The villagers of Sindhesur village in Gadchiroli district , where seven people died during an encounter between police and the Maoists on Friday, alleged that the Maoists tried to use some of the villagers present at the spot as human shields.

Two villagers of Sindhesur village Mukesh Hidko and Sukhdev Gawade died, apart from four Maoists and one police Jawan, in the cross firing between police and the Maoists on Friday morning in the forest near the village.

According to the villagers, some 25 to 30 Maoists came near the village and decided to eat lunch there. The Maoists made preparations for cooking food but saw some villagers roaming around.

Nine villagers were in the forest to collect Mahua flowers. The Maoists asked all nine people to stay with them but after some time, told Mukesh and Sukkhdev to go to the village to bring some drinking water. Sukhdev’s mother requested the Maoists not to sent Sukhdev who was deaf and dumb.

But the ultras sent both of them to the village. When Sukhhdev and Mukesh returned from the village and were handing over water bottles to the Maoists, the police team started firing.

According to some villagers, some of the Maoists present on the spot tried to use civilians as human shields.

Even Gadchiroli Superintendent of Police (SP) Mohd.Suvez Haque told The Hindu that the Maoists tried to use civilians as human shields and that this is their regular practice.

“Our men tried their best to save the civilians but the Maoists were using them as human shields. In fact our Jawan died while trying to save the civilians” said Mr.Haque.

“When the firing started some of the Maoists tried to hide behind some villagers present there” said one villager.

One Jawan of the C-60 force, the special anti- Naxal force of Maharashtra, said on the condition anonymity, “We tried our best not to open fire but when one of our jawans was killed, we had to retaliate”.

There is confusion over the cause Mukesh’s death because his dead body has no bullet marks.

According to the SP, Mukesh might have died of Heart attack but it will be clear only after the post mortem.

Sindhesur villagers expressed anger over the killing of two youngsters from their village in the cross-firing.

“But who cares, we Adivasis are the only victims in this war” said Varlu Gawde, father of Sukhdev Gawde.

“My son was deaf and dumb. What sin had he committed to die in this way?” asked the grieving father.

“If the Naxals ask us to do something, we have to do it. Same is the case with police. We are at the receiving end in this fight. We die when we take sides and we die even when we decide to stay neutral “said one angered villagers.