Dantewada massacre: All accused walk free

A court in Dantewada has acquitted all 10 tribals accused in the April 2010 killing of 76 security personnel by Maoists in their biggest attack ever. Among those freed by the court is Kartam Joga, co-petitioner with activist Nandini Sundar and others in the Salwa Judum case in the Supreme Court.

The case collapsed after nearly all of the 43 prosecution witnesses turned hostile. The Chhattisgarh government plans to appeal the verdict, public prosecutor Kshitij Dubey said.

Asked if the police had failed in the probe, Dubey said, "The prosecution can't do much if witnesses turn hostile."

Seventy-five CRPF personnel and one state policeman were killed in an ambush by Maoists at dawn on April 6, 2010 at Taadmetla village of what was then Dantewada district (now Sukma). The E Rammohan inquiry committee had blamed the deaths on the failure of leadership. Police named 93 accused, but could arrest only 10. Those who walked with Kartam Joga are Poyam Ganga, Podiyam Hidma, Poyam Hidma, Kawasi Budra, Duro Joga, Warse Lakhma, Madkam Ganga, Rajesh Ganga and Madvi Dula. All 10 were charged with murder, criminal conspiracy, unlawful assembly, and under provisions of the Arms Act and Explosives Act.

Delivering the verdict, Additional Sessions Judge Anita Deharia said on Monday that the prosecution had been unable to provide evidence of guilt. Rights activists have argued that innocent tribals had been implicated in the case, and that it was impossible for anyone to witness the murders of so many people in the dark at the site of an intense gunbattle. Kartam Joga was widely alleged to have been 'punished' for protesting police excesses.

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