‘My son was interrogated, thrashed and tortured before being killed’

After being shot at, Somaru’s body was dressed in a uniform and photographed with a gun placed next to it

December 26, 2016 12:27 am | Updated 12:27 am IST - NAGPUR:

Somaru Pottam’s father, Kumma Pottam [right] with villagers of Metapal.

Somaru Pottam’s father, Kumma Pottam [right] with villagers of Metapal.

On the morning of December 16, when Somaru Pottam of Metapal village in Bijapur district of South Chhattisgarh, was returning to his village after spending the previous night in a threshing ground, he and his friends stopped to gather some ‘Chhapra’ (red ant colonies, which are considered to have culinary and medicinal properties) from a Mahua tree.

While they were involved in this activity, security forces suddenly emerged from a nearby shrubbery and tried to capture them. Somaru’s friends managed to escape, however, Somaru could not run as he was suffering from skin ailments.

Within hours of this incident, Bijapur police announced that a “Maoist” had been killed in an “encounter” in Metapal area. But if Somaru’s father, Kumma Pottam is to be believed, the security forces “tied him to a slender tree trunk, while a group of four to five jawans [soldiers] interrogated him and tortured him by stabbing him with bayonets attached to their rifles.”

Mr. Pottam, who has moved the Bilaspur High Court after his son was killed, said that a few villagers were present at the spot. The villagers identified one of the persons conducting the interrogation as Sannu Punem alias Teera Sannu, a former Maoist, who now works with the police. Mr. Punem used to be a resident of Pusnar village, in the vicinity of Metapal.

“The villagers have also identified two of the persons stabbing Somaru — Mangal of village Pusnar and Manish of village Kamkanar — both surrendered militants who are now working with the police; [they] used to reside nearby. The officer-in-charge of the team conducting the interrogation has been identified as one Pande, while the officer responsible for the team detaining the villagers has been identified as one Mandavi,” Mr. Pottam alleged in his petition. Mr. Pottam also claimed that his son was interrogated for approximately an hour.

“At the end of this interrogation — and in full view of the villagers present there — Teera Sannu, Mangal and Manish drew their rifles and shot Somaru from a distance of less than five feet, killing him instantly. The body of the deceased was then untied from the tree, undressed and dressed in a fresh uniform — consisting of a black pant and a black shirt. A 12–bore gun was placed next to the body and a photograph was taken... in presence of the villagers,” Mr. Pottam said in his petition. He also claimed the villagers on the spot were “threatened” with dire consequences if they spoke about the killing.

The family retrieved the body of from Bijapur district hospital where it was taken by security forces. The villagers took the body to the Gangaloor Police Station next day and demanded an impartial inquiry into his death and an independent post-mortem examination. However, they received no response from the police following which the body was buried.

The Bilaspur High Court on Friday ordered that Somaru’s body be exhumed and examined within three days, and Mr. Pottam demanded an “independent, high-powered Special Investigation Team to inquire into this encounter, monitored by the Court.”

After this alleged extra-judicial killing, Chhattisgarh police announced that they “killed” more than 130 Maoist as part if their “mission 2016” in the State.

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