People of Bijapur, Chhattisgarh say that the 20 people, including women and children, killed in the biggest encounter involving CRPF and Maoists on Friday were their fellow villagers and not Maoists.
Countering the claim of CRPF and Chhattisgarh police that 20 Maoists were killed in the encounter, the villagers gave a completely different description of the incident, suggesting that they were innocent tribals.
“A 9-year-old girl and an 11-year-old boy were also killed, how could they be Maoists?," said a villager.
A young boy from Rajpetta said that the villagers had gathered to discuss the upcoming seed festival when the CRPF jawans sorrounded them in the wee hours of Friday and began indiscriminate firing.
"They also attacked the villagers with axes," he added.
His account was corroborated by many other villagers who insisted that no Maoists were present there.
Recounting the horror, a teenaged girl asserted that jawans sexually assaulted her and three other girls during the gun-battle.
Some villagers said that their routine meeting was mistaken as a Maoist gathering by the CRPF personnel because two boys present there were wearing the uniform.
Maoists in a written statement have said that none of those killed in the encounter was Naxal.They have called a band on July 5 in Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and Odisha to protest the fake enounter.
Swami Agnivesh and Professor Haragopal who have often played mediators in hostage crises in the past also claim that those killed were innocent adivasis and not Naxals.
While the claims and counter claims continue to flow in, there are few points which needs to be highlighted:
Security personnel should have behaved in more responsible manner and evaluated the risk factors if they beleived Maoists were present there.
The presence of children among the dead give rise to the suspicion of security forces committing excesses on innocent tribal people and killing them in staged shootouts.
If security forces killed 21 Naxals in one encounter, do you think they would not be able to kill at least some of them?
Several bodies, including that of women and children, have been brutalised. There were deep marks, apparently made by axes on chest and face.
Although, a magisterial probe has been ordered into the incident even when the police maintained that those killed were Maoists, but it is more important that the inquiry is conducted fairly and impartially.
Well, whatever comes out of the investigation, one thing is sure that with such condemnable atrocities by police and security forces, state government would lose the trust of poor tribals and could help the Maoists to capitalise on their sufferings.