On April 6, 2010, 76 security personnel––75 men from the Central Reserve Police Force and one state police official — were killed in a jungle in Dantewada district, Chhattisgarh. Nearly three years later, on January 7, 2013, the additional sessions judge of Dantewada, Anita Dahriya, acquitted all the 10 accused because of the lack of evidence.
The Chhattisgarh director general of police, Ramniwas, has reportedly said that the police would move high court. The state home minister, Nankiram Kanwar, surprised everyone when he “wondered how the police produced just 10 persons to face trial for killing 76 armed security personnel, including 75 from the para-military Central Reserve Police Force.” “Is it not wrong to produce just 10 people when apparently about 1,000-1,500 people were involved in the attack?” he is reported to have asked.
Instead of blaming the police, that too in front of the media, the home minister should have pondered several disturbing questions. Who is responsible for the fiasco? Why is it that the police could arrest only 10 people even though charges had been framed against 92? Apparently, the rest of the accused are still absconding. Ironically, even the 10 accused were let off by the court. The judgment confirms the charges that have been levelled repeatedly by human rights groups that the police had arrested innocent people from nearby villages as they had not been able to catch the Maoists who were responsible for the mayhem.
A few months ago, some relatives of the accused had approached the Supreme Court seeking their bail. They had complained that the accused had been kept in jail for too long without a trial. Though the apex court did not grant bail, it issued guidelines to the trial court to wind up the hearing within three months.
Interestingly, a day before his statement on the Dantewada acquittal, the media quoted the home minister, who blamed ‘the adverse position of stars for the rise in crime against women.’ In a way, he had washed his hands of the horrific gang-rapes of minor girls in a hostel of a school meant for tribals by a teacher and a member of the staff in Kanker district by stating that “we have no answer to this rising spate of crimes against women.”
The home minister’s utterances notwithstanding, the Dantewada court ruling came on the day 17 securitymen were killed in Latehar in neighbouring Jharkhand. What had made the carnage in Dantewada unprecedented is that never before in India’s history had 76 security personnel been killed in one ambush. Fifty-five CRPF jawans had been killed in March 2007 in Chhattisgarh in the same region. Neither insurgency-hit Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast — where fingers have long been pointed at foreign involvement — nor West Bengal during the hey day of Naxalism witnessed the death of so many security personnel in a single incident.
Triggering landmine blasts in the mineral-rich states in the heartland of India is not a big deal. The Maoists can easily get explosives, which are used for the purpose of mining but are smuggled out by vested interests. Besides, the rough terrain helps them target security personnel, who are not familiar with the region. They are often lured with the help of well-laid-out traps and ambushed. In the process, the Maoists decamp with the arms of security forces.
On each occasion, the pattern is more or less similar. Be it crimes against women or Maoist violence, it is too serious an issue to be left in the hands of irresponsible politicians like Kanwar who believe more in the stars than in what actually needs to be done to improve the situation on the ground.