India: Police death squad massacre revolutionary peasants

 Family mourns loved one who is killed at the hands of the Indian Police. Photo: Aman Sethi

The Indian press has been reporting a bloody encounter in the Kotteguda panchayat of Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district. Forces in the Indian government are claiming that they have killed Maoists, though many villagers are claiming there were no Maoists and the police opened fire at an unarmed village meeting killing about 20 civilians.

The Communists Party of India (Maoist) seem to be claiming that the government is lying and that this was a totally "fake encounter." An encounter is a military engagement between Maoists and Indian Police forces. When the Maoists claim that an encounter is "fake" they are stating that the police were carrying out death squad activity: capturing  unarmed Maoists or civilians and summarily executing them. The police then typically  plant weapons on those they had murdered and claim that the dead were killed in an "encounter". Obviously we can't (here at Kasama) confirm the claims in a report like this.

The following article appeared on thehindu.com.

Villagers bury their dead as Maoists & forces trade charges

The air is thick with rhythmic wailing and smoke from funeral pyres on the barren fields of Sarkeguda, Kotteguda and Rajapetta in the Kotteguda panchayat of Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district.

 

“The funerals are being conducted one by one as there aren’t enough men to help out with so many bodies,” said Sangam Ravi, a resident. “Some have to be buried, but who will dig all the graves? Some bodies must be burnt, but then you need to collect the wood.”

A day after the Chhattisgarh police claimed to have killed 20 Maoists in an encounter in Bijapur, villagers have offered a sharply divergent description of the incident, claiming that the security forces fired at a peaceful gathering of villagers, killing 20 of them, including five children aged 12-15, and sexually assaulted at least four teenaged girls during the encounter.

“There were no Maoists present at the village that night,” said Madkam Ganpat of Rajpetta. “We had gathered to discuss the upcoming seed festival, which is held every year before sowing begins.” He said the meeting continued for several hours, when the participants were suddenly surrounded by a large contingent of the security forces.

“The forces immediately opened fire, all of us tried to run away but many were shot in the legs, back and chest,” he said. Kaka Saraswati was among those killed in the ensuing confusion. “She was only 12 years old,” said her mother Kaka Sinakka.

Several of the bodies seen by this correspondent had bullet wounds in the torso and the neck. Sabka Mitu, 17, was killed when his throat was slit by a sharp object. Several bodies also had lacerations from what could have been a knife or an axe.

Mr. Ganpat’s account was corroborated by a number of villagers who insisted that no Maoists were present at the meeting, but none could explain how six policemen were injured. “The forces had encircled us,” said Mr. Ganpat. “Maybe, they accidently shot each other.”

The firing lasted several minutes, the villagers said, after which the forces radioed for a tractor that took away a number of bodies. “The force then camped in the village and dragged me into the fields,” Devi (name changed), a 14-year-old girl, said in an interview. “They threw me on the ground, beat me, kicked me, tore my clothes and kept threatening to rape me.” She said three other girls were similarly molested.

“The force remained on the fields till the next morning,” said Irpa Raju. “My son Ramesh stepped out of the house to go to the toilet when he was shot by a policeman. Ramesh ran to the house, shouting ‘Ayo, Ayo [Mother, Mother,]’ but the force followed him and killed him in our house, in front of my eyes.” Raju also accused the policemen of breaking open the family treasure chest and stealing Rs.5,000.

While the villagers’ accounts seem internally consistent, this correspondent spotted at least seven uniformed Maoists on patrol at Rajapetta on Saturday morning, suggesting that the Maoists do frequent the village. Villagers, seeking anonymity, said the Maoists were occasionally called for village meetings to discuss routine matters such as festivals, sowing, ploughing and harvest.

A few hours into the visit of this correspondent, a young man brought a hand-written note signed by the South Bastar Divisional Committee of the CPI (Maoist). It described the incident as a “completely fake encounter” and claimed that all the victims were innocent tribals.

“The forces had received information that several senior Maoists were gathering in a village called Silger, about 16 km from the CRPF camp at Basaguda. Three km into their patrol, the troopers literally barged into a Maoist village meeting at Kottaguda,” said a senior police officer. “We were taken by surprise, and five of our men were injured right away.”

The source said several of the dead were “probably” civilians.

“We exercised the maximum restraint and fired in self-defence. We were conscious of operating in a village area,” claimed a trooper who participated in the operation. “We did not use any area-weapons such as grenades or rocket launchers. If we really wanted to, we could have razed the entire village.”

This article is telling in regard to the ruthlessness with which sections of the Indian rulers wish to crush the Naxalite revolution. It appeared on the dailypioneer.com. It reports the bloodthirsty reaction toward this incident by the State Home Minister Nanki Ram Kanwar.

A funeral procession at Sarkeguda village in Chhattisgarh's Bijapur district. On Friday morning, the Chhattisgarh police claimed they had killed 20 Maoists in an operation. Both villagers and Maoists deny police claims. The ceremonies have been spaced out as there arent enough men to dig graves for all the corpses. Photro: Aman Sethi

‘Anyone helping Naxal will be treated as same’

The controversy sparked over the killing of 19 alleged Naxals in Dantewada district by security forces on Friday refused to cool down with the State Home Minister Nanki Ram Kanwar announcing to the media that anyone helping Naxals will be treated as a Maoist and would be killed.

 

After his statement, the Home Minister and Chief Minister Raman Singh came under direct attack from Congress party leaders and said such "irresponsible" statement should not be made.

Reacting sharply over the issue Leader of Opposition in Chhattisgarh Assembly Ravindra Choubey while talking to The Pioneer over phone said that entire Bastar region is Naxal-infested and asked if residents of Bastar due to some reasons are forced to stand with Maoists, whether all residents should be treated as Maoist and gunned down.

The Congress leader also asked whether all the persons killed in Dantewada by security forces on Friday were hardcore Naxals, adding the Home Minister should not give such  an “irresponsible statement”.

Chhattisgarh Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel, while targeting the Chief Minister, said that Chief Minister Raman Singh should come forward and take note of the issue.

Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Processing Charan Das Mahant, while talking to news channels, said that Kanwar's statement was irresponsible and the State Government should declare that more villagers have been killed than Maoists.

Earlier, the Union Minister had alleged that the Chhattisgarh Government had provided wrong information to the Central Government over the issue.

The Union Government had appreciated State Government on the basis of this false report, said the Union Minister.

The Minister further said that for knowing the actual situation a group of Congress party members has been sent to Dantewada which will submit its report and the party will then inform the Union Government.

Here are a couple of more links to reports on this incident.

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/naxals-offer-sympathy-support-to-families/968895/0

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/top-naxals-are-two-15yrold-toppers/969193/0

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