On June 28, security forces killed 17 suspected Maoists at Basaguda in southern Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district. Activists and opposition Congress, however, have termed the encounter fake. Villagers too have said many of those killed were innocent. In an interview with HT, chief minister Raman Singh (BJP) says the encounter was genuine and a judicial probe will reveal the truth. Excerpts:
Was the Bijapur encounter fake and were innocent people killed, as is being alleged?
Maoists strategically use villagers who are sangham members (junior members in their people’s militia) as human shields. The encounter took place after the security forces were attacked. We have decided to let facts be known to all through a judicial probe.
Aren’t villagers too saying innocent tribals had not gathered for a Maoist meeting?
If it was not Naxal meeting, how did security personnel sustain grievous bullet injuries? Will they open fire on each other?
Why is the role of CRPF and police being questioned?
This is the outcome of the effort of a handful of NGOs and a section of the media. One should understand the psychology of jawans working under tough conditions. The media and activists should not lose sight of violence unleashed by Maoists in their jan adalats — how they kill villagers, security personnel and displace tribals.
When will the judicial probe start?
We have discussed this with the high court chief justice and are waiting for him to name the judge to head the probe.
What if Maoists again use villagers as human shields?
If signs of villagers being present among Maoists are there, the forces will need to display patience and avoid collateral damage.
What is the government doing to restore peace in the region?
One-sided peace is not possible. During the Sukma collector’s abduction, the feedback from Maoist mediators had raised hopes of peace, but there was an abrupt increase in violence and kidnapping. I am prepared to hold dialogue even at Bastar, but let the Maoists first decide the issues they will agree to peace.