Bijapur, May 18 (PTI) Human rights activists on Tuesday demanded a high level probe after three people were killed in an exchange of fire between security forces and alleged Naxals near a new police camp in Chhattisgarh's Sukma district a day earlier.
While villagers claimed security forces opened fire unilaterally on Monday, police said Naxals were part of the crowd that was protesting against the opening of the Silger camp and these ultras started the gun-battle.
Three dead bodies were found and one person was lying injured after the exchange of fire, though identities of the deceased has not been established, officials added.
The camp, where personnel from CRPF's 153rd battalion and state security forces are stationed, was opened on May 12 and since May 14, residents from nearby villagers had been protesting demanding its removal.
Villager Nandaram Markam said the protests from local residents was not under pressure from Naxals but because people here want schools, health facilities etc, adding that the protesting crowd had not pelted stones at the forces and the latter did not have to open fire.
'There were no Naxals in the crowd, and several villagers sustained injuries and many of them are missing even now,' he claimed.
The three who died in police firing were villagers, not Naxals, another resident said.
Alok Shukla, convener of Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan (CBA), a group of activists, alleged police opened fire on tribals who were protesting against the camp and demanded that the incident be probed by a retired judge of the High Court in a time bound manner and an FIR be registered against those found guilty.
He also demanded compensation for the dead and good medical treatment for the injured.
However, Inspector General of Police (Bastar Range) Sundarraj P denied the allegations and said Naxals hiding among villagers opened fire on security forces.
'Maoists are frustrated with the opening of new camps in their stronghold. After the Silger camp was set up on the border of Sukma and Bijapur districts, they were pressuring local residents to protest against it. The protest had ended on Sunday night but Maoists forced the villagers to return on Monday near the camp,' he said.
He said security forces restrained themselves despite protesters pelting stones, after which Naxals in the crowd opened fire, forcing security personnel to retaliate.
'We have got information about the villages of the deceased but their identification is yet to be done. On Tuesday, villagers said four more people from the crowd had sustained injuries during the incident and we hospitalised them as well,' the IG added.
Six District Reserve Guard (DRG) and five Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel sustained minor injuries in the incident, and eight people have been detained from the spot for interrogation, he said.
The official said security forces have information that cadres belonging to Jagargunda, Gangaloor, Kerlapal, Pamed area committees of the Maoists were among the protesters, and they tried to instigate violence, adding that video footage of the protest was being checked to identify the accused. PTI COR TKP BNM BNM