Pradeep Pattanayak

February 6, 2004. The date always rings a bell at least with the family members of a brave constable who had fallen to the bullets of the Naxals amidst a series of attacks at seven places in the Koraput district on this day. 

Nineteen years have passed since the incident and much water has since flowed under the bridge and the situation has changed for the better. The fear of Red Rebels is no longer haunting the residents of villages adjacent to jungles, even in the dead of night. 

But Kamala Nayak, wife of deceased police constable Narasingha Nayak, is still mourning her husband’s death. On this particular day, she can’t help remembering the scenes of the entire incident. 

On the fateful night, Narasingha was asked to rush to the armoury. A dedicated cop, he obeyed the order and went to the armoury. 

Meanwhile, hundreds of armed Ultras swooped down on Kolab police camp, Kakirigumma, Laxmipur and Narayanpatna police stations and opened fire indiscriminately. They laid siege to the jail and treasury in Koraput and looted firearms and weapons over worth Rs 50 crore. They even decamped with the costly rifle of the Jeypore royal family. 

It was when the Ultras reached the armoury to loot it, they found Narasingha guarding it. An exchange of fire took place but Narasingha couldn't stand for long before the large army of Naxals. He took as many as 13 bullets in his chest and collapsed on the ground. 

“I came to know about the incident from his brother the next day morning. He laid down his life for the country. In my absence, my grandchildren too feel proud after hearing about their grandfather,” observed Kamala with tears welling up in her eyes. 

Recounting the incident, the then SI, Koraput, Hema Rao said, “After hearing the commotion, I stepped out of my house only to see Naxals in front of the town police station. At that time there were some policemen at the station. One of my friends was also there. They asked all of them to keep their hands up and robbed the police station of all the weapons.”

“I can’t forget what happened on that fateful night. Mere remembering the incident makes my hair stand on end. They attacked in a planned manner and took the entire Koraput under their control,” recounted Sitanath Pattanayak, a Koraput resident.  

Koraput has seen many encounters and gun fights between the security personnel and Naxals but the 2004 incident would perhaps take the cake.