Dantewada attack: Maoists say had no intention of targeting media, but warn press, election officials to stay away from conflict areas

The Communist Party of India (Maoist) on Friday released a statement on the Dantewada attack that killed a Doordarshan cameraman, saying that cameraman Achutyanand Sahu was killed after being caught in the ambush and that the Maoist organisation had "no intention of targeting the media".

Calling journalists their friends, the banned Maoist outfit also appealed to the journalists to not accompany the police in conflict zones, especially during the upcoming elections.

A cameraperson working with national broadcaster Doordarshan and two police officers were killed by Maoists in an attack in poll-bound Chhattisgarh on Tuesday. The crew was attacked by Maoists in the Nilavaya village in Aranpur area of the district.

In a letter written by Sainath, Darbha Divisional Committee, CPI (Maoist), the Left-Wing Extremist organisation accused the government forces of harassing villagers an staging fake encounters, while stating the deployment of additional forces ahead of the Assembly elections as the reason behind the attack.

The Maoist s said that five lakh members of armed forces and police, and one lakh Central Para Military Forces personnel have been posted in conflict zones, causing them (the Maoists) to protest.

"As a result, there are daily attacks on villages; villagers are killed in fake encounters, they are slapped with fake cases and fake surrenders are orchestrated. In this environment, work began on 1 October to build a road connecting Aranpur to Burgum. To protest this development, we ambushed a police unit on 30 October," said the letter.

Sainath expressed sorrow regarding the death of Sahu, stating that they never kill journalists on purpose. "As always, we ambushed the police unit as soon as it arrived at the conflict zone. At this time, the Doordarshan team was also riding with the policemen and were caught in the crossfire. Sahu's death is a matter of sorrow. We never kill journalists on purpose," he said.

The letter came after reports stated that the Doordarshan team was attacked by Maoists.

"Following the attack, in order to sully the name of CPI (Maoist), people ranging from the state's chief minister to members of police personnel told the media that the Doordarshan team was attacked by Maoists. Journalists are not our enemies, they are our friends," the letter says.

"We would like to appeal to journalists and people in other fields never to accompany policemen to conflict zones. Particularly during the upcoming polls, we warn election officials not to come to conflict zones with police escorts."

 Dantewada attack: Maoists say had no intention of targeting media, but warn press, election officials to stay away from conflict areas

Site of the Maoist attack on Doordarshan crew in Dantewada. Screenshot of video by 101 Reporters

The letter also appeals to the people to boycott the "fake" Chhattisgarh elections, asking the people to send the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) packing.

"Boycott the fake Chhattisgarh Assembly election. Send the anti-people, anti-national, imperialist, Brahminical Hindutva Sangh Parivar's BJP packing. As for members of other parties who come asking for votes, put them before a people's court. Escalate the civil war to counter the government's anti-revolutionary tactics and its Operation Samadhan," the letter added.

Dantewada SP Abhishek Pallav rejected the statement, stating that it was not a mistake.

"Why was the camera looted? Because it had recorded evidence of what happened in the first few minutes of the targeted media ambush. Multiple bullet wounds and skull fractures on the martyred cameraman in no ways indicate it was by mistake,” ANI quoted him as saying.

Three police personnel were also killed in the attack. The slain police personnel were identified as Mangal Ram and Rudra Pratap Singh. Assistant Constable Rakesh Kaushal who was injured in the attack, succumbed to his injuries on 31 October taking the toll of the attack to four. Another constable Vishnu Netam was also injured.

It is being said that the Doordarshan team, while shooting in the Nilavaya jungles, came across several pamphlets distributed by the Maoists, denouncing the upcoming Assembly elections and calling for a boycott.

Nilavaya is an area where government agencies were busy creating awareness about the voting process and democratic participation as elections are to be conducted here for the first time. The Maoists have painted messages calling for boycott of elections in the region and this attack could be a reinforcement of their stand with regard to voting rights.

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Updated Date: Nov 02, 2018 12:39:17 IST