RAIPUR: In yet another indictment of security forces in Maoist-hit Bastar, a judicial commission which probed the killing of eight people in Edesmetta village in 2013, has concluded that none of the slain was a Maoist, as claimed at the time of the firing. The forces might have opened fire in panic and ended up killing one of their own as well, said the panel.
The one-man commission, headed by Justice V K Agrawal, a retired judge of Madhya Pradesh HC, submitted its report to the state government last week. A government spokesman said it is likely to be tabled in the next assembly session.
The firing took place on the intervening night of May 17-18, 2013, in Edesmetta, a forest village, around 30km from Bijapur district headquarters and 440km south of Raipur. A group of local tribals had gathred to celebrate the Beej Pandum festival when 1,000-odd security personnel showed up and began firing. Eight people were killed.
The CRPF‘s CoBRA initially claimed it had busted a Maoist hideout and that it had retaliated after it was fired upon by Maoists. According to sources, the judicial commission has observed that the forces may have fired in panic and the incident could have been avoided had there been better field intelligence.
The commission also noted that a CoBRA constable Dev Prakash was killed by friendly fire and not by Maoist bullets, indicating that the muzzle-loading guns police claimed to have seized from the spot were not used to fire at him, said sources. The commission also doubts the seizure of weapons from the spot, noting that none of those was sent to the forensic lab.
The Edesmetta judicial commission report is the second inquiry to indict security forces in Bastar for loss of civilian life. A judicial commission that probed the Sarkeguda encounter in which 17 people were killed in 2012, had concluded that the forces had opened fire “unilaterally, without any provocation”.

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