Hundreds of tribals of around a dozen villages of South Sukma, Chhattisgarh, have been protesting since Tuesday, alleging that the security forces picked up a man from his house and killed him on July 25. The forces have maintained that the deceased, Bheema Kunjam, was a Maoist platoon commander who died in an exchange of fire.
The protest is on in the Maoist-affected Chintagufa village which is around 450 kilometres from Raipur.
Sukma police said Kunjam was killed in a gunfight in Paddigua village, which comes under Chitagufa police station. They said personnel of District Reserve Guard (DRG) and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were involved in the operation following a tip-off. The exchange of fire went on for well over an hour and the remaining Maoists escaped while Kunjam’s body was recovered from the spot.
However, the villagers say Kunjam was picked up from his village on July 24 before being killed the next morning. “He was not a Maoist, he was just a farmer living with his wife in his village...Police claimed that a country-made gun was recovered from the spot, but Kunjam had no gun. Anyone who carries a gun, lives in the jungle, not in the village with his wife... We want action against those who killed him,” said Ravi Sodhi, one of the protesters.
Another villager, Ganesh , said they all were raising their voices as police are targeting villagers instead of Maoists and if they will not raise voice against this violence now, they all will suffer.
Sukma superintendent of police Sunil Sharma maintained that Kunjam even had a reward of ₹1 lakh on his head and six cases were registered against him. “The villagers have been coerced by Maoists to protest against us. Mangadu, an area commander of CPI ( Maoist), threatened them to join the protest,” he said.
“The allegations are baseless and part of the modus operandi of Maoists to defame the forces. In the recent past, Maoists have suffered major setbacks. In a desperate attempt to avoid their extinction from Bastar region, their leadership is resorting to such false propaganda,” said Inspector General of Police , (Bastar range ) Sunderaj P.
Human right activists working in Bastar believe that instances of fake “encounter” have increased in the past six months and security forces are killing soft targets. “Typically, the DRG is involved and those killed are soft targets. Recent incidents across districts follow a similar pattern, making one conclude that what is happening is a part of policy,” said Bela Bhatia , a Bastar-based human rights activist