The Congress party seems to be at loggerheads with Home Minister P Chidambaram over the Naxal operations by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in Chhattisgarh on June 27, in which 19 people were killed.
A preliminary report of the Congress unit in Chhattisgarh has specifically listed seven minor children among those killed, with the youngest being 12 years old. They include: Hirpa Suresh (13), Dilip Markam (14), Ekka Mittu (15), Kunjum Mittu (16), Kaka Vahul (14), Ram Vilas (14) and Kumari Kaka Saraswati (12).
The 13-member committee was headed by a senior tribal MLA Kawasi Lakhma. Contradicting the state government, the Chhattisgarh Pradesh Congress Committee in its report has said that it was the tribals got caught in the cross-fire, but is unable to clearly state who started the firing.
The Congress blamed the BJP-led state government and the CRPF for the "botch-up", saying it has resulted in the loss of lives of innocent tribals and minors.
Asked about Home Minister P Chidambaram lauding CRPF for its "transparent" and "upfront" attitude over the issue and saying that those killed included naxals, AICC general secretary in-charge for the state B K Hariprasad said the Minister was merely reading the report given to him by the Chhatttisgarh government."Whatever our Home Minister is saying is according to the report given by the Chhattisgarh government.... I do not agree with the report given by the Chhattisgarh government," Mr Hariprasad said in response to a volley of questions on an apparent disconnect between party's position with that of Mr Chidambaram on the issue.
"Those killed also included minors...if children have been killed there should not be any pardon...In the name of tackling Maoists, innocent tribals should not be victimised," Mr Hariprasad said.
Mr Chidambaram, who had last week said that three important Naxal leaders-- Somulu, Nagesh and Mahesh---were killed in the gunbattle, today said his statement was based on the report of the CRPF, which is under his charge and that the force has been very "transparent" and "upfront" on the issue. The Home Minister also said that all those killed in the encounter were adult barring one, who was 15 to 16 years old.
Mr Chidambaram, speaking to reporters on Wednesday, defended the CRPF from any criticism, and said, "The CRPF director general has said he had nothing to hide, nothing to fear. I do not think any Central force has been so transparent...I am not going into the political controversies. I am the home minister and the CRPF is under me. We have been absolutely candid, frank and upfront." (Read Chidambaram's statement on Chhattisgarh encounter)
Referring to the possibility of villagers being killed in the operation, the Home Minister said he was "deeply sorry if any girl, or boy or man or woman not involved with the Maoists at all has been killed".