On July 6, 2011, Meena Khalkho, a tribal girl was killed in police firing near Karcha village in Chhattisgarh’s Balrampur district. At the time, the Chhattisgarh Police had claimed that Meena was a Maoist and was killed in retaliatory firing after a police party from Chando Police Station was attacked.
However, the teenager’s family denied police claims and insisted that there had been no gunfight in the area on the day of Meena’s killing.
Now, two Chhattisgarh police personnel accused of killing Meena in an alleged fake encounter in 2011 have been acquitted by a Raipur court, which said it was giving the accused the benefit of the doubt and that the case hadn’t been investigated properly by the police.
“Despite there being ample suspicion of the commission of the offence by the accused, the court could not convict the accused solely on the account of improper investigation resulting in deficiency of evidence, which was necessary to convict the accused,” sessions judge Shobna Koshta said while acquitting the two cops — Dharmdutt Dhaniya and Jeevan Lal Ratnakar.
Dharmdutt Dhaniya is currently posted with the National Security Guard (NSG) and Jeevan Lal Ratnakar is working as a constable with Chhattisgarh armed police.
After her death, Meena’s father Budheshwar Khalkho had alleged that his daughter had gone to meet a friend when she was probably picked up by the police, gang-raped and murdered. According to her family, they were told the following day that she was accidentally hit by a police bullet and succumbed to injuries.
Later, she was conveniently branded a Maoist.
Her post-mortem had confirmed injuries to her private parts, the presence of semen on her clothes, and the possibility of multiple intercourses. The report also talked of a ‘ripped uterus’ and the doctor told the local media that Meena had been shot at close range.
The erstwhile Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh then set up an inquiry commission headed by retired sessions judge Anita Jha in 2011 and gave it three months to submit its report. In its 45-page report submitted in 2015 and tabled in the state assembly, the commission rejected the police version that Meena was a Maoist or, that she was “habituated to sex” and held that she was “killed by a police bullet”, and the injuries on her body suggested “forced sexual intercourse with her”.
“The police encounter story is not acceptable. The police department or any other source had not produced before the commission any information or evidence that can establish that Meena Khalkho was a Maoist or she supported the rebels”, the 2015 Anita Jha commission report said.
The commission recommended that the government order another investigation, following which the state’s Crime Investigation Department lodged a fresh case under sections 302 (murder) and 34 (common intention) of IPC into the case. Three constables, Nikodin Khes, Dharmdutt Dhaniya and Jeevan Lal Ratnakar, were charged with murder. Nikodin Khes died during the trial.
Meanwhile, the court, in its judgment, also pointed out that the prosecution failed to comply with the report of the judicial commission. “The witnesses presented by the prosecution pointed out that the offence had taken place, however, none of them could pinpoint who among the accused was indulged in the firing in which Khalkho died,” the court said.
Eleven years after her death, Meena’s father Budheshwar Khalkho lives with an unwavering wish: the guilty Chhattisgarh policemen who allegedly ‘gangraped’ his daughter and shot her dead, be punished. “I am waiting for that day but don’t know how and where to get justice,’’ he says.