New Delhi/ Raipur: A controversy has erupted over the claims made by security forces that they had gunned down 20 Naxals during an encounter in Chhattisgarh on Friday. Activists allege that the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) team involved in the reported encounter killed innocent civilians and not Naxals.
Swami Agnivesh and Professor Haragopal who have often played mediators in hostage crises in the past claim that those killed were innocent adivasis and not Naxals.
"According to my information the people who died were innocent people. Those who are being named as Naxals are not Naxalites but Adivasis. Neither should the CRPF personnel shoot nor should the Naxalites," claimed Swami Agnivesh in New Delhi on Saturday.
"It's very unfortunate that this encounter has happened in Chhattisgarh. When we negotiated for the release of Collector Alex Paul Menon, we had asked the government not to resort to police actions the tribals in the area. I asked the Chhattisgarh Chief Minister that why he was giving away the mineral rich mines to MNC against the tribals wishes," said Hargopal.
However, CRPF Director General K Vijay Kumar refused to get into a war of words with the activists, saying the truth will come out soon.
"We would not like to dispute or challenge anything, let them say what they want. The truth will emerge. But the point is, you look at the time of the event, you look at the context, look at the area which we are talking about, and the mission. We can't say which side the bullet went, you see the context of the time and what situation where they were heading whether there was malafide, whether there was any intention, that's it. Whenever security forces are involved in exchange of fire, or one side fire, there is a procedure of first information report, one is the police inquiry, the other is the magisterial inquiry," Kumar said.
Two CRPF personnel and four Chhattisgarh Police personnel were also injured in the six-hour long gunbattle at the Basuguda police station in Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh on Friday.
The anti-Naxal operation in the forests of Silger, between the Naxal hotbed of Jagargunda and Basaguda in Bijapur district of Bastar region, was launched on Thursday night involving over 300 CRPF and state police personnel from three directions.
Two Naxals, who were injured in the encounter, were apprehended and have been air-lifted for medical treatment to state capital Raipur, a senior CRPF official said. This is the biggest offensive by the security agencies in the Naxal stronghold in Chhattisgarh this year, the official said.
CRPF officials said two "prominent" Naxals, operating in the Bijapur-Dantewada axis, were also killed in the encounter.