Several senior Congress leaders were killed in the strike

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has sought the custody of surrendered Maoist leader G.V.K. Prasad to question him on last year’s attack in Chhattisgarh’s Darbha Valley , in which 31 people, including senior Congress leaders lost their lives.

The custody was sought after a special court set up in Bilaspur, to hear the cases related to the attack, instructed NIA officials to record Prasad’s statement on video within 30 days, in the presence of a magistrate and a forensic expert.

The move assumes significance since many questions regarding the circumstances and the motive of the attack remain unanswered, especially the killing of the State Congress president Nand Kumar Patel and his son, Dinesh Patel.

Wavering stand

The Maoists themselves have dilly-dallied on the attack.

A statement was released two days after the May 25, 2013 attack through Prasad alias Gudsa Usendi, spokesperson of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) from the Dandakaranya Special Zone Committee, that said Nand Kumar Patel was killed because of his “history of suppressing the people.”

But in October, the secretary of the zone committee and senior Maoist commander, Ravulu Srinivas, alias Ramanna, called killing of the Patels as “a big mistake.”

He further said that Dinesh Patel had “no record of anti-people activity.”

In a blog post after the attack, Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh raised questions about the attack. He said the Maoists “were not expecting Mahendra Karma” (Congress leader and founder of Salwa Judum, also killed in the attack) but were looking for Nand Kumar Patel. “Why were they looking for Nand Kumar Patel who was apparently not a supporter of Salwa Judum and who had been consistently opposing the police atrocities on tribal people in Bastar? Why did they kill him and his son?” he asked.

On Wednesday, Mr. Singh told The Hindu that he welcomed the NIA’s move to question Prasad. “Any effort that will bring out the truth in this case is welcome,” he said.

Asked whether the questions he raised in his blog still remained, he said he was unable to comment.

No role

In Hyderabad, Mr. Prasad, who surrendered this January, said he had no role in the attack.

“I was not personally involved in the attack; in fact, I was far away when the attack took place,” he said.

NIA sources said they had identified at least 100 Maoists who took part in the attack and were seeking the help of central forces to track them down in Odisha, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh.

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