Two days after massacring seven poll officials in Bastar in Chhattisgarh, the outlawed CPI(Maoist) on Monday issued a public apology, saying the killings were a case of “mistaken identity”.
In a two-page statement e-mailed to HT, Maoist spokesperson Gudsa Usendi regretted the killing of the poll officials — six schoolteachers and one from the forest department — and expressed the rebel outfit’s “sympathy” to their families.
The seven polling officials and five CRPF personnel were among 14 killed as Maoists struck twice in less than an hour in Bastar on Saturday. The attacks came two days after peaceful elections in the region witnessed 58% turnout despite the CPI(Maoist) call for poll boycott.
In the first attack, the Maoists triggered a landmine blast to target a passenger bus, carrying 12 poll staff, at Ketulnar in Bijapur district and sprayed bullets on it.
Read: Maoists kill 14 in two attacks in Chhattisgarh
“Our People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) command that led the offensive misunderstood, assuming the poll staff as the police (in the bus)”, said the statement.
“It appears the big mistake was due to the misconstrued assessment from our side,” the release said. Usendi said police strategies such as changing of vehicles, use of civil transport in the strife-torn region were to blame for the error.
“They (poll officials) were not our enemy. We will investigate how this lapse occurred, at what level, and take steps to prevent such incidents.”
In the second attack, another landmine blast blew up an ambulance carrying CRPF jawans on NH-30 near Darbha in Jagdalpur district, 350km south of capital Raipur.
The Maoist statement evoked a strong reaction from the Chhattisgarh Police. “Can such apologies bring back lives? They are cowards who first perpetuate senseless acts of violence and kill innocent people only to later admit their blunder,” RK Vij, additional director general of police (anti-Maoist operation), said.
Ahead of the state assembly elections last year, Ramanna, secretary of the Maoists’ Dandakarnya special zonal committee, had issued a similar apology for killing state Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel and his son Dinesh.
Patel and his son were among the 27 people killed in the Maoist ambush at Jhiram valley in Darbha on May 25 last year. The attack eliminated a chunk of the state Congress leadership including Mahendra Karma, architect of the (now disbanded) anti-Naxal vigilante movement Salwa Judum.
Senior Congress leader Vidya Charan Shukla, who was injured in the Darbha ambush, died later at a Gurgaon hospital.