Raipur/ New Delhi: (NVOnews.com) The Maoist attack at Darbha Ghati section on Jagdalpur-Sukma Highway in Jagdalpur district of Chhattisgarh on May 25 evening is very much different from their normal operation as they targeted some high profile faces of politicsâ€“â€“one a very prominent anti-Naxal Congress leader and another a very powerful Union minister in the then Indira Gandhi cabinet.
Former state Home Minister Mahendra Karma, who was the prime target was no ordinary man. He was the man behind the creation of Salwa Judum, an anti-Maoist vigilante groupâ€“â€“or Special Police Officers (SPOs)â€“â€“which was involved in the killing of many left extremists in the state. Karma himself was a tribal. He was also the likely Congress candidate for the post of chief minister.
Salwa Judum means Peace March or Purification Hunt in local Gondi language. The militia was raised in 2005-06 and it consists of local tribal youths who receives support and training from the Chhattisgarh state government.
However, on July 5, 2011, the Supreme Court of India declared the militia as illegal and unconstitutional. The Court directed the Chhattisgarh government to recover all the firearms given along with the ammunition and accessories. It also ordered the government to investigate all instances of alleged criminal activities of Salwa Judum.
The use of Salwa Judum was criticized for its violations of human rights, use of child soldiers and poorly trained uneducated youth for anti-Maoists campaign.
It was Karma who launched Jan Jagran Abhiyan in 1991, the first such anti-Maoists movement. It was mostly led by local traders and businessmen, but it did not last long.
Before the Supreme Court intervention Salwa Judum was accused of burning and evacuating large number of villages. In retaliatory attacks Maoists too carried out some devastating attacks against CRPF and Salwa Judum. Hundreds of people lost their lives in bloody clashes and ambushes in the last few years. The Maoists accused both the BJP and Congess of uprooting the tribals at the instance of MNCs, who have their eyes on rich mineral resources of the region. On November 8, 2012 attempt was made on the life of Karma.
The other man, who suffered serious injuries in the attack is former Union minister, Vidya Charan Shukla. He was Indiaâ€™s Information and Broadcasting Minister in the Indira Gandhi cabinet during Emergency, when he emerged as a very powerful minister. His association with the Gandhi-Nehru family is quite old as his father Ravi Shankar Shukla was the first chief minister of Madhya Pradesh.
His elder brother Shyama Charan Shukla also served as the chief minister of the then united Madhya Pradesh. However, Shuklas could not reach the same level of prominence again as during the 1970s.
V C Shuklaâ€™s political clout declined and he is now largely a forgotten man outside his own state. Many younger generation journalists are not aware of the political clout he used to enjoy in 1970s.
As the attack on the Congress convoy was reportedly carried by over 150 Maoists the security personnel of Karma was soon overpowered after they ran out of ammunition. Reports said that Shukla received three injuries and is said to be in critical condition.
A former Congress MLA Udya Mudaliyar was also among those killed. The whereabouts of the Chhattisgarh Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel and his son could not be known after the attack and the police believe that they have been abducted.