Hyderabad, Nov. 19: A decade-old deadly “mistake” revisited Andhra Pradesh as Naxalites admitted today that they blew up 14 people in a bus last night after taking them for policemen returning from an encounter site.
The blunder was the bloodiest since the People’s War Group set a train compartment on fire, killing 40 people, by mistake during an agitation for quotas for backward classes. Last night’s blast was also a throwback to a massacre in 1997 when the Naxalites “misread” the label on a jeep carrying a marriage party and mowed down 12 people.
After the landmine explosion in Warangal last night, a PWG leader has sent a letter to media organisations, conceding the mistake and saying that the attack was in retaliation to the encounter deaths of five activists on Sunday, 12 km from the blast site. The bus was blown up at Eturunagaram, a Naxalite stronghold, 200 km from Hyderabad and bordering Chhattisgarh.
The letter, attributed to the PWG’s provincial committee secretary Ramakrishna, said a formal announcement by the central committee is expected soon.
The bus carrying mostly tribals back from a weekly shandy had reached the blast spot half-an-hour after two others ferrying policemen had crossed the area.
Officials said the PWG had been tipped off by someone that policemen who took part in the encounter would use the public transport bus, instead of service vehicles, to escape retaliation on their way back.
The blast was triggered when the bus crossed a culvert in the forest. The dead included six women and two children.
Under the impact of the blast, the front portion of the bus was blown to pieces and mutilated bodies were strewn all around.
Chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu ruled out resumption of stalled peace talks with the PWG, saying the outfit must shun violence and join the mainstream.
“How can we talk to them' Despite our best efforts (to carry forward the dialogue process), they are resorting to violence and killing innocent people,” Naidu said.
Ruling out a fresh initiative to resume talks as “long as extremists wield their guns”, he said that though there were “no fake police encounters” in the state, the Naxalite attacks were continuing unabated.
The Naxalites had pulled out of the dialogue process after talks with the government to set the agenda failed in July this year.
Naidu said his government would seek additional assistance from the Centre and he would take up the matter with deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani.
“Though the Centre is periodically convening inter-state meetings on anti-Naxalite operations, the exercise is not yielding the desired results. There is a need for strengthening this co-ordination,” he said.
The Assembly today set aside its listed agenda and passed a unanimous resolution condemning the “dastardly act”.
Naidu announced a grant of Rs 3 lakh for relatives of the dead and Rs 50,000 for the disabled. As many as eight passengers have been permanently disabled. “The relatives of each of the dead will get a house site and also a government job,” the chief minister added.