Sunday, February 25, 2024

8 years after Chattisgarh “encounter”: Forces killed unarmed Adivasis, not Maoists, finds probe

Edesmetta villagers with bodies of the deceased outside the Gangalur police station. Credit: Human Rights Forum report

Eight years after security personnel gunned down eight persons, including four minors, in Edesmetta in Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh, a judicial inquiry report, submitted to the state cabinet, called the incident “a mistake.”

The report by Justice V K Agarwal, a retired judge of the Madhya Pradesh High Court concluded that none of those killed were Maoists, as was alleged at the time of the incident, Indian Express reported.

“There was no strong intelligence behind the operation. None of the gathered people had weapons, nor were they members of the Maoist organisation,” the report stated.

The report alleged the incident of firing seemed to be a result of “wrong assumption, nervous reaction” and said the security personnel “may have opened fire in panic.”

The report also refuted the claims of security forces who had said then that they came under fire and had retaliated. There was no threat-to-life to security personnel who had not followed the norms of a marching operation, Justice Agarwal said.

The report was approved by the cabinet.

The Edesmetta killings occurred in May 2013. On the day, the residents of the village had gathered to celebrate an annual festival when 1,000 security officers arrived at the site. The Commando Battalion for Resolute Action, also known as the COBRA, team had opened fire, leaving eight people dead. Four of the eight were minors.

Seven villagers died that night: Karam Pandu (the pujari), Karam Somlu, Punem Somu and four minors – Karam Guddu, Punem Lakku, Karam Badru and Karam Masa. CRPF constable Dev Prakash’s body was found next to that of Karam Masa. According to villagers, he died in the same burst of gunfire.

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