Vikash Sharma

Bhubaneswar: Naxal attacks are not new in the country but media on the target of the Red Rebels certainly is. The pin-point attack by the Naxals on one of the Doordarshan video journalists in the line of duty in Dantewada of Chhatisgarh along with two other policemen today morning sent shock waves across the country in general and media in particular. The brazen killing of the cameraman Achyutananda Sahu also silenced his village Ghusuramunda under Loisingha block in Bolangir district.

According to local residents, Achyutananda was brave and adventurous since his childhood days. He also served the Indian Army before taking up the job of a video journalist in 2013.

Sahu worked with the Indian Army and had taken voluntary retirement later. Subsequently, he studied cinematography at Biju Patnaik Film and Television Institute of Odisha in Cuttack and joined Doordarshan in 2013. Sahu got married two years back.

" It was only today that Achyutananda had shared his picture on social media. We are completely in a state of shock. We would be happy if he is accorded guard of honour as a martyr since he died on the line of duty," said a friend of Achyutananda.

"At around 1 pm we heard the news and all went numb. It is really unfortunate that the naxals resorted to such extremes and killed media personnel," said another relative.

Speaking about the attack, Dantewada SP Abhishek Pallava termed Naxals as cowards for shooting the Doordarshan cameraman from a point-blank range. “As the people of the local villages were fed up with the atrocities by the naxals, they were openly raising their voice against the rebels. For this reason, the naxals got aggrieved and attacked the media team today," said Pallava unable to control his tears.

Pallava further informed that nearly 200 to 250 naxals attacked the media and police team when they were on their way to a village which will be going to polls for the first time after a gap of 20 years. Moreover, the naxals were opposing development in the area as recently a road was constructed here and the villagers had refused to damage it.

"After killing the cameraman, the naxals lobbed grenades at other two reporters. Both of them would have been killed if our constables, who were martyred, had not counterattacked them. We have recovered a live grenade, live wires and two of our looted weapons. A road clearing party was to move through the place and the naxals wanted to conduct a Burkapal type attack here," Pallava added.

Dheeraj Kumar, the reporter who was accompanying Doordarshan cameraman Achyutananda said that the attack on media is a direct attack on democracy. "After getting information that a village in Chhattisgarh will participate in the election after 20 years, we arrived here to cover the story. Sahu was in a separate vehicle some 50 mts ahead when he was fired upon by the naxals. As shots were fired at us, we fell into a pit and the firing lasted for 45 minutes. Grenades were also lobbed at us," said Kumar.

Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore announced an ex-gratia of Rs 15 lakh for the next of the kin of Doordarshan cameraperson Achyutananda Sahu from Odisha who was martyred in the naxal attack.
DM Awasthi, Special DG, Anti-Naxal Operations informed that 8-10 IED have been recovered from the area and have been defused.

"Today's ambush was to target the road construction work in Dantewada's Aranpur. Naxals had warned against causing harm if the road construction work continued. More anti-Naxal operations will be conducted in the coming days. The attack in Dantewada is not related to upcoming elections. and this will not hamper polls," said Awasthi.