RAIPUR: Police in Maharashtra’s Gadhchiroli have issued a newspaper advertisement requesting families of seven Maoists from Bastar killed in an exchange of fire with security forces on November 13 to claim the bodies of their kin.
Twenty-seven Maoists were killed in the gun battle. The families of 20 of them identified the bodies, and the remaining seven remain unclaimed.
The advertisement dated January 17 was also published in at least two local Chhattisgarh dailies. It said the bodies of the 20 Maoists from Bastar have been buried following due process, including permission from the local magistrate. The advertisement asked the families of the remaining Maoists to contact the Gadchiroli Police by January 25.
Police said they were willing to exhume the bodies if the families of the seven seek to conduct the last rites. The Gadchiroli administration buried the seven on December 17 as per the Bombay Police Act.
Gadhchiroli Police superintendent Ankit Goyal said their teams visited Chhattisgarh multiple times, identified, and contacted the families of those killed, and made all arrangements for transporting the bodies. “…primary identification of six (slain Maoists) was done but none of the family members are coming forward…”
He said they were trying to trace the remaining families so that they can approach the magistrate to exhume the bodies for a proper burial. “This is why we have released the advertisement” Goyal added everyone has a right to dignity after death.
Bastar range inspector general of police Sunderaj P said in many cases, Maoist cadres become disconnected from their families after staying away for years. “The families lose track of their children and do not have any details about their whereabouts. Maoist leaders also change the names of the cadres and give them aliases. It also becomes difficult for the family members to identify photographs of their own after eight to 10 years of separation. We have already tried to contact the relatives of the Maoists killed in Maharashtra…but in vain.”
RK Vij, a retired police officer, said this transparency of Gadhchiroli Police will surely strengthen the trust between tribals of the region and police. “This is a welcome step and should be encouraged in the future.”
Bela Bhatia, a human rights activist, said the Gadchiroli Police’s move is part of a routine procedure. “If the police have tried their best to identify the persons and notify the families, then there is nothing more to be said.”
Police officers in Bastar said Maoists do not encourage the practice of conducting final rituals of cadres because they believe that it would impact their recruitments.