Four killed in Chhattisgarh had Naxal records, others still being probed, say officials-Vijaita Singh & Amitabh Sinha
-The Indian Express
At least four villagers who were killed and one of those injured in the anti-Naxal operations last week in Chhattisgarh had police records of being involved in Naxal activities, security agencies claimed on Monday as they sought to counter the outrage over reports that many of those killed may have been innocent.
The agencies also said that some more among the victims were suspected of being Maoists but that could be established only after an investigation. They also did not rule out the possibility that some of the minors killed may not have any Naxal connections and may have been used as human shields while the others could have been child soldiers as the extremists are known to have children’s wings.
In one of the biggest anti-Naxal operations in recent months, the CRPF had gunned down 19 villagers, suspected to be Maoists or their sympathisers, about 30 km southeast of Bijapur district headquarters in the dead of the night on Thursday. The operation has come under criticism because some of the dead and injured are teenagers without any known record of being involved with Naxals.
The five men with Naxal records had cases registered against them under the Arms Act besides some other sections of Criminal Procedure Code, according to information received from Chhattisgarh police. Marakkam Suresh, Madavi Aayutu, Marakkam Nagesh, Korsa Bije and Marakkam Soma are said to have police records. All except Soma, who is injured, were killed in the encounter. Marakkam Suresh was also accused in the famous 2007 jailbreak incident at Dantewada, in which nearly 300 prisoners had escaped, according to police records.
Sources in the Home Ministry, CRPF and Chhattisgarh Police said the presence of Naxals with previous proven record among those killed and injured confirmed that no innocent meeting was being held at midnight as claimed by some villagers now.
CRPF Director General K Vijaykumar said there was absolutely no doubt that there was presence of high-value Naxalites in the area and that the security forces had opened fire only after being fired upon. “What do we get by killing innocent people? Why would we want to kill any villager? And who fired at our own jawans? How did they get injured? The fact is that we had very credible information about the presence of Naxalites in this area after which this operation was planned. Some Naxalites have been killed in the operation,” he told The Indian Express.
“There is a lot of propaganda that is being directed against us and this operation. It happens every time we carry out an operation. Unfortunately, we can fight Naxalites and terrorists but find ourselves completely ill-equipped to fight propaganda,” he said.
Sources in the security agencies revealed that the first information about the presence of ‘military companies’ — a reference to hardcore Naxal leaders believed to be armed with sophisticated weapons — in the south Chhattisgarh area had first come from the state intelligence department of neighbouring Andhra Pradesh. In fact, a senior police officer from Andhra Pradesh had travelled to Chhattisgarh about two weeks back to share whatever information the department had about the movements of these Naxals, some of whom were believed to belong to the dreaded Andhra faction, and some others from Orissa.
Sources said the Chhattisgarh Police then carried out independent checks, and a few wireless intercepts seemed to confirm the information from Andhra Police. An operation was planned jointly by the state police and the CRPF. A security official said that after the kind of information that had been obtained “there was no other option but to conduct an operation”.
Sources in the Home Ministry and security agencies were at pains to explain that the death and injury to minors was totally unintentional — and “regrettable” — but happened only because the Naxalites use them to fight their battle against the state. It was very well known, they claimed, that Naxalite groups had ‘bal dastas’ (children wing). They even cited a recent report by the UN Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict, presented to the UN General Assembly last month, which acknowledges the use of children by the Naxalites in Chhattisgarh.