A gunbattle between a suspected Maoist group headed by top Naxal leader Vikram Gowda and the Anti-Naxal Force in the forest between Barkhana Falls and Malandur in Agumbe of Shimoga district around 5.30 pm on Friday has put the State government on high alert. The exchange of fire comes just a week after the killing of alleged police informer Sadashiva Gowda by the same group near his house at Tengmar village in Hebri police station limits – 25 km away from the place of the armed confrontation last evening.
“The exchange of fire took place in the deep forest. There were about four to five Maoists, including two women cadres. They first shot at the ANF team and we fired three rounds at them. We called for more deployment and chased the Maoists. They disappeared in the dense forest under the cover of darkness and left behind a bag with some food items,” said Inspector General of Police, ANF, Alok Kumar, who added that they suspect it to be Vikram Gowda’s group, who had reportedly killed Sadashiva Gowda for leaking information to the police.
Sadashiva was allegedly killed by the ‘Karavali group’ of Vikram Gowda by a shot gun – a 12-bore weapon, which was fired from close range, said a senior police officer. The Maoists left a letter, written in Kannada, next to the corpse threatening similar fate to police informers. “The letter has been written by a new recruit because the handwriting does not match the scribble of any of the Maoists from Karnataka,” said Superintendent of Police, Udupi, Dr Y.S. Ravi Kumar. He added that the Naxals could be recruiting cadres from outside the State as no person from the Naxal-affected villages has gone missing in the recent past. The autopsy report of Sadashiva Gowda is still awaited. Following the incident, a sense of fear and insecurity has enveloped the villagers, who find themselves caught between the police and the Left-wing extremists. “They are threatened by the Maoists to provide them with food and medical supplies,” said the officer.
Director General and Inspector General of Police, Shankar M. Bidari said ANF operations have been intensified following Gowda’s gruesome murder. “We suspect he was killed by the Maoists. We have intensified combing operations. Senior officers from the Internal Security Division are camping at site,” said Mr Bidari.