The State has launched an offensive against the Maoists under the plea that they are anti-constitutional, possess weapons, and hence a threat to the nation. In fact, the biggest threat they have been called. However, it are the tribals of the erstwhile Gondwanaland, who are being targeted by the Police and other armed forces in this battle which has taken lives of hundreds in the region, besides ravaging their land and livelihoods. We are reproducing the preliminary fact finding report on the so called encounter of Meena Xalxo, a young tribal girl who was shot down in cold blood by the police.
PRELIMINARY REPORT OF THE CHHATTISGARH BACHAO ANDOLAN ON THE KILLING OF MEENA XALXO BY THE CHHATTISGARH POLICE AND THE ARMED FORCES
BACKGROUND OF THE REPORT
The newspapers on the 6th of July contained the news that on the intervening night of 5th and 6th at about 3 AM an encounter took place between the Chando Police, of Balrampur Police District, Srguja, and the Naxalites, and a minor girl, Meena Xalxo who was alleged to be part of the naxalite team was killed in the encounter.
The newspapers reported that the family members of the deceased and people of Karcha village where the incident took place refuted the claims that the minor girl killed in the encounter was a naxalite. They also said that neither Meena Xalxo was a naxalite nor was there an encounter between the security forces consisting of the state police and the Special Task Force and the naxalites on the date of the incident.
Subsequently, a local newspaper of Ambikapur dated 10thJuly also contained news that the father of deceased Meena Xalxo and the villagers of the Karcha village had given a complaint in the office of the Superintendent of Police, Balrampur, Mr. Jitendra Meena, that police had killed her. The superintendent had also acknowledged the receipt of the complaint to the newspaper. In Raipur, the then DGP Mr. Vishwaranjan had said that a magisterial inquiry had been ordered. Considering the encounter to be controversial, the President of the State Congress Committee, Mr. Nand Kumar Patel issued a statement that since the entire village is saying that the girl killed in the so-called encounter was never involved in naxal activities, and the police version is suspicious, an impartial enquiry is required. The doctor, Mr. R. S. Markam who did the postmortem said that the death of the girl was caused by 2 shots fired from very close range, and there was sperm on the description of the deceased girl indicating that more than one person had had sexual intercourse with her. The father of the deceased stated in his complaint that when his daughter left home she was wearing a two-piece (skirt and blouse) and when police brought her for treatment to Balrampur, she was wearing a saree, hence the police were guilty of destroying evidence.
These news reports created uproar in the state, however despite all the evidence and demands from various quarters demanding arrest of the accused policeman, the Chhattisgarh Government has not initiated criminal proceedings against the accused policeman. The government has merely ordered a Magisterial Inquiry into the incident, and the entire police team stationed at the Chando Police Station at the time of the incident has been line attached meaning they cannot perform any official function, and have to record their presence everyday at a certain place. There were also news reports that the Chhattisgarh Government had declared to pay two lakhs compensation to Meena Xalxo’s family.
The Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan decided to follow up the case as the Chhattisgarh Government and Police have once again been accused of violation of Human Rights of its citizens. In this instance a young tribal girl, Meena Xalxo, had fallen prey, and despite there being sufficient evidence that the girl was not a naxalite and the supposed encounter in which she had been killed, had never taken place in the first instance, the Government has not initiated criminal action against the accused.
A six member fact finding team of the Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan went to Sarguja, Chhattisgarh to investigate the matter. The team met with the parents of the deceased victims, the Sarpanch, people of the village where the alleged encounter had taken place, the staff of the Primary Health Centre where Meena Xalxo was taken, and the present Thana In charge of the Chando Police Station. The efforts of the team to meet the Superintendent of Police, Balrampur on 23rd July proved unsuccessful. Based on its investigation the team put together this report.
DESCRIPTION OF THE AREA
The incident occurred on the bank of Chedra canal in Longra Tola, Navadih village. The place of incident is about 3-4 km from Chando Thana. The village Karcha where the house of the deceased girl is located is around 3 kilometers from the place of incident. The villages of Karcha and Navadih come under Police Station Chando which falls under Balrampur Police District.
EVENTS OF JULY 5 AND 6, 2011
VILLAGE KARCHA: JULY 5, 4 PM
On the 5th Meena Xalxo had worked with her mother in the fields and came back home at about 4 o’ clock of the evening. After a while she dressed up saying she was going to visit her friend Kirti. She wore a skirt and a blouse. She said she would return in a while. She took her bicycle with her. She didn’t return at night, her parents thought it had become late so she might have decided to stay over.
The Sarpanch of Karcha, Janardan Ram, has told the media, and also the team that Meena Xalxo was friendly with truck drivers who drove trucks enroute to the bauxuite mines at Samari. The Sarpanch has said that on the 5th as well there is a possibility that she had gone to meet her truck driver friends, since she never went to Kirti’s house, the friend she had said she was going to visit.
LONGRA TOLA, VILLAGE NAWADIH: JULY 5, EVENING
The people of Longra Tola, Nawadih village, where the incident is said to have occurred had seen a truck standing on the opposite bank of the Chedra Nala in the evening of 5th July.
NAWADIH, KARCHA: JULY 6, 3 AM
At around 3 am 6th July, the villagers heard three gun shots. The people were afraid and did not open their doors and all of them categorically stated that they only heard three gunshots. There were no sounds of police vehicles, or running around or firing. In the silence of the night, the people of both Nawadih and Karcha, questioned at random by the team, only heard three gunshots, and no sounds of any kind of chaos or an encounter, or several rounds of firing.
LONGRA TOLA, VILLAGE NAWADIH: JULY 6, EARLY MORNING
The people of the Tola were all very afraid in the morning. The police did not allow the people to come out of their houses. The police threatened the people and were heard shouting “jisko surrender karna hai wo apane ghar se bahar nikale” (come out of your house if you want to surrender). The police had cordoned off the entire area, and was not allowing anydescription to go to the Chedra Nala, or to go the forest to pick fruits as per their daily routine.
Navel Bhagat’s house is by the kaccha road from Chando to the Chedra Nala, in Longra Tola. His house is the closest to where the police claims to have found Meena Xalxo’s description after the supposed encounter. At about 5 AM, a policeman came to Navel’s house and asked for water. Navel’s wife gave water in a lota. The water was perhaps for the police officers or the dying Meena Xalxo.
The police did not let people out of their houses, probably till they took the girl to the Chando Police Station. Navel’s children wanted to go to the toilet but they were so threatened that Vimla Bhagat, wife of Navel Bhagat made her children relieve themselves in household utensils.
The people saw that the truck that they had seen on the other side of the Chedra Nala the previous evening was now on this side, they saw that a bicycle was lying at the back of truck. A few people claimed that the truck and conductor of the truck were taken by the police to the police station.
CHANDO PRIMARY HEALTH CENTRE, CHANDO: JULY 6, 6AM
At about 6’oclock in the morning R.P. Khushwaha the Compounder of the Chando Primary Health Centre received a call from the Chando police that a girl had been injured in an encounter and needed treatment. The Compounder on receiving the call went and opened the PHC. As per the compounder, the girl had two bullet wounds and was in a very critical condition, she was unconscious, and her breathing was very slow. He covered the bullet wounds with cotton and referred her to the “Higher Centre”. The girl was treated in the Chando Primary Health Centre for about 10 minutes. The Compounder stated that he could not recollect what outfit the girl was wearing when she was brought in to the PHC.
Early in the morning a person from Meena Xalxo’s village came to her house and told her father Buddeshwar Xalxo “Mama, lets go to Chando hospital, Meena has got hurt.” At that time the family did not know, she was dead. The parents left for the hospital. Before they reached the hospital the Thanedar met them on the road and asked “Kanha ja rahe ho”. They told him, they were going to the hospital to see their daughter Meena, who was hurt. He took them to the Thana and asked them to sit for while. They asked if they had eaten and when they said no, they brought biscuits for them. The police then took them to the Balrampur hospital in their vehicle. There they found out that Meena was dead.
She was wearing the same two piece dress that she was wearing when she left home. She had two gun shots, one on her chest and the second in her abdomen, both shots had crossed through leaving four wounds, two on the back side and two on the front side. The police handed over her description at 4 o’clock in the evening by their vehicle. They also gave them 10,000 rupees for her funeral. Meena was buried that evening itself.
The family could not find Meena’s bicycle, despite looking everywhere for it. They asked the police, but the police did not tell them anything. People told them they had seen the bicycle loaded on the truck. The parents also discovered that Meena had not gone to Kirti’s house, the friend she said she was going to visit while leaving the house.
NO CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS INITIATED
The family of Meena Xalxo and the people of her village Karcha and also people of Nawadih village have categorically stated that Meena Xalxo was not a naxalite. A representation dated 7.7.2011 to that effect has been made to the Superintendent of Police, Balrampur. In the said representation the father of Meena Xalxo has said that his daughter was not a naxalite. She had spent the entire day in the forest with the cattle and in the evening had gone to visit her friend Kriti. In the morning when he found out that his daughter had been shot by the police, he questioned them why they had killed her, the police told him that she was killed because she was a naxalite. In the representation the father has said that the entire village can vouch for the fact that his daughter was not a naxalite. The father alleges that the police in order to cover up their crimes are claiming that she was a naxalite and was killed in the encounter. The representation was also accompanied by a panchanama signed by several people of Karcha village, also containing the sarpanch’s signature and seal affirming the statements of the father. The representation was also copied to the Collector, IG, DIG, State Human Rights Commission.
POLICE FABRICATES EVIDENCE, TRIES TO INFLUENCE WITNESSES, THREATENS WITNESSES
On 6th July itself the police took Navel Bhagat and Shridhan Kerketta who belong to the Longra Tola where the alleged encounter had taken place, to the Chando Police Station and forced them to sign papers. They refused to sign the papers, they were offered money, and induced by saying they would be given government jobs.
On 7th July the police party including presumably the SDOP of the area (whom Vimla Bhagat referred to as “SDOP jo Daroga se bada hota hai”) came to Navel Bhagat and Shridhan Kerketta’s house and threatened them to sign on certain papers. Navel said he wants to read the paper and only then he would sign. In reply, the Police said, “abe padkar kya karega sign kar”. Navel couldn’t see what was written on the paper as it was written in English. There is clear apprehension that the papers must be related to seizure of articles viz- khokhas(gunpowder cover of bullets), naxal literature etc. which as per police version were found with Meena Xalxo. The papers must also be related to statements supporting and suitable to the police version of the encounter. Under pressure Navel signed a few papers.
Navel Bhagat and Shridhan Kerketta along with other villagers have made a complaint with the Collector, Ambikapur and stated that the police personnel from Chando frequently visit their house and threaten them and force them to sign on false statements without allowing them to read the papers. They further complained to the Collector that because the government had already ordered for a magisterial inquiry by the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, police should not come to their house unnecessarily and threaten them.
The day before when the President of the State Congress Committee, Nand Kumar Patel and other Congress member came to visit Navadih village to ascertain actual fact, the Chando police had come to Navel’s house and threatened and tried to tutor them that when the Congress Party people ask you about the incident, you say there was an encounter between Maoist and Police Party and around 50-60 shots were fired from both sides.
Dr. R.S. Markam who conducted the post mortem, has told the newspapers that Meena Xalxo was shot twice from a very close range. The doctor has also revealed that sperms were found on her description, which makes the possibility of sexual intercourse with more than one person highly probable, further Forensic Science Laboratory tests to confirm the fact of sexual intercourse were to be conducted in Raipur.
The Chhattisgarh Government has ordered a magisterial inquiry of the killing. The present Thana in Charge of the Chando Police Station, Rupesh Ekka told the team that a notice calling for recording of evidence has been issued by the SDM conducting the Inquiry. The Thana in Charge said that the notice to the people of Karcha and Nawadih had been issued through the police station. He said that the Kotwar of the village had assured he would affix the notice in the panachayat bhawan, he would also inform the people by munadi (beating of drum). However the team has found that the people of the village and even the Sarpanch of Karcha village, is unaware of such a notice.
It was reported in the newspapers that the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh had declared to pay a compensation of two lakhs to the family of the victim. The family has not received any compensation though.
Failure to register FIR – After having received the fathers representation, and the accompanying panchnama of the villagers and the sarpanch dated 7.7.2011, to the effect that the police had killed Meena Xalxo and she was not a naxalite, the police was bound to register an FIR.
Line Attachment and Compensation – The Governments acceptance of the possibility of the policemen influencing investigation, and also declaring compensation is contradictory to its inaction in initiating criminal prosecution.
Conspiracy of the Chhattisgarh Police – There is ample evidence to prove that no encounter had taken place between the police and the naxalites in Nawadih or Karcha at 3AM on 6.7.2011 and that the victim Meena Xalxo was not a naxalite. The criminal act was done by the police of the Chando Police Station, but even the senior officials of the Balrampur Police District, Sarguja have forced witnesses to sign on seizure memos and give false evidence. Hence arrest and investigation by an Independent Agency, as mandated by the NHRC, is essential.
Criminal Proceedings for the murder of Meena Xalxo– After having received the father’s representation, and the accompanying panchnama of the villagers and the Sarpanch dated 7.7.2011, to the effect that the police had killed Meena Xalxo and she was not a naxalite, the police was bound to register an FIR. It is clear that there is more than substantial evidence to prove that no encounter had taken place between the police and the naxalites in Nawadih or Karcha at 3AM on 6.7.2011, and that the victim Meena Xalxo was not a naxalite, hence the state is bound to initiate criminal proceedings against the accused. With all the evidence available the state is bound to arrest the accused and initiate criminal proceedings. The significant possibility of sexual violence and even gang rape as expressed by Dr R.S. Markham must be seriously and objectively investigated.
Criminal Proceedings for destroying and fabricating evidence, trying to influence witnesses and threatening witnesses – The police is responsible for destroying evidence. Meena Xalxo is said to have left her house on a cycle. The parents asked the police to return the cycle, however the whereabouts of the cycle is not known. The police forced Navel Bhagat and Shridhan Kerkatta to sign some papers, likely to be seizure memos, in which a gun and other items are said to have been recovered from the site of incident. The police also put pressure on them to accept that they had heard several rounds of firing (50-60) on the night of the alleged encounter. Senior police officials of the Balrampur Police District, Sarguja are responsible for instigating and threatening Navel Bhagat and Shridhan Kerkatta. A written complaint in this regard has been made by Navel Bhagat, Shridhan Kerkatta and other villagers to the Collector, Ambikapur, Sarguja. Criminal proceedings must be initiated against the policeman and officials responsible for tampering with evidence and threatening witnesses.
Investigation by an Independent Agency – An Independent Agency must investigate the abovementioned cases.
Timebound Investigation and Trial – The Investigation and trial must be done in a time bound manner.
Payment of Compensation – Meena Xalxo’s family must be paid adequate compensation.