Human Rights Forum (HRF) has demanded prosecution of the C-60 commandos, CRPF and police authorities – under section 300 of IPC (for murder) and SC/ST (POA) Act, 1989 – who were part of the ‘anti-Naxal operation’ on April 22 and 23 in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district, and on the banks of Indravati river in Bijapur, Chhattisgarh. HRF’s fact-finding team claimed that of the 40 persons killed by the police, 22 persons were Maoists and 19 were common people. While 10 among the 19 common people killed are yet to be identified, the HRF demanded the Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra governments to immediately take measures to identify them.
On June 2 and 3, a four-member fact-finding committee from the HRF visited various villages in South Gadchiroli district and the places where the ‘police firings’ have taken place, and gathered information from the villagers in that regard. The findings have revealed that on the banks of Indravati river, 36 Maoists from Aheri and Perimili cadres along with Adivasis from many villages had assembled in the deep forest. The location falls under the Bedri police station in Karpe Panchayat in Bijapur District, Chhattisgarh. Of the 57 persons gathered there, 21 were unarmed villagers.
On April 22 morning, between 6 am and 7 am, the police surrounded the gathering from three sides and started firing without any intimation or warning. Police reportedly did not spare even those who were bathing in the river. Of the 57 persons present over there, 14 Maoists and some villagers managed to escape through the river.
While 34 persons, including 19 common people, have died on the spot, six Maoists including Vasudev Atram, Maoist’s divisional committee member, were taken into custody. On the next day, in spite of producing the six in the court, the security forces took them to Nayanar forest in Aheri Taluka in Gadchiroli district to find out the ‘money dump’ where the Aheri cadre’s money was kept. After finding the money, the security forces allegedly killed the six persons nearby Modhumadugu village.
Forty persons were killed in these two incidents. Among those killed, 18 were women and 19 were common people. Except for one, all were Adivasis. After these deaths, security forces have celebrated their actions. It is found that the security forces were aware that common people were also present at the gathering on the banks of Indravati river. The forces have used under barrel grenade launchers (UBGL) for shooting. HRF opined that the security forces failed to follow the basic constitutional ethics in these operations.
Among those killed, eight persons belonged to Gattepalli village in Etapalli block in Gadchiroli district. Five of them were women including 15-year-old Bujji Karme. Those killed from Gattepalli village include 17-year-old Mangesh Chundu, who was studying in class XI in Bhagavantarao Ashram. While six weeks have passed after the incidents, the police are yet to identify the 10 unidentified dead bodies. There are chances that theese 10 persons might belong to the tribal hamlets in Karpe Panchayat in Bijapur district, Chhattisgarh.
HRF stated that the “one-sided” firings by the security forces on April 22 and 23 are unconstitutional. Whenever the state has to counter the Maoist violence, it must be within the constraints of the constitution.