Did Maoists use human shields?

Did Maoists use human shields while attacking CRPF personnel in Chhattisgarh on Monday?

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and the paramilitary force said so soon after the incident but when a statement was laid on the table of Parliament on Wednesday, curiously, there was no mention about the naxals using such tactics to cripple the CRPF from going all out against them.

A day after he visited Chhattisgarh and took stock of the situation, Singh narrated the sequence of events in identical statements in both the Houses of Parliament and provided details about the operation.

He said  the troops were returning to their camps when they were ambushed by Maoists near Kasalpur, near Chintagufa, at around 10:30 AM on December 1. “The troops retaliated and responded to the Maoists’ attack bravely. This encounter lasted for around three hours,” he said.

Fourteen CRPF personnel were killed and an equal number injured in the operation. He also admitted that the Maoists managed to take away the weapons and ammunition of the deceased personnel.

However, the around 400-word statement did not mention about human shield.

Singh had earlier on December one talked about the Maoists using human shield during the attack. “13 to 15 CRPF personnel were killed in the attack that took place in Chintagufa area of Chhattisgarh. The Naxals have carried out the attack by putting innocent villagers as human shields,” PTI quoted the Home Minister, who was in Lucknow.

The CRPF also spoke to journalists off-the-record saying, “counter offensive by CRPF troops was restricted since the naxals took advantage of villagers as human shield”.

In his statement, he said the government is “committed firmly to tackle” Maoist menace. “It is our firm commitment to provide every possible assistance to the security forces and we will continue the operations till this problem is fully eradicated,” he said.

As a result of concerted efforts to tackle the menace, he said the morale of the Maoists has weakened.

“The number of surrenders of Maoists cadres has increased substantially in the current year. The LWE violence has also been declining since 2011 and this trend continues in the current year also. It is our firm commitment to provide every possible assistance to the security forces and we will continue the operations till this problem is fully eradicated,” he said.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Dec 4, 2014)

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