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12 People Killed in Chhattisgarh 'Encounter' Weren't Maoists, Say Locals: Report

The police have denied these claims. Officials claim that only Maoists were killed in the encounter, and that they had dressed like local people after seeing the police in the forest.
Representative image. Photo: Special arrangement

New Delhi: Two days after 12 alleged Maoists were killed by security forces in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district, villagers and activists on Sunday (May 12) said those killed were not Naxalites but local residents.

According to a Hindustan Times report, the villagers who gathered outside the Bijapur District Collectorate to demand the dead bodies said that their family members were killed by the security forces in a ‘fake encounter’.

The police have denied these claims. Officials claim that only Maoists were killed in the encounter, and that they had dressed like local people after seeing the police in the forest.

Villagers’ claims

Villagers allege that security forces have killed residents of the area and the encounter was fake.

According to Hindustan Times, Gurunanda, a resident of Pedia village who witnessed the encounter, said that some villagers had gone to pluck tendu leaves from the forest when the security forces came towards them. Seeing this, the villagers started running away. “They were shot down by the forces while they were running in fear and surprise,” he said, according to the newspaper.

Raju, another villager from Korchuli village, said that they have come to collect the bodies of their relatives. Raju said, “Lalu Kunjam who was killed was not a Maoist but was a farmer. He was at home and was running away after seeing the police, when he was shot down.”

Rakesh Alvam of Pedia village said that his younger brother Moto Alvam was shot when he had gone to the forest to pluck tendu leaves.

He said, “The police have cordoned off the Pedia village and one other village Itaavar. My brother was in the jungle plucking leaves and was hit by a bullet of police force. All those killed in encounter were villagers not Maoists and they were picked up from these two villages and killed.”

Rakesh Alvam also said that he had identified all the deceased mentioned in a press note issued by the Bijapur Police, and they were all residents of Itawar and Pedia villages.

Police statement

On Friday (May 10), security forces claimed to have killed 12 Maoists, including Budhu Oyam and Kallu Punem, members of Army Company Number Two of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist). Budhu Oyam and Kallu Punem had a reward of Rs 8 lakh each on their capture.

Officials further said that others killed in the encounter included Lakhe Kunjam, a member of Gangalur area committee of the Maoists, and Bhima Karam, a member of Army Platoon No. 12. Both had a reward of Rs 5 lakh on their heads.

Bijapur District Superintendent of Police Jitendra Yadav claimed that a reward of Rs 2 lakh each was declared on the other deceased, Platoon Commander Sannu Lakom and Jantana Sarkar Vice President Avalam.

Rights activists will go to court

Meanwhile, rights activists have said that they will take legal action.

According to Soni Sori, a tribal rights activist working in the Bastar region of the state, “Those killed include villagers who were plucking tendu leaves in the jungle. They started running when they saw the police and the jawans shot them. I talked to some family members of the deceased, and they told me that some of the villagers were also picked up from their houses and killed in the jungle.”

“We will file a petition in the high court because the police force has killed the innocent villagers,” she added, according to Hindustan Times.

On the other hand, the police is firm on its stand that the people killed were Maoists.

Kamlochan Kashyap, Deputy Inspector General of Police, South Bastar region, claimed, “The Maoists changed clothes and mingled with the villagers. All of the deceased were Maoists, not villagers. The villagers had come to take the dead bodies of the Maoist who were their relatives. A total of 70 people were brought to Gangaloor police station for questioning, of whom around 9 were hardcore Maoists. These nine Maoists have also identified the deceased Maoists as cadres of the CPI (Maoist).”

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