One of the tall Maoist figures in the country and the CPI (Maoist) central committee member Milind Teltumbde was among the 26 Maoists killed in Saturday’s encounter in Gadchiroli, several newspapers reported, citing police official.
“Surrendered Naxalites have identified one of the bodies as that of Teltumbde’s,” Gadchiroli Superintendent of Police Ankit Goyal said to Indian Express.
Of the 26 who were killed, the police claim to have identified 16 persons so far.
Teltumbde who was the head of the Maharashtra-Madhya Pradesh-Chhattisgarh zone of the banned CPI (Maoist), carried a reward of Rs 50 lakh for his capture.
A person named Masram, who identified himself as an official from the Anti-Naxal Operation (ANO), Nagpur called Teltumbde’s partner, Angela Sontakke, early Sunday morning to inform her about the killing, The Wire reported.
Teltumbde is an older brother of prominent human rights defender, academic and civil liberties activist Anand Teltumbde, who was arrested in April 2020 under draconian UAPA in the Elgar Parishad case of 2018.
The key leader’s bodyguards – a man and a woman – are also believed to have been shot dead, news agency PTI reported.
Sixteen teams of the anti-Maoist C-60 commandoes – with over 500 personnel – carried out the massive encounter operation that started at 6 am on Saturday and went on till 4 pm. Four security personnel were injured in the operation.
Officials say yesterday’s was one of the biggest encounters in the recent years in the forests of Gadchiroli, about 900 km from Mumbai.
Apart from Teltumbde, two other top Maoists the police claimed to have gunned down were Mahesh alias Shivaji Raoji Gota, a resident of Renadigutta village of Etapalli tahsil of the district, and Lokesh alias Mangu Podyam, a resident of Jagargunda village in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh. Both were members of the Gadchiroli divisional committee of CPI (Maoist), according to Indian Express.
Gota belonged to Kasansur dalam and carried a reward of Rs 16 lakh while Podyam was commander of Company 4 and carried a reward of Rs 20 lakh for his capture.
Maharashtra state home minister Dilip Walse Patil said the “backbone” of the Naxal movement has been destroyed after these killings.