Security agencies got precise information about the location of the Maoists on April 20, two days before they were killed in twin encounters in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district.
Nineteen women cadres were among the 39 Maoists who were killed in the two encounters on April 22. As details emerge of the encounter on Maharashtra-Chhattisgarh border, a senior government official said that 16 identified had rewards of ₹2 lakh-₹20 lakh on them.
“The operation was carried out based on information provided by a source. The Maoists were camping at a spot on the banks of Indravati river, between Kasansur and Boria village. They were ambushed by a police party who took position on a hillock. Caught by surprise, many jumped in the river. Their bodies were found floating a couple of days later,” said an official familiar with the April 22 operation.
Another official said that on April 23, police conducted another operation, around 8-10 kms south in Rajaram-Khandla jungle where six more cadres were killed.
Shrikanth alias Shrinu (50), the divisional commander of south Gadchiroli, was among those killed. A resident of Warangal in Andhra Pradesh, he carried a reward of ₹20 lakh. Sainth alias Dolesh Atram, the divisional commander of Permili, who had a ₹16 lakh reward, was also killed in the encounter. Another top leader, Shanta (31) alias Mangali, a resident of Bijapur in Chhattisgarh, was killed. She carried a reward of ₹8 lakh.
Senior Security Advisor, Ministry of Home Affairs, K. Vijay Kumar told The Hindu that the Gadchiroli encounter was perhaps one of the biggest operations in terms of the number of Maoists killed.
On October 24, 2016, 31 members of the banned CPI (Maoist) were killed in an encounter with a combined team of the Greyhounds and Odisha police near Jantri in Malkangiri district of Odisha.
“It is perhaps the biggest in terms of numbers. Two divisional commanders were also killed, tactically the other side must have made mistakes. They could be sitting there to plan out a strategy or sorting out the revenue, we are not able to speculate on that. But definitely the local intelligence and the special police force’s ability to react to the information that was real time and their ability to adapt well proved key,” said Mr. Kumar.
He cautioned that since the damage was heavy, any retaliation by the Maoists could not be ruled out, though there was nothing specific to suggest so.