At least 26 Maoists were killed in a fierce encounter with security forces in a dense forest in the Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra, police said on Saturday. Four policemen were also injured in the encounter and were taken to Nagpur for treatment.
The injured policemen have been identified as Ravindra Naitam (42) Sarveshwar Atram (34) Maharu Kudmethe (34) and Tikaram Katange (41).
Police Superintendent Ankit Goyal said The Indian Express, “We have recovered 26 bodies so far. The deceased Maoists will be identified on Sunday morning. ”
The meeting was one of the longest in the history of Gadchiroli: it started around 6 am and ended at 4 pm.
While the police claim that around 100 elite C-60 commandos from the Gadchiroli police carried out the operation, sources told The Indian Express that there were 16 parts of the C-60 commandos with a total force of more than 500.
Sources also confirmed that the operation started when the police had prior knowledge that the Maoists were camping in the forest. “The group consisted mainly of Korchi Dalam members led by Sukhlal, a member of the Gadchiroli divisional committee of the CPI (Maoist). But there must have been members of some other formation and the meeting was prolonged, which indicates that there was strong resistance from the Maoists, ”said the sources.
With 26 Maoist casualties, Saturday’s encounter is the second largest in Gadchiroli history.
On April 23, 2018, the Gadchiroli police shot dead 40 Maoists in two different skirmishes. While 34 were killed in the Boria-Kasnasur area of Etapalli tehsil, six from the same group were shot and killed while reportedly fleeing in Aheri tehsil.
Following the meeting on Saturday, there were rumors that Milind Teltumbde, a member of the CPI (Maoist) central committee, was among those killed. Goyal said: “For now, it’s just a rumor. We can say for sure Sunday morning once all the bodies are identified. ”
Sources said: “The police have taken Rakesh, Teltumbde’s former bodyguard, who had surrendered a few days ago, to check if the CPI (Maoist) leader was among those killed.
Teltumbde is the younger brother of the Dalit intellectual Anand Teltumbde, who is detained in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon case. He is also in charge of the Maharashtra-Madhya Pradesh-Chhattisgarh area of the CPI (Maoist).