Villagers missing after Gadchiroli encounters?

Prateek Goyal & Pandurang Mhaske
Thursday, 3 May 2018

“In my view, there is no such incident of the villagers having been killed and basically, there is no village near the place where the encounter took place. If any villagers or others have complaints, they can approach me directly and we will do an investigation into this. I am planning to visit Gadchiroli after May 1.”  
—Satish Mathur (Director General of Police, Maharashtra)

PUNE: While a video shows the celebration at Kasansur in Maharashtra in which C-60 commandos and CRPF jawans are seen celebrating their success after encounters of Naxalites in Gadchiroli district, now, some questions have been raised on whether the encounters were completely genuine as complaints are coming about some ordinary villagers from the area going missing since the past few days.  

The police have claimed to kill 39 members including three divisional committee members of Permili Dalam, Aheri Dalam and Platoon-7. It’s been alleged by some villagers that food served to those who died was poisoned. They came to attend a wedding in Kasansur after which the forces captured them and killed them. Out of 39 killings, 20 have been identified till Friday. But many have not been identified giving rise to some questions raised by the villagers as some of their relatives are missing.

There have also been contradictions related to the eight youngsters of Gattepalli village of Aheri taluka who were reported to be missing after the encounter took place at Kasansur on Sunday (April 22).

These eight were also killed by the police during the encounter at Kasansur. The police claim them to be the new recruits who were recruited by divisional committee member Sainath who belonged to the same village and was killed in an encounter on Sunday. 

A local villager in Bhamaragad (on the condition of anonymity) claimed, “It is not true that all 39 people killed in encounters were Dalam members, there were many who were from nearby villages and came to Kasansur to attend a marriage. Along with Dalam members, the police have also killed them and then later dressed them in olive green clothes to show them as Naxals. Some women have been initially shot on legs, after which they were captured and killed,”

However, the police have denied such allegations. When questioned about these complaints Sharad Shelar, Inspector General of Police, Anti-Naxal Operations, said, “All 39 who have been killed in the encounters were Naxalites. We haven’t killed any innocent villager. The allegations related to police poisoning Naxalites who came to attend the marriage is also utterly false.” 

“If all 39 were Dalam members, then why their weapons have not been found by the police? Only a handful of weapons have been recovered by the police. Does it mean that members of two dalams organised the camp without weapons and if they have organised the camp, why the police couldn’t find any of their belongings and in such a large operation not a single policeman has received an injury, these questions are very suspicious,” added the villager.

A tribal activist working in the rural areas of Gadchiroli, said, “Family members of the eight youngsters were searching for them since Sunday. They were worried when they didn’t return to their village from Kasansur. On Thursday, when they approached the police, they were taken to Superintendent of Police’s office in Gadchiroli. The police have forced them to sign a written statement that their wards went along with Sainath and were receiving training from him in the forest to become Naxalites.” 

All eight youngsters who were allegedly killed by the police along with Naxalites have been identified as Mangesh Bukali Atram, Raso Pocha Madavi Gawde, Bujji Karwe Usendi, Irpa Watee Madavi, Mangesh Chandu Madavi, Raso Chukku Madavi and Nusey Pedu Madavi.

Varavara Rao, a Communist writer and activist based in Hyderbad, said, “Only a few Maoists have been killed in this encounter. Majority of the persons killed were ordinary villagers. The Indian State openly admitted that it laid ambush waited for the Maoists and used UGBL, grenades, shells, mines and all available advanced weaponry to accomplish this killing. Since the Indian State admitted all of these, it should also declare Dandakaranya as a War Zone.” 

Kavita Krishnan from Central Committee of CPI (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation said, “There are however several circumstances raising questions about the authenticity of the ‘encounter.’ In the first place, according to news reports, the number of casualties is much larger than the number of arms recovered. This raises the question if many or most of those killed were in fact unarmed non-combatants. Secondly, even the official version admits that the Maoists had been surrounded while resting in a village where they had come to attend a marriage party.” 

- April 22 - 16 Naxalites killed in Kasansur 
- April 23 - Six Naxalites killed in Aheri 
- April 24 - 15 bodies taken out from Indravati river 
- April 25 - Two more bodies fished out from  Indrawati river leading the toll to 39

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