New Delhi: Kasansur village in Tadgaon Police station area of Gadchiroli was gearing up to celebrate a wedding on Saturday. But instead of festivities, the occasion turned into that of fear, anxiety and shock.
Thirty one Naxals were gunned down near the village on Sunday morning.
Maharashtra Police sources said they had received a specific tip off about the presence of Naxals in the village on Saturday evening.
"They had come to attend the wedding. We kept a watch on them and finally ghearoed them on Sunday morning," a police officer said.
IG anti-Naxal operations Sharad Setlar said,"Two parties of C-60, the elite anti-Naxal force of Maharashtra were dispatched to the area after the tip off. They took two separate routes to reach the Naxals and gheraoed them on Sunday morning. A warning to surrender was given, the encounter began when Naxals started firing."
Police sources said C-60 split into two parties of 30 commandos each and ambushed the Naxals on the banks of Indravati river on Sunday.
Food packets found at the encounter site suggest that the Naxals had stopped for a meal when they were ambushed.
SP Gadchiroli Abhinav Deshmukh confirmed that under barrel grenade launchers (UBGL) were used in the operation, which perhaps explains the high casualty figure for Naxals.
Sources say, the sudden ambush and firepower took the Naxals by surprise and it is possible that some of them jumped into the river to escape.
Fifteen dead bodies were found floating in the Indravati river on Monday.
"Divers were called in to fish out the bodies from the river. We had to stop search on Sunday night because of night fall and some rain. On Monday, bodies and some loaded INSAS rifles were recovered. The search is still on," DIG A Shinde told CNN-News18.
On Monday, a second encounter happened in the area. It was in Rajaram Khanla village, about 15 kilometers from the Kasanur site. In the Rajaram khanla encounter too, police claim to have killed six Naxals. It was not immediately clear if these six belonged to the same group of Naxals who were killed in Kasnasur.
Police have identified 11 Naxals so far and believes that they belong to Perimilli Dalam, Aheri Dalam and Platoon 7 of CPI Maoist. Those identified are divisional committee members Sainath and Srinu, Aheri Dalam commander Shantabai Pada, woman cadre Akhila, Suman Koreti (18), Tirupati Pungati (24), Anita Madavi (24), and Rajesh Navade, Nagesh Narote (32), Shrikant Narote(23), Raju Veladi (29), and Sunno Gawde (44).
Director General of Police (DGP) Satish Mathur on Monday told PTI that the split among Naxals and lucrative government schemes helped police in getting concrete information against Naxals active in Maharashtra.
Union Home ministry has dismissed allegations of foul play. "If there is anything amiss, the judicial enquiry which happens after every encounter, will reveal it. But as of now it appears to be a good operation. So many weapons recovered show that these were armed CPI Maoist cadre," a MHA official said.
A top MHA official told this reporter that recent attacks on forces in Chhattisgarh are an aberration and the operations like the one in Gadchiroli are the real measure of the government's success in tackling the Naxal problem.