The National Human Rights Commission has accused state officials of the Chhattisgarh government of ‘abetting’ the crimes allegedly committed by Special Police Officers as part of Salwa Judum’s anti-Maoist activities in the state.
The commission made the comment while declaring an order on September 23, 2019, in the matter of the killing of seven people and burning of 95 huts in the Kondasawali, Karrepara and Kamaraguda villages of Sukma district in 2007. In an earlier order, the NHRC had declared a compensation for the next of kin of the deceased.
Chhattisgarh DGP DM Awasthi confirmed that the state had received the order. “The compensation was dispatched on January 15 and has reached the district officials. I have personally directed the Inspector General of the region to conduct the investigation on the said FIR. We respect the court’s order,” he said.
According to the complaint, filed by human rights organisation People’s Union for Civil Liberties, seven people were killed and 95 houses were torched by SPOs in the three villages, leading to other villagers abandoning their homes and fleeing. When they returned in 2013, the villagers filed a complaint with the Sukma collector in July 2013. The NHRC requested them to provide information.
In an order passed on December 23, 2019, the NHRC had declared a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the next of kin of the seven deceased, identified as: Madvi Bhima of Kondasawali; Barse Nanda, Barse Suklu, Kunjam Boda of Karrepara; and Sundam Bhima Mangdu, Sundam Bhima Goga, Midiam Aiti of Parlagutta.
In its latest order, the commission came down strongly on district and the state officials for a delay in the filing the FIR and for their lack of information. “…the network of district functionaries in a district is fairly large and widespread, this is specially true of the network of the police and the revenue department officials. Therefore, it is unimaginable and unacceptable that ghastly incidents of the nature which taken place in the above named three villages and about which a report was lodged ultimately only in 2013 and which form basis of case FIR No.10/2013 P.S. Jagarguda did not come to the notice of any of the village/block/police post/police station level functionaries of District Sukma,” the commission said.
It concluded that “these incidents (the killings and torching of huts) had come to the notice of police, revenue and other officials of District Sukma soon after they had taken place, but police and district officials had deliberately turned a blind eye… the omission by the state and district Sukma Officer to take cognizance of these incidents for seven years is also a very strong circumstance to show that these crimes had been abetted by the district officials of Sukma/or state government officials of the State of Chhattisgarh.”
In a September 2019 order, the commission had termed the report filed by the tehsildar regarding the incident as a “cover-up”.
“A mere reading of the inquiry report of Tehsildar Konta and the statements recorded by the I.O. shows that his objective is not at all to dig out the truth and that he is only conducting a cover-up operation,” the order had stated.
PUCL secretary Shalini Gera said, “The case was filed on a complaint by Sudha Bharadwaj, who is in Pune jail because she was working for the tribals and filing complaints like these. We are very happy that the NHRC followed through on the case and passed the order for compensation.”