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Cause for concern, not celebration

Cause for concern, not celebration
The home ministry and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) may be busy congratulating themselves over their ‘victory’ this time round in Chhattisgarh. They had mounted what is being described as the ‘biggest encounter’ against Maoists. According to the records released by the authorities concerned — although differing versions of the incident and indentities, if we go by the various reports that various newspapers carried — the attack were carried out in at least two different places — Sarkeguda in Bijapur and Jagargunda in Sukma — killing at least 19.  

But the villagers have a different story to tell. Immediately after the killings, the villagers gathered around the lined up bodies, protesting against the ‘fake’ encounter. They claim innocent people, including children were also killed. They do have a cause to complain. As per one of the reports, of the 17 killed in Sarkeguda, only two were apparently marked as naxalites. That is a lot of civilian deaths to get at two.

And as usual, confusion prevails. On the one hand, you get to hear about the preparation in detail — about how the forces were even prepared against mosquitoes, which could have easily put a dampener on the stealth. But on the other hand, home minister P Chidambaram had apparently mentioned names that were not on the list issued by the forces of those killed. There is also confusion regarding the mastermind of the 2007 Dantewada jailbreak. One of those killed in Sarkeguda, Madkam Suresh, is being referred to as the mastermind of the incident, but the case records suggest otherwise.

Meanwhile, the officials, are obviously happy that things did not turn out the April 2010 way, considered one of the deadliest attacks of Maoists on the Indian security forces. On 6 April 2010, 80 CRPF officers and a local police group were conducting a domination exercise in the Bastar tribal region in Chhattisgarh, when they were ambushed by the Maoists. It resulted in the death of 76 CRPF officers.  This time round, the team was prepared. Only six from the team were reportedly hurt. ‘Operation Silger’ — apparently materialised with the help of Salwa Judum sources, despite heavy criticisms against it for violating human rights and, what’s more, despite Supreme Court’s decision on 5 July  2011 that it is illegal and unconstitutional — has obviously been planned meticulously, including the politically correct sound-bytes: ‘the first fire came from Maoists’; ‘if any maoist sympathiser got caught in the crossfire, what can we do?’  

Is it possible that the authorities decided to ignore the threat to civilian lives to get their hand on a few elusive Maoists? If so, should we look the other way and let them get away with that? Isn’t the family of the 15-year-old Kumari Kaka, one of  the victim, entitled to an answer – leave alone justice? Most importantly, should we be celebrating the death of our own people – whichever side of the fence they were?
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