A handful of armed Maoists of lower ranks fought to the death on Saturday, trying in vain to protect Central Committee member Milind Teltumbde, who carried a Rs.50 lakh reward and had over 63 offences against him. Their last stand in the forest of Mardintola in Dhanora subdivision, near Maharashtra-Chhattisgarh border, also helped some other top cadres escape.
Teltumbde, in-charge of Maharashtra-Madhya Pradesh-Chhattisgarh zone, was among 26 Maoists killed. Among the dead, six were women, including Vimla alias Imla, who was Teltumbde’s bodyguard. Another of his bodyguards, Bhagatsingh, too, was found dead.
Intermittent firing, including unprecedented heavy firing from either side at times, went on for almost 10 hours, it’s learnt. Four C60 jawans were injured in the encounter, but their condition is learnt to be stable now. On Sunday, SP Ankit Goyal confirmed the death of Teltumbde after he was identified as per the police Standard Operating Procedures by a surrendered Maoist at the police headquarters. “We have informed Teltumbde’s wife (Angela Sontakey) about his death, but she is yet to arrive to take the body,” said Goyal. Some 29 weapons, including five AK-47s, one AKM with underbarrel grenade launcher, three Insas rifles, and one pistol were seized from the encounter site by C60 commandos. Substantial explosives and materials of daily use were also seized.
Sources from the district police said top cadres, like divisional committee member Sukhpal Parcheki and Dandakaranya special zonal committee member Prabhakar, too, were probably present at the encounter site, but managed to sneak away amid heavy firing.
Sources said C60 parties, which started the operation a day ago, had encircled the hillock and forested region in multiple layers, and laid ambushes plugging exit routes. While the hilly and rocky terrain of the forested stretch helped top leaders and cadres flee despite raining bullets, Teltumbde got trapped on the hillock. Sources said the C60 commandos were initially stunned by the unfamiliar style of heavy firing from the Maoists, who are known to be extremely frugal with ammunition.