Chhattisgarh encounter genuine, says Chidambaram
Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram Thursday asserted that 17 suspected Maoists were gunned down in Chattisgarh late last month in a "genuine" gunfight, but said that he was "deeply sorry" if any innocent person was killed in the exchange of fire.
"If during the firing some innocent people have been killed we are deeply sorry. It was not our intention to kill anyone who was innocent or kill any child. But it was a case of an encounter where the forces suffered casualties first and returned the fire and inflicted casualties," Chidambaram told media persons here.
Expressing surprise at allegations that it was a "fake gunfight", the minister said in the past, security forces were ambushed and suffered heavy casualties as they were taken by surprise and could not return fire.
"The media then said the security forces were incompetent. They were unprepared.. If that is called incompetence, as some people have described it, in a case where they have returned the fire, and inflicted casualties, I am surprised that you call it a fake encounter."
Chidambaram said it was not being highlighted that the security forces had suffered six casualties and that they were had evacuated by the same helicopter as also their injured adversaries.
He said at least three to four of the 16-17 people who died in the incident had criminal records associated with left wing extremists.
"Prima facie all these facts point to a genuine encounter," he said.
However, the union minister said it was for the Chattisgarh government to decide whether they would order an inquiry.
"That's a call the Chaittisgarh chief minister is entitled to take. The DG (director general) of CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) has told us clearly they have nothing to hide, nothing to fear. His men had suffered six casualties and they returned the fire."
Security forces had gunned down 17 suspected Maoists at Korsaguda village in Bijapur district of Bastar region, about 600 km south of Raipur, June 28.
While six Central Reserve Police Force troopers were injured in the midnight gunbattle, five injured Maoists were also nabbed in the operation, but one of them later succumbed to injuries in hospital.