Tuesday's bomb blast at Darbhaguda—about 30 kms from Konta, the southernmost tehsil in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district—was a disaster waiting to happen.
Hundreds of security personnel and participants in the state-sponsored ‘Salva Judum’ against the Naxalites have reportedly died in retaliatory strikes ever since the campaign began in June, 2005. Thousands have fled their villages to live in relief camps set up in south Bastar in the wake of rising Naxalite antagonism; large groups are ferried to and from these camps every other day to attend meetings to widen the Judum base.
One such meeting was held on Monday at Durnapal village on the Chhattisgarh-Andhra Pradesh border, and was attended by Judum supporters from Gidam block in Dantewada. Under the leadership of Mahendra Karma—the Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly and one of the Judum’s original protagonists—they marched 42 kms from Konta to Durnapal where the meeting was held amidst tight security on Monday.
While the security personnel and the Gidam block participants returned the same day, most of those from the Konta relief camp were supposed to travel on Tuesday. There was a demand made for a security cover, but apparently there was no ready security available; the Konta participants’ return was arranged finally in six tipper trucks. As the convoy reached Darbhaguda, it encountered a Naxalite blockade. The first truck passed the spot safely, but the Naxalites blasted a mine to ambush the second, killing 23 people on the spot and injuring 30 others. Three of those critically injured in the attack died today, taking the death toll to 26. Eight other people have been shifted to Khammam and are stated to be in critical condition.
Eyewitnesses whom The Indian Express spoke to at the General Hospital here today said the Naxalites numbered in the hundreds.
In the chaos, the Naxalites started capturing people from the four remaining trucks even as they were running for their lives. Nobody knows how many were abducted, but the injured tribals say they saw many people being herded away.
The survivors of the attack are very upset over about the failure to provide them security. ‘‘We had insisted that we would go only if the police went with us, but that didn’t happen,’’ said one of the injured.
The government admits to a lack of security. Chief Minister Raman Singh said that it was wrong to have taken the processionists in trucks and that henceforth all care would be taken to protect them.
Fissures are already surfacing in the unusual Congress-BJP alliance over the Judum campaign. While the CM and Karma speak in one voice, Deputy Leader of the Opposition Nanadkumar Patel has claimed that over 100 people died in the blasts.