Raipur: For most part Sattar Ali betrays little emotion as he recounts a chilling tale of ambush and murder in Chhattisgarh three days ago. Even as he reminisces how Naxals descended upon the Congress convoy after tribal leader Mahendra Karma signalled surrender, tied his hands and then shot him at point blank range.
The 42-year-old Sattar Ali, a former Salwa Judum Commander and now a Congress leader, says, "They tied his hands and took him a distance away and shot him in his temple, I saw his body slowly slump." The stoicism is clearly an effort.
Mr Ali was a very close associate of Mr Karma, who was the architect of the anti-Naxal vigilante movement, the Salwa Judum. The Maoists have issued a four-page note confirming that he was one of their main targets when they attacked the convoy of 25-odd cars carrying the state's top Congress leaders after a rally on Saturday evening. (Read: What went wrong? A report from Ground Zero)
For Mr Ali himself, it was the second close shave in three years. This time, he says, he is alive because his mentor gave himself up.
The Maoists, he told NDTV, had been firing incessantly for almost two hours. The few cops accompanying the Congress contingent had run out of ammunition. Mr Karma, he says, then stood up and said, "Stop firing. This is Mahendra Karma."
The Naxals, Mr Ali recounts, shouted that they had found Mahendra Karma. They separated him from the group and shot him dead, he says.
The Naxals had all the advantage that day. Sattar Ali was travelling in the same car as Mr Karma as the two friends had done for years. "Karma was happy that the rally had gone well and we were discussing the next rally at Keshlur when there was huge explosion and firing began," he says, adding, "bullets were fired from both sides. Karma's security officer and mine as well weren't being able to get out. They were in the vehicle ahead of us, every time they would open the door there would be a volley of bullets." (Read: Katakam Sudershan, the Naxal leader allegedly behind the massacre)
The Congress leaders, he says, somehow managed to get out of cars and lay down on the ground shielded by the vehicles. "The cops accompanying us were helpless. The Maoists had taken away their guns. We were all forced to lie down," he said.
Through the two-hour mayhem, no help arrived, though policeman were waiting about two km away, Mr Ali alleges. (Read)