The guns at Markegaon have gone silent. Couple of days back, the AK-47s had rattled off hundreds of rounds, the self-loading rifles were in action and so were the age-old .303s, and other country-made weapons.
Maharashtra, in broad daylight, had witnessed its worst Naxal attack in decades at a village that borders Chhattisgarh. Fifteen policemen, who went to note details of an incident of sabotage, walked straight into a lethal booby trap.
The Naxals, systematically, chased them down and killed them one after another. HT tracked the episode through the eyes of an eight-year-old, who survived the two-and-a-half hour ordeal. He told the tale of four valiant policemen who were shot from point-blank range in his house.
The policemen had asked Lakku Satru (name changed to protect his identity) to lie on the mud-floor of his bamboo shack that he shares with his grandfather.
But Satru by then had witnessed what he describes as a ‘war’, with bullets whistling past his house. “They were shot.” “Bandook (Guns),” he acts out, still shivering.
The fear in Satru’s eyes is realistic when one takes stalk of the 10x10 bamboo house strewn with empty cartridges, unexploded hand grenades and blood stained floors.
A shoe from a pair of Goldstar shoes lies at the entrance of the house, about 100 metres from the tarmac, which probably means the policeman was dragged out. The camouflage cap, used by police in this part of the state, lies within the house. And a blood-soaked black cotton scarf stays tied to the wooden pole that supports the house.
“I was a few metres outside my house when I first heard a gun shot. My grandfather almost immediately pulled me inside,” said Satru.
“Four policemen ran in…I could still hear gunshots from all sides. They asked me and grandfather to lie on the ground, as each one went to one corner of the room and continued firing.
“The sound was deafening and I could not hear what the policemen were saying. But soon they stopped firing and then I saw groups of Naxals coming out of the nearby bushes. They kept firing till two of the policemen got injured. The Naxals then encircled my house,” he said, barely muttering now.
“They fired at the two policemen who were not injured on their legs and shoulders, and dragged them out. One was then tied to the wooden pole. The pole was very close to place I was asked to lie down. Then I heard a shot and blood spattered all over me. The policeman collapsed, and the Naxals started shouting slogans. In the commotion, I could not see the fourth policeman.”
Satru goes silent for a while when asked about his grandfather. “He too survived the attack. But police has taken him away.” Police suspect his grandfather aided the Naxals.
With no shelter, villagers of Markegaon take turns to give him food and a place to sleep.