For Dheeraj Kumar, it was an exciting assignment that turned into a story of pure horror.
“We were planning to cover a newly-built polling station in Nilwaya where people haven’t voted since 1998,” the 37-year-old Doordarshan journalist, who survived the Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewadaon Tuesday morning, said.
Kumar was a part of a team, including cameraman Achyutananda Sahu and light assistant Mormukt Sharma, that the public broadcaster had sent to cover the upcoming assembly election in the state.
A resident Bihar’s Begusarai district, Kumar and his team were heading to Nilwaya about 5 km from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) camp at Sameli, when they came under the attack. Sahu and two policemen, sub-inspector Rudra Pratap and assistant sub-inspector Manglu, were killed in the ambush at about 11.20 am.
They were being accompanied by security personnel on half a dozen motorcycles, the most favoured vehicle to commute in the Maoist heartland where cars and vans are often known to be blown up in the scores of landmines planted by the rebels.
“At around 10.25 am, I saw the motorcycle which was heading our group, suddenly fall down. My cameraman, who was just behind the first motorcycle, was hit by a bullet and he fell down in front of my eyes. Our motorcycle also lost balance … Luckily, I fell in a ditch and crawled deeper,” Kumar recounted.
“For the next 45 minutes, it was pure horror. I kept lying in the ditch and all I heard was the sound of bullets. I felt that around 50 bullets whizzed past, over my head,” Kumar, who is still at Sameli camp and luckily sustained no injuries, said.
He said before going for the coverage in Sameli, he informed Dantewada’s superintendent of police Abhishek Pallav, who gave his nod and assured that security will be provided.
Pallav could not be reached as he rushed to the spot after the tragic incident.
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“The injured have been brought to Dantewada for treatment. He went to cover development work in that region when the ambush took place. Rest of things are under investigation,” special director general of police (Naxal operations) DM Awasthi said.