On the night of February 17, the Maharashtra police claimed to have killed seven Naxals “in a retaliatory fire” after they fired at the team patrolling Betkathi in the Korchi division of Gadchiroli district.
But Pappu alias Vijay Prakash Gupta, who runs a dhaba (a roadside eatery) at Korchi, said it was he who took the seven Naxals to the police after which they were shot from a close range.
The Gadchiroli police deny Mr. Gupta’s claims.
Mr. Gupta told The Hindu: “I have been supplying basic stuff to Naxals to get their confidence. At times, the police would help me provide the material to Naxals. In the past two years, I managed to win the trust of Naxals, and they started frequenting my dhaba.”
Narrating the sequence of events, Mr. Gupta said: “On the night of February 17, seven Naxals, including two women, came to my dhaba, and their leader Lalasu asked me to drop them in Kotgul village.”
Mr. Gupta, who said he had been working as a police informer for more than 10 years, used his black Tata Sumo Gold to ferry the Naxals to Kotgul, but claimed to have informed Deputy Inspector-General (Gadchiroli Range) Ravindra Kadam of it.
“Kadam told me that he would send a team and asked me to come towards Betkathi village. Around half-a-km before Betkathi, seven policemen, led by inspector Tiwari of the Chichgad station, were standing near their vehicle. I stopped my vehicle right in front of them, and they opened fire on the Naxals,” Mr. Gupta said. He managed to hide near the steering wheel of his vehicle.
According to Mr. Gupta, he had asked five Naxals to keep their weapons under the back seat, and only Lalasu, sitting on the front seat, had his AK-47 with him. “Six Naxals were killed, but Lalasu was alive and put his gun to my head. I managed to push him out, and the police shot him dead.”
After the killings, the police repaired his vehicle and offered him Rs.10 lakh, he said.
The Gadchiroli police never disclosed that the Naxals were trapped in a vehicle and killed. But, the news spread in Korchi that it was Mr. Gupta who helped the police trap the militants. Since then, Mr. Gupta has been running for his life.
“Now the Naxals know that I was a police informer, and they are out to eliminate me. The police have refused to give me security,” said Mr. Gupta, who owns three restaurants and five vehicles.
Mr. Gupta said he was a patriot and never worked for money. “Naxals are anti-nationals, and I supported the police so as to eliminate them. But the police use people like me and abandon us when their purpose is served.” He decided to approach the media so that the police would protect their informers.
Police deny charges
“The encounter was based on intelligence inputs, and no one exposes his informers. I have no idea what Mr. Gupta is telling the people. But we are ready to provide him security if he needs it,” Mr. Kadam said.