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29 Maoists Killed in Encounter in Bastar

29 Maoists Killed in Encounter in Bastar

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NEW DELHI, Apr 16: In one of the worst carnage of the Naxalites, 29 Maoists, including a senior rebel leader – Shankar Rao, who had a bounty of ₹ 25 lakh on his head – were killed by security forces during an encounter in Chhattisgarh’s Kanker district on Tuesday afternoon.

A huge quantity of weapons, including Ak-47 and INSAS rifles, were recovered from their possession while three security personnel were injured in the gunfight in forests near the village of Binagunda after a joint team of District Reserve Guard and Border Security Force were attacked.

Two of the three injured are from the BSF. Their condition is stable but the third – from the DRG – is in critical care. All three received treatment at a local hospital and are to be shifted to a larger facility.

Sources said the fighting began at around 2 PM, when a joint DRG-BSF team was conducting an anti-Maoist operation. The DRG was set up in in 2008 to combat Maoist activities in the state, and the Border Security Force has been deployed extensively in the area for counter-insurgency operations.

This comes three days ahead of Lok Sabha polls – while Kanker will vote on April 26, the Naxal hotbed of Bastar votes on April 19. Bastar’s Inspector General Sundarraj P had said last week that more than 60,000 security personnel were deployed in the district. Days earlier, on Sunday, the union home minister Amit Shah visited Khairagarh in  Chhattisgarh where he appealed to people to vote for Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a third term promising that they will end Naxalism in the next three years.

“Based on specific intelligence, a joint operation by teams of BSF and DRG (district reserve guards) was launched on April 16… While the operation was under progress, the BSF operations party came under fire from CPI Maoist cadres, and BSF troops effectively retaliated against them,” said a BSF spokesperson.

Inspector General Sundarraj said after the encounter, “The area was searched and 29 bodies of Naxals along with a huge cache of arms and ammunition were recovered from the spot. Three jawans who were injured in the encounter are out of danger and are being airlifted elsewhere for better treatment.”

Confirming that the operation saw the highest number of casualties in Bastar region, Sundarraj said, “The encounter site is a trijunction are between Abujhmad (in Narayanpur district), Gadchiroli district in Maharashtra and north Bastar. We had information of senior cadres like Lalita, Shankar and Raju being at the spot. Acting on this information, a joint team of DRG and BSF was sent to the spot.”

According to sources, Shankar and Lalita, divisional committee members of the CPI Maoist’s North Bastar Division, are believed to be amongst those killed. The encounter took place under the jurisdiction of Chhotebethiya police station. According to officials, security forces recovered arms and ammunition such as three SLR rifles, one AK rifle, two pistols, two INSAS rifles and two 303 rifles.

Officials said on the evening of April 15, the DRG and BSF started a search operation based on inputs of Maoist movement in Binagunda and adjoining areas. “We shared five inputs, including two inputs giving the exact location of the North Bastar divisional committee Maoists in Binagunda area, underlining the fact that it acted like a permanent camp of the Maoists since April 5,” said a source in the BSF.

There was another encounter in the district last month, in which two people – a Maoist and a cop – were killed, and security forces recovered a gun, some explosives, and other incriminating materials. Personnel from the DRG and Bastar Fighters, both units of the state police force, with the BSF were involved in that operation, officials said. The patrolling team was cordoning off a forested area when fired on indiscriminately, leading to the gun battle.

In February, three Maoists were killed in another encounter in Kanker. In November last year, while the state was voting in the first phase of an Assembly election, a gunfight broke out between security forces and Maoist rebels in the same district. On the same day, while polling was taking place, Maoists fired at DRG personnel deployed near a polling station in Banda in Dantewada district.

(Manas Dasgupta)



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