| The empty shells of bullets recovered from the spot. Telegraph picture
Raipur, Nov. 4: When Kankuram, a constable with the Chhattisgarh police, reached Pammed police station yesterday morning, he was wearing only one tiny piece of cloth on his body.
He was not embarrassed. He was glad to be alive.
For, he had just trekked hillocks and walked through dense forests, almost naked, to save his life after Maoists killed 11 of his colleagues in Bijapur on Friday evening.
Recounting the horror of the Maoist attack on the police party from all corners of Cherla-Pammed road near Tonguda in Bijapur district, Kankuram said: “As the rebels opened fire after trapping the jawans, I managed to slip into the forest. But I was shocked to find myself alone. Other jawans continued to struggle with the rebels.” By that time, most of the jawans were dead, he added.
Since it was a daunting task to get out of the difficult terrain, comprising dense forests controlled by the red army, the constable did not hesitate to remove his clothes to look like a tribal.
Kankuram was one of the five policemen who reported to Pammed police station yesterday morning — about 18 hours after the attack. Though the others, too, had a bitter experience in the forest, they managed to get away safely since they were together.
It was only after the five policemen returned that the senior police officers learnt that 11 and not 15 policemen had died in the ambush. The rebels had attacked a police party comprising 21 jawans.
While five returned the same evening, there was no information about 16 policemen. The officials, quoting the five jawans who had escaped, feared that 15 jawans had been killed while one went missing.
According to sources, most of the policemen fell prey to the guerrilla tactics of the Left radical group without firing a single shot in return when rebels started shooting, using sophisticated weapons.
Senior officials suspect that the young members of the red army, undergoing training in Bastar, carried out the operation.
The jawans, another official said, were not carrying wireless sets and hence could not contact the headquarters for reinforcement. This also prevented officers from finding out the exact number of casualty.
Meanwhile, state Congress president Charandas Mahant has castigated the government for what he called “serious negligence” that claimed the lives of 11 policemen.
“The 24-seater chopper hired by the government in the pretext of anti-Maoist operation is being used to ferry politicians of ruling party and senior officials,” Mahant alleged, adding that had the policemen (who were not on operation and were returning after escorting an official) used the chopper, the incident could have been averted.