Raipur, April 29: Maoist rebels today wreaked revenge on villagers involved in a government campaign against them, killing 15 but freeing unharmed 35 more they had abducted on Tuesday.
The rebels had intercepted the group of 50 participating in the Salwa Judum campaign outside their native Manikonta village, 550 km south of Raipur, where they had gone to pick up supplies to take back to the relief camp they were staying in.
Police said villagers stumbled upon 13 bodies with multiple wounds and throats slit in the forests in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district this morning, not very far from the Errabore camp the 50 had been staying in.
Two bodies were found on Thursday night. The victims had shifted to the camp 10 km from Manikonta ' which is 30 km north of the Konta block headquarters ' for fear of a Maoist backlash.
“The villagers discovered the bodies this morning and informed police. Five bodies were on the roadside while eight were thrown into the forest,” Bastar inspector-general M.W. Ansari said.
Police sources in Raipur said the remaining 35 had been freed somewhere near Dornpal relief camp, also in the same area. Twenty of them are women. “They are unharmed but in a state of shock. They are not able to tell where they were and how they were treated,” a policeman said.
Two of the bodies found today had pressure bombs planted below them. But alert cops spotted the bombs from a distance and gently tugged the bodies away with a long rope.
The discovery of the bodies came on a day chief minister Raman Singh was in Dantewada along with the entire state administration, chairing a meeting of the Bastar development authority.
Singh visited Manikonta in the afternoon, along with state home minister Ramvichar Netam and senior officials, and interacted with relatives of villagers who he said had “martyred” themselves for a cause.
But he sounded a note of warning for the Maoists. “The Salwa Judum campaign against the Maoists will continue till its logical end,” he said.
Singh observed a two-minute silence in memory of the villagers at the Bastar meeting. He said the state government would provide all assistance to the families of the victims.
This is the third civilian strike the Maoists have mounted in the last two months and the first since former Punjab police chief K.P.S. Gill joined as the state’s security adviser on April 18.
On February 28, the rebels blew up a vehicle near Konta, killing 32 villagers returning after an anti-Maoist campaign. On March 25, they targeted a jeepful of traders near Pakhanjore, mistaking them for policemen. Thirteen people died.