At least four people who were killed in the forests of Malkangiri district in Odisha recently, were tribals, a fact-finding team stated on Saturday.
The team comprising the Human Rights Forum (HRF) and the Ganatantrik Adhikar Suraksha Sanghatan (GASS) reportedly termed the encounter unilateral firing by the police and expressed concern over the missing of around 14 other tribals.
On October 24, an alleged exchange of fire between police forces and Maoists along the Andhra-Odisha border killed 24 people. In the week that followed, continuous combing operations raised the death toll to 31.
Top Maoist leader Ramakrishna alias RK, was missing ever since the incident.
However, writer and Maoist sympathiser Vara Vara Rao on Thursday claimed that he was safe, and alleged that the police was torturing tribals.
Talking to the media, Rao said â€śI demand police to stop hunting for RK and torturing tribals to know his whereabouts. I demand the police to stop combing for RK and other Maoists.â€ť
Quoting the fact-finding report, The New Indian Express reported that the Maoists had set up their camp a day before the firing and visited Ramaguda on the night of October 23 asking that four youth come to the camp the next day for a meeting.
â€śWhat is noteworthy is all of them were civilians and not armed Maoist cadre. Many of them may have been in the camp because the Maoists were involved in recruiting people as militia members from several villages,â€ť HRF general secretary and rights activist VS Krishna told TNIE.