Four Naxalites and a policeman were among seven people killed in an encounter between the rebels and a district police team in the forests of Gadchiroli on Friday.
Two civilians were also killed in the encounter,which took place near Sindesur village,making it the second instance of collateral damage in the districts history of police-Naxal engagement. In 2006,a woman was killed in crossfire at Godalwahi village.
While one of the civilians was killed by a bullet,the reason for the others death is not known yet as there were apparently no injury marks on his body,according to DIG (Gadchiroli range) Ravindra Kadam.
Initially,the police said the exchange occurred when Naxals were holding a meeting with villagers. Later,a press note said the incident occurred during an anti-Naxal operation inside the forest.
Our men spotted the Naxals in a meeting with the villagers around noon. As they were taking position,a Naxal saw them and opened fire. Our men retaliated. In the exchange of fire that continued for about 15-20 minutes,four Naxals,two civilians and a police commando were killed, DIG Kadam told The Indian Express.
Later,SP Suvez Haq said the villagers told him that a few of them were inside the forest where the Naxals were moving. Two of them were sent by the Naxals to fetch water. The Naxals insisted that the villagers should remain there till they leave. At that time the police reached the place, Haq said. Our men asked the villagers to move away from the Naxals but the rebels used them as shield. Firing ensued during the chase when unfortunately one of our men and two civilians got hit.
Haq said the civilian who died of a bullet injury was in fact a deaf and dumb man. It is a matter of investigation if he died due to our bullet or theirs. The other man may have died of heart attack,but that will also be established later by doctors, the SP said.
The slain civilians were identified as Sukhdev Gawde,21,and Sukhdeo Hidko,22,while the policeman who was killed was identified as Govinda Farkade,41,a resident of Jairampur village. A SLR and a country-made rifle were recovered from the spot.
The slain Naxalites have been identified as Pandu Gawade,38,and three women cadres Chanpa Tursam,21,Vasanti Masru,17,and Sangita Atram,25. They were members of the Dhanora local organisational squad\. Pandu,incidentally,is the husband of Indrakka,a divisional committee member of Sough Gadchiroli division. He was arrested in 2003 at Rajnandgaon in Chhattisgarh. After coming out of jail in 2008,he rejoined the rebels and married Indrakka.
This is the third incident this year of police turning the tables on the Naxalites in Gadchiroli. On January 20,they had killed seven rebels at Govindgaon village and on April 4 they killed five rebels near Bhatepar village.