The villagers of Sindhesur village in Gadchiroli district, where seven people died in an encounter between the police and Maoists on Friday, alleged that during the encounter that took place in a forest near the village the rebels tried to use some of the villagers as human shields.

Two villagers — Mukesh Hidko and Sukhdev Gawade — died, apart from four Maoists and one policeman. .

According to the villagers, 25 to 30 Maoists came to the village and decided to eat lunch there. Nine villagers, who were in the forest collecting mahua flowers, were asked to stay by the rebels. After some time they ordered Mukesh and Sukhdev to go to the village to fetch drinking water. They did not heed the request of Sukhdev’s mother to not send Sukhdev, who was speech-and-hearing impaired. As the duo was handing over the water bottles to the rebels upon their return, the police started firing.

According to some villagers, some of the Maoists tried to use the villagers as human shields, and the same was confirmed by Gadchiroli SP Mohd. Suvez Haque, who told The Hindu that this was a 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,” Mr. Haque said.

However, there is confusion over how Mukesh died as there are no bullet wounds on his body. The police’s explanation is that he might have died of heart attack.

The villagers expressed their anger over Mukesh and Sukhdev’s killings. “But who cares, we Adivasis are the only victims in this war,” Sukhdev’s father Varlu Gawde said. “What sin had my son committed to deserve this death,?” .

“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,” one villager said.

Seven died in the encounter between the police

and the rebels