A magisterial inquiry has been ordered by the District Magistrate of Bijapur into last Friday's Basaguda encounter. About 17 people, allegedly Maoists, were all killed in the encounter near Sakerguda village, about 3 Km from Basaguda, in a joint operation of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the Chhattisgarh Police.
However, now reports from ground zero have raised questions about the identities of those killed, suggesting that many of them were actually innocent villagers.
Speaking to NDTV, Inspector General of Police, (Bastar range) T K Longkumer today said that while most of those killed were indeed Maoists, it is hard for security forces at night to tell, who one is shooting at. He is said that an inquiry is on, to establish the identity of the 15 year old girl who was also killed during the gun battle.
The Maoists have condemned the incident and said that innocent villagers were killed by the security forces. They have also declared a bandh on July 5 across the Dandakarnya Zone which comprises Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and Andra Pradesh. In a statement issued last night, spokesperson of the Dandakarnya Zone who goes by assumed name Gudsa Usendi has said that proposed July 5th bandh is in protest of the massacre of innocent tribals at Basaguda.
While claims and counter claims continue some questions that have been raised need to be highlighted. For instance, what was the meeting all about which the villagers claim they were attending when the security forces attacked and why was it being held in the middle of night? Also, if the CRPF jawans fired on innocent people, then who fired and injured the jawans?
Social Activist Swami Agnivesh, who had earlier unsuccessfully volunteered to negotiate between the Maoists and the Government, has been quoted in a section of the media saying that the Maoists had called for a meeting to settle a land dispute. He has also said that the jawans surrounded the village when the meeting was in progress. The Maoists, he has said, fired at forces when the gun-battle started and fled leaving innocent villagers in the cross fire.
Villagers have often told NDTV that they have no option but to attend meetings whenever Maoists ask them to.
Swami Agnivesh is a well-respected activist, and so there's a fair chance that what he claims happened is indeed how the events unfolded in the early hours of June 29. So once again some more questions arise. Were the villagers used as human shields by the Maoists? And, also, why couldn't the security forces, who were closing in from two sides, unable to make out that innocent civilians were trapped in the cross-fire? Is the inability to see who one is shooting, as suggested by Chief of Bastar Police, an acceptable explanation? Are the state and security forces not expected to behave in a more responsible manner?
All that one can say with some finality at this juncture is that the magisterial inquiry will be crucial for these unanswered questions. But what will be of even more critical importance is the fairness and impartiality with which the inquiry is conducted. This will determine how much local villagers, who play a key role in the fight against Maoists, trust the government and in the process deny the Maoists ground on which they thrive.
Story first published:
July 01, 2012 21:23 IST