A controversy has erupted over the killing of 19 persons in anti-Maoist operations by security forces in Chhattisgarh last week amid questions whether the victims were all Naxals with Chief Minister Raman Singh today saying the rebels were using humans as “shields”.
Singh and the CRPF defended the encounter while social activist Swami Agnivesh condemned the incident,claiming innocent tribals lost their lives in a “cold-blooded murder.” The incident was the most brutal since independence,Agnivesh said.
CPI(M) demanded a time-bound judicial inquiry into last week’s killing by CRPF and state police of 19 people,including a woman and two children,alleging they were either brutally axed to death or killed in “indiscriminate firing”.
With his government coming under attack from the opposition Congress over the incident,Singh said if any innocent person was killed or injured,then the Naxals must be held responsible for it as they often use innocent villagers as back-up for themselves during such gunfight and use them as “human shields”.
Singh said the Congress should not politicise the matter. The Congress alleged that the incident was a “completely fake encounter” and that the victims “innocent Adivasis.”
At least 19 suspected Naxals were killed in a fierce gunfight in the dense jungles of Dantewada during the night-long encounter on June 27-28 in a joint operation by over 300 CRPF and state police personnel in three directions.
Rejecting allegations that innocent villagers were killed,Union Home Secretary RK Singh said six CRPF personnel were also injured in the encounter. He also pointed out that one woman was killed in the encounter and that Naxal outfits had women cadres.
Home Minister P Chidambaram,while interacting with the media in the national capital last week,had identified three important naxals leaders– Somulu,Nagesh and Mahesh– who were killed in the gunbattle.
The CRPF claimed its men had retaliated to firing from the rebels.
“We never resorted to the firing. It was provoked from the other side. We had to protect ourselves after so many were injured in open fire…Twice our people retreated on seeing women and children in the front,” CRPF DG Vijay Kumar said.
Cong panel says Bastar encounter ‘seems to be fake’
Raipur: A panel set up by Congress to look into Friday’s encounter between security forces and the Naxals in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar area has said that the encounter “seemed to be fake” and demanded CBI enquiry into the incident.
Nineteen Naxals were killed in the encounter in Sukma-Bjjapur area on June 29.
State Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel said here today that the 12-member panel was yet to submit its report,but it “seemed from the inspection of the spot that it was a fake encounter.”
The panel has sought a CBI probe,he said,adding that the probe panel found that there were some women and children among those slain at Sarkeguda village of Basaguda area. Police had claimed to have killed 17 ultras there.
Chief Minister Raman Singh,however,refuted the allegations,saying that weapons and ammunition were found alongside bodies of the Naxals killed in the encounter.
Stating that the Opposition Congress was playing politics over the issue,the Chief Minister said that Naxals were known to hide behind women and children to save themselves during encounters.
Our operation bona fide; should only forces be dying? CRPF DG
Facing the charge of fake encounter killing of 20 people in Chhattisgarh’s Maoist hotbed,CRPF today defended its action saying it was “bonafide” and wondered if only killing of security forces should be the norm.
CRPF Director General K Vijay Kumar said his force,deep inside the jungles of Silger in Bijapur district,drew the first fire in the night and his men retaliated according to the laid down Standard Operating Procedures (SOP).
“You will have to see the facts…where is the area where this incident happened,which is the force that went into the operation..the CRPF went in along with local police into an area which is considered liberated,it is our legitimate duty to go there. We drew the first fire. What exactly happened can be asceratined by the forensics…I don’t want to comment on that.
“You cannot lay the entire blame on the CRPF or the state police. We have always shown extreme restraint and this was a bonafide action,” the CRPF chief said.
Kumar said after six of his men were injured in the encounter,retaliation was the only option for them.
“What else option was available to them there? Otherwise,we would be dying as usual and you would be saying security forces once again are incompetent. Can’t we get it right?,” the DG said.