As the home ministry ordered an inquiry into the Basaguda encounter following allegations that innocent tribals were killed in Thursday night’s encounter, some of the injured jawans spoke to Hindustan Times.
K Rajan, 44, had been shot below the knee and Arnab Ghosh, 27, has been injured in his right foot. They are currently being treated in Raipur’s MMI hospital along with colleagues SS Rana and KK Khatri. Two others, Gyanendra Singh and Wahidul Islam are in the hospital’s intensive care unit.
According to the men, more than a month ago, the forces had received intelligence reports about a Maoist meeting that was to be held in Silgar. Soon after, a complex operation was planned to capture them, which involved three teams setting out from three different places and surrounding the area.
At 9.30 pm on Thursday, a batch of 100 CRPF men and state police headed out for Silgar from Basaguda (both in Bijapur district). By 11.30 pm, they had covered around 5 km and reached Sarkeguda.
They were proceeding slowly in the dark, when they sensed the presence of a large gathering in the vicinity. Planning to cordon off the area, they kept moving in a single file in a zig zag track.
“In such situations, we are not allowed to talk. Those in front pass the message down the line in gestures,” said Rajan. “That day, when about 20 people had received the message, someone screamed ‘police’ from the other side. Something was said in the local dialect and the next thing we knew, bullets were flying. They had begun firing indiscriminately.”
Said Ghosh, “From the sound of the gunfire, it seemed the Maoists were using AK-47 and self-loading rifles (SLR).”
The encounter lasted less than an hour. The jawans said they did not know whether the Maoists were using tribals as shields or the men killed were members of the jan militia.
The jawans themselves were carrying X-95 light machine guns, INSAS assault rifles and AK-47s. But Dr Aloke Swain said, “The injuries could not have been a result of ‘friendly fire’. In that case, the injuries would have proved that they were shot at from a short range.”
A CRPF officer who did not want to be named, confirmed that three low intensity weapons and some magazines were recovered from the area. Three Maoists were injured in the operation, one of whom succumbed to injuries. The other two are in hospital.