On a day the number of security personnel killed in an encounter in Sukma on Saturday climbed to three, the Chhattisgarh Police claimed on Sunday that over 10 Maoists were killed in the gunfight. The rebels, however, have said that more than three policemen have been killed and rejected claims that over ten rebels were gunned down by security forces.
Senior police officials said this was the first time coordinated forces of the CRPF and police penetrated the forests which are home to Maoist military battalion one, headed by rebel commander Hidma, and attacked them as part of an operation called ‘Prahaar’.
D M Awasthi, Special DG, Anti Naxal Operations, told The Indian Express, “Bade Kedewal and Tondamarka were considered the headquarters of the military battalion number one headed by Hidma. This is the first time that such a massive coordinated effort of troops was conducted this far into their area, and attacked them in their own den. At least twelve Maoists have been killed, and others have been injured. While we have recovered one body and an SLR, intelligence inputs suggest that the Maoists brought in four tractors to shift their dead and injured. This operation was coordinated by the S P Sukma, CRPF DIG and others on the ground.”
A spokesperson for the secretary of the CPI (Maoist)’s south Bastar division Vikas, however, rejected claims that more than ten Maoists were killed in the encounter. “More than 15,000 security personnel entered Tondamarka village and started troubling villagers. In the first round of the PLGA (People’s Liberation Guerilla Army) attack, two policemen were killed. In the evening, there was another exchange of fire and more policemen were killed, but the police are hiding this. Only one Maoist, Uika Lakku of the Jagargunda area committee, who has been wrongly identified by the police, has been killed, and his body taken away by the forces. We condemn suggestions that ten to fifteen of our comrades were killed,” the spokesperson said. Earlier, the police had identified the body as that of Korsa Mahesh, section commander of the battalion.
Senior officials, however, dismissed the Maoists’ claims as a desperate attempt to save face after suffering “heavy damages”.
“While this military battalion operates in south Sukma, it means a great deal for the Maoist movement at large. Most major Maoist attacks are carried out by it, such as the Tadmetla attacks in which 76 jawans were killed. We have sent the message that even the police can reach where they are and hit back,” Awasthi said.