In a major success, the state police gunned down six suspected naxalites, including a divisional committee member and two women activists near Jimalgatta forest in Gaddchiroli district, some 300 kms from Nagpur on early Sunday morning.
The deputy inspector general of police (DIG) of Gadchiroli, Ravindra Kadam, informed that the encounter took place at Govindgaon in south Gadchiroli, bordering Andhra Pradesh, one of the naxalite-influence regions of the state. All the bodies have been brought to Aheri police headquarters, for post mortem.
The operation was conducted by the C-60, an elite anti-naxal squad, at mid- night following a tip-off about the presence of Maoists in the jungle. “We have succeeded to gun down six naxalites, including some top-ranking leaders of CPI (Maoist) early this morning,” claimed Kadam.
The operation conducted by the C-60, based on the intelligence inputs in Govindgaon jungle, was very well coordinated and executed. Two more naxalites were reportedly injured and the para-military forces have launched a search operation in the area to capture them.
The naxalites who were killed in the police firing include: the south-Gadchiroli divisional committee member Shankar alias Muleshwar Lakda (43), Aheri dalam (squad) commander Vinod alias Chandraye Kodape (30) his wife Geeta Usendi (28), Mohan Kowase (25), Zhuru Mattami (20) and Sunita alias Pale Bandu Kodape (18), Kadam added.
It was said that the incident took place when about 10-15 naxalites of the CPI (Maoist) were taking rests in the Govindgaon jungle. No policemen were injured in the firing, the reports said. The police have recovered one self-loading rifle, two 12-bore rifles and other arms and ammunition from the spot.
However, the district police claimed that the left-wing extremists were addressing a meeting in the area when the para-military forces reached there. They claimed that when the police team reached at the spot, the naxalites resorted to firing on them indiscriminately. The police team retaliated and challenged them with sophisticated weapons that led to deaths of six naxalites on the spot. None of the police jawans were injured in the encounter.
On the other hand, a human rights activist from Allapalli, who preferred anonymity, asked how naxalites could hold a meeting at mid-night. “The police claim is not convincing,” he pointed out.
The tribal district of Gadchiroli, the most backward region in the state, is under the naxal influence since 1980.
It was first noticed when a young naxalite of the then CPI of Peoples War Group, Peddy Shankar was killed in a police encounter near Sironcha, bordering Andhra Pradesh in September 1980.