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regular-article-logo Friday, 24 May 2024

29 Naxals killed in biggest encounter ever in Chhattisgarh, this year's toll in Bastar rises to 79

Three security personnel also suffered injuries in the fierce gun-battle and a large quantity of weapons was recovered from the spot, say officials

PTI Kanker Published 16.04.24, 09:45 PM
An injured security personnel being treated after an encounter with Naxalites, in Kanker district.

An injured security personnel being treated after an encounter with Naxalites, in Kanker district. PTI picture.

Ahead of the first phase of polling in Chhattisgarh, security personnel gunned down 29 Naxalites, including some senior cadres, in Kanker district on Tuesday in the biggest encounter ever in the state, police said.

This was the highest fatalities suffered by Naxalites in a single encounter in the history of the state's fight against Left Wing Extremism. Since the start of 2024, as many as 79 Naxalites have been killed in separate gun-battles with security forces in the Bastar region, a Maoist stronghold.

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Three security personnel also suffered injuries in the fierce gun-battle and a large quantity of weapons was recovered from the spot, officials said.

Deputy Chief Minister Vijay Sharma, who holds the home portfolio, hailed the encounter as a "surgical strike" and a major success, and asserted credit for it goes to brave security personnel.

The latest gunfight took place at around 2 pm in Hapatola forest between Binagunda and Koronar villages under Chhotebethiya police station limits, when a joint team of the Border Security Force (BSF) and the state police's District Reserve Guard (DRG) was out on an anti-Naxal operation, Inspector General of Police (Bastar Range) Sundarraj P said.

The operation was launched based on inputs about the presence of senior cadres of north Bastar division of the outlawed CPI (Maoist) Shankar, Lalita, Raju and others, he said.

During patrolling in the area, a fierce gun-battle broke out between the two sides, the senior IPS officer said.

"Bodies of 29 Maoists along with a huge cache of weapons, including AK-47, SLR, Insas and .303 rifles, were recovered from the spot," the IG said.

Polling in the Naxalite-hit Bastar Lok Sabha seat will take place on April 19 in the first phase, while the Kanker constituency, part of the Bastar region, will vote in the second round of general elections on April 26.

The search operation was still underway in the area, said Sundarraj.

"Three security personnel sustained injuries in the gunfight and their condition was stated to be out of danger," he said, adding they were being airlifted to state capital Raipur for treatment.

The slain Naxalites were yet to be identified, but prima facie it seems senior cadres of the north Bastar division of the CPI (Maoist) were are among them, Sundarraj added.

Sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said three security personnel -- two BSF inspectors and one DRG trooper -- were injured in the gunfight.

"The operation was launched on late evening of April 15 based on various inputs of Maoists' movement in Binagunda and adjoining areas. We shared five inputs, including two inputs giving the exact location of the North Bastar division committee of Maoists in Binagunda area, underlining the fact that it acted like a permanent camp of Maoists since April 5," they said.

Shankar and Lalita, both divisional committee members of the north Bastar division of Maoists, are believed to be amongst the deceased, the sources added.

After the latest encounter, 79 Naxalites have been killed in separate gun-battles with security forces in the Bastar region, comprising seven districts, including Kanker, so far this year.

On April 2, as many as 13 Naxalites were killed, while six Maoists were gunned down on March 27 in encounters with security forces in Bijapur district.

Terming the encounter as a "surgical strike" by the Bastar police on Naxalism, deputy CM Sharma said, "It was for the first time on the anti-Naxal front that in a face-to-face fight, security forces were completely dominant over Naxalites and did not give them a chance to recover." "We want talks (with Naxalites)....whether they do it in a group or through representatives. Bastar needs peace. We are committed to this," he added.

The operation was conducted in an area of Abhujmaad (a Maoist stronghold), which falls in southern part of Kanker district and northern part of neighbouring Narayanpur district wherein 29 Naxalites were gunned down, Sharma said.

"The credit for this successful operation goes to security forces. This has been possible due to the strength and courage of soldiers. We are working under the guidance of Union Home Minister Amit Shah ji and the leadership of Chief Minister Vishnu Deo Sai," Sharma said.

Tuesday's operation has boosted the morale of security forces, he maintained.

Ever since the 'double engine' government (BJP in power at the Centre and a state) has taken office in Chhattisgarh, positive things have happened on the anti-Naxal front, the state home minister noted.

New security camps have been set up in the den of Naxalites in the Bastar region as part of a strategy to root out the menace, the deputy CM emphasised.

In four months, around 80 Naxalites have been killed in separate encounters with security forces, he added.

Sharma reiterated his government is committed to restore peace in Bastar. The people of Bastar should get clean drinking water, electricity and benefits of development.

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