Security Forces Kill 12 Alleged Maoists in Chhattisgarh; Activists Challenge Official Narrative, Allege Adivasis 'Falsely' Branded Insurgents?

An alleged encounter on May 10 led to the deaths of 12 individuals reportedly identified as Maoists.
Representational image of army jawans in Bastar
Representational image of army jawans in BastarANI

New Delhi: Following the killing of alleged Maoists in Chhattisgarh's Bijapur district, a team of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) visited Pedia village, where the incident took place. The alleged encounter, which took place on May 10, resulted in the deaths of 12 individuals purported to be Maoists.

The PUCL team, which included activists and tribal representatives such as Sori, Rinchin, Hidme Madkam, Sukalu Kothari and Virendra Bharadwaj, carried out a thorough investigation and interacted with the local villagers.

According to their report, the villagers unanimously asserted that it was not an encounter as the police had claimed. Instead, they described it as a deliberate act of "extrajudicial killings" carried out by the security forces.

The PUCL report highlights the discrepancy between the official narrative and the villagers' accounts, raising serious concerns about the conduct of the security forces and the legitimacy of the killings. The villagers' testimonies, as documented by the fact finding team, suggest a gross violation of human rights, calling into question the methods used by law enforcement agencies in dealing with suspected Maoists in the region.

The deaths were a matter of concern since the very beginning. Just two days after incident, villagers and activists claimed that the encounter was staged. They alleged that the deceased were civilians, subsequently labelled as insurgents by the police.

Alongside the families of the slain individuals, they gathered outside the collectorate, demanding the return of their relatives' bodies.

However, the police refuted these claims, asserting that all those killed in the encounter were Maoists. Deputy Inspector General of Police for the South Bastar region, Kamalochan Kashyap, stated, “The Maoists changed clothes and mingled with the villagers. All of the deceased were Maoists, not villagers. The villagers had come to retrieve the bodies of their relatives who were Maoists.”

Reacting to the police claim, Soni Suri, an Adivasi activist and a member of the PUCL team, told The Mooknayak, “If the police are so sure about their investigation, why are they stopping us from going to the village where the incident has taken place?”

She said, “We have our reports, and if any neutral third party want to investigate, we will not say no. That is what we want.”

“We can give evidence for every part of our report. Can the government do that? Can they face us and have a one-to-one discussion?” she asked.

Asked who verifies if a person is a Maoist or not after he or she is killed, Sori stated, “Following such killings, the police themselves say ‘we have killed Naxals in an encounter'."

The activist revealed that after the incident in Pedia, a woman went to the police station to file an FIR, alleging that her deceased husband was not a Maoist. Similarly, another woman attempted to file an FIR, stating that her deceased father was not part of the group. However, the police refused to file the FIRs.

In Bastar and surrounding areas, according to her, the security forces wield immense power, controlling the narrative and operating with impunity.

The police are often accused of committing atrocities against Adivasis, including "killing and raping" them, and then conducting their own investigations, which raises serious doubts about the impartiality of these inquiries.

Taking a dig at the government, she said, “Modi says they will give us reservation, and we are saying reservation is a far-fetched dream. Let us live first. That is what we want and deserve.”

According to her, a recent incident in the Kanker division of North Bastar resulted in the deaths of 29 individuals, with 12 of them labeled as Maoists by the authorities.

She questioned the fate of the remaining 17 people, alleging that they were "murdered" by the security forces. She further highlighted a similar incident in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, where 13 individuals were killed.

Among the victims were Adivasis, including a mute person, emphasizing the indiscriminate nature of the violence.

These incidents reflect a troubling pattern of "extrajudicial killings" and the "targeting" of innocent civilians, raising serious concerns about human rights violations and the lack of accountability within the security forces operating in these regions.

According to various media reports, 103 Left-wing extremists have been killed in Chhattisgarh so far this year. This alarming number raises significant questions, especially considering the lack of impartial investigations into these deaths.

GCG News
Pictures from the site released by local media

What Happened on May 10?

The incident occurred in the Gangaloor area, within the jurisdiction of the Pedia police station in Bijapur district, an alleged Maoist stronghold and a significant recruitment area. The encounter began at 6 am across multiple locations in and around the Pidiya forest.

Bijapur SP Jitendra Kumar Yadav reported that they had received intelligence about “approximately 150 Maoists in the Pidiya forest". These “Maoists” were identified as members of the West Bastar division, Darbha division, People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PGLA) Company 2’s commander Vella, platoons 12 and 13, and Gangaloor area committee secretary Dinesh Modiyam.

The operation was launched from multiple directions, with the gunfight lasting around 12 hours across more than six locations.

The “encounter” took place about 40 km from the Bijapur district headquarters and 8-10 km south of the April 2 encounter site. Following the alleged encounter, security forces claimed to have destroyed the Maoist camp and “seized a BGL, a 12-bore gun, a country-made rifle, explosives, medicines, Maoist uniforms, literature and daily items".

During the search operations, the bodies of 12 alleged Maoists were discovered. While returning, a DRG jawan was injured in an IED blast. Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Vishnu Deo Sai praised the operation, stating, “I congratulate the security forces. Since we have come to power, we have strongly fought against Naxalism. Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah are committed to ending Naxalism soon, and we are benefiting from the double-engine government’s efforts.”

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