Gadchiroli: Residents of a village in this Maoist-affected Maharashtra district on Tuesday alleged that at least innocent eight youth, including five girls, may have been felled by police bullets in the country’s biggest anti-Maoist operation here last month. The villagers of Gattepalli have demanded a judicial probe into the April 22-23 operation and action against the commandos of the crack unit C-60 who had carried out the twin security operation killing 40 Maoists in the forests of Kasnasur.
In a memorandum to the Gadchiroli Collector, the villagers have said that the eight youth – aged between 15-25 – were among who had left Gattepalli for Kasnasur on April 21 to attend the wedding of Somu Rainu Madavi. While two of them – Gonglu Muka Gawde and Tulsi Chaitu Gawde – returned on Sunday (April 22), the remaining eight did not come back from the wedding festivities in Kasnasur, around 25 km from Gattepalli.
The following day (April 23), the families made frantic enquiries and even visited Kasnasur for their missing kin, but failed to trace them out. The next day, on April 24, the distraught families finally lodged missing complaints with the local police, who took the families to various morgues where the bodies of the slain 40 Maoists were kept prior to identification and handing over to their families. The villagers said from among the killed Maoists, they identified one body – of Buji Karve Usandi – as one of the missing youth from the clothes he had worn when had gone for the wedding.
Thereafter, the villagers – at least 40 who have signed the memorandum – accused police of not permitting them to check out the other bodies for their missing relatives despite repeated pleas. However, as the matter threatened to snowball into a controversy, on April 27, the authorities ordered a DNA test to match the bodies with the family members who had lodged the complaint. The DNA reports have not come so far, the villagers said.
“We feel our youth have been killed in the police firing on Maoists in the forests that day (April 22). They had all left together for the wedding in Kasnasur and even Usandi (whose body was identified in a morgue) was travelling with them,” the villagers said in their memorandum. They added that these people were “innocent, simple folk who worked in the village helping out with routine chores,” and had no links with the Maoists, or possessed any weapons.
“Some of the youth were highly educated. One of the killed Maoists, Sainath (Donesh Madi Atram, who was a commander of the Permili dalam), hailed from Gattepalli, but he never visited the village nor lured our people to join him. In the security operations, police have not suffered even a scratch, leading to doubts whether it was a genuine or staged encounter,” the memo reads.
They added that an entire generation of youngsters from the village has been lost forever and “we are left shaken and scared” by the developments. The Gattepalli villagers have demanded a judicial probe into the incident, action against the guilty security personnel and a compensation of Rs 10 million to the kin of each deceased youth.
The copies of the memorandum have been sent to the Governor, the Chief Minister, the National Human Rights Commission, Superintendent of Police and other state and national organisations.