Two brothers from Gundurwahi village in Bhamragad tehsil of Gadchiroli, who were allegedly taken away by the police after the April 27 encounter that killed senior Naxal cadre Ramko Narote, are actually hiding from Naxals due to threat from them, the police has claimed.
Superintendent of Police Shailesh Balkawde told The Indian Express, “contrary to reports in a section of media, they are safe but are actually hiding from Naxals. They are constantly in touch with their father and, on Monday, they had detailed discussion with the villagers on phone where they sought to know if the villagers were ready to take responsibility of their safety if they return to the village.”
The two brothers in their twenties, Vishnu and Sadhu Lekami, have been missing from the village after the encounter. According to the villagers, Vishnu had reportedly given a lift to Ramko and another cadre Shilpa Dhurva on his motorcycle while the two ladies were walking along a road in the area before they were killed in the encounter.
The police has refuted the Naxal allegation that the two ladies were killed in cold blood in a fake encounter. Balkawde had earlier said that they have panchnama of the spot where it happened and also recovery of arms.
“It’s all a standard Naxal propaganda. They had done it during last year’s Kasnasur encounter also, when their 40 cadres were killed. Theories like poisoning, etc were floated. Later, they themselves admitted in their documents that they were all their cadres and they were killed due to faulty tactics of the local cadres,” Balkawde said.
Asked why the two men were afraid of Naxals, Balkawde said, “because the Naxals probably feel Vishnu was an eye-witness to the encounter.”
Asked if the two men were in their safe custody, the SP said, ” No. But we know where they are and we are also in touch with them.”
Asked what was the villagers’ response to their “safety” plea, Balkawde said, “the villagers said they would let them know after discussing the matter among themselves.”
But to a questing if the two men would be safe even if the villagers assure them, Balkawde said, “obviously there is no guarantee.”
Ramko was divisional committee member of CPI (Maoist) and was the wife of another member Bhaskar Hichami, who had later claimed that the May 1 police ambush in an IED blast near Kurkheda killing 15 policemen was a revenge of the “murders”of the two ladies by the police.
Encounter in Dhanora
An encounter took place between police and Naxals near Katezari village on Monday morning, in which the police have recovered a few arms.
“It was an intelligence-based operation. Astound 8.30 am, we engaged then in an exchange of fire for about 30 minutes. They later ran away but we could recover 2-3 arms. Apparently, they run away leaving arms behind only when some of their cadres are injured,” Balkawde said.