Tribal youth Podiyami Mada, whose family was recently awarded Rs 5 lakh by the National Human Rights Commission as compensation after he died in custody in 2012, is an exception in Chhattisgarh with a magisterial inquiry having found the police guilty. Over the years, the police have been probed several times for alleged murder and rape in the zone of conflict with Maoists, but few cases have resulted in any action being taken.
Even in Mada’s case, the magistrate’s recommendations were never followed and no FIR was registered. Taking cognisance of a report in The Indian Express that Mada was illegally detained by the CRPF and then handed over to the Sukma police, the NHRC noted that the magistrate “recommended that the matter be investigated by the CID and an FIR be registered against the offenders”.
A look at some other prominent cases involving security forces and where these now stand:
Gangrape and murder, Surguja
A 16-year-old tribal girl was killed by police in an “encounter with Maoists” in village Karcha of then Surguja district on July 6, 2011. The postmortem confirmed serious injuries to her private parts and semen on her clothes, and the doctor suggested multiple intercourse. But it had an unusual footnote marked with an asterisk: “Habitual about sex. Having dilated vagina”. “This must be the only postmortem report that comments on the sexual behaviour of the deceased,” a policeman admits.
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Then home minister Nanki Ram Kanwar, a tribal himself, had told The Indian Express: “She had relations with local truck drivers. Her postmortem report also said she was habitual about it. What was she doing there at midnight?” The girl’s father said: “First they (police) raped and killed her, then termed her a Naxal, and now they call my daughter a girl of loose character.”
Villagers contest the claims about the encounter, saying they heard only two or three shots when an encounter usually involves at least 50 to 60 rounds. Police said firing went on for hours, but only the girl’s body was found, and with two bullet wounds — in the chest and between the legs.
After villagers alleged that she was gangraped and killed by cops and then dubbed a Maoist, 25 policemen from Chando police were sent to the police lines. The government set up a CID inquiry. A forensic test found semen in her vaginal swabs and underwear, and the suspected cops underwent DNA tests; all came clean. No FIR has been filed, nor disciplinary action taken.]
Alleged rape and arson, Sukma
Three women were allegedly raped and several houses burnt down, allegedly by SPOs and security forces, in March 2011 in Morpalli and Tadmetla villages. The victims wrote to the CBI and the Supreme Court. In July 2011, the court asked the CBI to investigate and a team visited the spot early in 2012, but its officials were attacked by SPOs. A CBI affidavit alleged that “the SPOs, heavily armed with automatic weapons, hand grenades etc, rushed towards the CBI team… The team was holed up in a room… The CBI team was confined for around three to four hours and was rescued by CRPF”. It requested the court to direct the government to provide security.
A judicial inquiry under the T P Sharma Commission, set up by the state government, is also under way with hearings in Jagdalpur, some 200 km away. The Supreme Court once said, “We are of the opinion that these measures are inadequate, and given the situation in Chhattisgarh unlikely to lead to any satisfactory result under the law. This court had previously noted that inquiry commissions, such as the one offered by the state of Chattisgarh, may at best lead to prevention of such incidents in the future. They however do not fulfil the requirement of the law: that crimes against citizens be fully investigated and those engaging in criminal activities be punished by law.”
Killing of tribals, Bijapur
In June 2012, 17 tribals were killed in Sarkeguda village by a joint team of the CRPF and the state police in what the forces termed the “biggest Maoist encounter”. Those killed included a 12-year-old girl. The Indian Express reported that except two, no one had any Maoist record and even these two had left the CPI(Maoist) long earlier. Among those killed was 15-year-old Kaka Nagesh, termed a “hardcore Naxal” by then home minister P Chidambaram after the encounter. He was a bright Class X student who lived in a government hostel.
The government ordered a commission under a retired judge V K Agarwal. While the administration is yet to reach these villages, the CRPF opened camps immediately after the killings. Hearings are still on.
Alleged rape, Sukma
Two women alleged that they were raped by SPOs in Arlampalli, Sukma, on July 29, 2007. In a letter a year later to the Supreme Court and the NHRC, one of the women wrote: “… Four SPOs came [to her house]. I ran inside but they dragged me out and took me about 1 km away…” She claimed to have recognised three of the SPOs and named them as Rajesh from Polampalli, Kiche Soma of Korrapad and Linga from Palamadgu. “Even after this incident they came to my house and threatened me… I pray that justice be done and the rapists prosecuted.”
Though the police did eventually register an FIR, none of the SPOs identified by the woman in her letter was named in it.