IN the biggest-ever success in its anti-Maoist operations, Gadchiroli Police killed 16 ultra-left rebels near Kasnasur village in Tadgaon area of Maharashtra’s Bhamragad tehsil on Sunday.
Among those killed were 51-year-old Srinu alias Vijendra Ramlu, a member of the divisional committee (DVC) of the South Gadchiroli division of the CPI (Maoist), and Perimili Dalam commander Sainath alias Domesh Atram, 34, who was said to have been recently elevated to the divisional committee.
This is the first time that two DVC members have been killed in a single encounter in Gadchiroli. While Srinu had 82 serious offences registered against him, Sainath was allegedly involved in 75 separate crimes, including ambushes of police parties, blasts, hit-and-run attacks through action teams, and killings of alleged police informers.
“We had information about the movement of the Perimili Dalam in the Tadgaon area, and launched an operation yesterday. Today, around 9.30 am, an encounter ensued. We have recovered 15 bodies from the spot, which include those of Sainath and Srinu. This is the first time that two DVC members have been killed in one operation,” Deputy Inspector General of Police (Gadchiroli Range) Ankush Shinde told The Indian Express.
Among the dead were three women cadres, Shinde said.
The operation was carried out by a 64-man team, comprising mostly local tribals, of the Gadchiroli Police’s elite C-60 commando unit. Shinde was unable to provide specific details of the operation. “It’s a very far-flung place, where there is no communication,” he said. “We got the news on satellite phone. The full details are yet to emerge. Our men are walking all the way from there to Tadgaon, carrying all those bodies. Only after they reach Tadgaon shall I be able to get the full details,” Shinde said.
A top source said Kasnasur is considered by Naxals to be a very safe resting place. “It is situated on the Maharashtra side of the Indravati river. Naxals generally rest at such places, so they are able to cross over to the other side immediately upon sensing trouble,” said the source.
“Apparently, they were having breakfast when the police surrounded them from all sides and gave them no opportunity to escape. Naxals getting trapped like this in a safe haven is very rare, and definitely suggests that the police had solid, pin-point intelligence, which enabled them to execute the operation with great precision,” the source added.
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With Sunday’s operation, police in Gadchiroli have now killed 22 alleged Maoists this year. Before Sainath and Srinu, another member of the South Gadchiroli divisional committee, Sunil Kulmethe, had been killed in an encounter near Kalled in Sironcha tehsil on April 3. Earlier, in December 2016, DVC member Aitu was killed along with six others in an encounter in Jhinganur, also in Sironcha.
The killings of four DVC members in the span of five months is expected to deal a crippling blow to the Maoists in Gadchiroli. Only one member of the South Gadchiroli divisional committee now survives — Raghu, alias Naddela Sailu, sources said. Raghu’s wife Akhila was among the three women Maoists killed in Sunday’s encounter.
Last year, 19 Maoists were killed in encounters in Gadchiroli. “This (Sunday’s operation) is a very big success for us. With this, the Naxal movement in Gadchiroli has been dealt a decisive blow and it will not be able to come anywhere close to its previous peak strength. We will not be resting here and will carry it forward to ensure that the Naxals get no opportunity to reorganise, and do anything to regain their foothold. We appeal to the local cadres that their best interest lies in surrendering and joining the mainstream,” Shinde said.