December 3, 2011
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