Probing 29 cases of alleged fake encounters in Manipur on the directions of the Supreme Court, the CBI has for the first time booked an Army officer in connection with the killing of a 12-year-old boy in Imphal West in 2009.
Major Vijay Singh Balhara, who was then attached with Assam Rifles, along with seven other uniformed personnel, has been named as accused in the case of the killing of Azad Khan from Phoubakchao Makha Leikai area. Azad was allegedly shot in front of his parents in presence of 21 soldiers after being dragged out of his house.
Azad’s father Wahid Ali had deposed before the Supreme Court-appointed Justice Santosh Hegde Commission “that his son… was killed by the personnel of Manipur Police Commando in a fake encounter after being picked up from his home” on March 4, 2009 around 11.50 am, according to the CBI.
The Commission, set up to look into allegations of fake encounters, had noted that an FIR was filed nearly two months before the alleged encounter under charges of attempt to murder and Arms Act, among others. Azad was then a student of class VII at Phoubakchao High School with no criminal antecedents.
“According to the security forces’ evidence, the deceased was suspected to be a member of the Peoples United Liberation Front (PULF),” the Committee said, adding that PULF was not a banned organisation according to Manipur government.
Azad’s family had said that the minor was reading a newspaper with his friend and neighbour Kiyam Ananda Singh in the verandah of his house, where his parents and relatives were present. At 11.50 am, about 30 security personnel came to the house and dragged Azad to a field nearby where he was severely beaten up amid protest from parents, the Commission said in its report.
Azad’s parents, relatives and friends were locked in a room by security forces but they could see through the window that after being beaten up, the boy was shot by one of the commandos and a pistol was thrown near the body, it said. The version of family members was supported by relatives, it said.
Police had claimed that it received input about terrorists’ movement in Azad’s locality to extort money from people. After reaching the area, they found two persons running through bamboo groves, firing at them, police had said. An encounter ensued for five minutes after which the boy’s body was found and a 9 mm Smith and Wesson pistol was recovered, it said.
After hearing the deposition of Major Balhara, who led the operation, the Commission noted that there was “serious contradiction” between his statement and of the other witnesses.
It further noted that forces knew exactly where the deceased was as they directly went to his home. “It is to be noted that it has come in deposition that the house from which the youths started running is the house of the deceased. Therefore the fact that the deceased was in his house when the commandos first saw him and was not involved in any extortion of money at that time is established,” it said.
The Commission also said that it was extremely difficult to believe that nearly 20 trained security personnel equipped with sophisticated weapons could not have overpowered the victim and were afraid for their security when he was running away.
Relying on the autopsy reports, details of crime scene, statements of witnesses, police and Assam Rifles, the Hegde Commission submitted its report to the Supreme Court calling it a case of extra-judicial killing.
In July last year, the Supreme Court had handed over 41 cases of fake encounters to the CBI in which 86 people were killed by security forces.
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