A dismembered arm lies adjacent to the shattered carcass of a bus on the Dantewada-Sukhma road in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district. The day after members of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) blew up a bus carrying about 50 Special Police Officers and civilians, police search parties combed the area for bodies, limbs and evidence.

“We found a human torso 300 metres from the blast,” said a police officer at the site, “Another body was found hanging from a Mahua tree.” In all, 31 persons perished in Monday's attack — 15 Koya Commandoes of the SPO wing of Chhattisgarh, one constable of the Sashatra Seema Bal paramilitary force and 15 civilians, including three women.

Sangeeta Nag had spent the morning in Dantewada, applying for a post in the Chhattisgarh Police, and was on her way back to Sukhma when she was killed in the blast. Shanti Kashyap, a young nurse posted at Mankapal village, perished as well.

On Tuesday, a dull grief replaced the frantic confusion of the day before. At the Sukhma Government Hospital, rescue workers hurriedly packed mangled corpses into wooden coffins, even as three shrouded bodies lay unclaimed. Retracting prior statements, police sources confirmed that only Sangeeta Nag had applied for a post in the Chhattisgarh Police — the remaining civilians were adivasis making their way along Chhattisgarh's poorly serviced roads.

According to the police, the powerful blast ripped through the front of the bus, propelling it a further 40 metres from the bomb crater. Almost all the passengers travelling in the front were killed, while those towards the rear suffered serious injuries. “I saw a man torn apart like a pair of old clothes,” said an eyewitness who rushed to the site, “As he lay dying, Chabi Lal, the bus driver, asked for water, but the liquid flowed right through him.”

Despite de-mining this stretch of road only four days ago, police sources expressed their inability to guard against such attacks. “No road in Dantewada is safe,” said an official, “Mines like these can be planted in as little as two hours. Intelligence gathered from villagers is the only way to prevent such tragedies.”

The fact that armed and uniformed special police officers were travelling on the roof of bus is thought to be the reason behind the blast. In a phone call with this correspondent, the South Bastar Regional Committee leader of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), Ravula Srinivas, stated the SPOs were the intended target of the attack and urged civilians not to travel in vehicles commandeered by the Security Forces. The public bus was travelling from Dantewada to Sukhma when it was stopped en route by SPOs returning from an overnight operation in the Bhusaras area.

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