By Jenna Furman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
NEW DELHI, India—Last Thursday the Indian Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) killed twenty alleged Maoist rebels in the central state of Chhattisgarh.
Nineteen of the rebels died at the scene of the clash, another died shortly thereafter at a nearby hospital. Six of the paramilitary police officers were wounded in the attack.
The CRPF and the State police were undergoing a counter-insurgency operation late June 29 in dense forests located in the Maoist-dominated Bijapur district. The joint governmental forces planned to intercept a Maoist company at Silger in the Sukma district but encountered alleged Maoist rebels a mere three kilometers from their camp.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the Maoist rebels as the biggest internal security challenge facing India.
Maoist rebels are active in more than a third of India’s districts. They have been mobilizing throughout India in an attempt to form a people’s government. The Maoist insurgents fight for the rights of India’s poor peasants and laborers.
In the past two years, 1611 people have died in thousands of incidents alleged to be part of the Maoist rebellion in India.
Following the June 29 encounter, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram praised the combined State and CRPF forces for their courage and skill in addressing the insurgency.
The Indian police stated that a large number of arms and ammunition were recovered from the area where the fire-fight began, some of which were the homemade variety of Maoist rebels. They also stated that the wounding of six of their officers provides proof enough that the encounter was not “fake” as the Opposition Congress declared three days following the incident.
Local tribal villagers have protested the police’s claim that Maoist insurgents were the victims of police fire but state that those killed were innocent villagers. Activists are calling the incident a “cold-blooded murder” of tribal villagers including women and children.
Former Delhi high court Chief Justice Sachar and other activists demanded a judicial inquiry into the alleged fire-fight between the police and Maoist rebels. Activists state that a delegation with President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will soon take place.
Their sentiment is echoed by Indians who have lost faith in India’s police system – a system where imagination substitutes for information, according to one police officer.
The chief of Central Reserve Police Force, K. Vijay Kumar stated, “We identified the Maoist and conveyed to the media on the same day. We have used extreme restraint.” When asked about the death of a teenage girl in the skirmish between police and alleged rebels, Kumar responded, “A bullet is gender blind, a bullet is age blind.”
A magisterial inquiry into the sequence of events surrounding the killings has been ordered.
For further information, please see:
The Hindu – Chhattisgarh Congress Contradicts Chidambaram on Bijapur Encounter – 2 July 201
NY Times – Controversy Grows in India Over Police Killing of Alleged Maoists – 2 July 2012
The Times of India – Chhattisgarh Maoist Encounter: Activists call it cold-blooded murder, CRPF denies allegations – 2 July 2012
BBC News – India Police Kill ’17 Maoists’ in Chhattisgarh – 29 June 2012