Sonaku Ram Kashyap, 16, and Bijlu Kashyap, 13, left their village of Gadhda in Dantewada on September 23, carrying bad news — a six-year-old from Sonaku’s family had died after suddenly developing fever.
They left on foot, to the home of an aunt who lives in a village more than 20 km away. They would return home in body bags, killed in what the police called an anti-Maoist operation.
Sonaku’s father Poyaku Ram Kashyap spent Wednesday narrating the sequence of events over and over again. He told this to the police, who have so far not filed an FIR, prompting villagers to initially refuse to cremate the body. He said the same thing to politicians and activists — from AAP’s Soni Sori to an eight-MLA Congress team — that reached the village Wednesday.
He kept repeating that Sonaku and his friend Bijlu were not Naxals. He pointed to a school transfer certificate to show that Sonaku studied in a government porta cabin school till last year. He said the boys had gone to gather relatives — in line with local customs — after the child’s death.
“I sent Sonaku to his aunt’s village in Sanguel, to tell them to come because Sanni had died. He took Bijlu along because the path through the jungles is long and hard, and he wanted company. They left at 3 pm,” Poyaku Ram said.
Standing next to him, Bijlu’s parents Nadgi Ram Kashyap and Sukki Bai clutched an Aadhaar card showing that their son was born in 2003.
The boys reached their aunt, Maasa, at around 6 pm. “They wanted to leave but it was getting dark, so I told them to spend the night here,” she said.
According to Maasa, at around 4 am, police personnel barged into their hut — one of 25 in the village, located 18 km from the nearest police station in Burgum. “They went straight for the boys,” she said.
Maasa’s sister Jugti, who stays in the same hut, said, “Sonaku was carrying some identification and tried to show it to them, but they wouldn’t listen. I tried to hold the arm of one of the policemen, but he kicked and slapped me.”
The family said the boys were taken away; a little later, the sound of gunshots resonated in the air.
Villagers told the Congress team that they tried to follow security personnel, but could not go any further than a stream nearby. They also claim to have found Sonaku’s slippers, a clump of hair and five empty rounds at the “encounter spot”.
“We found these at the spot where villagers said the two had been shot,” said Tulika Karma, daughter of Dantewada MLA Devti Karma, head of the Congress fact-finding team.
Sources said the families of the victims plan to travel to Raipur to meet the Governor.
D M Awasthi, Special DG, anti-Naxal operations, said he was awaiting a report from the Jagdalpur SP. “The police headquarters does not keep records of Jan Militia members, which they (the victims) are said to be. However, district police have their own inputs. The SP has also sought a magisterial inquiry, as is the norm in encounter cases. An inquiry on that front, and any other if need be, will be complied with,” he said.
Incidentally, following the death of the two boys, Bastar police had said that the encounter team included women personnel of the District Reserve Group, who themselves happen to be surrendered Maoists.