September 12, 2011
by Himanshu Kumar (Translated by Deepankar Basu)
(Source: Janjawar, 7 September 2011)
It is common in Dantewada for the police to pass off responsibility for their crimes onto the Maoists. While the media parrots the police version, people accept this as yet another instance of “inherent Maoist cruelty”. I would like to highlight a recent event from Dantewada as an example of phenomenon. The event in question, it is interesting to note, has not only seen the incarceration of sub inspector of police, Ghanshyam Patel, but also the rejection of his bail petition by the High Court. Two SPOs involved in this event, moreover, are absconding.
I informed Medha Patkar about these murders. When Medha Patkar wrote about this event to DGP Vishwaranjan, the latter had retorted that Himanshu has the habit of lying. It must have been the handiwork of the the Maoists, the DGP went on to suggest to Medha. Now, a sub inspector from his own police force is behind bars for the incident. So, who has been lying?
The event in question took place on 18th March, 2007. On that day in Salwa Judum camp Matwada in Bijapur district (of Chhattisgarh), sub inspector Ghanshaym Patel and 15 other SPOs brutally killed three adivasis. The adivasis were first beaten up by sticks; then their eyes were gouged by knives; and then, their heads were smashed by stones. The dead bodies were buried in the sand on the banks of a nearby river and the media was informed that the Maoists had killed the three adivasis.
The newspapers, of course, published the police version of the incident. In reality, the three adivasis that were brutally put to death had committed the crime of going to their village, every morning, for collecting and selling mahua fruits to buy rice to feed their hungry children. The police and SPOs were angry about the possible consequence of this daily morning visit to the village. What if more and more adivasis started the trek back to their village? If all of them left the Salwa Judum camp, how would the SPOs hide from the Maoists among innocent people?
My friend Kopa Kunjum had been terribly agitated by this event. In those days (when he had still not been jailed), Kopa had been working on public health issues in the same area where this killing had taken place (and the Salwa Judum camp was located). Suddenly he disappeared and reappeared after three days with the kith and kin, including brothers and wives, of the three adivasis who had been murdered. We invited to media to come and talk directly to the wives of the three who had been killed. This created a veritable storm: interviews of these widows started appearing in Dantewada, Jagdalpur, Kanker and Bilaspur. The State was on the back foot!
We filed a case about this event in the Chhattisgarh High Court. As part of its defense, the government came out with a ludicrous story. These women, the government claimed, have been captured by an NGO called Vanavasi Chetna Ashram…After these women had lodged FIRs against the Maoists, the government story went, the Maoists had asked them to make false allegations against the police…To have them do so, the Maoists had beaten up these women…That is why, claimed the government, these women had levelled false allegations against the police.
In the context of providing support to these unfortunate women, the State and the police declared us as Maoists in court. It is a different matter that, in the High Court, now the Chhattisgarh police is being hauled over the coals in the same case. But the State has refused to accept its previous mistakes and tender any apologies. Since we had helped the law enforcement machinery, this should be duly recognized; and, proceedings should be initiated against those who had declared us as Maoists in court. But, let it be. Which individual in the State machinery would be generous enough to take this up? In fact, as a reward for our efforts Kopa Kunjum has been put behind bars and my ashram demolished. Anyways…
This incident has been investigated by the Human Rights Commission. In its report, the Commission has pointed out that it is extremely difficult to accept the police version that the three adivasis had been killed by the Maoists. Because the incident took place bang in front of a police station… And right behind the scene of the incident is a big CRPF camp… That is why it would be nearly impossible for the Maoists to come there and kill them… Sub Inspector Ghanshyam Patel, the person who wrote the FIR against the Maoists, is himself indicted with the killings. The widows of the murdered adivasis, with our help, lodged the complaint for the killing of their husbands against the same police officer and the SPOs.
That is why it is essential to investigate the FIR written by him (Ghanshyam Patel)… And the High Court, while dismissing his bail plea, noted in its remarks that since Sub Inspector Ghanshyam Patel had himself written the FIR and since the widows had lodged a complaint against him for the same murders, his application is nullified.