At least 26 Maoists were gunned down by C60 commandos of Gadchiroli police on Saturday after a 10-hour gunbattle near Mardintola village in the Gyarapatti-Kotgul forest region of Dhanora taluka, along the Maharashtra-Chhattisgarh border. “The number could be higher and could include women too,” said Gadchiroli SP Ankit Goyal.
Milind Teltumbde, the central committee member of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) in charge of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, was believed to be among those killed. State home minister Dilip Walse Patil congratulated the Gadchiroli police in a tweet.
“We have heard that Teltumbde is dead but the information is yet to be confirmed as the jawans are yet to return,” said Goyal. Once the bodies are brought to the district headquarters, surrendered Naxalites will be called for identification, a standard operating procedure.
Four commandos were injured and airlifted to Nagpur for medical assistance.
Teltumbde used to occupy a top post in the CC and was a force as far as the Maoist movement in central India is concerned, said sources. Saturday’s encounter has dealt the three decade Naxalite movement a big blow, they claimed.
On April 22-24, 2018, commandos had gunned down 37 Naxalites, including 19 women. Saturday’s encounter is the second-biggest in terms of Naxal toll, and matches that of May 13 this year.
The encounter is said to have started at 6.30 am and went on till 4.30 pm. After it ended, the commandos launched search operations in the forest as the Naxalites are known to drag away those killed and injured to nearby villages. Sources said this could not continue for long as darkness had set in.
According to early reports, a big cache of arms and ammunition was seized after the encounter, considered one of the longest in the history of the state’s fight against Maoists.
Sources also claimed divisional committee members Shuklal Parcheki and Prabhakar of company No. 4 formation of the Maoists were among the ones who died.
According to sources, Teltumbde had been escorted to the Maharashtra border by the Chhattisgarh-based Vistar dalam and received by Korchi dalam members and company no. 4 formation. “There were at least 40-45 Naxalites camping at the site,” they added.
Around 16 C60 teams reached the place and cordoned off the camp. The commandos formed layers and mounted the attack. Outnumbered, the Maoists then tried to escape to Chhattisgarh. However, they were trapped as their escape routes had been plugged by the commandos.
Gadchiroli range DIG Sandip Patil, who is also in-charge of the state Anti-Naxal Operation, could not go to Gadchiroli as the Maharashtra government had rushed him to Amravati city to tackle the law and order situation that arose there on Saturday.
The injured jawans were first brought to Dhanora and airlifted to Nagpur where they are being treated at a private hospital. “All four are stable but two jawans have critical injuries,” said Dr Anup Marar of the Orange City Hospital and Research Institute.