Gadchiroli, April 23: In the biggest blow ever to the Naxals in Gadchiroli, at least 14 including 2 top divisional commanders were laid down to deathbed in an encounter led by C-60 Commandos Forces of Gadchiroli. Maharashtra Police have termed the operation as the most successful one by any force in Dandakaranya — the liberated zone comprising of Naxal affected districts in Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra.
14 Naxals were killed on Sunday in an encounter with the police in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district, a senior official said.
He further said a team of C-60 commandos, a specialized combat unit of the Gadchiroli police, carried out the operation. “Fourteen Naxals were killed in the encounter. The combing operations are still on,” said Inspector General of Police Sharad Shelar.
He said the combing operation, which started in the morning, was currently underway at Tadgaon forest in Bhamragad, around 750 kilometres from Mumbai. Director General of Police Satish Mathur congratulated the C-60 team which participated in the encounter.
“In an operation in Kasanasur jungle area bordering Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh, an exchange of fire took place between C-60 commandos and Maoists. During searches, more than 12 Naxals’ dead bodies have been recovered from the spot. Further searches are going on at the site,” Mathur said.
The DGP said there was a possibility that Naxal leaders of “DVC ranks,” Sainath and Sinu alias Srikant, were among those killed. “This is the biggest success ever in the Dandakaranya area by any anti-Naxal force. There are no major injuries on our side. The police parties are still in operation. More details are awaited. The count may go up,” he said.
Srinivas (51) is a resident of Warangal, Telangana and was wanted in 82 cases of murder, abduction and loot. On the other hand, Sainath was a Gattepalli village in Aheri taluka of Gadchiroli and was the local face of the Maoists. He had joined the Maoists in 2004 and was wanted in 75 cases of murder, abduction etc.
Both Srinivas and Sainath were members of the Divisional Committee of CPI(Maoist), a top decision-making body of the Naxals.
The two were leading a group of around 60 Naxals from Telangana to Gadchiroli and stopped on the banks of Iravati River in the Tadgaon forest of Bhamragad. Tadgaon is about 750 km from Mumbai and is considered to be a Naxal stronghold. Police believe the Naxals were travelling to extort money from tendu patta dealers. "At this time of the year, Naxal platoons move from Telangana to Gadchiroli for extortion. Tendu patta dealers are mostly their target," police officials said. The platoon stopped for rest and breakfast. Tadgaon is on the Chattisgarh-Maharashtra border with Indravati River separating Bijapur in Chhattisgarh from Gadchiroli in Maharashtra.
Police said they first surrounded the Naxals and warned them to surrender. "We had a specific tip-off about the group’s movement in the area. A combing operation was launched on Saturday. On Sunday, between 10 and 11 am, the Naxals started firing and our boys retaliated killing many," said IG Anti Naxal OPS Sharad Shelar.
Sources said two parties of Maharashtra Police's elite anti-Naxal force C-60 were dispatched to Tadgaon. Each party had about 30 highly trained commandos. Firing began from the Naxal side leading to an hour-long gunfight. “We have not lost any men. It was a successful operation," SP Gadchiroli Abhinav Deshmukh.