The banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) has released a statement expressed its condolences with the family of Doordarshan video journalist Achyutanand Sahu. He was killed along with three policemen in a Maoist ambush in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh on October 30. The Maoists claimed they did not know that journalists were accompanying the police party.
“Journalists are our friends not our enemies,” said the handwritten note, signed by Sainath, the secretary of the Darbha Divisional Committee of the Communist Party of India (Maoist). The note was dated October 31.
“We had planned an ambush for October 30 and our team had reached the ambush site,” the note said. “The ambush began as they saw the police approaching, but were unaware that the police was accompanied by a Doordarshan team.” Sainath asked journalists to avoid travelling with the police.
Nearly two weeks before the attack, the Maoists had issued another statement asking mediapersons covering the Assembly election – including the impact of the rebels’ call to boycott the polls – to travel to the “conflict areas” independently and fearlessly. “It is important to remind ourselves of the attempts made by the government to stop reporters from reaching sensitive conflict areas by terrorising them,” the statement said.
Dantewada Superintendent of Police Abhishek Pallav, however, dismissed the October 31 statement on Friday. “Why was the camera looted?” he asked, according to ANI. “Because it had recorded evidence of what happened in the first few minutes of targeted media ambush. Multiple bullet wounds and skull fractures on the martyred cameraman in no ways indicates it was by mistake.”
Videos recorded by Sahu’s colleague Mormukut Sharma surfaced on social media following the incident. In one video, Sharma, lying in a ditch, says that he might be killed in the attack. In another, shared on Twitter by journalist Aditya Raj Kaul, Sharma can be heard asking a police officer for water.
Journalist Dhiraj Kumar, the third member of the team from Doordarshan that was attacked, told PTI that he fell into a ditch when their motorcycle lost balance and Sharma also crawled towards him. “For the next 45 minutes, I just heard sounds of bullets and grenades. There were about 200 Maoists. Some grenades fell near us, but thank God they did not explode,” Kumar said.
Assembly elections will be held in Chhattisgarh on November 12 and November 20.