Acting on a tip-off, a team comprising the Dantewada district police and District Reserve Guards (DRG) moved to the deep forest area between Perpa and Madkamiras villages in the wee hours on Thursday. After a brief encounter, the team killed the commander of a local Naxal platoon. The encounter took place at around 10 am on Thursday.
The Maoist who was killed, Mandvi Muiya, was a commander of the Platoon-24 of the Naxals that operates in Dantewada district. He carried a bounty of Rs 8 lakh.
According to Dantewada police sources, the district superintendent of police, Abhishek Pallav, instructed a team to take the Maoists head on at the location identified by the special intelligence bureau of Chhattisgarh’s anti-Naxal operations.
Though the district police refused to share operational details, the police team after the encounter claimed to have recovered a .315 bore pistol, bullets and the body of the slain Naxal.
It was an opportunity that the Dantewada district police didn’t want to miss, as it would mitigate, to an extent, the blot on the department after the killing of BJP MLA Bhima Mandavi on 9 April – two days before polling in Bastar.
Mandavi was killed when he was returning home after the last day of campaigning.
Allegations were made against the Chhattisgarh police of negligence, intelligence failure and non-adherence to standard operation procedure (SOP).
Perpa village is 37 kilometres from Dantewada town and Madkamiras is 35 kilometres away. Both villages are in the highly Naxal-affected Kuakonda block.
“The place where this encounter took place is a difficult terrain due to deep forests and hills. After a tip-off about the movement of a Maoist group, our SP instructed the team comprising the district police force and DRG to proceed to the location. The team, after reaching the location, faced firing from the Maoists. It resulted in an encounter, and finally, their leader was eliminated. The other members of his team managed to escape,” a Dantewada police source told Firstpost.
The encounter comes a day after the Maoist attack at Gadchiroli in Maharashtra, in which 15 personnel of C-60 commandos were killed. Thereafter, the Chhattisgarh police had issued alerts across all the Naxal-hit districts in the state. It was expected that there would be movement of Maoists from Gadchiroli to Bastar as they would seek hideouts.
Inspector general (Bastar range), Chhattisgarh Police, Vivekananda said, “It (Thursday's encounter) was not retaliatory action, and had nothing to do with the Gadchiroli attack. It’s a separate incident. We’ve been closely monitoring the movements of Naxals, and closely looking for those involved in the killing of the MLA and his security men.”
Who was "Mastermind" Mandvi Muiya?
The Chhattisgarh Police have claimed that Muiya was one of the masterminds of the IED blast that led to the killing of Bhima Mandavi and four security personnel on 9 April.
Muiya, aged around 29 to 30 years, was a local tribal who belonged to Bandipara in Aranpur. He used several aliases, such as Roshan, Joga Kunjam, Sonaksh Joga, etc. He was the commander of Platoon-24, which was functional in volatile Dantewada district.
The brother of slain Maoist commander Deva, Muiya had joined Battalion-1 of the Maoists in Sukma district, which is headed by commander Madvi Hidma. After his training and involvement in Maoist operations, he later moved into the forests of Dantewada.
The police claim that he was involved in some of the most gruesome Naxal attacks, including the ones at Tadmetla, Burkapal and Nilavaya. In the Burkapal attack at Sukma, Maoists had killed 25 security personnel in April 2017.
According to sources who work on anti-Naxal ops, Muiya’s role involved reconnaissance, gathering of information related to police and security forces, recruitment for the local cadre, identification of locations to plant IEDs, execution of ambushes, etc.
“Muiya was one of the masterminds of the IED blast incident that killed Bhima Mandavi. The entire planning was carried out and executed by the Darbha division,” said Vivekananda. The division has accepted responsibility for the incident.
Role of Darbha Division
Much before the first phase of the Lok Sabha election in Chhattisgarh on 11 April, the dreaded Darbha division of the banned CPI (Maoist) had issued press releases and put up posters and banners asking tribal villagers to boycott the polls. They warned of dire consequences if people were to take part in the electoral process.
Darbha division of the Maoists operates from Darbha valley in Bastar. It’s the same division that had attacked a Congress convoy at Jhiram Ghati on 25 May 2013 and killed 27 people, including top Congress leaders Vidya Charan Shukla, Mahendra Karma, Nand Kumar Patel, etc.
This division had been involved in several other attacks in Bastar. After the Jhiram Ghati attack, there had been a pause in the activities of Maoists from this division. However, in the last three years, the division has escalated its activities, as also issued numerous threats.
The reach of the Darbha division extends to Malangir in Dantewada. Muiya was said to have been involved in attacks at Shyamgiri, Cholnar and other places in Dantewada.
Post-poll Naxal activities
Even after the polling ended in Chhattisgarh, Maoists have continued with threats and killings of innocent villagers.
The west Bastar divisional committee of Maoists issued a press release accusing the Chhattisgarh government and chief minister Bhupesh Baghel of killing their cadre members recently in Naxal-hit Kanker district. The committee has accused the state government of killing their leader Naveen of Bijapur district in a fake encounter.
Meanwhile, Maoists allegedly killed two villagers on 1 May at Kistaram in Sukma, according to reports. The Maoists are said to have killed them after branding them as "police informers."
By evening, the people started questioning the police's claim in Dantewada.
“I have seen these Maoists visiting villages. There’s no doubt that the person who was killed was from Maoist cadre. He may have been a member of the jan militia. But after every encounter, the police claim that every Naxal killed was a 'mastermind' and a ‘big leader’. If Muiya carried a bounty of Rs 8 lakh and was a mastermind, why did the police recover only a country-made pistol (katta), instead of a rifle or other weapons? The police and security forces fail to get any big leader from the Maoist cadre; they always get the small fry. Perhaps the police are trying to mitigate the damage they suffered due to the MLA’s killing,” a local leader from Dantewada said, on the condition of anonymity.
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Updated Date: May 02, 2019 23:30:17 IST