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Chhattisgarh Maoist Op: A tragic CRPF mess-up?

Activists have questioned the authenticity of one of the most successful operations by security forces in Chhattisgarh in which 20 alleged Maoists were killed, claiming that innocent civilians were also killed. The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has reportedly ordered an internal probe into the incident.

Activists have claimed that innocent civilians were caught in the operation. AFP

On the night of 28 June, security forces had surrounded and attacked the Sarkegunda area in the Bijapur district in Chhattisgarh that is reported to be a “liberated” Maoist zone between Jagargunda and Basaguda in Dantewada district. Officials had said six CRPF men, including two commandos, had sustained bullet injuries.

However, the Congress party in Chhattisgarh has claimed that the operation was based on incorrect information and most of those killed in the incident were civilians and not Maoists.

"They (villagers) said no Maoists were present. Children have died, school students have died, women have died. How can they all be Naxalites?" Kowasi Lakma, a Congress MLA who headed a team that visited the site was quoted as saying by The Hindu. However, he was unable to explain how some security personnel had sustained injuries during the incident.

Social activist Swami Agnivesh has claimed that the villagers were meeting after being called by Maoists to discuss a land dispute. However, when security forces approached, the Maoists opened fire and managed to escape while the security forces ended up shooting and killing innocent civilians, he was quoted as saying in another Hindu report.

The Union Home Ministry, had called for a detailed report on the incident from the CRPF and the state government and now the CRPF has also instituted an inquiry into the incident according to the Indian Express.

CRPF director general K Vijay Kumar said Maoists had conducted multiple meetings in the area in the past where the incident took place and said that the security personnel had collected sufficient information about the location before the operation.

How many civilians and Maoists were killed in the operation is still not certain but according to an Indian Express report, two of the people killed in the encounter were 15-year-olds studying in a nearby school.

15-year-old Kaka Nagesh and Madkam Ramvilas were among those killed in the incident, with the former reportedly being described as a Maoist leader and his body also bore cut marks made by an axe.

"You talk to any teacher, they were among the brightest in our school, always scored first class," Sandeep Irpa, one of their classmates was quoted as saying.

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