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Fake Encounters in Jharkhand

Posted by Admin on August 19, 2010

By Gladson Dungdung

In the afternoon on July 5, 2010, the security forces comprising of JAP and SAF under the leadership of E.H. Siddique the officer-in-charge of Tamar Police Station arrived to Gunti village and picked up 45 year-old Etwa Munda of Papirdah village comes under Tamar police station of Ranchi district in Jharkhand, when he was in the house of his relative Manav Munda. The police also caught a girl Bengi Kumari and escorted both of them towards Jabla pahari (forest). After sometime, the villagers heard the sound of firing and rushed toward the spot. They were shocked to see the dead body of Etwa Munda laying on the ground. The police framed the cold-blooded murder of Etwa Munda as a result of an encounter between the police and the Maoists. The police also depicted him as a hardcore Maoist who was very closed to the Maoist Zonal commander Kundan Pahan. Perhaps, Etwa Munda was not an innocent person but under which laws the police killed him in a fake encounter is the question needs to be answered.

Since the villagers were fully aware of the cold-blooded murder of Etwa Munda therefore the police spared Bengi Kumari and threatened the villagers and family members of the deceased for keeping quite. However, the villagers wanted to raise the issue therefore they approached to a local activist Xavier Soy and told him about the fake encounter. Meanwhile, when the police came to know about Xavier Soy’s acts of attempting to unearth the fact of the fake encounter and encouraging the villagers for raising the issue, the police put Xavier Soy with his school going son behind the bars alleging them of keeping the Maoist literature in their house. The police also do not allow the outsiders especially the Human Rights Activists and the Journalists to roam in the area so that the truth remained buried. Finally, the police succeeded in shutting up the villagers’ mouths and in framing the cold-blooded murder as a genuine case of encounter between the police and the Maoists.

Amidst, Tamar police again picked up another villager Rajesh Singh Munda of Papridah village on August 1, 2010 before the dawn from his village when he was sleeping. The police took him near Koja River in Heso forest and gunned down after branding him as a hardcore Maoist and aide of the Maoist Zonal Commander Kundan Pahan. The former Jharkhand chief Minister Arjun Munda raised the question and demanded for the CBI inquiry alleging that the Police killed Rajesh Singh Munda in a cold-blooded murder. He also said that the Naxalism would grow if innocent villagers were being coined as Naxalites and killed in fake encounters. He further said that the police kill innocent Adivasis precisely because they are voiceless. Perhaps, this is the first time in Jharkhand when a political leader has raised questions against the cold-blooded murder. Obviously, the most of the people keep quiet on the case of fake encounter because the licensed killings are not only accepted in our so-called civilized society but we also applaud for it, award the killers and make them heroes of our Indian society, which foundation lies on the non-violence ethos.

It would be very interesting to know whether Etwa Munda and Rajesh Singh Munda were members of the Maoist groups? The circumstances suggest that they were not the members of the Maoist groups. For instance, the Maoists had called off ‘India block’ on July 7th after alleged killing of their leader Azad. Similarly, on 8 August 2010, they shut down Jharkhand, Bihar, Chhatsgarh and West Bengal against the arrest of Maoist leader Rajesh alias Udayji from Ranchi the capital city of Jharkhand. However, they did not even issue a statement after brutal killings of Etwa Munda and Rajesh Singh Munda by the Security Forces, which is a clearly indication that they were not the members of the Maoist groups. However, the villagers do not deny Etwa Munda’s involvement in some illegal activities but denied him being the member of Maoist groups. Perhaps, Rajesh Singh Munda was completely innocent.

Indeed, the police often conduct fake encounters for ensuring medal, award and promotion for them but now the things have changed. The purposes of cold-blooded murders are entirely different in the red corridor. The Security forces have been organizing the fake encounters in the forests with the intention of frightening the villagers so that they can stop supporting the Maoists. It is to show the brave work of the security forces to the city dwellers especially the middle class for getting their support for the bigger assault against the Maoist. It is also to bring back the lost moral ground of the security forces. And of course, it is to shield their failures and to justify the so-called anti-Naxal operations of the Indian government.

For instance, on July 1, 2010 the Police had organized a mass meeting at Sarjormdih village near Bunda police station of Ranchi district in Jharkhand against the Maoists, where 3000 villagers of 24 villages had participated and challenged the Maoists. Instead of surrendering, the Maoists killed Sandu Munda on July 3, who was the first speaker in the meeting. The police had instigated the villagers for going against the Maoists without ensuring their security therefore the Jharkhand Police had faced heavy criticism. In this situation, there was no other way to counter the criticism therefore the police killed Etwa Munda and Rajesh Singh Munda in cold-blooded murders and depicted them as hardcore Maoists. The people just followed the media’s story and kept quiet.

Since, the so-called anti-Naxal operations have very clear link to the corporate interest therefore one should understand the media’s silence on the state sponsored human rights violations. Meanwhile, It is very strange to know about the silence of Human rights groups on humiliation, molestation, torture, rape and cold-blooded murder by the Security Forces during the ongoing anti-Naxal operations in the state, who ensure their bread and butter in the name of promotion and protection of the human rights. Perhaps, these human rights groups are afraid of the state agencies since anyone who raises the issues of human rights violation in the red corridor is coined as a Maoists supporter. But does it mean they should keep silence?

However, the Indian constitution does not deny the right to life to anyone residing in the country. Similarly, our corporate Home Minister P Chidambaram while responding to a question of alleged killing of Maoist leader Azad in the Parliament said, “Whether somebody is a good man or bad man, he should not be killed in a fake encounter.” He further said, “When I took the charge of my ministry, I made it clear that there would no fake encounter killings by central agency”. What does it mean? It clearly means the Indian State has been carrying on the fake encounters, which must be a serious concern for us. Therefore, the CBI inquiry should be established in all the cases of encounters taken place in the so-called red corridor since January 1, 2001 to 15 of August 2010. If it happens the people of the country would be shocked to hear that how the security forces have killed the innocent people in the fake encounters.

There are some very significant points in the so-called encounter cases. Interestingly, when the police kill any person either in a genuine or fake encounter, the person is coined as the top Maoists (area commander or zonal commander) and when the Maoists attack on police the most affected are small policemen. Why are the police not able to target the guerillas though they are always able to target the top guns of the Maoists? Similarly, whenever police catch a person, he is propagated as a hardcore Maoist. The strange thing is at the end of the day police fail to provide sufficient evidence in the court and the most of the so-called hardcore Maoists are acquitted due to lack of evidence. What does it mean? It clearly means the police victimize the innocent people and put them behind the bars. Can the Indian State tell its people that how many Maoists were convicted for last four decades?

The peculiar thing in every case of encounter is the Maoist fire more bullets on the security forces than the security forces fire on the Maoists. Ironically, non-of our security force gets injury and the Maoists are killed. Therefore, it is very difficult to understand the puzzle of encounter. Precisely, because though our security forces are so smart but at the same time they are not able to cleanse the Maoists. In the case of Rajesh Singh Munda, the police claim of the Maoist firing 300 rounds bullets on the Police and the Police fired merely 150 rounds in their response. However, Rajesh Munda was shot dead and not a single policeman got injury. Of course, one Indian would never like its soldier to be injured but we have to understand the logic of so-called ‘encounter’.

The so-called educated people who always raised the questions on intention of the Human Rights Groups and attempted to brand them as the Maoists over ground, Maoist sympathizers and supporters must understand that we are the concerned and tax payer citizens of India, who have also given our mandate to the Indian State for promoting, protecting and ensuring everyone’s constitutional rights. Therefore, even if the Maoists create problems in the country, the responsibility lies with the Indian State. We also have every right to question the Indian State whenever and wherever the human rights of the marginalized people are violated. Any one who is annoyed with the questions does not deserved to be in the power. If P. Chidmabaram does not want to hear our cries, he must step down from the Home Ministry immediately because the buck would always stop at his desk whenever and wherever the central forces violate the human rights of the people in India.

However, whether Etwa Munda and Rajesh Singh Munda were innocent or guilty, their constitutional rights – right to life was taken away by the mighty guns and the state is responsible for it therefore it must tell its people the truth. Can we accept killings of anyone either legally or illegally in the civilized society? Are we really civilized people? How can we take anyone’s life if we can not give life to anyone? In some cases of licensed killings we might be the egally right but we would be always ethically wrong. And of course, the killing is a sin for humanity. Therefore, we must ask the state to uphold the constitution of India and we should not accept the cold-blooded murder in any circumstance. The state is duty bound to promote, protect and ensure the human rights of everyone therefore it can not wither away from its responsibility. And of course, we should not let it go.

While addressing to 64th Independence Day, the Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh said that his government is committed to protect its every citizen therefore one would question whether Etwa Munda and Rajesh Singh Munda were Indian citizens too? Is Indian government committed to protect only the corporate sharks, politicians and bigwigs? Or whether the Indian State is also committed to protect the common men? If so then it must stop handing over the livelihood resources of the common men to corporate sharks and stop the operation green hunt, which is hunting the innocent rather than cleansing the Maoists. Perhaps, the question may remain unanswered is will Etwa Munda and Rajesh Singh Munda get justice or our police men would be allowed to enjoy impunity as they have been doing? Certainly, one can hope for justice for the victims of cold-blooded murders after development of Sohorabudding fake encounter case in the right direction but only the time will tell.

Gladson Dungdung is a Human Rights Activist and Writer from Jharkhand. He can be reached at gladsonhractivist

Source: The South Asian


One Response to “Fake Encounters in Jharkhand”

  1. Green Red said

    For your information only –

    tip of the iceburg getting out to the New Tork Times exposes a lot:

    Despite Scandals, Indian Mining Bosses Thrive
    Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

    People from villages surrounding the Obulaouram Mining Company collected baskets of small shards of iron ore outside of Bellary, India. More Photos »
    Published: August 18, 2010

    BELLARY, India — Janardhana Reddy insists he is not a king. No, no, no, he protested, as a servant trotted across the courtyard to deliver a cup of cooled water. Men with machine guns stood outside. An architect waited to discuss the new mansion, while another man hovered nearby, sitting in the grass.
    Slide Show
    India’s Mining Magnates

    Memo From Srinagar: Deadly Protests in Kashmir Test India’s Inclusive Ideals (August 19, 2010)

    The Bellary district holds its state’s richest iron ore veins. More Photos »

    “He’s the state minister of health,” Mr. Reddy said of the man in the grass, who stood up, made a little bow and hurried away.

    Mr. Reddy may not be a king, but he does represent a new phenomenon in the political economy of India: He and his brothers are the country’s most powerful mining bosses at a time when illegal mining has become a national scandal, amid accusations that billions of dollars of publicly owned minerals have been stolen, often by people holding public office.

    For decades, moneyed interests have bankrolled India’s political parties, but nouveaux mining magnates like the Reddy brothers have conflated money and politics in far more naked fashion, as the thirst for iron ore in India, and more so in China, has created huge fortunes.

    Mining scandals have emerged in at least five Indian states, with more than 20,000 complaints of illegal mining filed nationally in the past three months. Politicians in several states are accused of enriching themselves or their friends, including a former chief minister of the state of Jharkhand, who is charged with extorting huge bribes in exchange for granting mining leases.

    This week, the Indian media reported that the central government would form an inquiry to investigate illegal mining across the country, a move regarded as a first step in reversing past failings in regulation. Here in the southern state of Karnataka, the controversy surrounding the Reddy brothers has become a national political melodrama, threatening at different times to bring down the state government, while also throwing global markets for iron ore into turmoil.

    The Reddys, who say they are innocent of claims of illegal mining, have transformed themselves in less than a decade from obscure activists for the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, or B.J.P., into political bosses who directly or indirectly control three state ministries and dominate local government in the Bellary district, which holds the state’s richest iron ore deposits.

    “You’ve never had mining dons entering politics and controlling government,” said Ramachandra Guha, a historian who lives in the state capital of Bangalore. “They are more or less uncrowned kings in their district. There is a level of brazenness that even by the standards of Indian politics is new.”

    What prompted the change, and the rush by political figures into mining, was the steady rise in iron ore prices during the past decade. India relaxed its export restrictions at roughly the same time that China was in the throes of the biggest construction boom in history, culminating with the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Technical advances allowed more types of ore to be exported, and the price per metric ton soared. Where once it had brought about $17, today the price is about $130.

    “It encouraged practically everybody who was somebody to come into this business,” said N. Santosh Hegde, a former justice on India’s Supreme Court who is leading an official corruption investigation into illegal mining in Karnataka. “People who had no knowledge of mining but who had money power or muscle power — either would work — they came into mining. It really became sort of a rat race.”

    Mr. Hegde’s investigation has discovered that at least 10 members of the Indian Parliament or the Karnataka state assembly control leases in the Bellary region. By 2004, when the Reddys got their first lease, they had emerged as political players. The sons of a police constable, Janardhana Reddy and his two brothers had been key supporters of a B.J.P. candidate, Sushma Swaraj, in a local parliamentary race in 1999 that became a national showdown against Sonia Gandhi, the scion of the governing Indian National Congress Party.

    Ms. Gandhi won the race, but the Reddys would steadily turn the Congress Party stronghold toward the B.J.P. Ms. Swaraj, now the leader of the opposition in Parliament, became their patron. To get rich, however, the Reddys transcended partisanship and allied themselves with the Congress Party’s Y.S.R. Reddy (who is no relation), the powerful chief minister in the neighboring state of Andhra Pradesh. Iron ore deposits straddle the border of the two states, and the Reddys obtained leases on the Andhra Pradesh side.

    The Reddys got richer, bought a helicopter and are believed to have bankrolled numerous political campaigns. In 2008, they financed B.J.P. victories that helped the party to take over the Karnataka state government. As his reward, Janardhana Reddy became the state’s minister of tourism; his brother Karunakar became minister of revenue; his brother Somashekhar became president of the state’s powerful milk federation; and their close ally, B. Sriramulu, became the health minister.

    Last year, when the state’s chief minister, B.S. Yeddyurappa, tried to levy a fee of about $21 per truckload of ore, the Reddys led an internal party revolt, rallying loyal legislators and threatening to withdraw support for the government. Faced with the potential collapse of his administration, Mr. Yeddyurappa relented on the levy, fired two close allies who had opposed the Reddys and wept during a news conference. Meanwhile, Janardhana Reddy’s portfolio also included the post of minister in charge over the Bellary district. “The entire government machinery is under his belt,” complained Raghavendra Rao, a spokesman for the Baldota Group, a mining conglomerate at odds with the Reddys.

    Now, though, the Reddys’ power is being tested. Last year, their patron in Andhra Pradesh, Y.S.R. Reddy, died in a helicopter crash. Without his political protection, the Reddys were subjected to notices for illegal mining, building illegal roads and moving state boundary markers to expand the reach of their mine. In the interim, their mining in Andhra Pradesh has been suspended.

    At the same time, Mr. Hegde, the corruption investigator, is looking into claims that the Reddys have been secretly controlling mining on the Karnataka side of the border by illegally operating leases held by other people — and taking the majority of the ore.

    With bad publicity mounting, the B.J.P.’s national leadership has appeared divided over the Reddys. The Congress Party, sensing opportunity, held a 190-mile protest march from Bangalore to Bellary. The B.J.P. held a counter rally.

    Under pressure, the Karnataka chief minister recently acknowledged that illegal mining was rampant and blocked exports from state ports, a move that contributed to a spike in prices of about 4 percent on global markets. Yet the chief minister has still protected the Reddys by blocking an investigation by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation and saying no wrongdoing had been proved against them.

    Sipping his cup of water, Janardhana Reddy seemed unconcerned about the growing uproar. Asked about the investigations, and about whether he controlled the state and local governments, Mr. Reddy blamed partisan politics, saying the Congress Party was determined to smear him to win back Bellary.

    “Go and ask any common man and they will tell you that I don’t act like a king,” he said. “God is great. And God has been giving me these beautiful mines.”

    Hari Kumar contributed reporting. Saimah Khwaja contributed research from New Delhi.

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