Bijapur: Seventeen people were killed by security forces in a staged gunfight in Bijapur district on June 28, 2012; the incident which the Chhattisgarh police passed as the elimination of Maoists. However, a judicial probe conducted by Justice Vijay Kumar Aggarwal judicial probe says that no evidence could be provided by the security forces of the targeted group being Maoists or opening fire at the security forces.

According to the report, the 17 civilians died from “close quarters”, with one of them being killed several hours after the alleged encounter, NDTV said in a report.

In 2012, when the incident happened, both the Centre and the state government defended the security forces version–that claimed that killed villagers had gathered for a Maoist meeting.

The villagers had denied that claim, saying that they had met to discuss a festival.

Further, police had alleged that the villagers opened the fire first to which they retaliated. Even this claim could not be justified in the report.

The then BJP government had constituted a one-member judicial inquiry commission which had submitted its report a month ago, following the questions raised over the death of 17 people in Sarkeguda village.

Justice Aggarwal submitted the report to the government on October 17 before retirement and it was presented before the Chhattisgarh cabinet late on Saturday night and tabled in the Assembly on Monday.

Political rhetoric is being dished out on selective interpretation of the report by rival parties.

Not only the report rejects the police claims of confiscation of guns and pellets from the spot, but also says that the police investigation is flawed and tampered with.

Advocate Isha Khandelwal, who appeared on behalf of the victims, says it was the villagers’ fight for justice. At long last, justice seems to be possible, she said, adding that she had seen the report on social media, but no official copy has been handed to her or the villagers.

Social activist and lawyer Bela Bhatia said the Congress, which had in 2012, called the Sarkeguda encounter fake, had withheld the report for over a month. The government should have presented it before the House much earlier if it was keen to get justice to the victims, she said.

(With IANS inputs)