NAGPUR, Maharashtra — A Doordarshan cameraman and two policemen were killed in a Maoist attack in Dantewada district in south Chhattisgarh on Tuesday.
The incident took place in Nilawaya area of Dantewada, Chhattisgarh's Director General of Police (Anti-Naxal Operations) D.M.Awasthi said in a press conference.
A three-member team of Doordarshan - reporter Dheeraj Kumar, Cameraman Achyutananda Sahu and light assistant Mormukta Sharma- had gone to the area along with a police team from Aranpur police station to work on some development related stories.
The Doordarshan team was moving along with the police team on motorcycles when it came under fire from the Maoists at around 11 am, according to the police.
The Maoists hurled grenades at this police team and then opened fire, the police said.
Sahu, police sub-inspector Rudra Pratap and axillary constable Mangalu were killed in this incident and constable Vishnu Netam and Auxiliary constable Rakesh Gautam sustained injuries, DGP Awasthi said.
Dantewada's Superintendent of Police claimed that more than 300 Maoists were present in the area when the incident took place and the plan was to carry out a big incident like Burkapal (where 25 CRPF men were killed in an attack by Maoists last year). The police offered no evidence to back this claim.
"At around 10.25 am, I saw the motorcycle which was heading our group, suddenly fall down. My cameraman, who was just behind the first motorcycle, was hit by a bullet and he fell down in front of my eyes. Our motorcycle also lost balance ," Kumar, who survived the attack, told Hindustan Times. "Luckily, I fell in a ditch and crawled deeper. For the next 45 minutes, it was pure horror. I kept lying in the ditch and all I heard was the sound of bullets. I felt that around 50 bullets whizzed past, over my head,"
This attack took place hardly 12 days before 18 assembly seats in Chhattisgarh's Maist insurgency-hit area are scheduled to go for the poll in the first phase of elections.
Bastar range inspector general of police Vivekananda Sinha, however, said that this attack was not related to the election.
"The place, where the attack took place, is a sensitive patch and the Maoists have been opposing the construction of roads in that area. This was an attack to stop the road construction," Sinha stated.
The Editors Guild of India issued a statement condemning the attack and killing of Sahu.
"The Editors Guild of India is saddened to learn of the death of a camera person of Doordarshan and two policemen after they were attacked by Maoist insurgents in Dantewada district of poll-bound Chhattisgarh. The Guild offers its condolences to the families of the deceased and urges the law enforcement agencies in the state to provide necessary security and protection to the media professionals particularly when they are on election coverage duty. Creating a safe environment for media professionals to discharge their duties will be critical for ensuring freedom of the press," the Guild said.