November 17, 2011
By Jiten Marandi (Translated by Priyanka Srivastava)
[This statement was composed by Jiten Marandi in prison and was published to bring his side of the story of his arrest and subsequent accusal in the Chilkhari case, in which he has been awarded the death sentence by a lower court in Jharkhand, to the public. This has been translated from the original Hindi. – Ed]
Let us try to look a little deeper into the Chilkhari case and the statements made by its eye-witnesses. My name is Jiten Marandi. My voter ID, ration cards, all display this same name. The music records of ‘Jharkhand’ cultural group carry this same name with my contact details. I was born to late Budhan Marandi in village Karando of district Giridih into a family of poor peasants. The police of Giridih frequently harasses me for my alleged involvement with the Naxalites. The Chilkhari case is the latest among six other such court cases. I reiterate that I am absolutely innocent and all these cases are sheer fabrications.
The details of Chilkhari case are well known. On 26th October, 2007, a local cultural committee had organized a Santhali orchestra program in the football ground of village Chilkhari, police station Devari. Nunulal Marandi inaugurated this program and tribal people from around the area gathered in huge numbers to attend it. At 12:30 in the night, when the program was still going on, Maoists attacked the venue with the stated purpose of murdering Nunulal Marandi (Maoists had issued a statement regarding this particular attack). Although Nunulal Marandi escaped, 16 others lost their lives during the gunfight. With the death of an injured woman in a nearby hospital, the death toll reached 19; nine more people, including a bodyguard of Marandi, Puran Kisku, were injured.
Investigations in this case started right after the attacks at around 3:30 in the morning of 27th October when the police started interrogating Puran Kisku. Kisku became an informer. Based on his statement, the police of Devari registered a First Information Report (FIR) under 167/07. This FIR named Ramesh Mandal, Chiragji, Vishun Rajvar, Kolha Yadav, Jiten, Sunil and Albert, as the main suspects. Apart from them, the FIR also accused 30-40 unknown Naxalites. Interestingly, other than a few names, the FIR lacks any other details about the supposed culprits. How did Puran Kisku alone identify so many people? The police did not bother to take any other statements at that point. That means no one else was present there. In fact, none of the eight injured persons were interrogated at the location of the incident. It is doubtful whether the injured persons were at all present there. If they had been there, the police would have recorded their statements. Actually, statements of all the injured people were recorded at the Giridih Main Hospital. This is one of my arguments to bring the real facts of the Chilkari incident to light.
On 29th October, the police took another doubtful statement. The police produced Ramchandra Thakur (Tisri), Uday Sao (Gawa), Moti Sao (Gawa), Dinesh Thakur (Tisri), Indradev Rai (Gawa), and Devan Marandi (Gawa), as eyewitnesses in the court of judicial magistrate Sri S K Singh. They gave their statements under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) section 164. They basically repeated Puran Kisku’s statement and added the names of Manoj Rajwar, Anil Ram, Chatrapati Mandal, to the list of accused. Although it was a Santhali orchestra program, other than Deven Marandi, no other Santhali became a witness! Even the local organizing committee members, the artists or those who arranged tents and sound boxes were not among the witnesses! These exclusions seem deliberate and make the case look extremely suspicious. You must have read the statements of the ‘witnesses’ in ‘Prabhat Khabar’ daily. The paper published my photograph along with the news: “Attacker Jiten Marandi has been identified.” However, when I confronted the newspaper, it acknowledged a mistake and promptly published an apology in its October 31st edition.
Meanwhile, within two days of the attack, the police arrested Mangu Kisku (Peertand), Tuplal Yadav (Sariya), Ramsahay Das (Devari), Hafiz Rahmat Ansari (Devari), and Anil Ram (Govindpur-Navada) from their residences as suspects and sent them to jail. After meeting and talking with them in jail, I concluded that these people were completely unaware of the attack. Their police diaries and charge-sheets were filed only in January 2008. In the diary, witness Uday Sao has stated that Subodh Sao and Prahalad Singh (both Gawa) were present during the program. This fact was not mentioned in Uday Sao’s earlier statement. Based on their statements, the names of Mangu Kisku, Tuplal Yadav, Ramsahay Das, Hafiz Rahmat and Kishun Rajwar’s have been added among the accused. The process of collecting fake statements went on! In February 2008, during the course of police investigations, Suman Anan, an investigator, recorded statements of Moti Rai (Gawa) Pati Rai (Gawa) and Sukhdev Marandi (Tisri). Based on their statements, the police have added my and Sitaram Turi’s (Sono Jamui) names among the accused. Thus, the police continued to invent both witnesses and suspects.
According to police investigations and witnesses, two Jiten Marndi’s, I and one other from Mimiyaghat, were present during the program and both were involved in the attack. So now we have two Jiten Marandis! Doesn’t this look problematic? On 5th April 2008, I was arrested from Ranchi and under case 696/07 of Kotwali Thana, I was sent to jail in Ranchi the very next day. I was charged with instigating road blockades and delivering inflammatory speeches. On April 12th, charged with an involvement in Chilkhari case (167/07), I was sent into police remand in Giridih. I have been in jail since then. From 17th April, I was into a police remand of ten days. I was continuously interrogated during this period but I could not provide any evidence simply because I do not know anything about this attack. Within a month, another accused, Sitaram Turi was also sent to jail and with that the number of jailed accused reached to ten. The honorable Court has combined the two charge sheets filed in 1st July and 19 November 2008 respectively and the case proceedings are going on.
It must be noted that the police is framing me into a case that is based on false identity and flimsy charges. These stories of harassment are endless. Other than Chilkhari case, on 18/6/2008 I was sent into police remand for my alleged involvement in Gawa cases 56/99 and 54/2000. On 13th January 2009, I was sent into police remand for Peertand cases 42/03 and 9/04. In all these cases police diaries and evidence have been manipulated to mislead the court. In Chilkhari case I presented my bail plea to the Supreme Court. On August 16th 2008 the honorable Court rejected my bail plea and directed the lower court to conclude the case within eight months. We have been through several trying phases in this case. On 24th March 2009 we appeared in the court regarding the case. Here the town police officer Upendra Kumar Singh was also present. After a brief conversation, session court officer Gopal Pandey singled me out for an appearance before a set of ‘witnesses.’ Police officer Upendra Singh pointed me out to the witnesses telling them my name and that they will have to identify me in court! Despite my protests, the process of identification was conducted in this manner. However, the court did not take their statements that day.
The case hearings were resumed on 1st April and this time, witnesses Moti Sao and Subodh Sao were questioned. Moti Sao identified me as culprit Jiten Marandi and accused me of participating in the firing. Police officer Upendra Singh was present throughout the proceeding and from 9th April onwards, he took me to the session court hearings of the case. I assert that singling me out in this manner was a shrewd police conspiracy. The thirty witnesses of this case included one informer, seven doctors, two investigators, six who gave statements in connection with 164, and eight injured and five other eyewitnesses. The witnesses of 164 also gave statements against Manoj Rajwar, Anil Ram and Chatrapati Mandal. Interestingly, Moti Rai, Sukhdev Marandi and Pati Rai, whose statements served as the basis for filing a case against me, were not investigated later either by the police or in the court. Notably, those who witnessed against me did not provide my contact or background details to the police. How did the police get my description then?
I also question the credibility of these witnesses. What are their backgrounds? It must be noted that Ramchandra Thakur, Uday Sao, and Moti Sao are simultaneously playing the dual roles of culprits and witnesses. They have been accused in several ‘Naxal cases’ while they are named as witnesses in other such cases. This is not a baseless allegation. Police inspector of Giridih police station himself furnished this detail under the Right to Information Act. In the recent past, the court has even issued warrants in their names. Nevertheless, they enjoy police protection. I contend that the police and political leaders have used utterly corrupt methods and false witnesses to frame me in Chilkhari case.
I assert that Puran Kisku and others who were injured during the firing are the core witnesses of this case. Their injuries prove that they were present during the incident. The police witnesses, on the other hand, could not provide any evidence of their participation in the cultural program. The fundamental questions and investigative discrepancies make one question the authenticity of Chilkhari case. I urge you all to come and participate in this struggle for truth and justice and raise your voice against this false case. I am a cultural and social activist and not a criminal.
Mandal Kara, Giridih