The killing of 19 persons alleged to be Maoists has sparked up a major debate on the authenticity of the encounter. While the police forces maintain that hardcore naxalites wanted for crimes against human beings had been killed during the encounter at Sarkeguda, the villagers cry foul and say that the entire operation was fake.
It was a 40 hour encounter and according to the claim by the CRPF 19 naxals which included a 15 year old girl by the name Kumari Kaka and ten others in the age group of 15 and 28 had been killed. However security forces maintained that among the 19 were hardcore naxals which included those who masterminded the Dantewada jail break were was also killed.
The big question that arises out of this encounter is whether the security forces in a bid to go all out against the naxals also ended up killing some innocents in the group. However the counter attack to this argument is that the forces were brutal and in their bid to get their men ended up taking out innocent lives as well.
An officer involved in the operations told rediff.com that the villagers who have often been seen as the sympathizers of this movement are bound to tell their version of the story. The fact however remains that the forces do not unnecessarily kill off innocent people. This entire operation has been planned for nearly a year and only on specific information have the forces moved in.
Some of the villagers have been blinded by the theory that is being put out by the naxalites. The naxals thrive on the sympathy of the villagers and this is one of the main reasons why this movement has been successful.
However what transpired on that day when these 19 persons were killed is also interesting. In an operation of this nature it is very difficult to pin point the mastermind as he is never alone. Although they may claim that their live up to the social cause and show a lot of bravado when it comes to safeguarding their lives, they do put innocent lives at stake. Women, innocent villagers and even children are used as human shields by them. The security forces have not gone on any rampage and chosen to kill innocents, a source also said.
A retired official who was involved in naxal related operations says that it would be interesting to see what the outcome of the judicial probe on this matter would be. The security forces are battling a very tough opposition. These people do not come out in the open and fight. They use cover in the form of children and innocents and when they come in the line of fire during the encounter they make this a huge issue and dish up more sympathy.
Security forces have always found it extremely difficult to penentrate into the naxal movement. There are various levels of shields right from the locals in the village and also the members of the family who they use as a cover. In this particular incident too that would have been the same case.
The use of human shields in the form of innocents and children is sort of a newer trend among this movement. After the killings of Azad and Kishenji, they have found that their top leadership has shaken up and hence would go that extra mile to guard their leaders. They would not mind putting 10 children and an equal number of innocents on the line in a bid to protect their main leader and this is exactly what has happened in this encounter as well. Moreover it is also a strategy on part of the naxals to ensure the death of innocent villagers so that the hatred towards the police grows deeper. In some cases it is also seen that naxals have forcibly taken shelter in the houses of villagers as a result of which even those providing shelter come under fire.
The villagers of the area have however been claiming that there are no naxals in the group of 19 who were killed. There are allegation that none of the government officials visited their homes or conducted any autopsy which is contrary to the claim of Prashanth Agarwal, the superintendent of Bijapur who says that the post morten report was conducted. The villagers who cremated the bodies had however claimed that there was no indication of a post mortem and have sought a probe into the matter.
The other claim by the villages is that there was a lot of brutality in the encounter and the wounds found on the deceased were inflicted unnecessarily by security forces. This is a claim that has however been rejected by the CRPF and say that they do not indulge in brutality.
Sources in the force maintain that the men they went after were hardcore naxalites. Mahesh, Nagesh, Suresh, Somulu to name a few were part of the core committee and they were wanted for various crimes. They were part of the top rung and were crucial for security forces to get.
According to the villagers Nagesh was a 17 year old student whose body had been disfigured during the encounter. The other Madkam Nagesh is said to be drummer who played for children during the festivals. Somulu who hails from Andhra Pradesh was a farmer while Bichham according to them is an 18 year old orphan.
The argument by the villagers that the description of the security forces of these hardcore leaders cannot be believed is based on the ground that there are no criminal cases registered against them in the jurisdictional police station. However the CRPF says that when a centralized agency takes over a case it is not necessary that they have to chase persons with records in the jurisdictional limits. They have committed crimes in other parts of the country and our duty is to nab or neutralize them irrespective of the jurisdiction in which they are hiding. If a crime is committed in Bihar and these naxals hide in Chattisgarh this does not give them an immunity. It is only natural that these persons will commit a crime and move on to another place, sources pointed out.
Security forces however realize that in the days to come they will encounter more with the problem of naxals using innocent villagers and human shields to guard themselves. Experts on the subject say that at times mistakes do tend to happen during such a major encounter. They will need to re plan their strategy and ensure that innocent lives are not lost during such an encounter as this will only end up putting a question mark on the entire operation. Moreover if innocent lives are lost the sympathy for the naxal movement will only go up and our agencies need to be watchful and careful while executing such operations. However they also add that it is not as though the agencies are not trying. Even during the operation on hand they have tried their level best to coax the villagers to stay away or at least help them, but they do not seem to relent and continue to shield the hardcores in the naxal group. It is kind of a desperate situation that these agencies face and finally it comes down to an operation of this nature as at the end of it shielding a criminal wanted by the law is also a crime.