'Around 250 Naxals Fired Non-Stop for 45 Minutes': Doordarshan Crew Recounts Horrific Dantewada Attack
SP Abhishek Pallav who had accompanied the team was waiting a couple of kilometers away on the main road. Hearing the firing he and his security personnel rushed to the under construction road but by then one journalist and two policemen were dead.
Dantewada, Chhattisgarh: Shirt caked with mud, palms bruised and face dazed. That was the appearance of Doordarshan reporter Dheeraj Kumar and assistant Mormukut Sharma when CNN-News18 crew reached the Arhanpur-Nelabhay under construction road. Just a few minutes before News18 reached the spot, Dheeraj and Mormukut had seen cameraperson Sahu drop dead. Shot by Naxals at close range.
“We were going to shoot a poster by Naxals calling for election boycott. Sahu was 50 meters ahead on his foot. We were on a bike, riding pillion behind Chhattisgarh police personnel. Suddenly we heard a cracking sound and saw Sahu drop. I wasn't sure what had happened but my bike skidded and I fell in the ditch next to the road," said Deepak Kumar.
Mormukut Sharma said the bullet hit Sahu on his temple. “He was waiving at the camera indicating we are from press. We tried showing the DD Mike id. But every movement was greeted by more bullets."
SP Abhishek Pallav who had accompanied the team was waiting a couple of kilometers away on the main road. Hearing the firing he and his security personnel rushed to the under-construction road but by then one journalist and two policemen were dead. A distraught Pallav couldn't hold his tears, "If I had let the journalists go without security, there was risk of abduction. I don't know if I was the real target but the way they shouted anti-media slogans, looked like the target was the press," he said.
The survivors claimed at least 200-250 Naxals waited for the ambush. There were grenades strewn around the area. IEDs, wires and pressure mines were also seen. "They fired at us non-stop for 45 minutes," Deepak said.
The CNN-News18 team could also hear firing as combing operations continued. Two days ago a BJP worker had been attacked in Palanar, about 10 kilometers from Tuesday's scene of the crime.
The Doordarshan team was going to report on five election booths set up in the village of Neelabhaya. In the last 20 years, no one had voted in the nearby villages because of fear of backlash by Naxals. After Tuesday's incident, it looks unlikely that this year too the voting jinx will be broken.
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