Statements on the killing of CPI(Maoist) Politbureau member Kishenji

December 3, 2011

Fact Finding Report by Coordination of Democratic Rights Organisation

Twenty two member team of four constituents of Coordination of Democratic Rights Organisation namely Association for Protection of Democratic Rights, Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee, Bandi Mukti Committee and Peoples Union for Democratic Rights (Delhi) undertook a fact finding into the alleged encounter killing of Mallojula Koteswar Rao (aka Kishanji) on 1st December, 2011. The team visited Sorakatta hamlet of Burisole and Gosaibandh village of Paschim Mednipur. The team spoke to the residents of the two villages, the Sub Inspector and ASI of Jamboni Police Station, and visited the spot where the alleged encounter took place on 24th November.

SPOT: The place where Kishanji’s body was found is about 300 metres from the hamlet Sorakatta of Burisole village. It is barely 50 metres from the village football ground and surrounded by thin cover of Sal trees. Right next to where his body lay on the ground is a termite hill. All around is a thin spread of Sal trees giving the impression that of little cover. The termite hill remains undamaged by all the alleged exchange of fire. Where the body lay on the ground there is a pool of blood where his head and torso lay but no blood spot marks where his legs lay. The trees which ostensibly carry the bullet marks show no burn marks caused by bullets. Indeed the contrast between the badly damaged body of the deceased with the undisturbed spot where his body lay gives rise to much doubt. If there was heavy exchange of fire there would be telltale signs around. What is most intriguing is that the termite hill, barely few inches away from the body, shows no corresponding damage if there was an exchange of fire and bullets flying all around him. Dried leaves show no sign of burn caused by sparks from bullet fire. Team members walked around to see for themselves signs of bullet-marks on the trees or termite hills or other signs but whereas some tress had cutmarks not a single termite hill was damaged and no visible sign of burn or fire due to heavt rifle and mortar firing!

Villagers Account: At Sorakatta hamlet we were told that two days before the incident security forces movement became evident and it picked up by 24th November when in the morning, between 10-11 am, police personnel asked the villagers to stay inside their house and not to step out. According to the villagers during these three days of heavy security force movement no announcements were heard of any kind let alone of police asking Kisahnji to surrender. Between 4-5 pm of 24th they heard loud noise followed by sounds of bullet-fire for about 15-30 minutes. Significantly two villagers a local quack Budhev Mahato and Tarachand Tudu a 20 year old student were picked up and implicated in the same case no. 46/11 dated 25/11/2011 and charged under S 307 and other sections I.P.C.

At Gosaibandh, which is about 5 kms from Burisole, one Dharmendra, third year student of geography at a local college, was picked up for allegedly sheltering Kishanji and the police claimed to have seized a laptop. The family said that the bag belonged to Dharmendra and there was no laptop in it instead Rs20,000 was stolen and family’s ration card, certificates and OBC card were seized too.

Police Station Jamboni: The team members spoke to SI Sabyasachi Bodhak and asked him when did they receive information about the encounter, who informed them as well as who wrote the FIR since it fell in their jurisdiction. According to them they received the information from Additonal SP of Jangalmahal Aloknath Rajori at night at around 10.30 pm. And it is the Addl SP who wrote the FIR. It is important to note that the investigation has been entrusted to the DSP CB-CID whereas the complainant is a superior officer. This violates the basic principle of natural justice that a superior officer than the complainant officer investigate the crime.

We wish to recall the nature of injuries on the body of Kishanji. There were bullet, sharp cuts and burn injuries. Surprisingly there was no injury marks on his shirt and pant corresponding to his body parts.

1. Injuries on Head:

Right eye was hanging from the socket.
Lower Jaw was missing instead there were burn marks.
On the back side of the head part of skull brain missing.
At four places on the face there was bayonet like stab marks.
One third of the throat was had been slash wound.

2) Right Fore Arm Bone was broken without the skin showing any external injury.

3)The right Arm has three Bullet Injury Marks.

2. On both legs ankles are broken and the left feet was half dangling.
3. The left sole skin was missing and burnt.
4. One third of the left hand index finger was removed.
5. There were more than 30 Bayonet like cut injuries on front of the body.

We were unable to get the Inquest Report prepared by the Executive Magistrate nor could we get the Postmortem report although team members have read and taken notes from it. Surprisingly none of the above injuries were recorded except the bullet entry and exit injuries.

Our observations: Considering the extent of the damage caused to the body against the rather undisturbed surrounding of the spot where the body lay raises our suspicion about the official version. The reported official version themselves suffer from inconsistencies. For eg. Whereas Chief Minister Mamta Bannerjee claimed that for three days a Kishanji and his companions were encircled and they were asked to surrender, but the villagers deny having heard any public announcerment over loud speaker of any kind much less asking him to surrender. Mr Vijay Kumar DG of CRPF went on record on 25th November that Kishanji along with three others were killed in an encounter whereas only a single body was found! The reported number of bullets fired said to be several hundred in the course of 15-30 minute long encounter do not correspond to the spot where his body lay.

The killing of Kishanji took place against the background of fledgling efforts to initiate talks between the state Government of West Bengal and the CPI(Maoist). With his death these efforts have been dealt a fatal blow. We cannot but wonder if this is a repeat of what transpired last year on July 1-2 when Cherukuri Rajkumar @Azad was killed in a fake encounter.

We wish to point out that in the context of a crime committed in the area affected by armed conflict investigation by one branch of the administration into the conduct of another branch, in this case CB-CID investigating the role of joint forces can not be considered impartial and unbiased. We, believe that only an independent investigation for eg by an SIT can help unravel the truth.

This tends to confirm our suspicion that this appears to be a case of custodial killing. Therefore, we demand:

1. An independent judicial inquiry headed by a sitting or retired Supreme Court or High Court judge into circumstances surrounding Kishanji’s death.
2. Register a criminal case under section 302 I.P.C

Debaprasad Roychoudhury (general secretary APDR)
C H Chandrashekhar (general secretary APCLC)
Bhanu Sarkar (secretariat member BMS)
Gautam Navlakha (member PUDR)

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Press Statement from Co-ordination of Democratic Rights Organisations (CDRO)

On behalf of 27 Democratic Rights Organisations

25.11.11

We strongly condemn the killing of Mallojula Koteswara Rao alias Kishenji, politbureau member of the CPI(Maoist) at Burisole forest near Jhargram in West Bengal on 24th November 2011. It is being claimed by the West Bengal police and the CRPF authorities that Kishenji has been killed in a “30 minute gunbattle” near Khushboni village in Burisole forests of West Midnapur district, while some other members of the Maoist squad escaped. However, this version of the police is riddled with contradictions, and also accounts from villagers in nearby villages strongly suggest that Kishenji has been killed in a fake encounter. According to local reports, Kishenji was captured during an operation by the joint forces in the area on 23rd November, and killed in cold blood on 24th November during a staged gunbattle. It is very surprising that a senior member of the CPI(Maoist) like Kishenji, who would normally have been surrounded by multiple layers of security manned by members of the Maoist squads, was the only victim of this alleged encounter. Also, not a single police personnel has been injured in this reportedly fierce gunbattle. Kishenji’s body has reportedly been found with an AK47 rifle lying by his side. All these is reminiscent of the killing of the spokesperson of the CPI(Maoist), Cherukuri Rajkumar alias Azad in an allegedly fake encounter on 2nd July, 2010. It is also highly condemnable that one of the seniormost members of the CPI(Maoist) has been killed in this manner while the party has been in the process of holding talks with the West Bengal government through government-appointed interlocutors, and the chief minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee has been publicly maintaining that no operations are being conducted by the joint forces. The killing of Kishenji appears to be in keeping with the official policy of liquidating senior members of the CPI(Maoist) through extra judicial killings.

In its directive of 1996, NHRC had clearly stated that all cases of encounters are cognizable offence until the police version is verified by an independent investigating agency and that ‘whenever information is received of encounter and death is ascertained as a result of firing by the police during the encounter, prima facie the ingredients of culpable homicide under appropriate sections of the IPC are satisfied and a magisterial inquiry shall be instituted against the encounter’. An Andhra Pradesh High Court’s ruling on encounter killings states that ‘the state is responsible to register an FIR against the encounter killing and the plea of self defence be proven before the court of law by the involved security personnel’.

In the light of all of this, we demand the registration of an FIR and initiation of an independent magisterial inquiry as per the NHRC guidelines into the incident of killing of Kishenji immediately. We also demand that an independent, national level fact-finding team be allowed to go into the area and ascertain the facts behind the death. We also demand that the post-mortem on the body of Kishenji be conducted in presence of independent observers and the report be made public.

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Press Statement from Friends of Democracy

We are deeply shocked in the death of M.Koteswar Rao aka Kishanji – a top leader of CPI ( Maoist ) party, in the hands of joints forces in West Midnapore. This death is totally unwarranted for and such operation during negotiation violates all established norms and protocols of peace initiative. We reiterate that the peace talk and war cry cannot go hand in hand. We demand a rapid judicial probe in this case as per existing rule of the land, because like Azad, his killing is also shrouded in mystery.

For the sake of lasting peace for the people of Jangalmahal, we request all concerned parties to take initiative. Otherwise there will be more blood shed. The state government should act in a way to establish that it is not vindictive and not bent upon to take revenge.

We once again urge for the unconditional release of the political prisoners at the earliest, as well as withdrawal of joint forces from jangalmahal to establish a congenial atmosphere.

We hope that good sense will prevail at last.

Subhas Sen, Biplab Chakraborty (Jt Convenors)
RSVP – Sujato Bhadro

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Press statement from activists

September 25, 2011

We strongly condemn the cold-blooded murder and planned assassination of Kishanji alias Mallojula Koteswara Rao, Politburo Member of CPI (Maoist) in Burishol forest area, Paschim Midnapore District, Jangalmahal, West Bengal on 24 November 2011. At the time of this murder Kishanji was dealing with the process of peace talks through the interlocutors appointed by the Chief Minister of West Bengal Ms. Mamata Banerjee. Such a heinous crime should be condemned by all justice loving people.

According CPI (Maoist) statement issued to the media on today, Kishanji was arrested and tortured and then brutally killed. This murder looks much similar to that of Azad’s in July 2010, when Azad was brutally tortured and killed while he was dealing with the Union Government’s offer of peace talks through union Home Ministry appointed interlocutor.

In these circumstances, the Joint Forces’ story of a fierce gun battle in Burishol forest of Paschim Midnapore district comes out to be a concocted one. It is significant that the mother of Kishanji, Ms. Madhuramma while maintaining it is a fake encounter has also demanded a judicial enquiry. Under the circumstances, we demand:

1. The fake encounter killing of Kishanji should be investigated by a Judicial Enquiry Committee of a sitting or retired judge of Supreme Court.

2. Immediately register a case of Murder against the police, and paramilitary personnel who have claimed to have killed Koteswara Rao alias Kishanji, Politburo member, CPI (Maoist) in Burishol Forest area, Paschim Midnapore District, Jangalmahal, West Bengal taken place on 24-11-2011.

3. All those who are the suspects and involved in this coldblooded murder should temporarily be removed from the office till the Judicial Enquiry is completed.

4. Kishanji’s body should be airlifted to Hyderabad and handed over to his mother after proper post-mortem being conducted by the designated team of doctors and forensic experts not below the rank of civil surgeons.

5. Meanwhile, Kishanji’s body should be preserved with appropriate embalming.

B D Sharma (Former National Commissioner for Scheduled Castes and Tribes)
G N Saibaba (Deputy Secretary, Revolutionary Democratic Front)

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Press Statement from MASUM

25 November 2011

We, the friends of MASUM, severely condemn the killing of Kishenji, alias Koteshwar Rao member of politburo of CPI (Maoists). It is alleged that Kishenji was killed in the custody of CRPF. We are alarmed at the killing of Kishenji, at this juncture of time, when the Government declared that it would proceed for a bi- lateral talk to resolve the problem due to maoists’ action and subsequently head towards peace. It is really unfortunate that the present government too, just like their predecessors, considers the problem of Maoists as a law and order problem, instead of looking it as a socio-political problem. Hence, we severely criticize the attitude taken by the governments. The stand taken by the Home Department, Government of West Bengal by arresting today Mr. Varvara Rao, noted poet and other women accompanying Mr. Varvara at Kolkata airport while they were coming to identify the body of the deceased proves that our government is too revengeful.

Even the police and joint force declaring with cheers, the news of death of Kishenji, alias Koteshwar Rao; unfortunately no officer of the state government or from the central government felt that the bullet ridden body should be taken before any medical practitioner to confirm death. It seems that our police and joint force with sophisticated rifles / carbines in hands can declare officially the body is “dead” by their own!! Without any certification from any doctor how the police , the civil administration and even the ‘media’ can claim the person is dead, is a matter of surprise. The police and administration left the injured body in open air for exhibition for hours together to claim their credit. The largest democratic system never felt to treat an injured person first with human approach. This is a shame…