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No proof slain villagers in Sarkeguda ‘encounter’ were Maoists, says panel

In mourning Grieving relatives of one of the victims at Sarkeguda village in Chhattisgarh's Bijapur district. Photo: Aman Sethi

In mourning Grieving relatives of one of the victims at Sarkeguda village in Chhattisgarh's Bijapur district. Photo: Aman Sethi  

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It said there was a “clear manipulation of investigation” by security forces, which may have fired in a “panic reaction.”

A one-member Judicial Commission inquiring into the alleged encounter deaths of 17 villagers, including six minors, in Sarkeguda of Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh in June 2012 has said in its report that there is no evidence to suggest the slain villagers were Maoists.

The report was tabled in the Assembly on Monday.

Bullet injuries to security personnel may have been caused by friendly fire. Villagers were assaulted and killed from close quarters. And one of the villagers was killed the day after the alleged encounter, the report said.

It said there was a “clear manipulation of investigation” by security forces, which may have fired in a “panic reaction.”

 

On the last day of the Vidhan Sabha session, the ruling Congress government hurriedly tabled the report, drawing ire from the BJP regarding its timing. On July 11, 2012, after pressure from the Congress, then in the Opposition, the Raman Singh government had ordered the investigation.

“The report has been tabled in the Assembly and a decision on it will be taken by the General Administration Department,” Tamradhwaj Sahu, State Home Minister, told The Hindu.

While the report, authored by Justice V.K. Agarwal, former Judge of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, was submitted to the government earlier this month, it was discussed late on Saturday at a Cabinet meeting, attended by the Director General of Police and the Chief Secretary, confirmed Mr. Sahu.

Based on intelligence inputs of the presence of Maoists at Sarkeguda, a joint team of paramilitary and the State police launched an operation in the area on the night of June 28, 2012. On stumbling upon a “Maoist meeting”, they were allegedly fired upon, and in retaliation, killed some of the participants.

On the contrary, the villagers of Sarkeguda, Kottaguda and Rajpenta, who held the meeting, contended they had assembled to discuss the “Beej Pandum” festival, when security forces fired at them indiscriminately.

 

Cautioning that statements “from either parties suffer from discrepancies and shortcomings,” the 75-page report stated circumstances and evidence on record will have to be “considered and discussed.”

It noted, “It has not been proved that the persons killed and injured in the incident other than security personnel were Naxals, as there is no satisfactory evidence in that regard.”

Yet, the Commission has cast doubts on the purpose of the meeting. “In view of the presence of anti-social elements, as also the timing and venue of the meeting and as it was being held in a clandestine manner, it appears highly doubtful that it was being held for the arrangement of festivity for Beej Pandum.”

Had there been firing from the direction of the meeting, “senior officers who were fully armed would have certainly fired in retaliation and self defence,” noted the report. “The conduct of DIG S Elango as well as Deputy Commandant Manish Barmola of not firing a single bullet during the incident clearly indicates that there was no firing by the members of the meeting.”

Furthermore, Justice Agarwal stated the nature of injuries to six personnel “could not have been caused by firing from a distance.”

The injuries could “only be caused due to cross-firing..and (the) possibility cannot be ruled out that bullets fired by fellow members of the security forces may have hit other members of the security personnel of the team.”

As regards the villagers’ counsel’s contention that at least 10 of the 17 victims were shot in the back, indicating they were fleeing, the report noted, “Bullets shot on the top of the head of some of the deceased shows that they were shot from close quarters, which could not be the result of firing from a distance as is the case of the defence force”.

Besides, lacerated wounds and contusions were caused on victims as they were also “physically assaulted.” “These injuries could be caused from close quarters only,” noted the report, “by weapons with sharp edges or by hand and blunt objects such as butt of gun or rifles. There is no explanation from the security forces as to how the said injuries were caused to the deceased or injured.”

The villagers had claimed that one of the victims, Irpa Ramesh, was picked up from his home the morning after the “encounter” and killed. Based on witness testimonies and evidence, the report noted, “the beating and the death of deceased Irpa Ramesh in the morning of June 29, much after the incident on the night of June 28, stands established. It also casts serious doubt about the version of the incident as given on behalf of the security forces.”

It said: “Several other documents such as seizure memos etc. were also allegedly prepared on the spot in the morning i.e. before FIR was recorded while crime number was not till then allotted to the incident. Yet those documents bear crime number which shows clear manipulation in investigation.”

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Printable version | Dec 8, 2019 3:44:02 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/no-proof-slain-villagers-in-sarkeguda-encounter-were-maoists-says-panel/article30140899.ece

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