NEARLY A week after Chhattisgarh Police claimed to have killed 15 Maoists in Konta area of Sukma, Aam Aadmi Party leader and Dantewada-based tribal rights activist Soni Sori on Saturday raised questions on the encounter and alleged that a majority of those killed were unarmed villagers.
The police have rejected the allegations.
On her return from Nuklatong —- six of the 15 people killed are from the village, and it is the closest village to the encounter site – Sori told The Sunday Express that local residents there maintained that all six people killed in the encounter on the night of August 5 were innocent locals.
Quoting villagers, Sori said that they were sleeping in a “ladi”, a makeshift hut built at a distance from village to protect crops from animals, since they were late returning home. “Early in the morning, there were villagers (also) from Nuklatong and some other places, such as Gompad, in the ladi. The police opened indiscriminate fire on them – many were minors,” Sori alleged.
“Villagers reached there at the sound of firing and found that they had been killed…the police were also taking away some people from the spot,” she alleged. “They (villagers) said that while the police claimed to have picked up two Maoists, four people have been taken away.”
According to the police, they arrested two Maoists from the spot: an alleged woman cadre, who was shot in the leg, and a man identified as Deva, who the police said was a Maoist area committee member and had a reward of Rs 5 lakh on him.
Sori did not rule out that some members of Maoist “jan militia” formations may have been present. The police have said that those killed were from Gompad and Belponchha militias, and on August 6 morning there was exchange of fire between the forces and the militia.
Denying Sori’s allegations, a senior Chhattisgarh Police officer told The Sunday Express, “This was a completely above-board encounter and there was an exchange of fire. We have even arrested one Maoist cadre, who has a warrant of Rs 5 lakh. All those killed were part of militia formations, and their families have given us statements – they have said that most (of those killed) were in the militia for over three years.” On Sori’s claim that villagers maintain those killed were innocent locals, the officer said, “If they are saying this, it is because Maoists are pressuring them to recant.”
Meanwhile, south Bastar divisional committee of the Maoists have released a pamphlet and called the encounter fake and have called for a Bastar bandh on August 13.