7 Minors Killed in Chhattisgarh Encounter: Cong
Striking a different note from the Government on last week's anti-naxal operation in Chhattisgarh that left 19 tribals killed, Congress today blamed the
BJP-ruled state for the "botch-up", saying it has resulted in the loss of lives of innocent tribals and minors.
Asked about Home Minister P Chidambaram lauding CRPF for its "transparent" and "upfront" attitude over the issue and saying that those killed included
naxals, AICC general secretary in-charge for the state B K Hariprasad said the Minister was merely reading the report given to him by the Chhatttisgarh government.
"Whatever our Home Minister is saying is according to the report given by the Chhattisgarh government.... I do not agree with the report given by the Chhattisgarh government," Hariprasad said in response to a volley of questions on an apparent disconnect between party's position with that of Chidambaram on the issue.
Contradicting the state government, the Chhattisgarh PCC has said that it was a "completely fake encounter".
Chidambaram, who had last week said that three important Naxal leaders-- Somulu, Nagesh and Mahesh---were killed in the
gunbattle, today said his statement was based on the report of the CRPF, which is under his charge and that the force has been very "transparent" and "upfront" on the issue.
The Home Minister also said that all those killed in the encounter were adult barring one, who was 15 to 16 years old.
Hariprasad said the preliminary report of the Congress fact-finding team held that several "innocent people and minors" were also killed.
19 people were killed in a fierce gunfight in the dense jungles of Dantewada on June 27-28 in a joint
Sources in Congress said the preliminary report submitted by the 12-member team headed by a senior tribal MLA Kawasi Lakhma said among the the victims were seven minors who are 15 years old and below.
"Those killed also included minors...If children have been killed there should not be any pardon...In the name of tackling Maoists, innocent tribals should not be victimised," Hariprasad said.
Hariprasad said it was "failure" of the state government in collecting proper intelligence that led to this "botch-up" and adequate precautions were not taken before this major operation.
The report prepared by the local Congress fact-finding team mentions the names of victims as 13-year-old Hirpa Suresh, Kumari Kaka Saraswati (12), Ramvilas
Markam, Dilip Markam and Kaka Rahul (all 14), the sources said.
The report has also said that it was difficult to establish who fired the first shot that provoked the encounter.
Security agencies had maintained that they had to open fire after their jawans were injured in the firing from the other side.
Hariprasad said that the primary responsibility of the state government as well as the central government is to protect the
"The priority should be given to save the life and property of the tribals in the Bastar region. Tribals should not become victims of the cross fire between security forces and
Naxals. They should be protected at all costs.
"900 tribal villages in the Bastar region now wear a deserted look while of the 80,000 people, who were living in Salwa Judum (anti-Maoist vigilante group) camps, only 25-30,000 are remaining. We do not know where the rest have gone," he said.
Tribal Affairs Minister Kishore Chandra Deo had also called the offensive "completely unacceptable" and dubbed as "notorious" Chhattisgarh government's record in conducting
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