The families of two villagers in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma town, who were killed in a gunfight with the police last week, have alleged that the shootout was fake.

The police had accused the two villagers – Rava Deva and Sodhi Kosa – of being “Maoists”, reported The Hindu. The police alleged that Dave and Kosa fired upon a police party on the morning of September 5 and were killed in retaliatory firing

The police also alleged that the men, who were residents of Tadmetla village in south Bastar, were Maoists and were involved in the murder of a teacher, Kawasi Sukka, on June 28 and the deputy sarpanch of their village, Madvi Ganga, on August 31.

The families of the two men have, however, refuted the allegations and the sequence of events presented by the police.

On Tuesday, Deva’s wife Rava Soni, and Kosa’s wife Sodhi Nande, held a press conference in Sukma, where they alleged that their husbands had left home on September 4 together to go to the Timmapuram village and were picked up by the police on their way home, reported The Hindu.

The women alleged that the two men were taken to Chintalnar Police Station, where they were shot dead at around 8 pm.

In a letter to senior police officials in Sukma, a copy of which is available with Scroll, Soni alleged that the bodies of the two men were then taken to a forest the morning of September 5 by the police who subsequently claimed the villagers were killed in a gunfight.

Sodhi Kosa’s wife Sodhi Nande letter to the police

The families alleged that some villagers, who were around the police station, had seen the two men being taken inside and that they heard three to four gunshots later on. They also claimed that the police tried to burn the bodies before handing them over to the families.

“Their [the two men’s] work involved regular interaction with the police and other authorities,” Sodi Kosa’s cousin, Sodi Joga, asked, according to The Hindu. “Plus, if they had past criminal involvement, why were they not arrested earlier? Which outlaw is allowed to roam free like that?”

Nande said that the teacher was her brother and denied allegations that her husband had killed him. “He was taking care of our mother since the murder of my brother,” she said. “Why would he kill him? It’s a conspiracy and a lie.”

Sodhi Kosa’s wife Sodhi Nande letter to the police

Superintendent of Sukma, Kiran Chawan, however, has denied the allegations against the police.

“We reiterate that the firing was done in self-defence and the duo had five criminal cases between them,” he said. “ Since the beginning of 2022, there have been nearly 660 surrenders. In contrast, the number of encounters has been 14 to 15. To the extent possible, we rely on arrests and surrenders, but if it’s a matter of life and death, we have the right to fire back in self-defence.”

He also denied the allegations that the police burnt the bodies of the two men.

“It is a lie that police burnt the bodies of the two men,” Chawan told The Indian Express. “We have ample evidence to prove the bodies were handed over to the families and they completed the last rites.”

Meanwhile, Communist Party of India leader Manish Kunjam wrote a letter to Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel seeking a high-level inquiry against the police. He has alleged the involvement of Konta Assembly constituency MLA and Cabinet Minister Kawasi Lakma in the killing.