Five days after it emerged that the Justice V K Agarwal judicial commission had indicted security forces over an encounter at Sarkeguda in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur, villagers and activists have submitted a complaint to the local police station, demanding the registration of a fresh FIR.
The encounter in question occurred in June 2012, in which 17 people were killed and 10 were injured after security forces claimed they were attacked by a Maoist meeting and opened retaliatory fire in Sarkeguda village. However, the villagers maintained that they had only gathered to discuss modalities for Beej Pandum, a local tribal festival, and said there were no Maoists or arms at the spot. Under pressure from the Congress, the then BJP government led by Raman Singh ordered a one-member judicial commission to look into the matter.
As first reported by The Indian Express, the Justice Agarwal commission submitted its report to the state government last month, finding that there was no evidence that the meeting had Maoists, that there was no firing from the meeting, that the security forces may have opened fire in panic, that people were both assaulted and shot, and that one person was killed the next morning, hours after the original encounter.
Earlier this week, the Congress tabled the report in the Vidhan Sabha after a hasty cabinet meeting last Saturday and has sent the report to the Law Department, with Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel promising that nobody guilty would go free.
On Friday, villagers along with activists Himanshu Kumar and Soni Sori went to the Basaguda Police Station to file a complaint and demanded the registration of an FIR. Sori told The Indian Express, “Now that even a judicial commission has found that the villagers killed were innocent, a fresh FIR should be registered and those guilty put in jail.”
They have demanded that an FIR be filed against then CM Raman Singh, DIG CRPF S Elango, and other senior state police officials such as Prashant Agarwal, T R Longkumer and Mukesh Gupta who were the Bijapur SP, IG (Bastar) and IG (intelligence) respectively in 2012.
Sori, however, alleged that while the complaint had been received, the police were refusing to register an FIR.
P Sundar Raj, IG (Bastar) said, “Villagers along with Soni Sori and Himanshu Kumar came to Basaguda to register a complaint which has been received. We told them that an FIR is already in place and there cannot be two FIRs. We are aware of the judicial commission report but there is a procedure. The report was tabled to cabinet and then the Vidhan Sabha and has been sent to the Law Department. Based on the report when the government gives us directions, we can then act on it. Otherwise any other step would be illegal.”