Available information indicates that the CRPF's operation in Chattisgarh last week in which 19 alleged Maoists were killed, had taken place on half-baked information, reports Vicky Nanjappa
As the controversy regarding the killing of innocents during last week's anti-Naxal operation by the Central Reserve Police Force at Sarkeguda in Bijapur distict of Chhattisgarh continues, it has come to light from reliable sources that the operation was not a planned one.
Lack of planning, failure in intelligence sharing and also non-cooperation with the local police is what led to this fiasco. It appears to be a hurried operation and it was clear from the manner in which the firing took place that there was no proper sanitisation of the place before the forces headed into the operation.
Nineteen people were killed in the CRPF operation last week amid growing allegations that it was a 'fake' encounter.
Union Home Minister P Chidambaram had said he was sorry in case innocents were killed during the attack. This was followed by a Chhattisgarh Congress party report on Wednesday which claimed that there were innocents killed during the shooting.
There are multiple probes which are taking place into this encounter, and why the CRPF fired at will is bound to be the main issue, but it would take some time before someone actually puts out the real picture.
However, the available information from sources states that it was a hit which had taken place on half-baked information.
The forces were desperate to show results and they wanted some big fish in their kitty, and hence the operation took place in a hurried manner. More importantly, this seems to be more of an area domination exercise by the forces who felt that the Naxals were gaining a lot of ground and sympathy among the villagers, sources indicate.
There were some Naxalites in the group which was fired upon, but more importantly there were innocents as well, including children.
A Naxal meeting took place in that village on the fateful day. The assembled Naxal leaders intentionally chose a crowded area to hold the meeting as they were aware that in case the police arrive at the spot they could get away under the cover of the villagers.
Time and again Naxals have used this strategy taking advantage of the fact that the police will not fire upon innocents in the area. When these Naxals get their intelligence on the movement of the forces, they often tell the villagers to show them the way in or out of the village.
Not all times do the villagers oblige readily and there have been some complaints that they have been threatened with their lives as well.
On that day there was a separate meeting of some Naxalite leaders that was taking place in the village. They received intelligence that the forces were moving in and this prompted them to come out of their meeting area and start mingling with the villagers.
It was a clear case of them taking shield among the villagers who were not even remotely connected to the operation. Many of them were innocent adivasis.
The argument that was put out by the CRPF was that they did manage to neutralise some very big names in the Naxal group.
However, this can be disputed since the big fish or the central committee members no longer operate in Chhattisgarh as the offensive against the Naxals is at an all-time high. They have moved into the remote villages of Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh and are waiting for operations in Chhattisgarh to cool off.
There is another interesting point to show that the Naxals who were killed were not high-ranking cadres. The weapons that were seized from the spot were .303 rifles. In Naxal circles there is a hierarchy of carrying weapons and only squad members of the dalams are allowed to carry automatic weapons.
It is only the lowest-ranking cadres who carry .303 rifles.
The other part that is being argued is whether the CRPF had carried out this operation in coordination with the local police. There are signs of an ego fight on between the CRPF and the local police and the latter have alleged that there was no protocol established before this operation.
It is a must that there should be an officer in the rank of the deputy superintendent of police present during an operation. This is mainly because it is the local police who would know the terrain and also the people better to identify.