Delhi Solidarity Group sent a seven-person Fact-Finding Team (FFT) to Badkagaon, Hazaribagh, Jharkhand on November 7-9, 2016 to find out facts of the police firing on October 1, in which four tribals died. Those who were members of the team are Jawahar Lal Kaul (Former Additional and District Judge, Uttar Pradesh), Professor Chauthi Ram Yadav (Banaras Hindu University), Professor Vinod Kumar (National Law University, Delhi), Priya Pillai (Environment Activist), Madhuresh Kumar( National Convener, National Alliance of People’s Movement), Himshi Singh (National Alliance of People’s Movement), and Umesh Babu (Delhi Solidarity Forum, Delhi). Text of the report prepared by FFT:
Objectives and the Mandate of the FFT
The objectives and mandate were two fold-
- To look into the killing of four persons by police dated 1st October 2016 in the village Dandi Kala (District Hazaribagh, Jharkhand) and to find out the facts related to the incident ;
- To suggest the measures to facilitate justice to the victims and their families restoring peace and harmony
Facts of the Case
Thousands of unarmed villagers belonging to 28 villages of (Hazaribagh, Jharkhand) were sitting on a peaceful Dharna at Chiru Barwadih protesting against the forcible land acquisition by the administration for and on behalf of the National Thermal Power Corporation (Govt. of India Undertaking) and the Triveni Sainik Private Lt. (a private mining company. The Dharna and the protest of the villagers had started from 15th September 2016. This Dharna was being supported by the local MLA, Mrs. Nirmal Devi.
On the day of the incident, i.e. 1st October 2016 at around 3 A.M. police party raided the site of the Dharna with heavy lathi charge for arresting Ms. Nirmala Devi. Between 4.30- 5. A.M. police tried to arrest Ms. Nirmala Devi by dragging her out forcibly from the place of Dharna but the villagers resisted and tried to protect her. However, police picked her up and moved away. When the police convoy reached Dadhi Kala the villagers tried to stop the vehicle and tried to free Mrs. Nirmal Devi from the clutches of the police. In this process, police opened fire multiple rounds indiscriminately. Consequently, four persons namely- Mr. Mehtab Ansari (village ChepaKhurd) age 30 years, Mr. Ranjan Kumar Das (village Sindhwari) age 17 years, Abhishek Roy (village Sonvarsha), age 19 years and Mr. Pawan Kumar (village Sonvarsh) age 17 years got killed in the police firing.
It is important to know that the deceased were neither a part of the Dharna nor a part of the movement. Among the deceased persons the first victim, Mr. Mehtab Ansari was a daily wage worker living in an acute poverty. He got caught in between the indiscriminate police firing and died on the spot while going for his job that morning.
The second victim, Mr. Abhishek died while he was on the way to bring his younger brother Abhijeet who also had gone for his tuition. While Abhishek came to know that some incident has taken place. Apprehending untoward eventuality he went to bring his brother Abhijeet from the tuition. Abhishek also became victim of the indiscriminate police firing and died on the spot.
The third victim Ranjan Kumar was also returning from his tuition as the tuition center was closed early and he was to go home in the anticipation some untoward eventuality. Ranjan Kumar also became victim of indiscriminate police firing in the same way while he was on his way to his house.
The fourth victim Pawan Kumar was also returning from his tuition when he fall prey of the indiscriminate bullets fired by police. But Pawan Kumar’s case was even worse. His life could have been saved and some of the villagers actually rushed to his help immediately when he was shot down. The villagers tried to take him to the hospital but police did not allow anyone to help him out. Police surrounded Pawan Kumar and cracked down on each one who tried to help him out. According to the testimonies of villagers, police kicked and booted Pawan Kumar till he died. A few hours after the killing police took away his dead body and kept secretly in the Panchayat Ghar which was illegally occupied by police and locked it from outside. The villagers and the family members kept demanding but police did not hand the dead body till 9 P.M. This was a blatant case of inhuman treatment and also an embodiment of police and administrative insensitivity.
Established Protocol and the Rule of Law not followed
The FFT observes that in this incident of police firing the established protocol of arrest and crowd control was not followed. According to the mandate of Section 47 of Criminal Procedure Code firstly, the law allows police to use force only for the purpose of arresting. Even for firing, there is a set and standard protocol which police is supposed to follow even in worse situations. First police have to make a clear announcement by giving a warning to disperse. Secondly, tear gas and rubber bullets are used; if the crowd does not disperse or become violent police can open fire in the air. However, if even this does not work police can fire but essentially below the knee. Law permit firing at crowd/ accused in exercise of their right to private defense and that too only for the purpose of disabling them so that they may be brought to justice. The criminal justice jurisprudence imbibes the doctrine of allocation of competence i.e. each functionary of the criminal justice has been allocated a specified competence. The FFT observers that this is a case of gross miscarriage of justice.
Villagers under Constant Trauma and Fear
Immediately after the killing of four innocent persons the villagers became infuriated and tried to beat the Circle Officer who had ordered for firing. The very next day of the incident police party attacked the village and barged into their houses thrashed and abused dozens of women and arrested dozens of villagers in retaliation of beating of the Circle Officer. According to the villagers, even after more than a month police party every day come to the village for making arrest of the persons (accused) whom they have named in the FIR as “ others”. Police threaten them to cause further killings if they do not part with their land. The FFT has found and realized that the villagers are extremely terrified. Many women and children still do not stay in the village after sunset due to fear of arrest and brutalization. Many villagers are still absconding due to fear of arrest and fake encounters.
No Registering of FIR
The most unfortunate aspect of this incident is that even after more than one month no FIR has been registered against the guilty police persons and the villagers had to resort to the long and the desperate judicial process of making a complaint to the magistrate. Nevertheless, villagers are still waiting for FIR to be registered. This is despite the fact that that there is a clear law established by the Supreme Court that in the case of custodial death, encounter deaths and police firing, registration of FIR is mandatory.
No Compensation Granted
It is also important to note that no compensation has yet been granted to the families of the deceased and the injured persons. There are many injured persons who fall prey to the indiscriminate police firing who are getting their medical treatment in private hospital borrowing lakhs of Rupees from private money lenders. They are now under a heavy debt.
No Due Process Followed in Land Acquisitions
Looking at the records and the testimonies of the victims and the villagers it is clear that the due process has not been followed in the land acquisition process. Firstly, the consent of the villagers and the Gram Sabha as mandated by the Forest Rights Act, 2006 and the PESA Act of 1996 has been obtained. Secondly, when it comes to public hearing, either no public hearing have been conducted or fake public hearings have been conducted by the NTPC and the said private company in order to manufacture the consent of the villagers. The administration has not complied with the mandate of the Forest Rights Act acknowledging their individual and community rights over the adjoining forests.
FFT Meeting with the Deputy Commissioner
On 8/11/2016 the FFT met the Deputy Commissioner, Mr. Ravi Kumar Shukla in order to understand the situation and the administrative attempts to registering FIR, justice to the victims and restore peace and harmony in these villages following the incident of killings. However instead of stating the truth and shouldering the responsibility of administrative failure and miscarriage of justice he tried to justify the killing on the grounds of the exercise of the right to private defense as the villagers had beaten up the Circle Officer. However, the People’s view was that the Circle officer was beaten up by the villagers after the police killed the said four persons.
During the discussions,, the DC also made it clear that the villagers will have to part with their land as this is a clear mandate of the govt. But he could not give any satisfactory reply on the issue of forced and illegal acquisition of land, flouting the due process. He even went on to say that villagers are not supposed to obstruct the administrative course of action.
Recommendations of the FFT
- The FFT hereby recommends that the administration must take immediate measures to restore trust of the villagers by directing police to vacate the Panchayat Ghar illegally which has been illegally occupied
- Immediate orders for registering FIR and CBI investigation as the inquiry set up by the govt. is nothing but a sham as the members of the inquiry committee never visited the village and never tried to take the testimonies of the victims
- The Administration must immediately stop the forced land acquisition as the lives, livelihood and future of the villagers is doomed by these acquisitions. The FFT feels that these land acquisitions are being done in gross abuse of the doctrine of Eminent Domain and the Public Purpose Clause of the Land Acquisition Act.
- Immediate and adequate compensation must be granted to the victims and their family and permanent govt. employment should also be given to at least one member of the families of the deceased.
- Medical treatment must be ensured on the expenses of the govt. immediately.