|JAIDEEP HARDIKAR, The TTellegraph|
Nagpur, May 19: Eight tribals, including three children, were killed by security forces in what was supposed to be an anti-Maoist operation on the intervening night of Friday-Saturday in Chhattisgarh’s restive south Bastar.
Senior police officers today admitted, but refused to be quoted, that those killed in Bijapur’s Edakmetta village had no links with the CPI (Maoist). Yesterday, police had first let out information that they killed a Maoist while losing a COBRA jawan in the operation. The death of the tribal villagers started trickling in late on Saturday evening.
“Three of the eight were children aged 10, 12 and 15. We know civilians have been killed but we don’t know whose bullets got them,” said a senior police officer of Bijapur. It is not clear if the eight were killed in indiscriminate police firing as claimed by the villagers or were caught in a crossfire between the security forces and the Maoists.
Bijapur district collector Mohammad Jazim Abdul Haq told local reporters a mandatory magisterial inquiry into the incident has been ordered and “some civilians may have been killed”. In Raipur, chief minister Raman Singh announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to the families of the deceased.
The CRPF’s Combat Battalion for Resolution Action (COBRA), Chhattisgarh Armed Force and district police had started combing the area following a tip-off on the heavy presence of Maoists, sources said.
The troops came under attack a little after Friday midnight, killing the COBRA jawan. This led the forces to retaliate, yesterday’s police statement said.
“But the intelligence input might not have been reliable. Sometimes they are planted so that the operation takes place and the Maoists can take advantage of the unrest that follows,” the officer said.
Edakmetta villagers told journalists today that they had congregated for Beej Pandum, a festival announcing the beginning of the farming season, when they heard the firing. The villagers assemble late in the evening for the rituals that run late into the night.
More than 20 villagers had been missing since that night. The eight bodies were found yesterday morning, but all through the day the forces would not let journalists enter Edakmetta. Some people are still missing, the villagers said.
The police today shifted the bodies to Gangaloor, 20km from Edakmetta, for post-mortem amid protests from villagers who refused to take back the bodies.
The district police said the raid followed intelligence reports about Maoists holding a meeting in the village. They said the ambush, in which one of their jawans died, lent credence to the presence of rebels in Edakmetta. The police also claimed that they had recovered some weapons from the spot.
The villagers told journalists that the COBRA jawan was killed in the cross-fire of the security forces. The forces, they told journalists, had encircled them and fired indiscriminately.
Last year, in the same district, security forces were accused of killing 17 villagers mistaking them for Maoists. Former high court judge V.K. Agrawal is probing the incident. Agrawal will also probe Friday’s killings.
- Chhattisgarh- No Maoists were present when forces opened fire, say villagers (kractivist.wordpress.com)
- Chhattisgarh – Bastar tribals demand CBI probe #indigenous (kractivist.wordpress.com)