A day after the killing of 35 bus passengers by Naxalites, Chhattisgarh was on high alert as security forces on Tuesday intensified combing operations in the affected Dantewada region where many panic-stricken bus operators were refusing to ply their vehicles.
Amidst heart-rending scenes, near and dear ones of the victims, who included 14 special police officers, carried out the last rites of the bodies, some of whom were badly mutilated.
Chhattisgarh Governor Shekhar Dutt, Chief Minister Raman Singh, Home Minister Nankiram Kanwar and Director General of Police Viswa Ranjan visited Sukma, 450 kms from Raipur, and the place where the Maoists triggered a landmine to blow up the bus. They paid their last respect to the victims.
The state, where 75 CRPF men and a local policeman were killed in a Naxal attack on April 6, was on top alert in the wake of the fresh killings and a call by the ultras for a two-day bandh in Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand and West Bengal from today to protest the operations against them by the security forces, officials said.
Paramilitary and state police forces intensified combing operations in the Dantewada region, which had been facing the brunt of the Naxal strikes, they said.
The Centre had yesterday asked the five states to tighten security and take maximum precautions during the bandh. As part of the precautionary measures, the railways stepped up vigil across its network and cancelled some trains in addition to imposing speed restrictions for night travel.
Of the 35 killed, 21 were civilians. The condition of five among the 27 injured is critical, the officials said.
With the Naxals having earlier warned private vehicles against accommodating security forces, panic-stricken private bus operators in the area were today refusing to take out their vehicles.
Meanwhile, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram made a fresh officer of talks with the Naxals if they "suspend" violence even for 72 hours.
The Chhattisgarh Chief Minister told reporters in Sukma that the Naxalites killed the bus passengers in retaliation to the operations launched by the security forces against them.