24 Maoists killed in encounter
- AP-Odisha police joint operation a big success
Twenty-four Maoists were reported to have been killed in a joint operation conducted by Odisha and Andhra Pradesh police early Monday morning in a jungle on the borders of the two states.
The encounter took place near Jantri in Malkangiri district of Odisha. Confirming the death toll – 17 males and seven females – Malkangiri SP told The Hindu, ““As the place where the encounter took place is too remote and is reachable by road from through Andhra Pradesh, the bodies are to be airlifted by helicopter to Malkangiri.”
It is suspected that some injured Naxalites might have escaped into the dense bush. With combing operations continuing, police see a possibility of recovering more bodies.
Based on intelligence info, AP Greyhounds and special police of Odisha had formed a joint team to search for the suspected Naxalite hideout. In the wee hours of Monday, the special forces struck a Maoist training camp. In the ensuing exchange of fire, 24 Maoists were reported to have been killed. A few among the dead could be some top leaders of the banned CPI (Maoist) party. Their names could be known only after ascertaining their identities.
Police sources said two constables belonging to Greyhounds were injured and they were airlifted to Visakhapatnam for medical treatment. Four AK-47 rifles, three self-loading rifles and some other weapons were seized from the encounter site.
It is believed that more than 100 Maoists operating in the Odisha-AP border areas had assembled at the site to hold a joint meeting with some top leaders.
This is the second major encounter and the biggest in Malkangiri district, the first one being in September 2013 when 13 Maoists were killed. The Monday operation is considered a major victory for AP-Odisha police in their anti-Naxalite operations.
Malkangiri district is predominantly a tribal area and is a key transit zone for Maoists prowling Chhattisgarh, Odisha and AP forests. In recent months, Odisha’s efforts have resulted in hundreds of Maoists and their supporters surrendering to the police. While the Maoist support base has been shrinking in Odisha, some hardcore cadres are said to have shifted their activities to Chhattisgarh. It is not yet known whether the Monday encounter would have a considerable impact on their operations.
Senior leaders among the dead
According to latest reports, senior Maoists Kiran, Sudhakar and Ramakrishna’s son Munna were among those dead while another senior leader Ganesh escaped from the police ambush.
The militant group’s top leader Ramakrishna (RK) was also at the encounter site as they were holding a plenary. The agenda of the meeting was to strengthen the party in the entire South India and several leaders from Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Kerala and Chhattisgarh were taking part in the plenary.
The police took the help of former Maoists to identify the dead leaders. One of the two constables of the Greyhounds team who were injured in the encounter and taken to King George Hospital in Visakhapatnam succumbed to his injuries. He was identified as senior commando Abubakar of Gajuwaka. The bodies of Maoists were shifted to Malkangiri district by a helicopter.
High Court orders bodies to be preserved
Meanwhile, the High Court which sat down to look into the petition regarding Monday’s encounter posted the next hearing for Wednesday and ordered that the bodies of those slain in the encounter be preserved till then. The Advocate General representing the Andhra Pradesh Government had stated that they do not yet have a confirmation about how many people died in the encounter as the encounter is still under way.
The petitioner Chiluka Chandrasekhar requested the court to have the bodies moved to the KGH in Visakhapatnam. He alleged that the Grey Hounds had gone 10km beyond their perimeter to kill the Maoists, who were only gathered there for a meeting. Instead of arresting them, they killed them, showing it as an encounter, the petitioner alleged. The Human Rights organization petitioned the court to register a case under Section 302 of the IPC against the police officers involved.
Varavara Rao calls it cold-blooded murders
In a related development, revolutionary writer P Varavara Rao called it a fake encounter and demanded a probe. “Cops surrounded a Maoist meeting and shot them in cold blood and termed it as an encounter. After the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, the influence of Maoists has come down and they have not launched any major attacks. So what was the reason for such drastic action against them, he questioned. “This encounter case should be registered as a murder case and a sitting High Court judge should conduct the probe,” V V Rao demanded. Most of the slain Maoists hailed from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, he added.