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Staged Killings Continue in India

Was it really an encounter in Jamul on 15th October?

by Sudha Bharadwaj, 16 October 2010

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16 October, 2010 17:41:32

Was it really an encounter in Jamul on 15th October?

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)