The Maoists who triggered the explosion that killed 15 policemen and their driver in Maharashtra's Gadchiroli on Wednesday were watching their plot unfold from nearby. The mechanism used to trigger the device was connected by a wire to the explosives that were placed under a culvert in an area where the road dips as it crosses a seasonal rivulet, police has told NDTV.
A top police officer told NDTV, "A command and control wire based trigger was used to set off the explosion as the vehicle carrying the policemen crossed the explosion site." This means the person who triggered the explosion would have been sitting some hundred metres away.
Given the magnitude of the explosion, the police suspect that around 30 kg of explosives was used in the blast. According to initial assessments, the police believe industrial explosives and gelatin sticks may have been used.
The police have also found that on April 30, a top Maoist leader, Milind Teltumbde, was present in the area and had held a 'Janata Durbar' or public meeting. Several local Maoists were given specific instructions on how to execute the conspiracy that had been hatched.
Milind Teltumbde has been listed as a wanted accused by the Pune police in the Elgar Parishad-Bhima Koregaon riots case. Teltumbde is in his early fifties and he is the secretary of the Maharashtra State Committee (MSC) of CPI (Maoist). He has remained underground for decades now and is originally from the neighbouring Chandrapur district.
When NDTV visited Dadapur village in Gadchiroli district where the Maoists had set ablaze 27 vehicles belonging to a construction company, before the blast it was found that several posters had been put up by the CPI (Maoist). While most homes in the village were locked and the village wore a desolate look, when NDTV enquires with villagers about the presence of Milind Teltumbde, some villagers, on the condition of anonymity, told NDTV that he has been spotted in the area in the last few days.
The main content in the posters put up by Maoists announced that they were protesting against the recent encounters which had caused casualties on the Maoist side and the major anti-Maoist operation last year in which nearly 40 Maoists were killed. But what the police say has caught their attention is the names of the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister in these posters. A top Maharashtra official told NDTV there was a lot of similarity in the language used in the poster and the material recovered in the Bhima Koregaon riots case probe.
The police investigation is now focusing on the lapses on the part of the police and local informers who passed specific information about the movement of the police team from Kurkheda police station to Paruda police station which had sought reinforcements after the Maoists had set fire to vehicles at Dadapur village. The probe is also focusing on the movement of the Maoists between April 30 and May 1 to which there are local witnesses. But with the suspects believed to have gone underground or fled to neighbouring Chhattisgarh after the attack, bringing the accused to face justice could take some time.