Jharkhand – JHRM letter on the Saranda Action Plan; factsheet on situation in Saranda

February 9, 2012

To,

Shree Jairam Ramesh Ji,
Hon’ble Union Minister,
Ministry of Rural Development,
Government of India,
Krishi Bhawan, New Delhi-110 114.

Sub: For inclusion of local community in planning, implementation and monitoring of the Saranda Action Plan (SAP).

Dear Sir,

With due respect, I would like to state that the ‘Saranda Action Plan’ (SAP) is a very good initiative and can be a model for the country if it is implemented honestly. It is the first time, when the Indian Government will be spending Rs. 248.48 crore for the development of 56 villages of Saranda Forest. The Jharkhand Human Rights Movement (JHRM) welcomes the SAP. However, we have some major concerns on the SAP.

1. According to your letter dated 25th October, 2011, sent to Shree Arjun Munda the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Jharkhand, a team of senior officers of the MoRD and 3 members of the World Bank visited to Sarnada from 18 to 20 of October, 2011 and on the basis of this visit the “Saranda Action Plan” (SAP) was prepared, which means the World Bank has clear interest in the Saranda Forest either for the Mineral or the Forest, which is quite dangerous for the local community because the World Bank will dictate the government’s policies as a result the community will suffer. Therefore, we want to know the role of the World Bank in the SAP.

2. 130 km road will be constructed in Saranda Forest under the SAP with the cost of 104 crore and Rs. 80 lakh will be spent for construction per km road. Since, 7000 villagers will be provided bicycle under the SAP therefore, I’m surprised that what kind of road will be constructed to ride a bicycle? Is it the road for villagers or you are preparing infrastructure for the mining companies in the name of development of the Adivasis as is has been happening in India for last 64 years after independence? I suspect it precisely, because the Jharkhand Government has sanctioned iron-ore leases to 17 mining companies including Mittal, Tata and Jindal in the same region, where you have identified 56 villages under the SAP.

3. The most stunning factor is that the Government of India has involved 3 members of the World Bank in designing the SAP but it didn’t even bother to include a single head of the Gram Sabha (PESA 1996) or the Tribal Advisory Council (TAC) though this area comes under the 5th Schedule Areas, where any kind of development activity cannot take place without the consent of the Gram Sabha. I assume that the local self governance was not involved only because the role of the World Bank could have been exposed and questioned. You have violated the PESA Act 1996, CNT Act 1908 and the Constitutional provisions for the 5th Schedule Area.

4. As per the monitoring mechanism in the SAP is concerned, it has been mentioned in the SAP that 8 Bureaucrats will monitor it, but again the Gram Sabha and the local community are put aside, which clearly means the Indian Government has been treating the Adivasis merely as objects. The top-bottom style of planning, implementation and monitoring will never serve the purpose and community will remains as it is even after spending crore of money. You must have to change your mindset and involve the local community in planning, implementation and monitoring in every scheme made for them. This is need of the hour.

5. I want the community in planning, implementation and monitoring only to ensure that the money reaches to them. I have been noticing huge corruption in the Integrated Action Plan (IAP), which has been implemented in 60 districts of the country with the intention to overcome the issue of Naxalism. However, the IAP is about to be completed two financial years but the fact is the Naxalism has grown in last two years, which clearly means the IAP has not done anything except contributing in the growth of corruption. For instance, Palamu district of Jharkhand is one of the IAP districts, where 125 ponds were constructed under the IAP. The fact is, there is huge corruption in measurement and also some ponds were counted under the IAP, which were made under the MNREGA.

I appreciated your frequent visit to rural areas of Jharkhand, where even local leaders do not dare to visit. However, I would insist you to involve the Gram Sabha, Tribal Advisory Council and the community in planning, implementation and monitoring of every scheme/plan made for welfare and development of the community. I hope you’ll accept my observations, comments and suggestions and do the needful. I hope to hear you soon.

I shall be highly obliged to you for the same. Please find a fact sheet of Police atrocity on Adivasis of Sarada Forest.

Thanking you.
Yours sincerely,

Gladson Dungdung
General Secretary,
Jharkhand Human Rights Movement.

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Police Atrocities on Adivasis of Saranda Forest : A Fact Sheet

The ‘Saranda’ literally means a forest of seven hundred small hills is also known as the largest Sal Forest in Asia, situated in West Singhbhum district of Jharkhand. Approximately, 10,000 Adivasi families with the population of 1 lakh 25 thousand Adivasis live in the forest. The Adivasis depend on agriculture, forest produces and livestock for their livelihood. The forest is full of Iron-Ore therefore; there was always clash between the community and the business interest, which created space for the Maoist. Consequently, today the Maoists rule the vicinity. The Jharkhand police and the paramilitary forces have been carrying on series of joint operations against the Maoists. The “Operation Anaconda” was the last in the queue carried out in the Saranda forest from 1st to 31st of August 2011, led to rampant human rights violations of the Adivasis.

An emerging regional Human Rights Organization the “Jharkhand Human Rights Movement” (JHRM) exposed the rampant human rights violation in the Saranda forest with the support of the regional and national media. The JHRM also sent the complaint of the human rights violation to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and other competent authorities. The General Secretary of JHRM, Gladson Dungdung had also raised the issue in the regional consultation of the NHRC held in Kolkata on September 13, 2011 and pleaded the NHRC to send an investigation team to Saranda Forest. The NHRC accepted the plea and sent a five-member investigation team headed by DIG Mamta Singh along with DSP Mr. KHC Rao, DSP K.S. Bansal, Inspector Rajbir Sigh and Inspector Rajesh Kumar. Since, the Jharkhand Human Rights Movement (JHRM) is the main complainer in the case therefore the NHRC team had asked the JHRM team to present in the spot with required documents and witnesses. The JHRM team comprising of its Chairperson Mr. Sunil Minj, General Secretary Mr. Gladson Dungdung, member Mr. Sushil Barla, Mr. Biju Toppo and Dayal Kujur visited the Saranda Forest for submission and to facilitate the investigation.

The district police and the administration of West Singbhum district were given responsibility to organize the NHRC visit to Saranda Forest due to the security reasons. Since, the DIG of Kolhan Mr. Naveen Kumar, SP of Chaibasa Mr. Arun Kumar and other police officers were involved in killing, torture and exploitation of the Adivasis in Saranda Forest therefore they attempted to manipulate the NHRC’s visit. Firstly, they tried to cancel the visit of NHRC by giving them wrong information about heavy rain and flood in Saranda Forest. And when the JHRM team cleared it to the NHRC and visit was ensured, the police and administration changed the rout chart prepared by the JHRM and misguided the NHRC team. They organized the visit in a manner to make sure that the investigation team does not reach to the most affected villages. For instance, they cut off the name of ‘Tirilposi’ village in route chart, which is one of the most affected villages. They also deployed heavy security and asked the team members to walk in the forest.

Hence, the NHRC team members could only able to visit Karampada, Jombaiburu, Tholkobad, Baliba, Digh and Samtha villages. Though the team members could not visit two most affected villages – Tirilposi and Bitkilsoy suggested by the JHRM but they recorded testimony of most of the victims with the support of the JHRM. The JHRM team visited to Karampada, Jombaiburu, Tholkobad, Gundijora, Kudliba, Baliba, Tirilposi, Bitkilsoy, Samtha and Digha and monitored and also assisted the NHRC team in the investigation.

Major Findings:

* The ‘operation Anaconda’ was carried out jointly by the Jharkhand police and the paramilitary forces in Saranda Forest in the month of August, 2011. During the operation, 25 villages (of Saranda Forest division comes under Manohapur and Noamundi development blocks and Chhotanagra, Kiriburu and Jaraikela police stations) – Tholkobad, Gundijora, Tirilposi, Baliba, Bitkilsoy, Digha, Samtha, Nayagaon, Hatnaburu, Karampada, Jombaiburu, Kulaiburu, Ponga, Holonguli, Kudliba, Bahada, Kumdi, Sonapi, Hedeburu, Tetrighat, Ratamati, Kaliyaposi, Jharbeda, Reda and Bhalulata were seized by the forces for a month. Approximately, 500 Adivasis were brutally tortured by the security forces and 15,000 were directly affected of the police atrocities and 125,000 Adivasis are still denied basic services and facilities i.e. health, education, drinking water, road and electricity, etc.

* The security forces ate-up, mixed and spoiled food-grains (1501 kg rice, 66100 kg paddy, 744 kg Bazra and 50 kg Maize) and also destroyed harvest. They also ate-up 942 pieces chicken and 114 pieces goat and 7 pieces sheep. The security forces also broken door and destroyed houses. They ate-up edible materials of three private ration shops (two in Tirilposi and one in Balibal village) and also destroyed them. They also destroyed most of the utensils (made of steel and silver) and seized the bronze utensils, traditional weapons, axes, clothes and agriculture equipments to the camps to show that they have recovered those from the Maoist camps.

* According to the FIR filed in Chhotanagra police station on June 30, 2011, Mangal Honhanga S/o – late – Darmo Honhanga resident of Baliba village comes under Chhotanagra police station in West Singhbhum district of Jharkhand was an innocent villager and the police had taken him to the forest with other 12 villagers to assist them in the operation and he was killed in the crossfire took place between Security Forces and the Maoists. However, the villagers rubbished it. According to eye-witnesses – Mr. Lando Deogam and Mr. Tasu Sido, the Jawans had shot dead Mangal Honhanga and crossfire hadn’t take place in the forest that day. According to the officer-in-charge of Sonua Police station, Rajesh Kujur who was also part of the operation, has given statements to the Executive Magistrate (Chakradharpur) Mr. Gyanendra Kumar stating that the CRPF Assistant Commandant Shambhu Kumar Biswas had shot dead Mangal Honhanga in the Saranda Forest on June 30, 2011 and the top cops had coined it as result of the crossfire to save the CRPF and Police Jawans. The Assistant SP and SDPO Mr. Ajay Linda, who was also the part of operation, had coined it as a case of crossfire in his report under the pressure of SP Arun Kumar and DIG Naveen Kumar. The top cops had also gone one step ahead; by promoting Mr. Ajay Linda as the Superintendent of Police (SP) of Jamshedpur rural within a month of the incident with the clear intention to bury the case.

* In another case of killing of Adivasi Soma Guria (identity undisclosed) the FIR filed by the police in Chhotanagra police station on August 21, 2011 states that Soma Guria was a member of the CPI-Maoist whom the police had arrested nearby Baliba village during the search operation and taken him to the forest in search of the Maoist camp, where he was killed in the crossfire. According to the eye-witnesses, there were no cases of crossfire in this case too. According to villager Sunia Honhanga, Soma Guria was severely beaten by the security forces in Baliba village in front of the villagers. Consequently, he had fell down and become unconscious. In the evening the Jawans dragged him toward the forest, which led to his death. When he died the Jawans fired on him to coin it as a case of the crossfire to save themselves. The fact is Soma Guria was killed in the police custody therefore; the responsibility must be fixed on them.

* 30 year-old Sukhmi Bankira W/o – Shree Khujuri Guria resident of Trilposi village was repeatedly gang raped by the security forces for a week in the second week of August, 2011. She said that the COBRA Jawans had captured her house for more than a week and she was living with them and also cooking for them. However, she does not want to talk on the case of sexual exploitation. According to the villagers and her husband Shree Khujuria Guria, Sukhmi Bankira was raped by 5 Jawans for a week. Since, her son was arrested and sent to Jail in allegation of being a Maoist therefore the assumption is, perhaps, she fears about her son therefore she does not want to disclose about the gang rape though she had told her husband Shree Khujuria Guria about the incident when he had come to village in holiday on August 14, 2011. In another case, the Jawans had attempted to rape Muni Guria W/o-Shree Opil Guria resident of Baliba village on June 29, 2011 in her house. She was rescued by her aunty. The victim Mrs. Muni Guria has given testimony to the investigation team of the NHRC, JHRM and Media persons as well.

* 74 year-old Tupa Honhanga was severely beaten by the security forces on August 3, 2011. After JHRM’s intervention, the Secretary of Health (Govt. of Jharkhand) Mrs. Aradhana Patnaik had assured for his treatment but despite that Tupa was not admitted to Hospital. Finally, the family members admitted him to Sail Hospital at Kiriburu on 9 September, 2011. He was lying on the bed for more than a month. Interestingly, injury was not recorded in the medical report and it is mentioned as he has been suffering from the tuberculosis. This was done with the clear intention to save the cops.

* According to the press release of the Jharkhand Police, 33 Adivasis of Saranda were arrested and sent to jail during the ‘Operation Anaconda’. However, the police have no proof against 13 villagers except alleging them as merely active members of the CPI-Maoist. The police alleged that 13 are active members, 7 are PMS, 1 RPC, 1 SDS, 3 members of fighter group and 1 member of woman group and 7 are arms suppliers. Interestingly, 29 of them are the age of below 35 and secondly, all 33 villagers were booked under the UAPA, Arms Act and 17 CLA Act. How is it possible? It is clear that most of arrested persons are innocent villagers and police have victimized them to merely show the results of the anti-naxal operations.

* The security forces destroyed land entitlement papers, ration cards, education certificates, voter identity cards and job cards in Tholkobad, Gundijora, Baliba, Tirilposi and Bitkilsoy villages.

* Schools were closed and mid-day-meal was also suspended in 25 villages during the anti-Naxal operations. A para-teacher of Baliba Primary School Mr. Haris Mahto and the president of village education committee Mr. Suleman Topno were arrested after alleging them for helping the Maoists. The Jawans ate-up food-grain of the mid-day meal of Baliba, Tirilposi and Tholkobad. The force also captured kirana shop (private ration shop) of Mr. Pator Gagrai S/o – late Markan Gagrai, who is also the president of Village Education Committee and used to supply food grain under the midday meal for Primary School, Tirilposi. The police threatened him for killing if he comes to village. The Security forces had captured the Primary School of Tholkobad and destroyed books, boxes and science kits. The Jawans severely beaten para-teacher Oliver Barla (Tholkobad School) and also destroyed utensils, land patta and voter card of Binodini Purty, who is convener of the Mid-day Meal Committee (Tholkobad). Consequently, teachers stopped going to school and the schools were closed and mid-day meal was denied to the children of 25 villages along with Tholkobad, Baliba, Tirilposi. The construction works of two new school buildings were stopped at Baliba and Tirilposi villages as the police have arrested VEC head Suleman Topno and running behind Pator Gagrai the VEC head of Tirilposi. The right to education and food were completely denied to children of Saranda Forest during the anti-Naxal operations. The schools are still closed in many villages i.e. Tholkobad, Gundijora, Tirilposi, Bitkilsoy and Kudliba. There is no Anganbri centre in many villages and the High schools also lacking in the range of 30 to 50 kilometers in the Forest.

* There is no health facilities available in the range of 30 to 50 kilometers in Saranda Forest, hence the villagers depend either of Jholachap doctor (untrained medicine practitioners) or traditional medicine practitioners for the treatment. The National Rural Health Mission has completely failed in Saranda Region.

* The security forces had created livelihood crisis in the villages, terrorized the villagers, tortured, raped and killed them. As a result, the Adivasis of Tholkobad, Gundijori, Tirilposi, Bitkilsoy and Baliba had deserted their villages for a month in August 2011 during the “Operation Anaconda”. The youth of 25 villages have migrated to elsewhere in fear of the police atrocities.

* The basic facilities – education, health, drinking water, road and electricity have denied to 125000 Adivasis of Saranda in the name of Naxalites and it has become a distance dream for them. The villagers are also not benefited from the livelihood programmes like MNREGA and Welfare schemes like Housing, Old Age Pension, etc.

* The police and the security forces had not allowed the entry of the media persons and other outsiders in the villages as they had barricaded 25 villages, exploited villagers and committed rampant human rights violation therefore they were afraid of being exposed. For instance, the forces had burnt three houses of Tirilposi village in the month May 2011 but no one knows except the villagers. The Media persons were also not allowed to enter into the villages on the first day of investigation by the NHRC. However, after the intervention of the JHRM, the media and other stake holders were involved in the investigation. This is a self explanatory of violation of the freedom of expression by the district police and the security forces.

* According to the villagers, they feed, shelter and help the Maoists, and also obey their orders in fear of their lives. If they deny, the Maoists exploit them in the night and when the security forces come to the villages in the day, they torture them alleging as their supporters and sympathizers. The villagers are exploited from both the parties. Hence, they want to get rid of atrocities of both the parties. They want to live with peace and prosperous in Saranda Forest.

* The circumstantial evidences suggest that the anti-naxal operations have a clear mining interest. For instance, a China company “Electro Steel” has been given mining lease of “Dinsumburu mines”, which is situated near Baliba and Kudliba villages, where the security forces committed rampant human rights violation. Similarly, 17 mining companies including Mittal, Tata, Jindal have been given mining leases in Saranda Forest therefore, the center and state governments want to clear the land through the anti-naxal operations. The Adivasis are not yet given land entitlement under the Forest Rights Act 2006 though they are eligible for it and secondly, the land entitlement and other papers of 4 revenue villages were also destroyed by the security forces so that they would not be able to claim their rights over the land they have been cultivating for years. Hence, the mining companies would comfortably acquire the forest and environment clearance for mining.

Recommendations:

i) A murder case under the section 302 of IPC should be filed against the CRPF Assistant Commandant Mr. Shambhu Kumar Biswas, for killing innocent villager Mangal Honhanga in the Saranda Forest and, he should be dismissed, arrested and sent to jail immediately.
ii) A case should also be filed against SDPO Mr. Ajay Linda, SP Mr. Arun Kumar and DIG Mr. Naveen Kumar for coining the brutal murder as a result of the crossfire. They should be dismissed immediately and sent to jail for their involvement in the brutal murder of innocent villager Mangal Honhanga.
iii) A CBI inquiry should be established on the cases of brutal killing of Manga Honhanga and Soma Guria, and also on the police atrocities against Adivasis in Saranda Forest.
iv) A compensation package of Rs. 10 lakh, 1 job and security should be provided to both the families of Mangal Honhanga and Soma Guria.
v) An independent committee (comprising of one retired High Court judged, one retired IAS Officer, one retired IPS officer, one senior Journalist, one Human Right Activist, one Social Activist and one Political Activist) should be constituted for the proper assessment of the affected villages and the villagers should be given adequate compensation against the loss of their food-grain, livestock and house-hold things, etc.
vi) The basic services and facilities i.e. Education, Health, Drinking water, Road and Electricity should be provided to the villagers immediately.
vii) The Adivasis of Saranda Forest should be given land entitlement immediately under the Forest Rights Act 2006 and all the forest villages should be converted into the revenue villages and community rights should be also ensured to them under the FRA 2006.
viii) An independent Authority should be constituted for the Saranda Region for assessment, monitoring and implementation of the development projects (education, health, road, electricity and irrigation), livelihood programmes (MNREGA) and Welfare Schemes (Housing, Old Age Pension, scholarship, etc).
ix) The Constitutional Provisions for the 5th Schedule Area and PESA Act 1996 should be enforced properly in the Saranda Forest. Hence, the police and security forces should not enter into the villages without prior permission from the traditional heads (Mundas and Mankis) and they should also verify with them about the arrested persons before sending them to jail. The villagers must be taken into consideration by the police and security forces before any kind of anti-Naxal operation in Saranda to protect the rights of the villagers.
x) The new mining leases of Iron-Ore given to all the corporate houses in Saranda Forest should be cancelled immediately as it is a clear violation of the Adivasis’ rights under Forest Rights Act 2006, PESA Act 1996 and Chotanagpur Tenancy Act 1908.

Report Prepared and Released by

Sunil Minj (Chairperson, JHRM)
Gladson Dungdung (General Secretary, JHRM)