The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Nine km near, yet 3 hours far
- Govt seeks more security force

Raipur/Delhi, March 16: Had the security personnel in Chhattisgarh taken any less than three hours to travel 9 km, one of the biggest Maoist massacres in the country could possibly have been averted, or its impact lessened at least, at Raniboldi in Dantewada about 520 km Southwest of Raipur.

If Chhattisgarh home minister Ramvichar Netam’s statement in the Assembly is to be believed, while the security personnel within the confines of the police outpost at Ranibodli had erred in tracing Naxalite movement in the area, their colleagues outside it did no less.

Jawans in Ranibodli, the home minister said, had informed the police control room and senior officials with 10 minutes of the first shot by the rebels at 2.30 am on Thursday.

But the reinforcement from Kotturu and Farsegarh — both about 9 km away from the spot — could reach the spot only after 6 am.

“The jawans were told to move with maximum precaution as the rebels had laid booby traps and mines in the area,” Netam said, adding that the rebels’ attack on security personnel and the ensuing gun battle further delayed the reinforcement in reaching the spot on time.

Though the details of the fight could not be ferreted out, a senior police officer said that the jawans only gave in and surrendered after their booty of ammunition exhausted.

The officer added that though a group of rebels had stormed into one portion of the outpost, the jawans on the other side battled with the rebels till 5 am. Some of the lives could have been saved had the reinforcement reached the battleground on time, he further said.

The Opposition Congress on Friday grilled the state government on the issue and said that under such circumstances, the rebels could attack any post and wreak havoc in the state in the future.

Meanwhile, Ranibodli and its adjoining areas slipped into a deafening silence — not just in mourning but in shock too — after the bloodbath that greeted them yesterday. Never before, the villagers said, had they seen 55 corpses, bruised and battered, lying in rows.

According to Dantewada collector K.R. Pishda, the bodies were handed over to the relatives after post-mortem this morning and the villagers cremated the victims by organising a mass funeral.

Meanwhile, peeved with the precisely executed Naxalite attack the Chhattisgarh government has raised its pitch for more reinforcement and fire power. Sources in the Union home ministry said the government has asked for close to 25 more battalions of paramilitary forces. The government has also asked for more material support from the Centre by way of Drones or unmanned aerial vehicles and helicopters to map the Naxalite movement.

However, intrigued at the massive demand, some observers believe the state government, led by security adviser K.P.S. Gill, is trying to cover up its tactical failure.

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