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Mumbai: In the “biggest ever” operation in Indian history, Maharashtra state home minister Dilip Walse Patil said that at least 26 alleged Naxals have been killed in Gadchiroli district. The operation began at 6 am on Saturday and continued till 4 pm inside the dense Gyarapatti forest in Dhanura taluka. Patil said the “backbone” of the Naxal movement has been destroyed after these killings.
In a list released early Sunday morning, the police have identified Milind Teltumbde, a top-rung leader of the banned CPI (Maoist) organisation, as one of those killed in the operation. The police claim he was the central committee member and in-charge of the Maharashtra-Madhya Pradesh-Chhattisgarh (MMC) zone.
A person named Masram, who identified himself as an official from the Anti-Naxal Operation (ANO), Nagpur called Teltumbde’s partner, Angela Sontakke, early Sunday morning to inform her about the killing.
Of the 26 who were killed, the police claim to have identified 16 persons so far. Four of them, all unidentified so far, were women, the list claims. Teltumbde’s bodyguard Vimla alias Imla alias Kamla alias Manso Sukharam Boga is also among those gunned down by the Gadchiroli police and the special C-60 commandos, set up specially to tackle the Naxal movement in the region.
Bhagatsingh alias Pradeep alias Tilak Mankur Jade from Korchi taluka in Gadchiroli was also among those killed. He too was a bodyguard of Teltumde, the police claim. He possessed an AK-47 rifle and carried a cash prize of Rs 6 lakh on his head.
Besides Teltumbde, the police also claim to have killed two other Division Committee Members – Mahesh alias Shivaji Raoji Gota and Lokesh alias Mangu Podyam alias Madkam – in the firing. Gota, a resident of Regadi Gutta in Etapalli taluka, carried a reward of Rs 16 lakh on his head, the police have claimed. Podyam, the police say, was wanted in several cases of terror activities and carried a reward of Rs 20 lakh. Podyam, according to the police, is from Jagargunda village in the Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh.
Teltumbde is an older brother of academic and civil liberties activist Anand Teltumbde, who was arrested in April 2020 for his alleged involvement in the Elgar Parishad case of 2018. Teltumbde is from Rajur village in Wani taluka in the neighbouring Yavatmal district.
Sontakke, who is facing trial in another case of alleged Maoist activities and is presently out on bail, has been restricted from entering the Gadchiroli district. She is now awaiting the police’s nod to be able to travel to Gadchiroli in order to ascertain if Teltumbde was killed in the firing.
Teltumbde, who has allegedly been involved in several underground movements since 1996, carried a reward of Rs 50 lakh – one of the highest – on his head. He has been named as a wanted accused in several cases of left-wing extremism in the central part of India. He is also named as one of the main conspirators of the Elgar Parishad case, investigated by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). The chargesheet names him as one of the five absconding accused in the case.
Patil confirmed that the joint operation was carried out in close coordination between the district police and the special C-60 commandos. The armed force had entered the forest prepared, a source in the police told The Wire. “An input was received that the Korchi Dalam (Naxal squad) members would be camping in the region. Our police team had immediately coordinated and confirmed the movement on the ground and headed to the spot. Since our team had over 500 commandos, we were able to overpower them (the Naxals),” said a senior Maharashtra police official, who was privy to the operation.
“Today’s operation is a remarkable achievement. This is a very important operation. Along with 26 deaths, the police have also confiscated several sophisticated weapons,” Patil claimed. Three policemen – Ravindra Naitam (42) Sarveshwar Atram (34) Maharu Kudmethe (34) and Tikaram Katange (41) – have been injured in the exchange.
Since the news of the killings became public last night, several theories have been floating around. A source in the police said that Teltumbe’s movement was being closely tracked over the past few weeks through a GPS tracker. “A (GPS) tracker was planted in the foodgrains that the Naxals had picked up from a nearby PDS outlet. This gave us a close coordinate of the dalam,” a source in the police intelligence unit claimed.
These killings are a major jolt to the Naxal movement in the country. On November 12, senior Maoist leader Prashanta Bose alias Kishan-da was arrested along with his wife Sheela Marandi alias Shobha-di in Jharkhand. Bose has been eluding the police for over 40 years. Bose too has been named in the Elgar Parishad case as an absconding accused. Others shown absconding in the case include Prakash alias Rituparn Goswami, comrade Deepu and comrade Manglu.
Details of those who were killed, according to the police:
- Adma Podyam, resident of Gorgatta village in Etapalli taluka, Gadchiroli. A .303 rifle and 9 mm pistol were allegedly seized from him. The police claim he carried a reward of Rs 4 lakh.
- Pramod alias Dalpat alias Lalsai Kachlami from Korchi taluka, Gadchiroli. A self-loading rifle (SLR) was found on him, the police claim. Pramod carried a reward of Rs 4 lakh.
- Kosa alias Musaki from Bastar, Chhattisgarh. One SLR was found on him. He carried a reward of Rs 4 lakh.
- Nero from south Abujmarh area, Chhattisgarh.
- Chetan Pada from south Bastar, Chhattisgarh. Was newly inducted into the Tipagad Dalam. He carried a reward of Rs 2 lakh.
- Vimla alias Imla alias Kamla alias Manso Sukharam Boga from Dhanora taluka, Gadchiroli. Vimla was allegedly a trusted aide of Milind Teltumbde and was his bodyguard. An INSAS rifle was allegedly found on Vimla’s body. Vimla carried a reward of Rs 4 lakh.
- Kishan alias Jaiman from Darbha region in Chhattisgarh. Kishan was a commander of the Korchi Dalam. He was allegedly found with an SLR and carried a cash prize of Rs 8 lakh on his head.
- Jeeva alias Dipak alias Milind Teltumbde from Rajur village in Wani taluka in Yavatmal. Teltumbde was a central committee member and a Maharashtra-Madhya Pradesh-Chhattisgarh (MMC) zone in-charge. He possessed an AK-47 rifle, the police have claimed. Teltumbde, wanted in several Naxal- related crimes, carried a reward of Rs 50 lakh on his head.
- Mahesh alias Shivaji Raoji Gota from Regdi Gutta village in Etapalli taluka at Gadchiroli. Gota was a Division Committee Member (DCM). He carried a reward of Rs 16 lakh. The police claim to have seized an AK-47 rifle on him.
- Bhagatsingh alias Pradeep alias Tilak Mankur Jade from Korchi taluka in Gadchiroli. He too was a bodyguard of Teltumde. He possessed an AK-47 rifle and carried a cash prize of Rs 6 lakh on his head.
- Sannu alias Kovachi from Bastar, Chhattisgarh. He was a commander of the Kasansur Dalam. Sannu allegedly had an AK-47 on him. He is also a wanted accused and carried a reward of Rs 8 lakh on his head.
- Prakash alias Sadhu Sonu Boga from Dhanora taluka in Gadchiroli. He was found with an SLR and carried a cash prize of Rs 4 lakh.
- Lacchu from Bastar, Chhattisgarh. Lacchu is believed to be a bodyguard of one Prabhakar. Lacchu was carrying a 12-bore rifle. For his alleged crimes, Lacchu carried a reward of Rs 4 lakh on his head.
- Navluram alias Dilip alias Hiruram Tulavi from Dhanora taluka in Gadchiroli. Navluram was allegedly carrying an SLR and a 9mm pistol. He carried a cash prize of Rs 4 lakh for his alleged involvement in Naxal-related crimes.
- Lokesh alias Mangu Podyam alias Madkam from Jagadgunda in the Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh. Lokesh was a Division Committee Member (DCM) and commander of one of the battalions called ‘company number 4’. Lokesh, police claim, was armed with an AK-47, 9mm pistol, Under Barrel Grenade Launcher (UBGL).
The rest are yet to be identified. Among them, four are women, the police have claimed.