As many as 10 Maoists and a Greyhounds constable were killed in an encounter at Charla in Bhadradri-Kothagudem district on the Chhattisgarh-Telangana border on Friday. Two more constables were injured and a few other Maoists escaped into the surrounding jungles while special Greyhounds police continued searching for them till late in the night.

Telangana Maoists committee secretary Haribhushan alias Jagan and several top leaders are among the 100 extremists who escaped this shootout and the police confirmed that Prabhakar alias Swamy from Warangal in Telangana is a senior Maoist leader among the dead. The remaining nine Maoists, including six women are from villages in Chhattisgarh.

This is the biggest ever operation by the police forces from four states—Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, besides CRPF personnel. The forces are led by Greyhounds, exclusively trained to take on Maoists, belonging to Telangana. The operation is part of an offensive by the Centre which set a target of clearing Chhattisgarh’s tribal areas of Maoists before 2019.

Bhadradri-Kothagudem Superintendent of Police Ambar Kishore Jha told The Sunday Guardian that the process of identification of the slain Maoists was on and it might take some time to hand over the dead bodies to their kin. A special Greyhounds helicopter has been rushed to bring the bodies to Kothagudem district headquarters.

The Maoists have come closer to Telangana border since early 2017 as the Central forces have stepped up offensive against them in Chhattisgarh. Usually, Maoists from Telangana operate from the neighbouring state to escape the raids by the local police. At the same time, Telangana’s Greyhounds often enter Chhattisgarh’s jungles to help CRPF men in their operations.

The location of the encounter is considered to be the headquarters of the Maoists in southern Chhattisgarh and the area is inaccessible to police or government officials as it is 100 km into the thick forest and cordoned by rivulets from either side. Usually, the Maoists hold their plenary meetings and military training camps in the area that comes under the jurisdiction of Chhattisgarh, but which is close to the Telangana border, about 13 km away. 

According to Jha, the cops have recovered an AK 47, a rocket bomb and some cash—Rs 43,000—and some kits from the slain Maoists. The police estimate that another dozen extremists had fled into the nearby jungles and the combing operations would continue till  Sunday. The body of slain constable, Susheel Kumar, would be flown to his native village near Vikarabad, 70 km from Hyderabad.

Meanwhile, Telangana Civil Liberties Committee secretary Lakshman filed a motion in Hyderabad High Court on Friday and obtained orders for the postmortem of the deceased by a doctor and a forensic expert. The court directed that the postmortem should be video recorded and reports should be submitted to it.

Lakshman alleged that the encounter was a fake one and that the police had caught these Maoists from a hideout and killed them at point blank. The civil liberties activists were silent on the killing of Greyhounds constable Susheel Kumar and injuries to two other cops. Jha refuted the charges and said that the encounter lasted for more than several hours. 

In a statement issued on Saturday, the Maoist ’ central committee vowed to avenge the death of their comrades and clarified that no senior leader was among the dead.

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