Pune: Naxal-affected Gadchiroli is on the boil after the elite C-60 Commando Force of Maharashtra police killed a tribal bamboo cutter, Sonsu Usendi (40) of Reknar village in Etapalli tehsil of Gadchiroli and declared him a Naxalite.
Locals alleged that sleuths of the C-60 Commando Force are on a killing spree and are eliminating innocent tribals on the pretext of Naxalism as the latter are opposing mining projects in the area. This is the second such incident in the past two months, in which a local tribal was killed after being declared a Naxalite.
Before the killing of Usendi on March 30, C-60 Commandos allegedly killed Ramkumar Khese (21) on February 5 in a fake encounter. Khese was first shot dead with two bullets. Then his face was crushed with a stone. This killing was reported by Sakal Times, after which a judicial inquiry was ordered into it by the district collector of Gadchiroli.
According to Jayko Usendi and Vasanti Usendi, the wives of deceased Sonsu, on March 30, Sonsu left his house around 11.30 am for hunting in the Gumdi forest. He carried with him his lunch box, axe, catapult and a net in order to catch birds in the jungle. But when he didn’t return in the evening, they got worried and went to the jungle, along with other villagers to search for him. On March 31, they again went to the forest but failed to find him.
A day later, 20 to 25 villagers went to Kotmi police station and reported the disappearance of Sonsu. The Kotmi police asked the family and villagers to go to the office of Superintendent of Police, Gadchiroli police headquarters as a body was in their custody. On reaching the SP office, it was found that Sonsu was killed by C-60 Commandos and declared a Naxalite.
Mahesh Kopulwar, a local leader in Etapalli, claimed, “They killed him in cold blood and declared him a Naxalite. He was not a Naxal and didn’t have any connection with them. He was a simple bamboo cutter and went to the forest for hunting, a part of traditional tribal life. He was killed by C-60 Commandos and his body was taken to the SP office in Gadhciroli. It was kept for three days and decomposed. This is utter injustice on part of the police.”
“The police are conducting fake encounters. They are forcing innocent tribals to surrender as Naxalites. These incidents are becoming regular in Gadchiroli. We have submitted a complaint to the district collector and demanded an inquiry into the matter,” added Kopulwar.
Amol Marakwar, a local, said, “These fake encounters are happening in Gadchiroli as tribals are against mining projects because these will destroy the jungle. The police are trying to instill fear in the minds of locals by killing innocent villagers and branding them as Naxalites. This is the second such incident in the past two months. Although the body of Sonsu Usendi was handed over to his family by the SP office, Gadchiroli, the Additional Superintendent of Police is unaware about the incident.”
When contacted, R Raja, Additional Superintendent of Police, Gadchiroli, said, “I am not aware of the matter but will definitely look into it in order to find out whether the deceased was a Naxalite or an innocent villager. If he turns out to be innocent, we will take strict action against the person responsible for his death.”
Tribals being branded Naxalites
Ramkumar Khese (21) of Koindvarshi village of Ettapalli tehsil was killed by C-60 Commandos on February 5 when he went to the Gatta forest range with his friend for hunting.
Sonsu Usendi (40) of Reknar village of Ettapalli tehsil was killed by C-60 Commandos on March 30 when he went for hunting in the jungle. Both Khese and Usendi were declared to be killed in Naxal encounters.
Dashrath Gavde (27) of Lavari was forced to surrender by C-60 Commandos as a Naxalite in December 2017. He was kept in illegal custody for 65 days. Later, he was declared innocent during a judicial inquiry and was immediately released.