The Human Rights Forum (HRF) demands that a case of homicide under 302 IPC be booked against all police personnel who participated in the gunning down of nine Maoist cadre on March 1 near Bettamthogu village in Udathamalla panchayat of Usur Block in Bijapur district of Chattisgarh. Those police personnel who perpetrated this crime should be charged with the offence and prosecuted. The investigation in the case must not be done by the Telangana police but by an agency as independent as possible of the State police. It must be handed over to either the CBI or a judicially monitored SIT consisting of investigators with impeccable credentials or a truly independent criminal investigation team under the aegis of the National Human Rights Commission.
A five-member fact-finding team of the HRF on Monday (March 7) enquired into the death of nine Maoists, including six woman. The team visited the area and spoke with the adivasis of Bettamthogu village as well as residents of several villages in the vicinity. We have no hesitation in stating that what transpired on the morning of March 1 was not an encounter but a calculated one-sided attack on a Maoist camp by Greyhounds personnel resulting in the deaths.
Based on our enquiries we could surmise that the Maoists were running a camp with about 50-60 cadre at about two furlongs from Bettamthogu. The camp, which was being run since two days, was located beside a pond and in a mixed forest area.
At about 7 am of March 1, a vast contingent of Greyhounds personnel raided the camp from the west. They began firing initially shooting dead a male Maoist who was camp sentry as well as two women who were going to answer nature’s call. The Greyhounds men continued firing killing four more Maoists. The remaining Maoists ran towards the east and north into a few hillocks with fairly good forest cover and managed to escape.
Contrary to what the Telangana DGP and senior police officials of Chattisgarh have been stating, there was no exchange of fire on the occasion but only unilateral firing by the Greyhounds. The police did not resort to firing in self-defence but shot with the express intention to cause death. One injured woman Maoist who could have easily been taken into custody was subsequently brought to a spot abutting the pond and shot dead. The police then burnt kitbags and other belonging of the Maoists and flew eight bodies to Bhadrachalam in a helicopter the same morning. The adivasis told us that a group of Maoists had come to the area the next day and they found the body of a woman Maoist in a hillock to the north-east. They said the Maoists had taken away the body and cremated it near Mettaguda village.
Before leaving, the Greyhounds police also beat up with sticks and abused five middle-aged women of Bettamthogu who had gone near the pond to see if any of their relatives was in any harm. The HRF team was also told that Madkam Bojja, an adivasi, aged about 30 of Errapalli village nearby who was returning after toddy tapping was taken away by the Greyhounds police. His family and relatives are apprehensive and worried about his well-being, they said.
HRF calls upon governments at the Centre and States not to view naxalism merely as a problem of law and order and dump killer police forces to shoot them down as if they are wild game. Time and again such as approach has led to an unacceptable violation of the right to life and liberty. The government must direct the police to stop such illegalities and to function within the ambit of the law. The Central and State governments must engage with the Maoists politically.
Members of the HRF fact-finding team: VS Krishna (general secretary, TS & AP), SK Khadar Babu (vice-president, TS & AP), KV Narsaiah (Khammam district general secretary), K Sudha (executive committee member) and S Ramesh (Khammam district committee member)
VS Krishna SK Khadar Babu
(HRF general secretary, TS and AP) (HRF vice-president, TS & AP)