Raipur: The 2013 Naxal attack in Chhattisgarh, which wiped out almost the state’s entire Congress leadership, has again become the flashpoint between the ruling Congress and opposition BJP.
The Congress has accused the then BJP government of being involved in the incident, while the opposition leaders said the former is “deceiving” the family members of its party leaders killed in the attack and trying to “exploit” the issue politically.
The Naxal attack that took place in Bastar’s Jheeram Ghati had killed as many as 29 people, including the then state Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel, his son Dinesh, senior party leader Mahendra Karma and former Union minister V.C. Shukla.
The Congress leaders were returning from the party’s Parivartan Rally when their convoy was ambushed by around 250 Naxals. Several security personnel were among those killed.
The case was handed over to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) the same year and the agency had filed the first charge sheet in the case in 2014 against 34 Naxals.
But after coming to power in the state in 2018, the Congress government had formed a 10-member special investigation team (SIT) to probe the attack.
The Congress has been maintaining that the probe by the NIA had failed to unearth the conspiracy behind the attack.
On Monday, state urban development minister Shiv Kumar Dahariya alleged the Jheeram Ghati attack was a BJP “conspiracy” and that the party had given a contract for the killing of Congress leaders.
Several BJP leaders, including former chief minister Raman Singh, dismissed the allegations and questioned the formation of the SIT to probe the attack.
The Congress, however, said the NIA isn’t trust-worthy as the agency is functioning under the BJP-led central government.
‘Is SIT above NIA?’
According to Raman Singh, the formation of an SIT to investigate the Naxal attack is “beyond my comprehension”. “Is the state’s SIT above the country’s highest investigating agency, NIA,” asked Singh.
“The NIA Act was brought in by the UPA government. It is an agency specially created to investigate incidents of terrorism, Naxalism and extremism in the country,” he said in a statement issued Tuesday.
Singh further said the BJP government had formed a judicial commission, headed by a sitting judge, to investigate the attack. The panel had even issued advertisements in newspapers on several occasions, asking for information and evidence from people, he said.
“Despite this, it is beyond understanding about the formation of an SIT to investigate the incident after more than 7 years,” Singh said.
Talking to ThePrint, BJP state president Vishnudev Sai said the ruling party is “politically exploiting” the Naxal attack.
“The chief minister (Bhupesh Baghel) as well as several of his party leaders have been saying that they have evidence and information related to the Naxal attack, but neither have they presented it before the people, nor have they showed any kind of seriousness to present it before the NIA.
“It is quite clear that either they have nothing to present and they are just politically exploiting the Naxal attack… The Congress government has been ruling the state for more than 18 months. Why is it that they have still not submitted the evidence to the investigating agency,” Sai asked.
The BJP chief further said the Congress is “deceiving” the family members of its party’s slain leaders. “Had the chief minister been serious, then he should have helped in the investigation by presenting all the documents to the NIA. But it seems the Congress wants to keep the issue simmering only to indulge in more politics.”
‘NIA can’t be trusted’
Former BJP state president Vikram Usandi also targeted the Congress for setting up an SIT to probe the attack.
“NIA was constituted by their UPA-led government and the then CM of state, Raman Singh, had granted permission for the NIA investigation…,” he said.
The ruling Congress, meanwhile, said the NIA couldn’t be trusted as it is functioning under the BJP-led central government.
“There are apprehensions regarding results of any investigation by the NIA working under the Centre. We cannot confidently say that the families of our leaders killed in the attack will get justice (by such a probe). This is the reason why the current state government has formed the SIT,” said Congress MLA Vinay Bhagat.
“A serious doubt on the NIA’s investigation comes from the fact that despite the SIT’s repeated requests, they have not shared any documents (related to the attack) so far,” he claimed.