People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
April 08, 2001
UP Govts Answer To Dalit Demand For Shelter
With the rise of Rajnath Singh to the chief ministership of UP, the dalit and backward mask of the BJP has fallen by the wayside and state-backed caste oppression is the order of the day. The chief minister of UP has talked of a new role for the police. They are no longer there to maintain law and order; rather they are death squads to eliminate all opposition to the BJP regime, especially from among the dalits. His instruction that for everyone of his henchmen killed four dalits must be killed in encounter has led to a spree of killings. The sixteen killed in this remote village of Bhawanipur in Mirzapur district on March 9, in a supposed encounter with Naxalities are only a few of the many dying at the hands of the police in UP today, while 19 history sheeters, many of them charged with murder, sit happily doing business as usual in Singhs ministry.
On March 29, Samar Choudhary, MP and Suneet Chopra, a joint secretary of the All India Agricultural Workers Union (AIAWU), visited Bhawanipur to investigate the allegations made by the authorities. They interviewed a number of people from the village, including police personnel present when the encounter is said to have taken place between the police and so-called Naxalites. In point of fact, a wedding was taking place in the village at the time. Their report follows:
OUR findings are as follows: While claims as to how many died are contested, 15 are documented though with some element of doubt. (See box).
From the photographs that we saw of those killed, all of them appear to be between the ages of 20 to 30 years, and could well have been guests attending the wedding of their friend, Satdev. The case of Suresh, son of Shiv Shankar, a fifteen year-old student of the Kisan Intermediate College (Rajgarh), identity card serial number 7940 (1999-2000) is extremely curious. His identity was confused with Suresh s/o Ram Bhajan, a well known activist of the All India Agricultural Workers Union, but much older than the young boy who was killed. Mistaken identity also appears to be the case with young Hari Nairain of Khairpur who had surrendered with his hands up, and was shot trying to pull up his trousers with one hand. One more photograph exists, but the person is yet to be identified. Also, photographs showing one of the victims actually holding a gun or a rifle across the chest of another are clearly set up. The majority of victims appear to have been shot in the head, not a very likely thing in an encounter in a set of closely huddled thatched huts with alleyways running through them.
We were further informed that Pappu Chamar and Lal Chand were wounded. How they eventually died is not known. One thing, however is clear. A number of bullet-marks to be seen on the walls of the huts were clearly made afterwards, as the angle at which they hit the wall being dead straight, is just not possible in the narrow alleys where the encounter is said to have taken place.
It is also claimed in FIR 51/2001 which is framed under Section 147, 148, 149, 307, 7 Criminal Law Amendment Act, 25/27 Arms Act, and Section 5 of the Explosive Substances Act, that the persons killed were in possession of grenades, though strangely they do not appear to have used them to save their lives once they were cornered. This whole story seems most unlikely seeing the dire poverty in which they were living. But the police claim that three rifles and three guns were also in their possession. However, by all accounts of eye-witnesses, they came out of their huts with their hands up, and all those who were from outside were shot (including Hari Narayan, whose grandmother lives in the village). Obviously, the police in the district are used to dispensing summary justice where harijans are concerned (and Bhawanipur is a village peopled by Kols, Harijans, Yadavas and Kurmis).
We were not surprised. We have ample experience of how the Mirzapur police hound the downtrodden. Our union activist, Bechu Musahar of Rehkari village, was murdered on July 15, 1998. The police refused to register an FIR. Even when he was found weighed down by rocks in a nearby pond by fishermen, the local police and their henchmen seized the skeleton and tried to destroy the evidence. Mass pressure prevented this and his bones were sent to the forensic laboratory at Hyderabad for a DNA test. The results of the test were positive and the report reached the NHRC which enquired into the case. The SP has admitted in writing that Bechu Musahar was murdered. But no FIR has been registered to that effect. He is still deemed a missing person. Worse than that, his widow Amravati Devi has received no financial aid, and even the land that she owned was seized illegally and fraudulently from her and has still not been given back despite repeated requests. Nor has she has been given protection although she and another witness in Bechus case were kidnapped and threatened with murder if they testified against the murderers. This case is typical; can one be surprised if people resort to any protection they can get?
GENESIS OF ATTACK
Regarding the presence of Naxalities, the MCC does have a presence in the area. The police claim that Bhagat (Debnath Kol), was a member of the South Poorvanchal Committee of the MCC; Bhola (Lal Chand) was a cell committee member, as was Mani Lal (Arun). But reports of the local people contradict this. What appears to have caused the attack is the fact that the Harijans living in over-crowded conditions were seeking plots to live in from the Gaon Sabha land, arbitrarily declared forest land by the authorities and one powerful man of the village. Also an agitation for higher wages was under way. From the exploiters point of view the best way to deal with any just demands is to declare such people Naxalities and kill a few who were from outside. Following the "encounter" (that lasted from 3 pm to 6 pm) a number of houses and shops were looted after the local people were taken away with their hands up, between 6 pm and 11 pm, when the terrorised villagers were allowed to return.
Among the premises looted was the shop of Gulab Kesari, whose effects were worth only Rs 2000. The miserable belongings looted clearly showed that the aim was to terrorise the people rather than for monetary gain. Further the bodies of the dead were not returned to their families, an unconstitutional act.
Shocking but not at all surprisig is the fact that, from all accounts, the majority of those killed had no criminal record whatsoever. The chief minister of UP had already given the go-ahead for these killings by stating that if the Naxalities killed one, the police would retaliate by killing four. The Mirzapur police did one better. They killed sixteen at least and did not bother to check on who they were. Is that the role the UP administration sees for itself, that of a lawless death-squad? This can never be permitted as long as the Indian Constitution is in force.
The CPI(M) has pointed out that there are provisions enough under the Criminal Procedure Code not to resort to encounters to deal with robbers, extremists or even, as in this case, what appears to be people genuinely preparing to resist injustice. The action of the UP police reflects the inability of the NDA-led UP state government to govern the state, which accounts for no less than 12,000 murders a year and over half as many kidnappings and robberies. Unwilling to control these because of the politician-criminal police nexus (UP has 19 ministers who are noted history-sheeters), they have launched an illegal reign of terror.
In these circumstances, we demand that the UP chief minister apologise for his savage statements; the UP government reverse this policy immediately, hold a high-level enquiry into the Bhawanipur firing and all other so-called encounters, or be prepared to face an increasingly powerful democratic movement calling on it to resign and leave the governance of UP to forces better equipped to provide it. We further demand that the National Human Rights Commission take action against the UP state government for not even setting up a state Human Rights Commission despite repeated requests to do so, when there is a dire need in the state for such a body to start functioning at once.
It is perhaps the determination to continue their lawless career that has prompted the UP BJP MLAs to refuse to function within a code of conduct. If, as L K Advani says, the system is faulty, it is obvious that the system the BJP wants to replace it with is very much worse.