Eight days after the killing of 76 CRPF jawans in Chintalnar, photographer SHAILENDRA PANDEY and KUNAL MAJUMDER meet the Maoists who planned it
FOUR DAYS after one of India’s most deadly Naxal attacks, we received an anonymous call. It was an invite from the Naxals. A flight to Raipur, a bus into the interiors of Dantewada, a phone-call directing us to a guest house, and then a long journey into invisible India.
It was the morning of April 14. We — TEHELKA and five other journalists — arrived at the edge of a forest. A 30-km walk began. Eight hours later, a surprise awaited us — the mastermind himself, Ramanna alias Ravula Srinivas, the chief planner of the Dantewada attack and secretary of the south Bastar regional committee of the CPI(Maoist). The son of farm labour in Andhra Pradesh, Ramanna, 44, joined the Radical Youth League after school. He migrated to Chhattisgarh 30 years ago, and hasn’t seen his family since. Accompanying him was Ganesh Ueike, 48, the party’s political strategist, a BSc from Osmania University, fluent in English.
Over the next 36 hours, many things would be revealed. Ecstatic at having killed the “largest number of security forces in one day”, Ramanna would contradict government claims in broken Hindi. It was the CRPF who fired first. There weren’t 1,000 Maoists; more like 300. The Naxals had spotted CRPF jawans carrying supplies between camps, and tracked them for three days till their own cadre reached a substantial number. At 5.20 am on April 6, two groups of Naxals surrounded the CRPF company, forcing them into a wide field adjacent to the road, where a third group of Naxals struck.by