The committee, and Tudu’s neighbours, insist he was killed in a “fake encounter” at Narcha village, 3km from the Kantapahari camp.
If what the villagers say is true and the indications from a section of the police are co-rrect, the crackdown against Maoists is set to see a new strategy emerge from the debris of the Shilda EFR camp, where 24 policemen were massacred by the guerrillas last Monday.
“The brutal attack at Shilda has firmed up our resolve to strike in equal measure against the Maoists,” a police officer said. “The instruction we have been given is to go for the kill instead of trying to make an arrest if we sense any danger whatsoever.”
With charges and counter-charges flying thick and fast, it is not known if Tudu last night had posed any danger to the police. But if what the residents of Narcha say is true, Tudu’s is the first major case of the new strategy being put into operation.
“This is a strategy that had worked very well during the Naxalite movement of the late ’60s,” said an officer. “Then the strategy was kill on sight; do not wait to make arrests, produce the culprits in court and offer them chance to get bail. After Shilda, there is a strong opinion among top officers in favour of the same strategy.”
This officer could not say for sure what happened in Tudu’s case, but he said he would not be surprised if it was an instance of a new “shoot-on-sight” strategy being put into operation.
Several officers pointed out that such a strategy could never be official and no such order could be issued from the top. “Only the force should informally be informed that no cop would get into trouble for shooting dead a person associated with the Maoists even if that person is posing no immediate danger,” the officer said. “This should work well.”
Explaining that Tudu was heading a “Maoist frontal organisation” meant to “aid and abet” their cause, an officer said such a strategy could “justifiably” be used against a person “waging war against the nation”.
“What is the (People’s) committee if not an outfit run by the Maoists to help their cause?” asked an officer. “Can there be any justification for using the soft hand with persons associated with such a committee? They are all Maoists in the garb of running a movement for tribals.”
A policeman admitted that post-Shilda, they had unofficial instructions that if they caught a hardcore Maoist deep in a forest or a secluded spot, they should not take the trouble of bringing him back to the camp. “No one wants to talk about it, but the thinking now is not to have any mercy on those who commit such heinous crimes as killing innocent cops,” an officer said.