Three people who were killed in an exchange of fire between security forces and Maoists near a new police camp in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district earlier this week have been identified as members of frontal outfits of the outlawed CPI (Maoist), police officials said on Wednesday.
The incident took place on Monday afternoon when a group of villagers were protesting against the camp which opened on May 12 near Silger village - a Maoist stronghold along the border of Sukma-Bijapur districts.
While villagers claimed that security forces opened fire unilaterally on protestors, police had said Maoists were part of the crowd that was protesting against the camp and the ultras started the gun battle.
According to police, three people were killed in the exchange of fire while five others sustained injuries in the incident. Local villagers claimed that the deceased and the injured were villagers and not Maoists.
Inspector-General of Police (Bastar range) Sundarraj P on Wednesday said, the preliminary investigation revealed that the deceased were allegedly linked with frontal organizations of banned CPI (Maoist) but police are trying to ascertain this input.
Prima facie, the deceased have been identified as Uska Pandu, a Bhumkal commander from Timmapur village (Sukma); Kowasi Waga, DAKMS (Dandakaranya Adivasi Kisan Majdoor Sangthan) member from Chhutwahi; and Kursam bhima, militia member from Gundem village (Bijapur), the IGP said.
All these formations are frontal wings of Maoists which function at the village level, he added. The bodies have been handed over to their relatives, he added.
Of the five injured in the firing, four have also been identified as members of frontal outfits of the Maoists, he added.
The camp, where personnel from CRPF’s 153rd and 168th battalions, CRPF’s elite unit CoBRA, Special Task Force (STF) and District Reserve Guard (DRG) are stationed, was opened on May 12. Residents from the nearby villages were protesting and demanding its removal since May 14.
Briefing the sequence of the incident, the IGP said, the protesting villagers had returned on Sunday night after being pacified by police officials and the executive magistrate but the Maoists again forcefully sent them near the camp on Monday.
Around 3,000 villagers, wielded with bows-arrows, axes and other sharp-edged weapons, sticks and stones, charged towards the camp shouting slogans to remove it, he said. The crowd pelted stones at security personnel positioned at the outer cordon leaving many of them injured and causing damage to two Mine Protected Vehicles (MPVs) parked there, the IGP added.
The crowd also tried to dismantle the barricading around the camp and snatch rifles and magazine from security personnel, he said.
Meanwhile, ultras belonging to Jagargunda, Pamed and Kerlapal area committees of Maoists and other lower rung cadres who were hiding in the crowd opened fire at security personnel.
Despite warnings, they continued firing that triggered a stampede-like situation and villagers started fleeing from the spot, he said. At that moment, security forces had no option but to retaliate in self-defence, he said.
After the situation normalised, the bodies of the three killed were recovered and later five injured were admitted to hospital, he said.
Villagers later claimed that the police resorted to lathi-charge and unilateral firing, a charge denied by the police.
Alok Shukla, convener of Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan (CBA), a group of activists, on Tuesday alleged that the police opened fire on the tribals who were protesting against the camp. Shukla demanded that the incident be probed by a retired judge of the High Court in a time-bound manner and an FIR be registered against those found guilty