At least 10 Maoists, including six women were killed in an encounter with a joint team of Greyhounds and special police personnel Friday near Pujarikanker in Chhattisgarh, 30 km from Venkatapuram in Telangana’s Bhadradri Kothagudem district. A Greyhound Constable Sushil Kumar, who was part of the lead team, was injured in the encounter and succumbed while being airlifted to a hospital. Two other injured Greyhounds were also airlifted for treatment.
By Friday evening, two bodies of maoists killed in the encounter were brought to the government hospital. They were identified as woman Maoist leader Pedda Budri (25) and Sanjeev (35). All the Maoists are suspected to be from the Telangana State Committee and police sources said combing operations started after a tip-off about a big meeting of Maoists somewhere along the Chhattisgarh-Telangana border.
An FIR has been registered at Cherla Police Station in Kothagudem district. “We have registered an FIR stating that a joint team of Telangana and Chhattisgarh personnel was patrolling in the area when they were fired upon by Maoists. In self-defence, the team fired back in which 10 Maoists—four men and six women died,’’ an official at the police station said.
Police suspect that those present at the meeting included Hari Bhushan, Secretary and a senior member of the Telangana State Committee, and Bade Chokka Rao alias Damodar, another senior leader in charge of Karimnagar-Khammam-Warangal in Telangana. Damodar had escaped an encounter in September 2015 in Warangal.
Hari Bhushan and Damodar are both in the NIA watchlist, and are massive cogs in the Maoist machinery particularly in the Telangana-Chhattisgarh region. Damodar is considered to be in charge of the Telangana region, and sources said he was considered for elevation to the Central Committee of the Maoists. Hari Bushan now primarily operates from the forests of Sukma and Bijapur, bordering Telangana, of which he is the state secretary.
The encounter started at around 4 pm Thursday when the Greyhounds of Telangana, assisted by special police personnel from Chhattisgarh, started the combing operation. Sources said the combing team came across at least 50-100 Maoists in a forest near Pujarikanker, and asked them to surrender but the Maoists opened fire. “The place where the exchange of fire took place in the morning is six to seven kilometres away from the Telangana border, and the firing lasted for over an hour,” said P Sundar Raj, DIG (Dantewada) range.
Officials found two AK-47 rifles among other weapons from the encounter spot and assume that there may be top leaders among the dead who are yet to be identified. The bodies are being airlifted to Bhadrachalam Government Hospital for postmortem and identification. Following information about the Maoist meeting, a massive search operation was launched with forces drawn from neighbouring states, during which Maoists were spotted in an area 30 km from Bhadradri Kothagudem district of Telangana. The encounter took place in the forest between Venkatapuram, Cherla and Pujarikanker.
Sources said that while dozens of Maoists opened heavy fire at the security forces and kept them pinned down, the rest escaped from the spot towards Chhattisgarh as they were hemmed in by the Godavari river on Telangana side. Greyhounds Constable Sushil Kumar, who was in the lead team, sustained serious injuries in the encounter. His colleagues carried him to a nearby place where a chopper was summoned to airlift him to hospital but he succumbed. He had joined police in undivided Andhra Pradesh in 2004 and joined the anti-Naxalite unit, Greyhounds in 2014.
Meanwhile, revolutionary writer and poet P Varavara Rao has condemned the killing of the Maoists. “It is not an encounter. Police caught hold of these Maoists, tortured and shot them dead. An inquiry should be ordered,” he said.