Was there really an encounter at Shivpur as claimed by Chhattisgarh Police?

October 17, 2010

Press Statement from People’s Union for Democratic Rights

Was there really an encounter at Shivpur as claimed by Chhattisgarh Police?

17th October 2010

People’s Union for Democratic Rights is deeply disturbed by the news of fake encounter which has been passed off as a real encounter by the Chhattisgarh police in which two Maoists, Nagesh and Tarabai, were shot dead sometime between 14th and 15th October 2010

Media reports (TOI, 16/10/10) state that the duo were killed when security forces tried to stop them from firing. A third escaped in the nearby forested area. The IG (Durg Range) claimed that the incident happened near Shivpur village, 45 kms from Raipur.

Contrary to the IG’s claim about the encounter, local residents of Jamul, a semi urban area adjoining the Bhilai industrial area, have an entirely different version to tell. According to them, the bodies were found lying on 15th early morning close to a railway over bridge at Jamul. Moreover, there wasn’t significant police presence around the bodies. The number of police personnel started increasing only after 5 a.m., almost an hour after local boys first spotted the bodies.

The `discovery’ of the bodies by local residents, the lack of police presence at that time, the fact that residents had not heard any gunshots in the intervening night, raise several questions:

1 Why were the bodies found near Jamul railway over-bridge, a good two kilometers away from Shivpur village, the supposed site of the incident, according to the IG, RK Vij?

2 Where exactly did the `encounter’ happen? Given that the residents did not hear any gunshots, the previous night, where were the two killed?

3 What is the sequence of events which led to the death of the two Maoists? Till now there isn’t a clear coherent story as to how the duo was killed. The versions range from the police having prior information regarding a secret meeting in a local orchard (`kinnu garden’), to hotly pursuing them, to the rather bizarre version that the Maoists suddenly opened fire and the police fired in self defense and the version that the couple was in Jamul to strike a deal for purchase of ammunition.

4 Equally, the police story that a third accomplice `escaped’ into the forested area is improbable as the forested area near the bodies is only a fledgling `kinnu‘ garden, which cannot really pass itself as a `forest’.

PUDR is apprehensive that by `planting’ the bodies near urban working class localities, the police may try to harass residents for information. With the Chhattisgarh police talking of taking on the “Urban Network of Naxalites”, such strategic `encounters’ in urban places can become convenient ways for harassing `inconvenient’ activists. The fact that the area has a very strong and militant working class movement under the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha (Mazdoor Karyakarta Committee) against the Swiss multinational cement giant Holcim is significant. The organization is an eyesore for big companies and its participation in the anti-displacement movement, campaign for the release of Dr Binayak Sen and against human rights violations of adivasis has earned it the wrath of the State.

Under these circumstances, PUDR demands:
* An immediate registration of FIR into the given incident
* An immediate inquiry by an independent agency into the incident

Asish Gupta (9873315447)
Moushumi Basu (9810371257)
Secretaries, PUDR

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Statement from Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha (Mazdoor Karyakarta Committee)

Was it really an encounter on 15th October in Jamul, Durg district, Chhattisgarh?

October 16, 2010

The Chhattisgarh police have claimed a big victory in having encountered two dreaded Naxalites from the Kanker district – Nagesh and his wife Tarabai in Jamul, Durg. Nagesh is said to have had 70 serious cases filed against him in various criminal courts in Bastar Division and a prize of 2 lakhs on his head. Similarly Tarabai is also said to have a prize of about 1.5 lakhs on her head and some 36 criminal cases pending against her.The incident is said to have occurred during the intervening night of 14th October and 15th October close to a railway overbridge at Jamul, a semi urban area adjoining the Bhilai industrial area, very close to the ACC company. The police claims that 14 rounds were fired, two Naxalites were killed and a third managed to flee and escape into the nearby forest.

Since the spot of the incident is barely one kilometre away from the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha Office situated in a dense working class basti called Labour Camp, Jamul, we have had an opportunity to gather some preliminary information on this incident which makes us feel prima facie that this appears to be a fake encounter, and the deceased were more likely killed elsewhere and their dead bodies brought here. We are sharing these preliminary observations:-

1. The spot of the incident has two dense labour bastis on either side, at a distance of one kilometre and half a kilometre. In the intervening night of 14th and 15th no unusual police movements were observed by workers in these bastis, and neither were any sounds of firing heard, though the police claimed that the firing continued through the night.

2. Since it is the Pooja season and there were Pooja pandals set up in both the bastis and a third road that comes from Kohka leads to the celebrated Durga Pandal of Vaishali Nagar where there was a special programme on the 14th night, therefore there were groups of people moving around on these roads late into the night at least upto 1am and nothing untoward was noticed.

3. When some youngsters went for a run in the morning at about 4am on the 15th, the dead bodies were lying near on opposite sides of the road near the Bogda Pul, but there was no significant police presence. In fact police presence starting increasing only at around 5am and even then there were more officers than men.

4. The local police personnel and Intelligence Bureau personnel had various different and contradictory versions of the encounter. One version was that the Naxalites were at Shivpuri Chowk which is several kilometres away, another version was that there were hotly pursued by the police right from Fareed Nagar in Bhilai which is 6-7 kilometres away, still another was that the police had information of a secret meeting in the “kinnu garden” ( plantation of orange trees) of ACC and so 7 police parties had closed in on them, another version was that the Naxalites were on their way to strike a deal for purchase of ammunition In Jamul, and finally one version was that when the vehicle of the Naxalites was stopped they suddenly opened fire and the police then fired back in self defence.

5. The story of a third person taking advantage of forest cover to escape is particularly implausible since the only “forest” there is an orange tree nursery of the ACC in which it would not be possible to hide, and where workers were doing their normal duties on both the 14th and 15th.

In the above circumstances, it would be essential that the mandatory guidelines of the National Human Rights Commssion with regard to encounters are followed absolutely strictly in letter and spirit. In fact a high power judicial inquiry should be instituted.

As far as the workers in this area are concerned, we are apprehensive since the long drawn battle (20 years) of Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha (Mazdoor Karyakarta Committee) against the Swiss multinational cement giant Holcim is at a critical juncture. This militant working class organisation has become an eyesore for the big companies and its participation in the anti-displacement movement, campaign for the release of Dr Binayak Sen and against human rights violations of adivasis has earned it the wrath of the State. We are apprehensive that in the name of “security considerations”, the working class movement may be suppressed or its leaders subjected to malicious litigation. The search for the “elusive” third Naxalite in the working class bastis could turn into a massive fishing expedition against politically inconvenient opponents.

This is not the only such incident in the plains areas or urban areas of Chhattisgarh. Recently in the course of an “encounter” in Sankra Police Station of Mahasamund district, widow Himadri Patel accused the police having burst into her house and killed her elderly husband and his dumb farmhand in cold blood. In Rajnandgaon a girl student was shot in the leg while bathing at the village pond. 9 CPI activists including elected representatives in the Janpad Panchayat, a disabled person, and the petitioner in the Salwa Judum case in the Supreme Court – Kartam Joga – have been foisted with false cases under the Chhattisgarh Vishesh Jan Suraksha Adhiniyam. With the Chhattisgarh police talking of taking on the “Urban Network of Naxalites”, there are great chances that every dissenter would be dealt with in this manner.

In these circumstances we feel that an All India Fact Finding Team must be constituted urgently to look into these issues.

Sudha Bharadwaj

On behalf of

Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha (Mazdoor Karyakarta Committee)