New Delhi: As questions were raised over the killing of 20 persons last week in anti-Maoist operations in Chhattisgarh, Congress on Monday treaded cautiously on the issue maintaing tribals should not become "victims in the cross fire" between Naxals and security forces.
Downplaying P Chidambaram`s reported statement that three Naxals were killed in the encounter, AICC in-charge for Chhattisgarh BK Hariprasad said the Home Minister was merely quoting from the report of the state government.
Party spokesperson Rashid Alvi said "we do not have complete information in this regard. We have asked the AICC general secretary in-charge of the state to submit a report in this regard. The Home Minister has already spoken on it but let us have a complete picture. We will say something then.
Congress has sent a 12 member fact-finding team from the state led by senior MLA Kawasi Lakhma.
"Tribals should not become victims of the cross fire between security forces and Naxals. They should be protected at all costs. 900 tribal villages in the Bastar region now wear a deserted look while of 80 thousand people, who were living in Salwa Judum (anti-Maoist vigilante groups) camps, only 25 to 30 thousand are remaining. We do not know where the rest have gone. The state government has a responsibility for people`s security," Hariprasad said.
Asked about the difference in the stand taken by the state Congress that it was a "completely fake encounter" and Chidambaram`s remarks last week that three important Naxal leaders-- Somulu, Nagesh and Mahesh---were killed in the gunbattle, Hariprasad said," the Home Minister was actually stating from the report of the state government."
"What Chidambaram said was on the basis of the report he received from the state government. What our party in the state is saying is on the basis of the feedback from local leaders. It`s a sensitive matter and that is why we have sent a fact-finding team. The report will be submitted to Congress President Sonia Gandhi and we will also meet the Home Minister as soon it is with us," Hariprasad said.