The villagers and the activists associated with the protest in Tadmetla are claiming the encounter of the Maoists to be fake, the police on the other hand have denied the allegations and asserted that those killed in the encounter were active members of the proscribed CPI Maoists
A section of villagers staged a strong protest against the killing of two Maoist sympathisers by security forces in Tadmetla village of insurgency-hit Sukma district on Tuesday, September 26. In a video which is also doing the rounds on social media, the villagers can be seen walking in numbers and sloganeering against the security forces in the remote region of Sukma.
The agitated villagers who were earlier traced crossing a river for the protest on September 16 of this month were anguished by the killing of two villagers who they are claiming to be innocent, killed in an alleged fake encounter on September 05. However contrary to the claims of the villagers, the security forces have so far maintained that the villagers killed in the action were Jan militia members and they were associated with the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist).
As of now the villagers have taken out a march in solidarity with the deceased and are protesting continuously against the alleged killings in Tadmetla under Chintagufa police station limits of Sukma. They have also been supported by a few activists and a few local leaders who have been trying to break into the village however they have been barred by the security forces from visiting the protest site in Tadmetla.
HİNDİSTAN | Hindistan’ın Chhattisgarh Eyaleti Tadmetla şehri Sukma ilçesine bağlı Tadmetla Köyü'nde “Köylüler “Sahte Karşılaşma' “(pusu) nedeniyle "Güvenlik Görevlilerine" Karşı Protesto Mitingi gerçekleştirerek, poisin suçlu olduğunu dilegetirdi.
5 Eylül'de "sahte bir… pic.twitter.com/0PsVwiF77O
— Özgür Gelecek (@ozgur__gelecek) September 27, 2023
Earlier, speaking on the issue, Congress leader and excise minister Kawasi Lakhma has also issued a statement and said that “I have talked with the police and they informed me that the personnel of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and police have gone for a search in the region, where an encounter broke out between the personnel and Naxals (Maoist) in which two Naxals were killed. The minister also informed that he has conveyed the matter to the chief minister who has ordered a magisterial enquiry.
Police version of the encounter
According to the police, the operation was launched after the security forces got input about the presence of 10-12 Maoist of the Jagargunda Area Committee following which a joint team of District Reserve Guards (DRG), Chhattisgarh police and CRPF was dispatched to the forest of Tadmetla and Duled in the wee hours of September 05.
Upon reaching the spot an encounter broke out between the forces and the Maoist following which the Ultras fled the spot leaving behind the body of two of his acquaintances. The deceased were later identified as Sodhi Deva and Rava Deva, both residents of Tadmetla under Chintagufa police station limits of Maoist affected Sukma. The security forces had also seized a 12 bore rifle and a pistol from the spot.
According to the reports, the deceased had already been named in connection with the murders of a Shiksha Doot and a Upsarpanch (vice village head) of Tadmetla in June and August this year. It’s been learnt that the deceased were active cadres of the CPI Maoist and a reward of Rs one lakh each was already announced on them.
Claims of fake encounter
However, despite the clarification given by the police the villagers, a few of whom were active members of the ‘Malvasi Bachao Manch’, an outfit alleged by a few for sympathizing with the cause of the Ultras, are claiming that the deceased were local small businessmen and have no affiliation with the Maoist.
On the other hand the Maoist in a press release have also denied the police version and claimed that the villagers were returning from a house of one of their relatives from Timmarpur, when they were killed by the police in forests of Polampally.
According to the villagers both the alleged Maoist were killed on the night of September 04 and then the police forcibly cremated them despite the objection by the villagers on September 05.
According to them both Sodhi and Rava Deva were small businessmen and while Sodhi was running a rice mill at his place, Rava on the other hand had a ration shop in the village. The villagers also asserted that the deceased had ration and pan cards and were not associated with the Maoist.
A few of the villagers while interacting with the local media also alleged that the police have also seized their mobile phones and not allowing anybody from the village to get outside and vice versa. They are also alleging that if the police have killed the Maoist of Jagargunda Area Committee then why are they barring the media and activists like Bela Bhatia from entering the village premises.
It is to be noted that Bela Bhatia, a social worker and an office bearer of Moolvasi Bachao Manch, who has been said to be a vocal supporter of disposal of Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) of the para military forces being erected in regions considered as Maoist bastion, has recently been seen with the villagers while crossing a river to reach the protest site at Tadmetla. Earlier Bhatia had been stopped by the Jagargunda police to visit the spot citing security threats in the village and adjoining region, following which Bhatia started a sit-in there, though ultimately she had to return as the police didn’t allow her to visit the site.
It is pertinent to mention here that this is not the first time that Bhatia and other alike activists have been supporting such protests which according to them is against the alleged brutality of security forces on tribals (Vanvasis) and earlier too on many occasions the so-called social workers residing in Bastar, a hotbed of Maoist insurgency, have been at the forefront of such protests.
Bhatia had also been barred from entering a similar protest site at Silger in March this year when she was part of a group of sixteen human rights activists affiliated with the Coordination of Democratic Rights Organisation (CDRO).
It is to be noted that a similar protest was going on in Silger village, a Maoist stronghold near Bijapur Sukma inter-district border after as many as four villagers including a woman were killed by the security forces for allegedly protesting against a security camp opened in the village in May 2021.
After the incident, a section of villagers started protest at the site of the encounter and made a memorial at the spot, demanding the termination of the officer involved in the incident and withdrawal of the Silger camp. However the Chhattisgarh police on the other hand asserted that the said villagers killed in the encounter were the members of the frontal organisation of the banned CPI Maoist.
The protest also garnered significant support from the local as well as left leaning activists across states and a lot has been also written about it in propaganda portals who sympathizes with the ultra left ideology. Ultimately forcing the incumbent state government to order a magisterial enquiry into the matter. Later on the protest was carried forward by the same Moolnivasi bachao Manch born out of the Silger agitation itself, whose members are now at the forefront of protest against the alleged killings in Tadmetla.
Maoist pressure tactics
Though despite that a section of villagers and a few left leaning media and activists termed the initial protest at Silger as a reaction of the opening up of security picket in the village, it’s been reported that it was the Maoist who have invoked and pressurized the villagers to protest against the camp which led to the killing of three of the Maoist at the spot.
According to the reports the Maoists who are on the backfoot even in the regions earlier consider as their bastion such as Jagargunda and adjoining regions were frustrated by the opening of FOBs in these remote areas and were pressurizing and the villagers to launch a protest against the security camp.
Later after the killings, the Maoist also ensured the participation of the villagers in the ongoing protest by threatening them for dire consequences if they refrain from protesting. It was also revealed that a few local henchmen also ignited the protest at times and ensured it to be alive for their vested political interest.
It is to be noted that more than a dozen FOBs have already been set up in the remote regions of insurgency-hit Bastar after the central government gave a nod to launch an all out offensive against the Maoist in their strongest citadel. These FOBs are considered vital for tearing apart the nexus of the Maoist and their urban handlers along with denting their intelligence network. At the cherry on top these FOBs have also allowed the security forces to strengthen their own intelligence network and frequent interaction with the villagers barring hassle-free movements of the Maoist which have ultimately forced the Mao’s men to retreat and take shelter in the dense forests.
Similar allegation in the past
It is to be noted that in a similar case, a social activist, Himanshu Kumar had filed a petition before the Supreme Court (SC) in the year 2009, alleging that the security forces have orchestrated a massacre of as many as 19 people in Dantewada of Chhattisgarh. In his petition, Kumar claimed that the victims and their families also suffered looting of their properties, burning of their houses and sought a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) enquiry into the matter.
On Himanshu’s plea, the SC tasked the Tis Hazari court to take down the statement of the villagers named in the petition as victims of the massacre and to arrange for a videography of the entire proceedings. The case came to light again after the central government in the year 2022 filed an application to prosecute Kumar for perjury after the investigation revealed that nothing alleged in the Kumar’s petition unfolded in reality.
On the basis of the investigation the government asserted that the villagers named in the petition had no idea about what was in the petition and the petitioner himself showed no interest in the investigation after filing the petition for over a decade, indicating Kumar’s action motivated to protect the internet from extremists.
Later the apex court noted that Kumar’s lawyer informed the court that the statement of the villagers was not recorded properly by the district judge of the Tis Hazari court. The apex court while questioning Kumar that why nothing was done about this after 2010 noted that the statements of villagers destroys the allegations made against the security personnel.
Considering all the documents and evidence the apex court further levied a penalty of Rs 5 lakh on Kumar and asked the Central government to prosecute Kumar for perjury, if need be.
It is to be noted that the Maoist who have been at war with the ‘Republic of Bharat’ for decades have been using such tactics for long and have time and again made similar appeals to a section of left leaning human rights activists, intellectuals and social workers who sympathizes with their cause, to pressurize the government for human rights violation.
It is believed that these tactics are implemented by the Maoist in order to secure a breather whenever they found to be losing grip on their traditional thresholds to rearrange and return with all their might to reclaim those regions by unleashing raw violence and bloodbath.