Jharkhand: Fact finding report on the Satbarva (Bhelvahi) encounter

October 11, 2015

Date of the incident: The night of 8-9 June, 2015.

Site of the incident: Near the Crusher of Jumrati Miya situated on the kuccha (village) road of Bhalvahi village situated approximately 7 kilometres North East of the Satbarva Police Station.

Duration of the incident: Two hours between 11.30pm to 2.30am in the intervening night of 8th and 9th June 2015.

Taking cognizance of the incident:
PUCL Jharkhand came to know of this incident through the news printed and disseminated in the media on 10th -11th June 2015. There were several facts emerging from the reporting of the incident which cast a doubt on the genuineness of the encounter. For instance –

  • That the site of the incident was very close to the main National Highway 75.
  • That the duration of the incident was 11.30pm to 2.30am.
  • That all the 12 alleged Maoists were killed in the incident.
  • That despite the claims of indiscriminate fire, not a single jawan of the police force had received any injury.
  • That there were no blood stains of the alleged Maoists found inside the vehicle.
  • That one of the alleged Maoists was identified as a para teacher, and the said teacher and several guests who had come to his house were said to be at his house at 9pm that night.
  • That the National Human Rights Commission, New Delhi had on 16 June 2015 taken suo motu cognizance of encounter at Bakoria and had demanded a comprehensive report within 4 weeks from the Chief Secretary and Director General of Police Jharkhand.

Fact Finding Team:

After obtaining the preliminary information regarding the incident and internal discussions the State Unit of the PUCL decided to conduct a fact finding into the incident of encounter. A four member team was formed with the co-operation of the following :

  • Shri Stan Swamy – State Vice President
  • Shri Ashok Kumar Jha – State General Secretary
  • Shri Arvind Avinash – State General Secretary
  • Shri SN Vernwal – Member State Council

Apart from these members, the General Secretary of the Ranchi Unit Anand Kumar Singh, Secretary Shahi Sagar Verma and Member Anup Agrawal also collaborated in the collection of facts.

Brief Description of the Incident:

The police administration had declared that 12 Maoists had been encountered in the late night of 8th -9th June near Bhalvahi Nala situated 7 kilometres North East of the Satbarva Outpost in Palamu District. The site is close to Bhalvahi Village of Bakoria Panchayat. It was stated that apart from the police force of the Satbarva Outpost, the Cobra Battalion 209 and CRPF Battalion 134 had also participated in the operation. On the day of the incident the police identified 3 Maoists. The names of the identified Maoists as informed by the police were:-

  • Uday Yadav, Manika, Police Station Pratappur Chatra.
  • Aizaz Ahmed, Nimakatu, Police Station Pratappur Chatra.
  • Yogesh Yadav, Majhigaon, Police Station Pratappur Chatra.

The other nine were stated to be unknown extremists. It was claimed that in the incident the Maoists had attacked the police force and opened indiscriminate fire. The police stated that they had seized several weapons, live cartridges and pressure bomb from the Maoists.

List of the 12 persons killed in the encounter (with occupation and address) obtained from governmental / non-governmental sources by the PUCL.

  • Udday Yadav (35) Para Teacher Nevar, Manika, District Latehar.
  • Yogesh Yadav (25) College Student, Mobile shop Majhigaon, Pratappur, PS Chatra.
  • Aizaz Ahmed (35) Driver Nimakatu, Pratappur, PS Chatra.
  • Anurag Yadav (45) Maoist PS Pratappur, District Chatra.
  • Santosh Yadav (25) Driver of the Mamta vehicle Pratappur, Chatra.
  • Amlesh Yadav (35) Near Paki.
  • Neeraj Yadav (24) Uday Yadav’s cousin Kui, Manika, Latehar.
  • Mahendra Singh (15) Khairwar, Scheduled Tribe Heratu, Barvadih, Latehar.
  • Charku Tirki (12) Scheduled Tribe Amvatikar Katiyatola, Barvadih, Latehar.
  • Budhram Oraon (17) Scheduled Tribe Kudumkheta, Barvadih, Latehar.
  • Umesh Singh (16) Ladi, Barvadih, Latehar.
  • Sakendra Parhiya (18) Primitive Tribe Ladi, Barvadih, Latehar.

 

Main issues addressed in the Fact Finding by PUCL
I. Nature of the Encounter
II. The criminal background of all the 12 alleged Maoists
III. Whether or not the families of the dead had been given an official notice by the administration.
IV. Whether the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court in regard to encounter deaths had been complied with or not.
V. Investigation into whether the encounter was suspect.

The details of the fact finding, site inspection, statements of witnesses and other evidence obtained

PUCL visited Manika, Latehar, and Palamu on the 20th and 21st of June 2015 and also inspected the site of the encounter. During this visit the team went to Nevar, Manika, Lado Village (Barvadih), Amvatikar, and Latehar and met the relatives of the deceased, and collected information from independent witnesses regarding the incident and the deceased persons. The entire information was recorded by audio-visual means.
In the course of this visit the fact finding team talked to, and gathered information from, the relatives of Uday Yadav, and Neeraj Yadav, their neighbours, the caretaker and local villagers. The statements of the family members of Budhram Oraon of Barvadih Latehar; Charku Tirkey of Amvatikar; Mahendra Singh Khairwar of Haratu; and Saket Singh of Lado Barvadih; and also from other people in their villages were recorded. Again in the course of investigation, on 23rd and 24th June, a team of the Ranchi PUCL met with Reshma Khatoon – the wife of Mohd Aizaz; Mohd Jaseem – the elder brother of Aizaz; Soni Devi – the wife of deceased Santosh Yadav; and the family members of Santosh Yadav; and recorded their oral and written statements.

Apart from this the PUCL team also learnt the government’s version of the events by meeting with the Superintendent of Police of Palamu and the police spokesperson of Jharkhand police.

Among the facts obtained by the PUCL were the statements of the family members of the deceased, the statements of persons from the villages they hailed from; the First Information Report registered at the Satbarva Outpost; the statements of police officers; the news item published in the Internet edition of the Times of India on the 9th of June; the letters written to the Chief Minister, Governor and Chief Secretary by Reshma Khatoon wife of deceased Aizaz Ahmed demanding a CBI Enquiry into the incident; and newspaper reports of the 10th-11th June 2015.

Analysis of the First Information Report

In FIR No. 349/15, dated 09.06.2015, GR 1118/15, registered at the Satbarva Outpost of Palamu Sadar Police Station, the site of the incident has been mentioned as near the crusher of Jumrati Miya situated on the kachaa (village) road in Village Bhalvahi, 7 kilometre North East of the Satbarva outpost. In the FIR it is stated that the CPI Maoist extremist organization made a life threatening attack by opening fire on the police force. It is stated that 12 Maoists were killed in the retaliatory operation. Uday Yadav, Aizaz Ahmed and Yogesh Yadav were identified by the local chowkidar and from the papers they were carrying in their pockets.

In the incident it is claimed that the police and paramilitary forces fired more than 200 rounds whereas the 12 Maoists despite having weapons and ammunition with them fired 19 bullets.

In the FIR it has been stated that on 8th June at 9.40pm, the Satbarva Outpost received information that a squad of the CPI Maoist was going to pass through the border area of Manika- Satbarva. The police station was directed to capture them. Sub Inspector Rustom along with force of 11 policemen reached NH75 at 10pm. The officers of the Cobra Battalion were already there before hand. These personnel started a joint checking of all vehicles passing on the road. Some personnel were stationed towards the crusher of Jumrati Miya (the site of the incident).

At 11pm, a white Scorpio came at a high speed from the direction of Sanika. On stopping the vehicle, some people travelling in it jumped out and fled towards the East towards the crusher. The white Scorpio rushed off in the direction of Satbarva. Rustom gave this information to the police station. The police force pursued those who had fled. Another Scorpio (silver coloured) which was following, having observed the police movements, turned towards the kuccha road towards the East, where the already positioned jawans of the Cobra Battalion attempted to stop the vehicle. The persons in the vehicle opened indiscriminate fire on the jawans. The police force asked them to surrender. But those persons alighted from the vehicle and continued to fire while running away. At 12.15 midnight the SP Palmu had requested for additional forces. Under the leadership of DGP Palamu, the SP Palamu and CRPF 134 Battalion reached there at about 1am. At the same time, the CRPF 11 Battalion and Cobra Battalion also reached there with the SP Latehar. It is claimed that when the firing stopped after some time, the 12 dead Maoists and cartridges and ammunition in large quantities were recovered on searching the area.

In this incident, the police and Cobra Jawans fired more than 200 shots, whereas only 19 spent cartridges of the Maoists could be recovered.

In the FIR it is not described as to how, despite the prior information, positioning and formation of adequate police forces, the white Scorpio managed to escape and flee the spot. Who were in that vehicle? Whether the persons who jumped out of the moving vehicle were armed or unarmed? Why those who fled chose only to run towards the already positioned force? What action the jawans took against those who fled is not mentioned. What was the relationship between the first white Scorpio and the second one that came afterwards? How many persons were in the first vehicle and how many in the second one?

In the FIR, it is repeatedly mentioned that the Maoists carried out indiscriminate fire, however only 19 empty cartridges could be recovered. Whereas it is stated that the police carried out limited firing and yet more than 200 rounds were fired. Out of which 117 spent cartridges were recovered.

Vehicles do not ply on the NH75 after evening. In the circumstances the police could have encircled the vehicles much earlier.

Despite the NHRC and police guidelines of not carrying out operations/ encounter in the night, this encounter was carried out.

In the FIR the bodies of driver Aizaz Ahmed and an unidentified 19 year old are shown to be in the vehicle itself. It is not mentioned as to where the bullets hit them.

In the FIR it is mentioned that the additional police force of CRPF Battalion arrived at 1am but they did not carry out firing, whereas the encounter went on from 11.30pm to 2.30am.

Facts that emerged from the fact finding, description and analysis.

The team first visited the site of the incident. The site is an open and level area. It is situated about 200 metres off the NH 74 on the Manika- Satbarva road. There are no big trees or bushes in the area taking cover of which the police force or Maoists could have fired. The soil is stony. The place where the media was shown the bodies of the 12 alleged Maoists was also an absolutely open area. Some dried up blood stains were visible there but the stains were very sparse and did not seem to be the blood that would have flown from the bodies of 12 people. The kuccha road on which this incident happened goes towards the Bhelvahi village and the village is approximately one kilometer away.

When the PUCL team reached the spot, there were already some persons there who were the representatives of the local press. Referring to the coverage they had provided immediately after the incident, they said that on 9th June, 11 bodies were lying in a line, whereas the body of one boy was lying 20 metres away near a bush. There was a silver Scorpio on which there were bullet marks. All the deceased had bullet marks only on their abdomen, chest and temple. Where the bullets had entered, the holes were of a large size.

The team could not find any signs whatsoever of firing on the ground, bushes and stones at the site. The villagers present said that they had heard the sound of intermittent firing late at night.

The fact finding team reached the house of Uday Yadav at Manika at about 12 noon on 20th June. The younger brother of the deceased present there – Hriday Yadav – informed us that the deceased was his elder brother and he was a para teacher in Village Nevar. He had been accused of being a police informer and beaten by the Maoists and had been directed to stay in the village and teach in his school. But due to the fear of the Maoists he had not been going to the school and he had not got his salary for 6 months. Hriday Yadav had gone to the site along with this father Jawahar Yadav. He had come to know of the incident from the TV news. Hriday said all the bodies had been placed in a line. They were not allowed to go close to the bodies. The bullet wounds in Uday’s body were in the upper half – stomach, chest and temple. Hriday was prevented from taking a photograph of his dead brother. Hriday says his brother did not have any relations with the Maoist organisation. A neighbour of Uday Yadav – Rajeshwar Yadav said that on 8th June, 4or 5 persons had stayed at Uday Yadav’s house. At 9-10pm two people had come on a motor cycle. After talking for some time, they spoke on a mobile phone. After that he felt sleepy and went to sleep. Another neighbor Rajendra Paswan said some people had come to Udayji’s house in the evening in a vehicle. Uday’s wife said that on the day of the incident, Uday had his food and went out with Neeraj to sleep outside. She said that she doesn’t know anything about what happened later.

After this the fact finding team went to village Kudumkheta, which is inside the forest, about 25 km to the South of Manika, from where one of the deceased Budhram Oraon hailed. Budhram’s elder brother Mahipal Oraon, who is disabled in one arm, said that Budhram, who is about 17 years old, is his younger brother. He had come home at the time of picking mahua. He came to know that his brother had been killed in police firing one week (8 days) after the incident. He said he manages to take care of his wife and 3 children only with great difficulty. He said that when there was not enough to eat, Budhram would occasionally go to the Maoist Party lured by the food.

Then the fact finding team reached Katiya Toli of Amvatikar Village in Barvadih block. Charku Tirkey of this village had also fallen prey to the police firing. Charku’s brother Vijay Tirki said that Charku was the fifth among all the brothers and sisters. He was 12 years old. He used to study in the primary school in the village.

Vijay said that Anurag had come to the house to take Charku on the evening of 8th June. There was a marriage in the house and the family had asked him not to take Charku, but he didn’t listen and had said that he would come back very soon. The police neither informed them nor handed over the body to them.

Kameshwar Singh, the father of Mahendra Khairwar, said that Mahendra had left the house about one and half months before the incident, saying that he is going to Kerala to work. He was about 15 years old and was studying in Class III in the Heratu Middle School. They did not get the body of the child. They had gone to Daltonganj but were not even allowed to see the body properly. The body had already decomposed, how could they have identified him?

When the team met Ramdas Parhiya of Ladi village, Barvadih on 21st June, he said that Sakendra Parhiya was his eldest son. He was married. He had taken 2000 rupees from home and had said that he would be going to Kerala to work. He was only 17-18 years old. They did not get his body. His mousa (maternal aunt’s husband) had gone to Daltonganj to get the body, but the police persons did not let him come ahead at all.

The team could not meet the family members of 16 year old Umesh Singh Khairwar. They had gone out on some family visit. But the people of Ladi village said that Umesh Singh Khairwar was the elder son of Pahadi Singh Khairwar. He was studying in the Girls Middle School at Gaaru in the Third Standard. Occasionally, because of poverty, he used to go out to earn. Maoists do come and go to their village and they forcibly lure the children to go with them. The family members of Umesh did not get his body.

Soni Devi, resident of Chatra Pratappur and the wife of deceased Santosh Yadav, met the members of the Ranchi Unit and told them that her husband had gone with his cousin Yogesh, taking driver Aizaz with him in a hired vehicle to meet Uday Yadav in Manika in connection with a marriage. In the night she had spoken with Uday on the phone. When she asked Uday about her husband, he had said he has reached where he was supposed to reach. Santosh used to drive Mamta vehicle in Pratappur. Yogesh, who was a graduate, had a mobile shop.

Reshma Khatoon of Neemakatu, who is the wife of Aizaz, said that her husband used to drive the vehicle of Chotu Miya. Santosh was also a driver – he used to drive the Mamta vehicle. These persons had left Chatra for Manika at about 3-4pm on 8th June 2015. He was not associated with any extremist orgnisation. Aizaz had phoned the vehicle owner in the night and told him that neither were they safe nor was the vehicle safe. The owner had come early in the morning to Reshma Khatoon and asked her whether she knew anything about Aizaz. The police did not inform the families of either Santosh Yadav or Yogesh Yadav or Aizaz Ahmed about the incident, whereas the identity cards of Yogesh and Aizaz had been found on the spot. The police had seized them and mentioned them in the FIR for identifying these persons as Maoists.

Facts emerging out of the investigation.

1. From the statements of the families of the deceased and independent witnesses, it is at least clear that Santosh Yadav, Yogesh Yadav and Aizaz Ahmed came from Chatra and reached the place of Uday Yadav by evening. Soni Devi of Chatra had already talked to Uday Yadav about her husband by 10pm. Driver Aizaz Ahmed spoke to his employer Chotu Miya around the time the incident took place. It can be verified from the call details of Chotu Miya as to how long they were alive.

2. From the analysis of the FIR of the police it can be clearly stated that the three persons named as Maoists – Aizaz Ahmed, Santosh Yadav and Yogesh Yadav – were neither Maoists nor did they have any connection with any extremist organization. There is no evidence of any criminal background of these persons.

3. The most important and surprising fact which is not mentioned in the FIR is that Anurag Yadav is a Maoist in the police record. But while this is not mentioned in the FIR, in the Internet edition of the Times of India, the Police Headquarters at Palamu claimed that they been successful in eliminating Anurag Yadav in an encounter. The time of registering the FIR is 1am as recorded therein. In other words, the Police Headquarters was aware that Zonal Commander Anurag @ Doctor was among those killed in the encounter. But the local police, that was involved in the encounter, was not aware that they had killed such a big Maoist. He has not even been referred to as a Maoist in the FIR. According to the FIR, there is no further clarification about the white Scorpio which is mentioned initially. Not only this, nothing is mentioned about its registration number or about the persons travelling in it. It is not mentioned as to whether those persons were armed or unarmed. It is mentioned that some people jumped out of the vehicle, they did not get down from the vehicle. It is pertinent here that if anyone jumps out of a vehicle he is bound to fall, and that too in the middle of police encirclement. It is also not understandable as to why, if people fled, they ran in the direction of the site of the incident where there was already an alert force of the Cobra Battalion and police jawans positioned. It is mentioned in the FIR that the white Scorpio vehicle escaped through the police cordon and drove away. When the driver could have escaped by driving through the police cordon, why were the people in it not able to escape?

4. Why did the second silver Scorpio, which was behind the first white one, also go in the same direction of the site of the incident? Why did it not go straight, in the direction which another vehicle had just escaped? According to the statements of the witnesses, all the corpses were lying on the ground, whereas as per the FIR, two bodies were in the vehicle, one of which was of the driver Aizaz Ahmed. Two persons in the vehicle were shot three times each, why were their blood stains not found in the vehicle? This question also arises naturally.

5. Five tribals were killed in the incident out of which three – Charku Tirkey, Mahendra Singh Khairwar, and Umesh Singh Parhiya aged 12, 15 and 16 years respectively, were minor lads. All three used to study in the government schools in their own villages. According to the FIR the incident occurred between 11.30pm and 2.30am, in other words the encounter went on all through this period. Yet when the CRPF was called, not a single shot was fired by them, whereas it is claimed in the FIR that the firing went on even upto one and a half hours after their arrival.

6. The team could not obtain the Post-Mortem Reports or the Cause of Death reports. Efforts were made to contact the SP Palamu but not much information could be obtained. The team was only able to speak to officers in Ranchi where the members of the team met Shri SN Pradhan, police spokesperson. Shri Pradhan expressed himself incapable of making any official statement in the matter, and suggested that the team speak to the SP Palamu. However he did assure that all the government documents, the FIR, post mortem reports etc would certainly be made available to us. He told us that he would talk to the concerned officers and then intimate us by phone. However no such intimation was made. No documents were made available by him for 2 weeks. The Investigating Officer in the Satbarva Outpost did not cooperate with the PUCL and refused to provide even a copy of the FIR. His attitude, even in such a serious incident, was insensitive.

The following demands are raised by the Fact Finding Team:

1. From the statements of the families of those killed in the encounter and independent citizens, the FIR, and the facts and circumstances at the site of the incident, this encounter appears to be a fake one. Hence we fully support the demands made by Reshma Khatoon and Soni Devi to the Hon’ble Governor Jharkhand, Chief Minister Jharkhand and other senior officials; and demand a high powered Judicial Enquiry/ CBI Enquiry into the incident.

2. Taking into consideration the circumstances of the four minor youth of the Scheduled Tribes killed in the encounter, a separate enquiry needs to be held into their killing. Hence a separate enquiry should be conducted in this regard.

3. Their families should be compensated under the SC, ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

4. Providing basic facilities in the far flung Naxal-affected rural areas should be a priority for the government. The Government must pay attention to this.

5. The families of the other innocent youth killed in the encounter should be paid adequate compensation.

6. The Government should take responsibility for the upbringing of the small children of the youth killed in the encounter.

7. After the enquiry, appropriate action should be taken against the guilty police personnel.