Kolkata: Claiming that slain Maoist leader Kishenji had been given three days’ time to surrender by security forces after he was tracked down, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Sunday said the rebel leader and his associates instead opened fire, triggering a gunfight.
“There was a village close by. The security forces did not want any collateral damage. So he was asked to surrender. Appeals were made constantly with handmikes. He was given three days’ time to surrender. However, the Maoists did not listen. They started firing,” Banerjee said at a public meeting in the city’s southern outskirts Behala.
Security forces have claimed that Maoist guerrilla commander Kishenji, whose real name was Mallojula Koteshwar Rao, was killed in a gunbattle at Burishol village of West Midnapore district Thursday.
However, the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist and its sympathisers have alleged that Kishenji was taken into custody, tortured, and then killed in cold blood in a staged gunfight.
Rallying behind the forces, after having maintained silence on the incident so long, Banerjee said Kishenji and his associates had fired 1,000 rounds. “Had the security forces not taken any steps, 500 villagers would have been killed”.
The chief minister, who was addressing an election meeting in support of the Trinamool Congress candidate for the Nov 30 Kolkata South Lok Sabha by-polls, claimed she had no knowledge of the operation before it happened.
“I always let police do their job. When I got to know about the incident, I asked them why they did not ask him to surrender. It was then that the police officers told me the details.”
Banerjee also alleged that Kishenji and his men had gathered in the jungle to plot a conspiracy to assassinate her and other Trinamool leaders. “This I learnt from police. They were also planning a big terrorist strike on a metro railway station or a marketplace so that they can kill a couple of hundred people”.
Banerjee said she did not want anybody to die, but asked the people whether they would have pardoned her government had police been a silent spectator even after coming to now that such strikes were being planned.
“Can the government sit idle if it hears sabotage attempts are on?” she said, urging the crowd to decide the route which her regime should have taken. The crowd responded vocally supporting the security forces.
Taking on the human rights organisations, which have cried foul over Kishenji’s death, Banerjee said: “I am a greater believer in human rights than these people. They should not teach me human rights. But where were these groups when poor villagers, who can hardly make both ends meet, were killed by the Maoists? Did they hold any meeting?”
“And did they hold any protest meetings when 24 Easter Frontier Rifle men were gunned down (in Feb last year)?”
Banerjee again appealed to the Maoists to eschew violence and come back to the mainstream.