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, “We will pursue the perpetrators of this crime with urgency and I can assure the nation that the government is committed to bringing them to justice.

“Our leaders... have sacrificed their lives. However, our country will never bow down before Naxalism,” he said.

Sonia appreciated the bravery of the leaders after visiting the injured in hospital.

“This is a cowardly act on the part of Maoists. It is not an attack on the Congress or its leaders, but an attack on democratic values,” she said while expressing grief at the loss of lives.

Rahul, who arrived here in the wee hours, said, “It is not an attack on Congress. It is an attack on democracy. But, we'll not fear from such an attack and continue to move forward.”

Former union minister V C Shukla, badly injured in the attack, was airlifted to Medanta Hospital in Gurgaon from Raipur this morning.

Doctors said the condition of the 84-year-old veteran leader was critical. A number of political leaders, including PM, Sonia and L K Advani, visited the hospital. The former union minister underwent an operation yesterday in Jagdalpur hospital for removal of the three bullets he had received in the attack.

The Prime Minister announced Rs 5 lakh each as ex-gratia relief from the National Relief Fund for the families of those killed and Rs 50,000 each for those injured.

Senior Congress leader Mahendra Karma and ex-MLA Uday Mudliyar were among 27 persons killed while Shukla and 31 others were injured when heavily armed Maoists ambushed a convoy of party leaders inside a dense forest near the National Highway connecting Chhattisgarh with the Naxal-hit Bhadrachalam district in adjacent Andhra Pradesh.

Security has been stepped up at the Congress Bhawan in Raipur and other key areas in the state. The Centre has rushed more than 600 CRPF personnel, including elite CoBRA anti-Maoist commandos, to sanitise and take control of the Naxal attack site in Chhattisgarh.

Condemning the Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh where the party is in power, the BJP expressed concern over frequent targeting of political activists by the Naxals and called for an aggressive and unified strategy to fight the menace.

“It is shocking and most unfortunate. We condemn this outright,” senior party leader and leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj tweeted.

The CPI condemned the attack saying that violence and killings do not have a place in democracy.

“We firmly disapprove the violence and killings to gain political power in a democratic country,” CPI national secretary D Raja said.

Congress leaders alleged that the convoy was not provided enough security, a charge rejected by the BJP.

Ravi Shankar Prasad, BJP deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha, said over a dozen security personnel were killed in the attack. “They (the personnel) died saving them. It shows there was security cover,” he said.

Congress workers disrupted rail and road services during the day-long bandh called by the party in the state to press for the dismissal of the BJP government in the wake of the Maoist attack.

Congressmen stopped movement of trains in Raigarh, the home district of state Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel, who was killed in the attack. The agitating workers ransacked the PWD rest house of Kharsiya, the native place of Patel, police said. The Maoists had targeted opposition Congress’ ‘Parivartan Yatra’ which was launched on April 12 in the state where Assembly elections are due by year end. — PTI





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