Bullet-riddled bodies of abducted Chhattisgarh Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel, his son and eight others were today found in Bastar,a day after the brazen Maoist strike on a Congress convoy that has sparked national outrage with leaders condemning it as an attack on democracy.
The bodies of Patel, his son Dinesh and eight others, mainly security personnel, were recovered from Jiram valley in Bastar division, police said. With this, the toll in Saturday's attack has risen to 27.
Rattled by the incident in poll-bound Chhattisgarh, top leaders including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress Chief Sonia Gandhi and party Vice President Rahul Gandhi visited the state.
Asserting that the country will never bow before Naxalism, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was addressing party workers at Congress Bhavan here said, "We will pursue the perpetrators of this crime with urgency and I can assure the nation that the Government is committed to bringing them to justice."
"Our leaders... have sacrificed their lives. However, our country will never bow down before Naxalism," he said. Sonia appreciated the courage and bravery of the leaders after visiting the injured in hospital.
"This is a cowardly act on the part of Maoists. It is not an attack on Congress or its leaders, but an attack on democratic values," she said while expressing grief at the loss of lives.
Rahul, who arrived here in the wee hours, said, "It is not an attack on Congress. It is an attack on democracy. But, we'll not fear from such an attack and continue to move forward."
Former union minister V C Shukla, who was injured in the attack, was airlifted to Medanta Hospital in Gurgaon on Delhi's outskirts from Raipur early this morning.
Doctors said that the condition of 84-year-old Shukla was critical. A number of political leaders, including PM, Sonia and L K Advani visited the hospital. The former union minister yesterday underwent an operation in Jagdalpur hospital for removal of three bullets he had received in the attack.
The Prime Minister announced Rs 5 lakh each as ex-gratia relief from the National Relief Fund for families of those killed and Rs 50,000 each for those injured.
Senior Congress leader Mahendra Karma and ex-MLA Uday Mudliyar were among 27 killed while Shukla and 31 others were injured when heavily-armed Maoists ambushed a convoy of party leaders inside a dense forest near National Highway 202 connecting Chhattisgarh with Naxal-hit Bhadrachalam district in adjacent Andhra Pradesh.
Security has been stepped up at the Congress Bhavan in Raipur and other vital installations in the state. The Centre has rushed more than 600 CRPF personnel, including elite CoBRA anti-Maoist commandos, to sanitise and take control of the Naxal attack site in Chhattisgarh.
Shocked by the Naxal attack, President Pranab Mukherjee said the nation will neither be overawed nor intimidated by such actions.
Condemning the Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh where the party is in power, BJP expressed its concern over frequent targeting of political activist by Naxals and called for an aggressive, unified and non-partisan strategy to fight the menace.
"It is shocking and most unfortunate. We condemn this outright," senior party leader and leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj tweeted.
CPI condemned the attack saying that violence and killings do not have a place in democracy.
"We firmly disapprove the violence and killings to gain political power in a democratic country," CPI National Secretary D Raja said. Congress leaders alleged that the convoy was not provided enough security, a charge rejected by the BJP.
BJP deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha Ravi Shankar Prasad said over a dozen security personnel were killed in the attack. "They (the personnel) died saving them. It shows there was security cover," he said.
Congress workers disrupted rail and road services during the day-long bandh called by the party in the state to press for the dismissal of the BJP government in the wake of the Maoist attack.
Congressmen stopped movement of trains in Raigarh, the home district of state Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel, who was killed in the attack. The agitating workers also ransacked the PWD rest house of Kharsiya, the native place of Patel, police said.
The Maoists had targeted opposition Congress' Parivartan Yatra which was launched on April 12 in the state where Assembly elections are due by year end. The Prime Minister reviewed the security situation in Chhatisgarh with Chief Minister Raman Singh and officials of the state government and offered all possible help in dealing with the situation.
The visit of PM and Gandhi to Jagdalpur was cancelled due to security reasons, Congress sources said. The Prime Minister said, "Those who commit such dastardly crimes are working against the interests of peace and development in the area."
Singh and the Congress president visited the hospital where injured leaders were admitted.
Extending his heartfelt condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives in yesterday's incident of violence in Chhatisgarh, Singh asked the state administration to provide the best medical treatment to the injured.
"I appreciate the courage and bravery of the leaders who inspite of several adversities, took a step and went there," Gandhi.