As villagers at the encounter site deep in the Dandakaranya forest mourned their dead and state agencies stayed away, the Maoists moved in. On Saturday, Sandeep, the 19-year-old commander of the CPI (Maoist)’s Basaguda Area Committee, sat on a fallen tree not far from the village, noting down the names of the dead and injured.
Sandeep’s team of around 50 Maoist rebels — men and women carrying firearms, bows and arrows — went from home to home in the village, talking to the grieving families, listening to their grievances.
Sandeep said he had learnt about Thursday night’s encounter “on the radio” last night. He was in another area, he said, and had immediately headed to Sarkeguda. He said at least 15 villagers — none of whom were Maoists, he claimed — were injured and had received no medical attention. “Can you please help us? Can you take some of them to any hospital? If they remain here, they too will die,” he asked this reporter.
A woman from nearby Rajpenta village said her teenage son Sapka Chhoto had been missing since the incident. “Can you please find out if he too is dead?” she asked.
It seemed she had not been informed that among the two alleged Naxals admitted to a Jagdalpur hospital by the administration, one is called Sapka Chhoto. Chhoto was quoted as having told reporters today that villagers were in a meeting about some land-related issues when the security forces opened fire. “There were some Naxals there as well,” he said. “They ran away and we were caught.”
Policemen from Basaguda thana picked up nearly a hundred people from nearby villages after the incident. On Saturday afternoon, several tens of women who said they were from Silger sat under a shed opposite the thana. Several women were inside.
“We do not need force here, certainly not CoBRA. They are insensitive to tribals. They killed 21 innocent people,” Sandeep said. He said he belonged to Dantewada, and had joined the Maoists after Salwa Judum attacks forced him to flee his village.