Claims Naxals use civilians as human shields

Four days after the State police and Central Reserve Police Force killed 20 villagers, including several children, in a counter-insurgency operation in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district, Chief Minister Raman Singh broke his silence, claiming that the operation was justified and explained away civilian casualties on the grounds that Naxalites often use innocents and children as human shields.

Last week, The Hindu published testimonies from Bijapur’s Kottaguda panchayat in which villagers claimed that security forces attacked a peaceful village gathering, killed 20 villagers, and sexually molested four young girls. Mr. Singh responded to the allegations in an interview with television channel CNN-IBN.

Mr. Singh also stood by Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram’s statements that the operation had been conducted with skill and courage, and urged the Congress party not to politicize the issue. On Sunday, the Chhattisgarh Congress and Union Minister of State for Agriculture, Charandas Mahant, described the encounter as “completely fake” and said Mr. Chidambaram had been mislead by the state government.

In a message sent to this correspondent, the Communist Party of India (Maoist) called for a lockdown in Chhattisgarh’s five southern districts on July 5 to “protest the massacres of adivasis in Basaguda [Bijapur]” and demanded severe punishment for those responsible for the incident.