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Sukma’s villagers caught between Maoists guns and CRPF rage

The injured CRPF jawans being shifted to Raipur for treatment.  

On April 24, a nondescript vehicle dropped off a group of women in Burkapal, a village of 650 mostly tribal inhabitants in Sukma district of south Chhattisgarh.

There was nothing remarkable about them: they were dressed like any of the women in the remote villages.

And the team from the Central Reserve Police Force’s 74th battalion, who were guarding the construction site of a bridge that is part of a road project near Burkapal, thought nothing of them.

What the CRPF men didn’t, or couldn’t, see was that the village was already emptied of all residents: no one was in the village.

They were to pay a heavy price for this oversight. Just before 1.00 p.m., the 72 jawans set off back to their base.

Standard procedure

As per standard procedure, they walked, not on the road but 50 metres away from it — half the men on one side, half on the other. Suddenly, a hail of bullets came down on them. As the two lines of jawans tried to regroup, the women they had seen earlier opened fired at them from the village.

The final body count among the jawans was 25.

In audio statement, the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee of the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist), said the Burkapal attack was in retaliation for sexual atrocities against tribal women. Their real purpose might have been to loot weapons and ammunition from the security forces.

However, the long-term consequence of the attack is likely to be the complete breakdown of trust between the security forces and the villagers.

Retaliatory attacks

Immediately after the ambush, the local police detained one Markam Baman. His sister, Somadi, says he was not involved in the attack.

Villagers claim that two other men, Madkam Hunga and Undam Handa, were beaten up by the CRPF, which the latter denies.

“We fear that our village might become like Tadmetla,” Lakshman Dula, Madvi Dula’s son, says, referring to a nearby village which was burnt down by security forces in 2011. “We told the CRPF that they can kill us, but we were not involved. We have always supported the CRPF and opposed the Maoists. There should be more such camps in this area.”

Asked why the village was deserted on the day of the ambush, giving the militants a free run, he says, “All of us were away from the village celebrating Biju Pondum.”

“Until now we could bank on CRPF support,” sarpanch Vijaya Dula says, “but now the future looks bleak.”

 

Like Tadmetla

D.P. Upadhyay, CRPF Deputy Inspector-General, Dantewada, has assured the villagers that they won’t face problems from the Force. However, Burkapal residents are terrified that there will be a backlash.

The villagers have been facing pressure from the Maoists for quite some time now.

The story goes back to 2016 when S.R.P. Kalluri, the former Inspector General of Police, Bastar, secured the surrender of 28 Maoist supporters from Burkapal.

Villagers now not only deny that those who surrendered were Maoist supporters, but also voice their fears that the Maoists, subsequent to the so-called surrender, have prepared hit list of 13 villagers.

On March 10, 2017 the former sarpanch of Burkapal, Madvi Dula, who the Maoists suspected was a police informer, was killed. This was a warning to the people of the village, who had been on cordial terms with the CRPF men.

The threat worked: the villagers had begun to limit their interaction with the jawans. And now, after the April 24 attack, it’s practically ended. “I don’t understand whom we are protecting here,” a jawan says. “This bloody road? These roads are being built with our blood.”


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Printable version | Oct 19, 2021 6:50:55 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/sukmas-villagers-caught-between-maoists-guns-and-crpf-rage/article18312443.ece

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