If the Special Police Officers had not forced their way into and atop the private bus attacked by Maoists in Dantewada on Monday, and listened to driver Chabilal instead, many innocent lives could have been saved.
Chhabilal, who was admitted to a government hospital in a critical condition, later succumbed to his injuries.
But he spoke to Hindustan Times before his death at the hospital. He said he had urged the police personnel not to board the bus as it was already packed. But securitymen were adamant and shoved their way in. Some even sat atop the bus because there was no space inside, he said.
According to Chhabilal, Special Police Officer Bhusaram stopped the bus and asked all the security personnel to board it. He said at least 10-15 police personnel sat atop the bus.
SPO Ismail Khan, one of the survivors, admitted, “It was a big mistake and led to the loss of several innocent lives. This could have been avoided.”
Khan, who fought against the Maoists for an hour, was instrumental in shifting and saving the lives of many SPOs at the spot by halting passing vehicles and telling the drivers to take them to the nearest hospital.
Sukma Inspector Chandrakar was returning to his home with several other security personnel in two trucks and a Commander jeep. When the trucks reached Bhusaras village, they got off to board the bus.
Since there was not enough space inside, some of cops sat on the roof. But the bus had barely moved 20 km when they heard a loud explosion. And within seconds, the bus was reduced to a mangled heap. But that was not all. Within moments of the blast, Maoists, who were in hiding in the nearby forest, started firing, said a survivor who did not want to be named.
Pardesi Ram from Adhikari Ras village survived and is now being treated at a local hospital. But the ambush has left him mentally scarred, just like other survivors, many of who were too shocked to talk to HT on Tuesday.