Family members of five among the 12 alleged Maoists killed by security forces in Palamau district of Jharkhand claimed on Thursday that the victims were innocent, raising questions over the encounter.
The five were identified as para teacher Uday Yadav and his cousin Niraj Yadav (both from Manika), Santosh Yadav and Yogesh Yadav, son and nephew respectively of Maoist Anurag and the driver of the vehicle Mohammed Ezaz(all from Chatra district).
None of these five persons had cases registered against them, police sources said. The four children reportedly killed in the encounter have not been identified so far.
Of the six identified among those killed in Tuesday's encounter, the only one with known Maoist connections was Anurag alias RK ji. He was wanted in connection with the 2013 Latehar enounter in which 10 CRPF personnel were killed by Maoists.
Hridaya Kumar Yadav, brother of the killed para teacher Uday Yadav, said, "My brother was suffering at the hand of the Maoists who had thrashed him thrice and forced him out of his native village. How can he be called an ultra? Niraj too was killed as he wished to accompany my brother when he went to broker peace with the Maoists. Both were innocent."
"We will fight for justice for the bereaved family. Uday had a wife and two little children,"he added.
Siteshwar Yadav, the father-in-law of Santosh, said, "The security forces took three innocent lives in that encounter. My son-in-law had differences with his father over his Maoist connections. He along with my daughter Soni wanted his father to return to the mainstream of society."
"After Anurag Ji refused, both did not speak to each other for one-and-half years. Recently, a truce was arrived at, and he along with his cousin Yogesh had gone to convince him to surrender, Siteshwar claimed.
Families of the dead said they would go to court over the "cold-blooded murders".
Police have so far rejected allegations that innocents were killed in the Palamau encounter. "If Uday Yadav had no links to the rebels, why was he travelling in the SUV with the Maoist squad led by dreaded leader Anurag Ji," Palamau IG A Natrajan said on Wednesday.
Twelve people were gunned down on Tuesday by personnel of the Cobra battalion, a specialised unit of the CRPF for fighting Maoists, and the district police in Bakoria village, 140 kms from capital Ranchi.
This was the the first major incident in Jharkhand after Maoists had ambushed a police vehicle in Dumka on April 20 last year killing six policemen.