Jhiram Ghati (Sukma), November 5
Deathly silence looms over Chhattisgarh’s Sukma Road that leads to Jhiram Ghati Shaheed Smarak, the site of the bloodiest ever naxal hit on a political convoy in Indian history.
It was here on May 25, 2013 that CPI (Maoist) cadres killed 29 Chhattisgarh Congress leaders and their security personnel, after planning the attack for months and hoodwinking the entire intelligence and security apparatus.
Pictures of slain men hang inside the memorial as grim reminders of the tragedy, while their loved ones await closure.
A decade since the attack, families have no answers. “It is almost as if no one killed them. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) probed the matter and filed a closure report terming the ambush as a naxal attack and naming few cadres of the outlawed CPI (Maoists). It was a political assassination. We are still awaiting an honest probe,” says Jitendra Mudaliyar, son of former Congress MLA Uday Mudaliyar, who was killed in the attack.
People in Maoist hit Bastar, which would vote on November 7 in the first phase, also demand justice, with most recalling the incident with tears in their eyes.
“The massacre happened under the BJP Government led by Raman Singh. But even after five years of Congress rule we have no answers,” Umashankar Shukla from Bastar tells The Tribune correspondent who travelled to Jhiram Ghati memorial in the heart of naxal hit Sukma.
The Memorial bears frames of Chhattisgarh Congress stalwarts killed in the attack including former Union Minister Vidya Charan Shukla, then State Unit Chief Nand Patel and his son Dinesh; then MLA Yogendra Sharma, former MLAs Uday Mudaliyar and Mahendra Karma. Pictures of some security personnel don’t even feature names. It is said that Karma, founder of the anti-naxal civilian force Salwa Judum, was the prime target of the attack. He took 50 bullets and was also axed. Curiously, one Congress leader, Konta MLA Kawasi Lakhma, escaped unhurt that day and was contesting his sixth election this year.
Kin of the deceased voice anguish over unanswered questions. “Why did the NIA not probe the role of Kawasi Lakhma properly?” some ask. There are others like sitting Dharsiwa MLA Anita Sharma, the wife of Yogendra Sharma killed in Jhiram Ghati attack, who have lost all hope. “The Congress has cut Anita’s ticket to favour former MP Chhaya Verma this time. So we neither got justice nor any due,” says Mahesh Sharma, Yogendra Sharma’s elder brother.
Late Mahendra Karma’s wife Devti, the sitting Dantewada MLA, also repeats the same story of endless wait for justice. “Everyone knows it was a political assassination but the conspiracy angle has never been probed,” she says.
Families of Jhiram Ghati attack victims cite NIA findings to note that Maoist cadres planned the attack for months, conducting dry runs at the carefully chosen spot, with local villagers even serving them food at the same spot where they lay in wait for the Congress convoy which was moving as part of the ongoing Parivartan yatra. “The convoy security was very low despite advance intelligence on naxal movement,” says Jitendra Mudaliyar adding that the Jhiram Ghati spot was carefully chosen for the massacre, for its desolateness and dense forest cover.
The Story So Far
An NIA charge sheet in 2014 named nine naxals for the attack but did not probe the conspiracy angle. After Congress came to power in Chhattisgarh in 2018, Jitendra Mudaliyar filed a fresh FIR in Bastar demanding a state government probe into the targeted killings. NIA opposed it but the high court allowed the state to go ahead. A judicial commission was then set up for probe. The investigation continues.
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