At least 34 civilians have been killed by Maoists in Chhattisgarh in the first nine months of 2020, according to data released by the police. In 2019, 46 civilians had been killed. Police officials claim Maoists are acting out of desperation due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the latest incident, the police Tuesday found the body of a 22-year-old man in Sukma district, allegedly killed by Maoists.
A day earlier, on Monday, at least four people in Bijapur district were allegedly killed by Maoists in a public gathering, sources said. The Maoists had called for a jan adalat (kangaroo court) in Pidiya village, where they awarded the four death sentences for allegedly acting as police informants. The victims were from three villages in the district. The police could not confirm the deaths as neither family members nor villagers came forward to file a case till Wednesday.
Sources said the 22-year-old, whose body was found near the Sukma border, was also killed for being a police informant.
State Home Minister Tamradhwaj Sahu said Wednesday in a statement, “Outsiders are killing tribals because they can see their days are over. They are trying to scare people into intimidation, but this cowardly practice will become the reason for the end of Maoism in the Bastar division.”
According to police records, more than nine of the civilians deaths this year took place in the past one month, with the most incidents reported in Bijapur, where other than villagers, a forest ranger and security personnel have also been abducted and killed. At least 14 civilians have been killed in Bijapur this year, the highest number of casualties in the district in the last five years.
“We have been foiling their plans to inflict damage on security personnel, and they haven’s been able to carry out anything substantial for months now. Their frustration is coming out on villagers and lone targets. We have been investigating the murders. We are making headway. However, the Maoists are using the villagers for their work,” Bijapur Superintendent of Police Kamalochan Kashyap said.
Bastar Inspector General P Sundarraj said that since the Covid-19 lockdown in March, the police have increased their outreach and thus Maoists are lashing out. “They are acting out because several cadres have surrendered. Despite adverse conditions, district authorities and the police have helped and led to the development of villages, building trust between villagers and the authorities. This is disconcerting for them, so they are trying to terrorise villagers,” he said.