The Communist Party of India (Maoist) has confirmed the death of nine of their cadre in a skirmish with the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) on November 23 in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district, but has contradicted the nature of the operation as described by the CRPF.

Tuesday’s ambush was described as a setback for the Maoists who have killed more than 100 CRPF troopers in Chhattisgarh this year.

According to the CRPF, the nine Maoists were killed in an hour-long gunfight on Tuesday morning, at a spot a few kilometres from the police camp at Jagargunda. As published in The Hindu on November 24, the CRPF stated that the encounter began at about 8:30 a.m. when a party of about 100 Maoist cadres opened fire on a CRPF patrol. The troopers returned fire and recovered nine bodies, muzzle-loading shotguns and a few improvised explosive devices.

In a telephonic conversation, Secretary of the South Bastar Regional Committee of the CPI (Maoist), Ramanna alias Ravula Srinivas told this correspondent that the nine men were part-time members of the CPI (Maoist) and were on sentry duty when they were ambushed by the CRPF.

“Cadres from our village-level base force were providing security to farmers harvesting their rice crops when they were surrounded by the police and CRPF and gunned down,” said Mr. Ramanna. Mr Ramanna said that it was common practice for his party to provide security cover for farmers from interior villages as the villagers were routinely harassed by security forces.

“Reports that 100 Maoists participated in a one hour long attack are untrue. Only nine cadres were on sentry duty and they were all martyred in the ambush. They did not fire a single shot,” he said.

Mr. Ramanna said that the police and the CRPF had laid an elaborate ambush based on prior knowledge of Maoist movements.

The CRPF has dismissed Mr. Ramanna’s claims.

“Reports that only nine Maoists were involved in the encounter are absolutely false,” said Mohammed Jamal Khan, Acting Commandant of the 111th battalion, “We stand by our prior statements that approximately 100 Maoists were involved in the hour long ambush.”“The Maoists tried to ambush us, and their plan backfired,” said a CRPF source involved in the operation, “We think they laid the ambush in haste and so made some elementary mistakes.” The source believed that a primary mistake was that the Maoist fighters, who were reportedly hiding on a hilltop, lost track of the movements of CRPF troopers and so were completely outflanked. The source said that the battle finally ended when the CRPF fired four high explosive mortar rounds at the hilltop.

Mr. Ramanna identified the nine Maoist casualties as Uieke Sanu, Ueike Dulla, Karpi Subba, Korsa Sukka, Korsa Sudhaka, Hemla Sagar, Begami Hidma, Kunjam Joga and Aitu Bandi.

Ganesh Uieke still alive

In September this year, a PTI report had quoted Chhattisgarh Director General of Police, Mr. Vishwaranjan as saying that Maoist leader Ganesh Uieke had died of malaria. Contradicting Mr. Vishwaranjan’s statement, Mr. Ramanna said that Ganesh Uieke was alive and well.

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