Did police or Salva Judum kill tribals?

D. Chandra Bhaskar Rao
The Hindu

GOLLAPALLI (Chhattisgarh): Who killed the 17 tribal youths at Singaram, a forest village of Dantewada district. And were they really the naxalites?

The Chhattisgarh police claim that they were hardcore naxalites. Dantewada SP Rahul Sarma said they were all killed in a real encounter. “It is a major breakthrough achieved by my boys in taking on the Maoists in their heartland,” he asserted.

But the tribal communities attributed the killings to the anti-naxalite campaigners of Salva Judum. The incident triggered a fresh wave of tribal bloodshed in the region.

Some 250 persons carrying firearms stormed Singaram and three other neighbouring villages — Korasigudem, Mailur and Chanchalguda. Seventeen tribal youths including four women were killed. Thirteen others of the Gothikoya tribe, which has a predominant presence in the area owing allegiance to the Maoists went missing. The villagers were busy with harvest operations when they came under the attack.

Some of the residents who had a little money readily available with them could buy peace. Others tried to beat back the attack and paid the price. They were whisked away to the forest and shot dead at the point blank range.

‘None in uniform’

“We cannot attribute the killing to police, as we did not see any one in uniform among the attackers. We can identify a majority of them involved in the raid,” said Soyam Veera, a youth who survived the attack. “Those who led the attack were all our tribesmen. They blamed us for sheltering the Maoists. They asked us to leave the villages and join the government-run base camps meant for displaced tribals.” Accompanied by the media persons, people from the four villages reached the forest pocket near Singaram on Friday morning. The bodies were lying scattered.

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