An AIPF team visited Palamu region (Jharkhand) on 17-18 June 2015 to investigate cases of state-police repression and social oppression.
The team comprised of ex-MLA Vinod Singh, Ananta Prasada Gupta, Dayamani Barla, Jugal Pal and Anil Anshuman, investigated the incidents of civil rights activist Prahlad Sao’s murder by the coal mafia in Chandwa of Latehar district, killing of 12 people by the police in a fake encounter in Bakoriya (Satbarwa) of Manika, molestation of a minor girl by a CRPF jawan in Betla, and burning of dalit-adivasi homes in Anharidhodha (Chainpur) of Palamu district.
Murder of Civil Rights Activist Prahlad Sao
The illegal coal loading by the mafia at Tori in Chandwa (Latehar district) is also causing immense pollution in the town, against which the people led by Jan Kalyan Samiti have been protesting for the last 8 months. Despite submissions to the CM as well as other officials no action was taken. This led to further intensification of the protests and a dharna was started which was threatened by the SDM that if they continue they could even be shot. The agitation was led by Jan Kalyan Samiti President and well-known activist Prahlad Sao. On 15 May he was gunned down. The police only resorted to firing on angry protesters. Later administration appeared to give an assurance, which of course proved to be a false promise. Till date the killers have not been caught.
The AIPF team reached Tori on 17 June, came to know many facts about the deadly business of mining and mafia in the region. Jan Kalyan Samiti members, local citizens, and media personnel apprised about the incident of killing and showed the team documents and memoranda submitted to the government requesting action against the pollution caused by the illegal coal business.
For the last 7 or 8 months hundreds of trucks have been bringing illegally mined coal to platform 3 of Tori railway station from where it was sent by train route to Reliance, Amrapali, Dhanuka, BK, Hindalco and other companies. Local people are told that “this is Adani’s work and the contract for the entire work is given to one Sonu Agrawal of Kolkata, who in turn has outsourced the work to the local coal mafia”. According to Tori station master the entire bilti (invoice) comes from Kolkata. This illegal business receives protection and patronage of police and administration. Chandwa SDM Shantanu Agrahari has told locals in plane words that “he had orders from above and this business would go on; if people tried to obstruct they could be fired upon”, and “this can only be stopped only on written orders from the government”.
And finally SDM’s words came true, literally. On 15 June Samiti President Prahlad Sao, affectionately called Ladu Babu, was shot and killed with a silencer-equipped revolver in his shop. The killers escaped under the eyes of the nearby thana. There was an immediate uproar but the police sitting in the thana were indifferent and took no action. Hundreds of people gathered at the spot and jammed the Ranchi-Daltonganj national highway. Then the police came to ‘control’ the crowd. The angry people set fire to the police vehicle and the truck carrying illegal coal. Trucks loading coal at the station were blocked. The people dispersed only after high officials came and assured them of speedy action. The funeral took place on the following day, attended by thousands of people from the area.
When the AIPF team went to Ladu Babu’s home to meet the bereaved family, his wife Anita Devi who is the Vice President of the Latehar district council, and his son and daughter told the team that they used to get phone calls from IAS and IPS officers in Ranchi telling them to make their father stop the agitation. Their father used to tell them that this is a very deep entrenched conspiracy against people by those in power. Some days ago, coal trader Dhanuka had come and said they could take as much money as they liked, but should stop obstructing the coal loading. The local BJP MP also told them that the people want coal loading to go on as this gives them livelihood, so it should not be opposed.
The AIPF team has demanded CBI enquiry into the whole matter and stressed that the more important issue is not who fired the revolver but who is behind the firing. The people involved in this conspiracy must be unmasked and the local SDM and police station in-charge must be immediately suspended. They declared the resolve that Ladu Babu’s martyrdom would not go in vain.
Bakoriya (Satbarwa) Encounter Case
Twelve people were killed by the police in the name of Maoist encounter on the night of 8 June. The high officials of the Palamu zone police are patting themselves on the back in this alleged encounter and have even announced awards for the jawans and officers involved in the killings. Praising the police, the State CM has said even stronger steps would be taken in future.
Local people and media personnel told the AIPF team that this was a strange encounter where only people from one side were killed. The police did not suffer even a scratch. The dead received bullets on their chests. When the team when to the “encounter” spot, the people showed them how the bodies of all those killed had been lined up in a row. The spot was a level plain and there was not even a single tree behind which anyone could have hidden and conducted an ambush. Bloodstains were visible only at one place. The police have said that four of the dead were Maoists, but are silent on the rest. The dead include four minor boys.
The team visited the home of slain para-teacher Uday Yadav and spoke with his wife. They also spoke to the wife of another victim, Neeraj Yadav and also took the statement of a local villager Rajeshwar Yadav. All of them gave statements in a mechanical way as if they were under pressure to speak as instructed. However, the general talk was that the killings had been carried out by a criminal outfit JJMP which enjoys police patronage, and the police was taking vicarious “credit” for this fake encounter.
Betla Molestation Case
CRPF camps are rife in Jharkhand in the name of stopping Maoist violence. The arbitrary conduct of the jawans living in the camps is a source of worry to the people, who fear for the safety and dignity of their women and children. The presence of armed forces is the source of misery to rural and urban population throughout.
On 10 May two jawans from the Betla national park CRPF camp were out walking their dogs. A minor girl from nearby Akhra village came to the primary school hand pump to draw water. One jawan caught her and took her into a school room. Just then a woman from the village Jeera Devi was passing by and came to the spot on hearing the sound of the child crying. She abused the jawans and shouted to collect several villagers at the spot. Meanwhile both jawans ran back to the camp. The angry villagers went into the camp and demanded that both culprits be produced. But the camp officials denied the whole matter and said it was a false accusation. The local police also scolded the villagers.
Hearing about the incident, CPI(ML) leaders Birju Ram and Kanhai Singh reached the spot and, along with the angry people, demanded the immediate arrest of the molesters, and blocked the Barwadih main road. The police tried to slap false charges against the CPI(ML) leaders and several other villagers and arrest them, but the anger of the people stopped them from doing so.
When the enquiry team reached the spot, the victim, her family, and hundreds of villagers were present and gave full details of the incident. Eye witness Jeera Devi and many other women described the misbehavior of the CRPF jawans.
On 18 June the AIPF team reached Andharidhodha village in Chainpur block of Palamu district where strongmen with political patronage had recently burnt down dalit-adivasi homes. Hearing the news of the team’s arrival, the CPI(ML) and Jharkhand Vanadhikar Manch, Chainpur, called a public meeting in village Navadih. At dalit-adivasi victims of the brutal arson incident described to the team how, at the instance of the Forest Dept, armed strongmen (from the dominant Yadav community) from nearby village Jhalar came and abused them, beat them up, broke and destroyed all the things in their houses, and then doused the homes with kerosene and set fire to them, ordering the dalit-adivasis to leave the place.
Addressing the meeting, AIPF leaders called for an agitation to secure compensation and forest rights for the victims and also called for the people to participate in the mahapanchayat to be held in the Governor’s presence in Ranchi on 9 August.
- CBI enquiry into the murder of civil rights activist Prahlad Sao who was leading the people’s agitation against the dangerous pollution caused by the illegal mining by corporate houses.
- Judicial enquiry into the Bakoriya encounter case.
- Immediate arrest of and punishment to the molester CRPF jawans in Betla, and taking back of all false cases slapped on CPI(ML) leaders and other villagers.
- Arrest and punishment of those guilty of burning dalit-adivasi homes in Andharidhodha, proper compensation to the victims and land pattas to all adivasis according to their forest rights.
The team also informed that a mahapanchayat would be held on 9 August in front of the Governor of Jharkhand at Ranchi to press for the above demands, where issues of land grab and State repression will also be raised. A week-long series of jan yatras (people’s marches) would be taken out from various areas in preparation for the mahapanchayat.