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The so-called encounter killing of eight SIMI operatives in the morning of October 31, 2016 near Bhopal has been raising questions which the BJP government of Shivraj Singh Chouhan does not know how to answer. The Judicial Commission of Inquiry merely repeated in its report what the police and jail officials have been claiming. It is difficult to imagine that a retired High Court judge could be so blatantly dishonest in conducting the inquiry into a sensitive matter.

See also:     ps://ndsharma.wordpress.com/2016/12/26/simi-encounter-demonetisation-rescues-chouhan/

Association of Protection of Civil Rights of New Delhi has been waiting for the last 19 months for the Madhya Pradesh government reply to some questions sought under the RTI Act. The first application was submitted on December 1, 2016 and the first appeal was made after waiting for 50 days (instead of 30 days as stipulated in the Act). According to Mushifaq Raza Khan, who had moved the application/appeal on behalf of the Association, the Madhya Pradesh government has not refused the information sought but has been using delaying tactics under one pretext or the other.

The following are the queries to which the Association has sought the replies:

1.      At the time of the encounter on 31.10.2016, who were the police officers and policemen given this assignment? Please supply their names.

2.      Give particulars of arms/weapons they were carrying.

3.      Give the number of cartridges supplied to each of these officers/jawans.

4.      Give details of the cartridges used by these officers/jawans.

5.      Give the number of unused cartridges returned by them.

6.      Was a panchnama made about the eight alleged SIMI activists killed? Supply a copy thereof.

7.      Supply the authenticated copies of reports of post mortem examination conducted on the eight alleged SIMI activists as well as of Head Constable Rama Shankar who was killed in the jail.

8.      Give details of vehicles used by these officers/jawans to reach the site of incident.

9.      Supply the names of villagers who were present at the site and helped the police.

10.   What injuries the policeman suffered at the site of the encounter? Supply a copy of his medical report.

11.  If an FIR/Roznamcha was registered about these injuries, supply an authenticated copy thereof.

12.  Supply copies of the entries made in the Roznamcha by all police officers/policemen who participated in encounter.

13.  Supply an authenticated copy of the FIR/Roznamcha recorded before the police party left for the site of incident.

14.  Supply an authenticated copy of the map of the site of incident.

15.  Who had given the order to the police to open fire in this encounter? 

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The first Naxalite presence in the Bastar region was noticed a quarter century ago. Chhattisgarh had not yet been carved out of Madhya Pradesh and Bastar was not yet divided into several districts. Bastar was the biggest district in the country, bigger than the State of Kerala in area, covered by thick forests and almost exclusively inhabited by tribals.

The BJP government of Sunderlal Patwa instituted a one-man inquiry committee headed by then Bastar Commissioner Sudeep Banerjee to find out the reasons behind illicit felling of trees in the forest lands of Bastar between April 1989 and May 15, 1990 and the emergence of Naxalism. The finding of the committee was that the Naxalism had grown out of the endless exploitation of the tribals by the police and forest department personnel and the tribals in the Bastar district had greater confidence in the Naxalites than in the government officials. The report gave credit to the Naxalites for generating new self-confidence among the tribals of Bastar district.

The Commissioner’s report said that a total of 81,877 trees were illicitly felled in Bastar district in 1989-90 while as many as 15,716 trees were illicitly felled between April 1 and May 15, 1990. The total number of trees illicitly felled during the period of inquiry thus came to 97,593.

‘The tribals have for ages been depending on the forests. The figures show that the forests have continuously been depleting and the laws enacted for management of forests have only been abridging the rights of the tribals over the forests. Though the tribals are the best friends of the forests even today, a feeling has been growing among them that the forest resources are being utilised by the administration or the non-tribals like traders and contractors. The tribals have been seeing the traders, contractors and government officials prosper by the forest resources while their own condition has been deteriorating’, the report pointed out.

The report said that the political parties had always adopted an equivocal attitude to the tribals’ act of ‘encroaching’ upon the forestland. Only the Naxalites had been openly supporting the tribals on this issue. The Commissioner emphasised that it would be wrong to blame the Naxalites for the encroachments on the forestland. The Naxalites had only adopted a “more realistic approach” to the prevailing social and economic situation. The report, of course, mentioned that a feeling had grown among the people because of the support of the Naxalites that the forest officers or the police could do no harm to them.

Around the same time, two female workers belonging to an NGO in Dhar district were declared as Naxalites by the District administration and ordered to leave the district, simply because they had told the villagers, employed in the plantation work, that they were being grossly underpaid by the contractor. Vijay Singh, then Commissioner of Indore, had shown the guts and (ignoring the scowl on Patwa’s face) rescinded the order of externment against the two girls.

Misuse of TADA

A journalist based in Kanker (then part of Bastar but now a separate district) wrote about the reprobate behaviour of the police in the Naxalite areas and the Superintendent of Police of Bastar booked him under TADA for “harbouring and helping” the Naxalites. Many senior journalists who knew the Kanker man closely vouchsafed for his integrity and even Congress leader Motilal Vora (who knew the Kanker journalist intimately) spoke in his favour but Patwa remained adamant. After the dismissal of the Patwa government in December 1992, the Bastar district police chief submitted to the designated court an affidavit saying that he had falsely booked the Kanker journalist to please the Chief Minister. The IPS officer continued to flourish in the Congress regime of Digvijaya Singh and continued to indulge in excesses against the people (so much so that he was indicted by a committee of the State Assembly). If Patwa could make use of him in an attempt to silence his adversaries and critics, why shouldn’t Digvijaya Singh do the same? The officer retired as Additional Director General of Police.


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