Anguish and eerie silence are acutely felt in Sarkeguda and Kottaguda, two villages separated by 1 km in Bijapur, south Chhattisgarh, after the encounter in which 17 persons described by the police as Maoists were killed on Friday.
“Several among us were labelled Maoists and killed. It is no longer safe for us to stay here. We will migrate to neighbouring Andhra Pradesh,” a distressed villager said.
Tasi Soma, 18, a class 5 dropout, said: “Villagers from Sarkeguda and Kottaguda assembled to perform beej pandum (seed festival) rituals. It was not at all a Maoist meeting. The security forces abruptly opened fire upon them and they shouted at the force, but to no avail.”
A couple of villagers said three-four sangham members (lower cadre of the CPI-Maoist) came to attend the rituals, which have significance in the region. Perhaps they returned the fire, they said, suggesting that this could have injured six CRPF troopers. However, a majority of the villagers said they had not seen any Maoist participating in their rituals and the security forces didn’t bother to find out why the villagers had assembled before opening fire on the basis of a mere supposition that it was a Maoist meeting.
“The Bastar tribals take part in the seed festival during the onset of monsoon. They believe this enhances the productivity of seeds and yields better crop,” said Niranjan Mahawar, an expert on tribal culture.
36 Arrests in andhra In a major operation, 36 Maoists were arrested in a joint operation by CRPF and state police from Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh on Sunday. Among those nabbed is top Maoist commander Lambayya who carries a reward of Rs 30,000 on his head.