Raipur, July 2 (IANS) An opposition Congress's team, which probed the killing of 19 Maoists by security forces in Chhattisgarh last week, Monday termed it as a massacre of innocent villagers and demanded a CBI probe.
Kawasi Lakhma, Congress legislator from Konta and head of the investigation team which revisited Kottaguda village, the site of Friday's killings in Bijapur district, told IANS over phone: "The victims' families narrated to the team members the brutalities of security forces and how their men and kids were picked up from their houses and taken to the outskirts of the village only to shoot them."
"Only a CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) probe can reveal the truth," he said.
Police officials brushed aside charges of killing innocent tribals and claimed that all the dead were either hardcore militants or members of Jan Militia, a frontal organisation of the Maoists.
Union Minister of State for Agriculture Charan Das Mahant of the Congress, who was also in the Bastar region June 29-30, claimed that only three Maoists were killed in the incident, while 16 others were innocent villagers.
He said the villagers were holding a meeting to sort out some land-related dispute when the security forces attacked them.
The Congress leader alleged that the state government provided wrong information to union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, who had given a statement that six hardcore Maoists were killed by security forces.
The party formed the probe team Saturday, saying that the presence of women and children among the dead and the "shabby way" the state government handled the issue gave rise to the suspicion that they were killed in staged shootout.
Human rights activist and former People's Union for Civil Liberties leader Rajinder K. Sail said: "In Chhattisgarh, the state government hardly cares for any rights."
"Every action of the government is intended to harm poor tribals. The killing of 19 tribals is just an example of its brutalities," he said.
Refuting the allegation of staged shootout, Inspector General of Police (Intelligence) Mukesh Gupta Monday said: "Till now, five of the hardcore ultras killed at Kottaguda have been identified and the rest were members of Jan Militia who provided cover to the Maoists."
Additional Director General of Police (Naxal Operations) Ram Niwas said: "Three searching parties had been sent to the meeting site only after getting a well trusted information. When the security forces reached near the site, the ultras confronted them with fire, in which six CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) jawans were injured."