A controversy has erupted over what Chhattisgarh police claimed to be an encounter in Silger on the inter-district border of Bijapur and Sukma in the Bastar region of the state on May 17 (Monday). Villagers have claimed that the three people, namely Uika Pandu from Teemapura, Bheema Ursam from Gundam, and Kawasi Waga from Sudwa village, who died in police firing were ordinary civilians and not Maoists as claimed by the state police.
Alleging gross human right violation, villagers said that they were staging a peaceful protest close to the newly constructed Silger police camp when police opened fire to end the protest.
“We do not want a police camp, therefore, we are protesting and to end our demonstration police fired upon us,” said a villager named Madvi Hunga, adding that eighteen of the villagers are injured and six of us are still missing.
A local journalist named Shankar, who has been extensively covering the protest, confirmed: “The villagers are continuously protesting since May 12. However, for the last three days, the situation has been quite tense, and people wanted security forces to abandon the place at any cost. During the course, more than three times police carried out lathicharge, fired tear gas shells to disperse the villagers but the situation did not come under control”.
Journalist slams Rahul Gandhi for failing to protect the tribals in Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh
Denouncing the arbitrary conduct of the state police in the Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh, senior journalist Alok Putul took to Twitter on May 18 (Tuesday) to share a video related to Silger firing and tagged Congress leader Rahul Gandhi questioning the latter’s committment to protecting these tribals from violence.
सुकमा में पुलिस कैंप का विरोध कर रहे ग्रामीणों पर भरी दोपहर में की गई गोलीबारी में 3 लोगों की मौत और 18 आदिवासियों के घायल होने की घटना ने अपने पीछे कई सवाल छोड़े हैं, जिनका जवाब कोई नहीं देना चाहता.@RahulGandhi आपने तो इन्हीं आदिवासियों को हिंसा से मुक्ति के सपने दिखाये थे न? pic.twitter.com/pGfIp0JhaH— Alok Putul (@thealokputul) May 17, 2021
A day after the firing incident, several human rights activists, tribal leaders of Bastar and civil society organisations condemned the killings and demanded a judicial probe into the incident. They also demanded compensation for the families of the deceased and said that criminal cases should be registered against those police officials (if found guilty) responsible for the firing.
Police claim Maoist killed in firing incident
Meanwhile, the Chhattisgarh police have refuted the allegations meted out at their department claiming that Maoists had taken the villagers as their shield during the protest.
“This was a Maoist-compelled protest against the police camp. The protest ended on Sunday night, but the Maoists forced the innocent villagers to return on Monday,” said Inspector-General of Police, Bastar Range, Sunderaj P, adding that the protest was being carried out by Maoists primarily because they do not want a police camp in their core area.
Maoists in Chhattisgarh call for bandh
After Chhattisgarh police issued its statement, Maoists South Zonal Committee issued a press release in which it claimed that the police story related to firing from Maoists is fake. Police indiscriminately fired upon the villagers under the instructions of SP Bijapur and IG Bastar, Maoists alleged.
To protest the alleged police brutality, the Maoists South Zonal Committee said that a shutdown of Bijapur and Sukma districts has been called on May 21.
This particular incident in question had occurred on Monday evening near a newly set up police camp at Silger. A big crowd of villagers had gathered in the area since Sunday night to oppose the camp.
Videos of the firing incident, including the one in which local villagers can be heard saying that nine civilians had been killed in the firing by the security forces and that no Maoists were present at the spot and no exchange of fire had taken place, are doing the rounds on social media.
The villagers alleged that nine had been killed and almost one and a half dozen civilians had been injured in the incident.