Out fishing at a lake in Kanha Tiger Reserve area, a 55-year-old father of four from Chhattisgarh’s Kabirdham district, abutting the state border with Madhya Pradesh, was killed in “crossfire” during an anti-Maoist combing operation in the area, according to MP Police.
The victim, Jham Singh Dhurve, was a resident of Kabirdham’s Balsamudra village, about 5 km from the state border, and had gone with a friend, Naim Singh, from the village for fishing on Sunday.
Naim returned the next morning and reported that Dhurve had fallen to bullets of “security personnel” in the forest.
Inspector-General of Police (I-G), Balaghat Range, K P Venkateshwas Rao said, “A combing operation was being carried out by MP Police based on inputs about movement of Maoists. The police were in the core zone of Kanha National Park, a hotbed of Maoist activities where there are no villages, when an exchange of fire took place. The man was found (dead) there.”
Llocal MLA Sanjay Uikey, who represents Baihar constituency in Balaghat, however, dismissed the police’s claim about firing from both sides, calling it “false”.
A case has been registered and a magisterial inquiry ordered, I-G Rao said.
Balaghat Collector Deepak Arya said, “I have started a magisterial probe. A report is expected within a month.”
While Rao maintained that there are no villages in the core area of Kanha, local MLA Uikey said Pathwa and Umarkhole villages come under the core area, which are “yet to be rehabilitated”. There is a lake adjoining these villages that is frequented by villagers for fishing, he said.
Uikey also said the local police have claimed that a rifle and raw food items such as rice, wheat, salt and turmeric was found scattered around Dhurve’s body, and called it false. He said, “The police’s statement that there was firing from both sides is false…. Also, the police are calling him a Maoist sympathiser, which is unacceptable.”
According to Dhurve’s son Narendra Kumar, his father often went to the lake for fishing, with others from the village. On Sunday, he “packed a tiffin box along with his fishing rod and some food for the fish” and left around 6 am with Naim Singh, Narendra said. The lake, he said, is “across the hills, about 5 km from the village”.
Narendra said Naim returned on Monday morning and told them that while returning around 4.30 pm, they encountered two “security personnel” in the forest. “Unko bola ruko, warna goli mar denge (they were asked to stop, otherwise shots would be fired),” Narendra said, recounting Naim’s words. But, he added, the two were too scared and started running – “the police personnel then shot them”.
“While Naim Singh managed to escape, my father was shot and fell there,” he added.
On Monday morning, Narendra and several other villagers went to the spot, as told Naim, but could not find Dhurve’s body. The group subsequently went to Jhalmala police station in Chhattisgarh and were told that an incident of firing had occurred in forest area under jurisdiction of Balaghat district of MP. The case, they were told, was being probed by Balaghat police.
Durg (Chhattisgarh) Range I-G Vivekanand Sinha said, “His family came to Jhalmala police station but the case and all formalities have been registered in Balaghat, where it is being investigated.” Sinha added that a resident of Kabirdham district’s border area was “found dead after crossfire”.
MLA Uikey, meanwhile, said he has demanded compensation for Dhurve and a government job for his kin.