Kandhamal survivor disputes police claim of ‘crossfire’

Phulbani: The mystery over the circumstances leading to the killing of six civilians at Krutamagada in Kandhamal district on Friday evening remained unresolved today with a survivor emphatically disputing the police claim that the auto-rickshaw carrying the victims unwittingly came in the line of firing during a crossfire between security forces and Maoists.

Lota Digal, who was injured in the firing, has claimed that the security personnel fired upon them indiscriminately and that too after their arrival at the spot.

Talking to media persons, Amitabh Thakur, IG, Southern Range, said, “Why would the police, which was waiting in the area to ambush the Maoists, kill innocent villagers?” adding the police party had information about the movement of Maoists in the area.

“If we had gone for frisking vehicles passing through the area, the possibility of identifying the Maoists would have been remote. For one thing, the police had no scope to check the vehicle as it was waiting for the ambush. For another, it was not possible for the police to stop the auto-rickshaw during the crossfire,” Thakur said,

Lota Diggal, however, gave an altogether different account of the incident, which contradicts the police claim that they became ‘collateral damage’ in the exchange of fire.

“On Friday morning, we had gone to Baliguda to collect money for the work done by us under the MNREGA. On our way back, the auto got stuck in mud near a culvert due to heavy rain. We collected some stones and put them on the road for the auto to move. Just as we had finished paving the road and were about to board it, a hail of fire was rained on us by security personnel,” Diggal said.

“In the firing, which occurred after our arrival at the spot, my son and I got injured,” he added.

Notably, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik yesterday announced a judicial inquiry into the incident in which six civilians, including a 15-month-old, were killed by the security personnel on Friday night.