India: Saranda's savagery exposed by national HR teamPublished by MAC on 2011-10-25
Source: The National, statement
But Sheila Masood's murder remains unsolved
Recently we headlined a story on this website: India: Horror Tales from Jharkhand
It recounted a litany of violations, alleged to have been committed this summer by Indian police and paramilitaries against Adivasi (Indigenous) villagers in the Saranda Forests of the northeastern state of Jharkhand.
Shortly afterwards, the emergent Jharkhand Human Rights Movement (JHRM) asked India's National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to investigate the charges further.
Although police prevented the NHRC team from visiting some of the villages, it broadly confirmed that acts of egregious violence, including torture and murder, desecration and theft, were committed by the state-sponsored forces.
Ostensibly, the "trigger" for this invasion was the strong presence of Maoist (Naxalite) cadres in the Saranda area.
But, according to JHRM: "The circumstantial evidences suggest that the anti-naxal operations have a clear mining interest.
"For instance, a China company, Electro Steel, has been given mining lease of the Dinsumburu mines... where security forces committed rampant human rights violations.
"Similarly, 17 mining companies including Mittal, Tata and Jindal have been given mining leases in Saranda Forest, therefore the center and state governments want to clear the land through the anti-naxal operations.
"The Adivasis are not yet given land entitlement under the Forest Rights Act 2006 though they are eligible for it and secondly, the land entitlement and other papers of 4 revenue villages were also destroyed by the security forces so that they would not be able to claim their rights over the land they have been cultivating for years.
"Hence, the mining companies would comfortably acquire the forest and environment clearance for mining".
Editorial comment: Last week, Al Jazeera TV screened a 47-minute on-the-spot examination of the conflicts between Maoists and India's Central Reserve Police Force in northeastern India.
Although not deeply analytical of "the problem", and somewhat simplistically presented, much of the film is an even-handed examination of sickening reality for hundreds of thousands of India's Indigenous people, caught between so-called "terrorists" and the government.
It aso allows voice to a fair number of Adivasis themselves. Go to: India's Silent War
Also featured in our Indian coverage this week is further examination of the circumstances surrounding the unsolved murder, two months ago, of Indian activist and critic of mining, Sheila Masood.
For earlier story, see: The Murder of Shehla Masood
What really happened to Shehla Masood?
An Indian anti-corruption activist intent on thwarting plans for a diamond mine was found shot to death outside her home. The authorities say it was suicide; her family say it was the work of dark, powerful forces.
The National (Abu Dhabi)
14 October 2011
Shehla Masood had a secret. She was about to break her silence, scuppering plans for a US$4.7 billion diamond mine, exposing a nest of corruption and rocking the political establishment to its core. Then she was murdered.
|Shehla Masood - murdered activist. Source: Newzfirst|
It may sound like the plot of a prime-time TV drama, but this is a scenario India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is faced with as it searches for clues to explain how Masood, an anti-corruption activist, met her death. Masood had devoted herself to using freedom of information requests to uncover the misuse of hundreds of thousands of dollars of state funds and wrongdoing at the highest levels: many in India think that murder is considerably more plausible than the original police assertion that she had shot herself in the throat. No weapon was found at the scene.
It is two months since Masood was found slumped in the driver's seat of her little silver Santro car outside her home in a smart neighbourhood of Bhopal, the capital of the state of Madhya Pradesh, in the heart of India.
The glamorous 38-year-old with a fearsome reputation for exposing wrongdoing had been shot, a single low-velocity round penetrating her throat and lodging in the back of her neck, possibly a misfire where the bullet was discharged at reduced speed, and probably fired from a homemade weapon. Her killer is yet to be caught. Neither has there been a single breakthrough in the police inquiry, though there have been a series of embarrassing blunders - local officers used her phone to make calls after her death and failed to spot a number of items in her car - and plenty of questions about the involvement of the police themselves in the killing. Even the offer of a Rs500,000 (Dh37,000) reward has failed to elicit a single witness to a murder that took place in broad daylight in a busy street. That is simply not possible, say Masood's family. There had to be witnesses: the road past the house leads downhill to a large slum and people use it all day long. But to date, all enquiries have been met with silence.
"I fear for my life. But I will continue working and carry on," she told the weekly Outlook magazine a month before her death. "I'm fighting for good governance, transparency, police reforms and environmental issues like tiger conservation. I've been using the RTI [Right to Information] Act since 2005 as a tool to collect evidence. It is the nexus between politicians and babus [officials] which is slowly poisoning our country. The fight is between the powerful and weak and I represent the weakest and the poorest of society."
Masood had been using freedom of information requests to try to uncover corruption in the state government, firing off applications for information in all directions, exposing misuses of funds by senior politicians from the ruling BJP party and officials up to and including the chief minister and his family.
Given the sheer number of people Masood had upset with her requests, perhaps the most surprising aspect of her death is that she had not turned up dead before. RTI activism is a dangerous game in India - at least 10 prominent campaigners were murdered last year alone.
Had she asked one question too many, poked her nose into one case she should have let lie? Her friends and family believe so. They are convinced it was her decision to fight plans by the international mining giant Rio Tinto to extract $4.7 billion of diamonds from the state that led to her death.
"I think it is an alliance ... mining and the BJP are linked together. We feel it is a big, powerful group," says her sister, Ayesha. "It is government-involved, it is not just one person, it is a group. She told a friend who met her five days before her death that she had information that would shake the government in Madhya Pradesh to its core."
Ayesha sits in the smart front room of the family's two-storey home in Bhopal, flicking through paperwork. Shortly before her death, her sister had told a friend she had "a very big thing in hand", she says. She digs out a letter her sister had sent to a minister in Delhi accusing those behind the mine of breaking Indian law.
"The Rio Tinto company began exploring in this eco-sensitive zone before being granted government permission. The officials who objected have been transferred from their positions," she wrote.
Such suggestions of wrong- doing are strenuously denied by Rio Tinto. A statement given by the company says it cannot understand why its name has been linked to Masood's death. "We never met nor had any contact with Ms Masood," this statement reads, "and are unaware of any communication she had with the ministry of environment and forests."
Inaugurated by the state's chief minister, Shivraj Singh Chauhan, in October 2009, Rio Tinto describes its planned mine in the Chhatarpur district as its most advanced diamond project - "an exciting development for the global diamond industry", according to Bruce Cox, managing director of Rio Tinto Diamonds. Thought to hold 37 million tonnes of ore - or 27.4 million carats - it is the largest discovery of diamonds anywhere in the world in the last decade. The company is spending $45m developing the mine and a lot of people stand to become immensely rich.
The area in question is forestry land, where mining has long been prohibited, and environmentalists fear the project threatens the watershed of the nearby Panna Tiger reserve and the Shyamri river.
"This was the first instance of a voice being raised against the mine," says Gopal Krishna, founder of the environmental pressure group ToxicsWatch Alliance.
"Her involvement must have rattled those involved and we think she was silenced."
Krishna was working with Masood in opposing the mine in the months leading up to her death. She had just started work on a new set of RTI inquiries in an attempt to winkle out more information, he says. But Masood was also planning more direct action, contesting a court case aimed at bringing the mine to a grinding halt. The public interest litigation was initially heard at the high court in Jabalpur in April. Documents filed with the court accused Rio Tinto of mining in forestland without permission and claimed that it had been "permitted to do illegal mining in gross violation of rules and regulations" despite being warned by a former collector (district official) that it was in breach of the law.
The lawyer Vipin Yadav, who presented it, told the court that no action had been taken to halt the mine despite warnings from a senior local official: "This proves that the officials of forest and revenue departments are working hand-in-hand and foreign companies are making profits at the cost of our country's natural resources," he told the court.
The public interest litigation accused Rio Tinto of continuing to mine despite failing to win permission under the various pollution control acts.
Other activists also believe it was the threat to the mine that sealed Masood's fate, bringing her into the sights of a powerful group of politicians, officials and others who stood to make a fortune if the obstacles to its progress could be overcome. Vinita Deshmukh, an Indian journalist and activist, says Masood had been asking too many uncomfortable questions.
"Money and muscle power almost always overpower the laws of this country, especially when it comes to big projects that generally throw up lucrative commissions and kickbacks to officers and elected representatives at various levels of the government and the political class," she says.
Granting a mining permit to the company would have violated the rule that mining activity is considered illegal in a nature reserve, she says, and Masood's decision to press for official explanations about how this was being permitted was forcing the hands of people who would rather not have the reasons aired in public.
"It was more convenient and more economical perhaps to snuff out the life of Shehla," Deshmukh says.
The state government, however, insists the suspicions are unfounded. The mine is very important economically, says Uma Shankar Gupta, the home minister, because it will bring in tens of millions of rupees of income for the state.
If illegal mining is brought to the state's attention, action will be taken, he promises.
But this mine cannot be illegal, he explains patiently, and for one very good reason: "If the chief minister went over and inaugurated it it has to be legal," he says.
As for Masood being a thorn in the side of the state government and its officials, Gupta says, there is no substance to the claim.
"The government was not upset by her revelations. There is no question of it. There are so many RTI activists and there are more capable ones who were getting more information than she was," he says, though he also grumbles that not all RTI activists are good and fair.
The company itself is keen to distance itself from the case, insisting Masood's death has absolutely nothing to do with the mine.
In a statement it said: "Rio Tinto started exploring for minerals in India in 1996 after the sector was opened for foreign direct investment. In 2004, Rio Tinto made news across the world with the discovery of significant diamond deposits at the Bunder project in Chhatarpur district of Madhya Pradesh. We are currently at the evaluation stage and doing detailed studies while our application for a mining lease is pending with the government of India. We have a very strict, transparent ethics policy that is uncompromising no matter where we operate.
"We learned through the media of the shocking death of Ms Masood, for which we extend our sympathy to her family and friends. We join with the community of Bhopal in condemning such acts of violence and the loss of life.
"We cannot understand why our name is being linked with this tragedy. We never met nor had any contact with Ms Masood and are unaware of any communication she had with the ministry of environment and forests. We have had no communication with the CBI so are unaware of any details about the investigation."
Standing in the road outside the family home, Ayesha Masood is angry and frustrated, unsure where to turn next, unconvinced that the police will crack the case, disheartened by the reward, seeing it as a sign of desperation. "People walk along the road all the time from the nearby slum. It is impossible that no one has seen it. There are people who are not coming forward who are intimidated or scared," she says.
A couple of maids walk past: across the road, four policemen lie on string beds in the shade of a large tent. They are supposed to be guarding the family in case the killers return. Three appear to be asleep; one, seeing Ayesha, rouses himself and drags himself outside to slump in a chair. A moment later, he raises himself up again and disappears inside the tent, re-emerging with an old rifle, which he leans against the chair.
This is the spot where Masood died. It was 11.15am on August 16 when she left the house. She had been planning to go along to a government building to pick up answers to questions she had been asking about corrupt judges, before heading on to a rally on the waterfront of the city's Lower Lake. The rally was in support of the veteran anti-corruption campaigner Anna Hazare, who was due to begin a hunger strike in Delhi that day to force the national government to legislate against graft. Masood was leading his campaign in Madhya Pradesh: she planned to get supporters to write the names of corrupt politicians and officials on a 60-metre-long banner attached to railings along the waterfront.
"She said 'goodbye'. I told her 'God may keep you safe', and she left," says her father, Sultan Masood.
He went into the bathroom to shave. A short while later - five or 10 minutes - an aunt looking out of an upstairs window noticed Masood's car was still there, with the door open. She went down to see what was wrong, then ran back into the house.
"She said Shehla was unconscious in her driving seat and please come quickly."
He ran out to the car. "She was lying with her head back. I called 'Shehla, Shehla' but she didn't speak. I took some water and splashed it on her face and then her dupatta slipped down and then I noticed the black hole in her neck. I started screaming 'Somebody has killed my daughter, someone has shot my daughter'."
The police initially tried to claim she had shot herself, he says, shaking his head, though the gun was nowhere to be found. "From the first day the police wanted to bury the case," he says.
So vocal were the family in their anger over the police handling of the case that the state's politicians were left with little choice but to hand it over to the national criminal investigations agency, the CBI.
"I wish I knew the answer to why she was killed and I wish it was more simple," says Hemant Priyadarshy, the deputy inspector general of police leading the inquiry.
He is as polite as he can be about his local colleagues: "The state police know best why the case was transferred to the CBI. We maybe have a more professional approach and we can operate across other states. The local police have a lot of things to do other than investigating."
The only scenario Priyadarshy is prepared to pour cold water on is the suicide theory - though even that cannot be ruled out completely until the forensic results are returned, he says. There is still no sign of this: the lab is very busy, he explains. Apart from that, anything is possible. Masood's close friendship with a national BJP politician, Tarun Vijay, is known to have upset local party members who were jealous of her growing influence. There are some suggestions that the fact that she was also a Muslim may not have played well with hardline members of the BJP, which is seen as the party of Hindu nationalism. According to friends, false rumours had started circulating that Masood was a spy for Pakistani intelligence. On top of all this, she was also involved in a long-running dispute with a senior police officer, Pawan Shrivastava, who she had accused of corruption and who had, she alleged in an official complaint, threatened her life.
"We are not ruling anything out," says Priyadarshy. Whoever it was, it was a professional job, he adds. "You need a lot of guts to kill someone like that."
Even now though, there are those in the local establishment who cling to the idea that the entire case can be made to go away.
Dr DS Badkur, director of the Medico-Legal Institute of Madhya Pradesh, sits in a large office off a hallway lined with shelves containing skulls, body parts, and a row of pickled babies. It was Badkur who carried out the original post mortem, and who concluded that Masood had most probably shot herself.
"I am sure this is a suicide," he said at the time. He seems puzzled about why anyone would doubt that conclusion. He maintains that the wound suggests the gun was placed against Masood's neck, consistent with someone shooting themselves, although subsequent inquiries found the bullet had passed through her dupatta and suggested it had been fired from several inches away. "No one can rule out any possibility," he says crossly. "The data suggests that a contact wound is suicide. I have no grounds to disagree."
He reaches round and pulls two textbooks from a shelf behind his desk, both with their pages bookmarked, and opens them to display a number of underlined and highlighted passages referring to the frequency with which families remove the weapon from a suicide scene. He leans back, as if having proved his case.
Ayesha shakes her head in bewilderment. Her sister had no reason to kill herself, she says. She was so full of life, "a workaholic, she was charismatic, very talented, an avid reader. She loved to interact and meet people. She never compromised, even on clothes and shoes."
She doubts they will ever get justice. She produces a letter she is writing to the prime minister urging him to intervene and stop the dirty tricks campaign by the local establishment.
The letter is still a work in progress: "Was her only crime that she was a liberal patriotic Muslim activist?" her pencil notes say. "So easy for them to tarnish the image of a Muslim and bury the investigation."
She looks down at a picture of her sister, smiling, confident, happy.
"If highly influential people are involved or a diamond mafia is involved, India is very good at sacrificing its own citizens," she says sadly.
Gethin Chamberlain is a photojournalist based in South India.
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Police Atrocities on Adivasis of Saranda Forest: A Fact Sheet
Jharkhand Human Rights Movement (JHRM)
10 October 2011
The ‘Saranda' literally means a forest of seven hundred small hills is also known as the largest Sal Forest in Asia, situated in West Singhbhum district of Jharkhand.
The Adivasis depend on agriculture, forest produces and livestock for their livelihood. The forest is full of Iron-Ore therefore; there was always clash between the community and the business interest, which created space for the Maoist.
Consequently, today the Maoists rule the vicinity. The Jharkhand police and the paramilitary forces have been carrying on series of joint operations against the Maoists. The "Operation Anaconda" was the last in the queue carried out in the Saranda forest from 1st to 31st of August 2011, led to rampant human rights violations of the Adivasis.
An emerging regional Human Rights Organization the "Jharkhand Human Rights Movement" (JHRM) exposed the rampant human rights violation in the Saranda forest with the support of the regional and national media.
The JHRM also sent the complaint of the human rights violation to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and other competent authorities. The General Secretary of JHRM, Gladson Dungdung had also raised the issue in the regional consultation of the NHRC held in Kolkata on September 13, 2011 and pleaded the NHRC to send an investigation team to Saranda Forest.
The NHRC accepted the plea and sent a five-member investigation team headed by DIG Mamta Singh along with DSP Mr. KHC Rao, DSP K.S. Bansal, Inspector Rajbir Sigh and Inspector Rajesh Kumar.
Since, the Jharkhand Human Rights Movement (JHRM) is the main complainer in the case therefore the NHRC team had asked the JHRM team to present in the spot with required documents and witnesses. The JHRM team comprising of its Chairperson Mr. Sunil Minj, General Secretary Mr. Gladson Dungdung, member Mr. Sushil Barla, Mr. Biju Toppo and Dayal Kujur visited the Saranda Forest for submission and to facilitate the investigation.
The district police and the administration of West Singbhum district were given responsibility to organize the NHRC visit to Saranda Forest due to the security reasons. Since, the DIG of Kolhan Mr. Naveen Kumar, SP of Chaibasa Mr. Arun Kumar and other police officers were involved in killing, torture and exploitation of the Adivasis in Saranda Forest therefore they attempted to manipulate the NHRC's visit.
Firstly, they tried to cancel the visit of NHRC by giving them wrong information about heavy rain and flood in Saranda Forest. And when the JHRM team cleared it to the NHRC and visit was ensured, the police and administration changed the rout chart prepared by the JHRM and misguided the NHRC team.
They organized the visit in a manner to make sure that the investigation team does not reach to the most affected villages. For instance, they cut off the name of ‘Tirilposi' village in route chart, which is one of the most affected villages. They also deployed heavy security and asked the team members to walk in the forest.
Hence, the NHRC team members could only visit Karampada, Jombaiburu, Tholkobad, Baliba, Digh and Samtha villages. Though the team members could not visit two most affected villages - Tirilposi and Bitkilsoy suggested by the JHRM but they recorded testimony of most of the victims with the support of the JHRM. The JHRM team visited to Karampada, Jombaiburu, Tholkobad, Gundijora, Kudliba, Baliba, Tirilposi, Bitkilsoy, Samtha and Digha and monitored and also assisted the NHRC team in the investigation.
- The ‘operation Anaconda' was carried out jointly by the Jharkhand police and the paramilitary forces in Saranda Forest in the month of August, 2011. During the operation, 25 villages (of Saranda Forest division comes under Manohapur and Noamundi development blocks and Chhotanagra, Kiriburu and Jaraikela police stations) - Tholkobad, Gundijora, Tirilposi, Baliba, Bitkilsoy, Digha, Samtha, Nayagaon, Hatnaburu, Karampada, Jombaiburu, Kulaiburu, Ponga, Holonguli, Kudliba, Bahada, Kumdi, Sonapi, Hedeburu, Tetrighat, Ratamati, Kaliyaposi, Jharbeda, Reda and Bhalulata were seized by the forces for a month.
- Approximately, 500 Adivasis were brutally tortured by the security forces and 15,000 were directly affected of the police atrocities and 125,000 Adivasis are still denied basic services and facilities i.e. health, education, drinking water, road and electricity, etc.
- The security forces ate-up, mixed and spoiled food-grains (1501 kg rice, 66100 kg paddy, 744 kg Bazra and 50 kg Maize) and also destroyed harvest. They also ate-up 942 pieces chicken and 114 pieces goat and 7 pieces sheep. The security forces also broken door and destroyed houses. They ate-up edible materials of three private ration shops (two in Tirilposi and one in Balibal village) and also destroyed them. They also destroyed most of the utensils (made of steel and silver) and seized the bronze utensils, traditional weapons, axes, clothes and agriculture equipments to the camps to show that they have recovered those from the Maoist camps.
- According to the FIR filed in Chhotanagra police station on June 30, 2011, Mangal Honhanga S/o - late - Darmo Honhanga resident of Baliba village comes under Chhotanagra police station in West Singhbhum district of Jharkhand was an innocent villager and the police had taken him to the forest with other 12 villagers to assist them in the operation and he was killed in the crossfire took place between Security Forces and the Maoists. However, the villagers rubbished it.
- According to eye-witnesses - Mr. Lando Deogam and Mr. Tasu Sido, the Jawans had shot dead Mangal Honhanga and crossfire hadn't take place in the forest that day. According to the officer-in-charge of Sonua Police station, Rajesh Kujur who was also part of the operation, has given statements to the Executive Magistrate (Chakradharpur) Mr. Gyanendra Kumar stating that the CRPF Assistant Commandant Shambhu Kumar Biswas had shot dead Mangal Honhanga in the Saranda Forest on June 30, 2011 and the top cops had coined it as result of the crossfire to save the CRPF and Police Jawans. The Assistant SP and SDPO Mr. Ajay Linda, who was also the part of operation, had coined it as a case of crossfire in his report under the pressure of SP Arun Kumar and DIG Naveen Kumar. The top cops had also gone one step ahead; by promoting Mr. Ajay Linda as the Superintendent of Police (SP) of Jamshedpur rural within a month of the incident with the clear intention to bury the case.
- In another case of killing of Adivasi Soma Guria (identity undisclosed) the FIR filed by the police in Chhotanagra police station on August 21, 2011 states that Soma Guria was a member of the CPI-Maoist whom the police had arrested nearby Baliba village during the search operation and taken him to the forest in search of the Maoist camp, where he was killed in the crossfire. According to the eye-witnesses, there were no cases of crossfire in this case too. According to villager Sunia Honhanga, Soma Guria was severely beaten by the security forces in Baliba village in front of the villagers. Consequently, he had fell down and become unconscious. In the evening the Jawans dragged him toward the forest, which led to his death. When he died the Jawans fired on him to coin it as a case of the crossfire to save themselves. The fact is Soma Guria was killed in the police custody therefore; the responsibility must be fixed on them.
- 30 year-old Sukhmi Bankira W/o - Shree Khujuri Guria resident of Trilposi village was repeatedly gang raped by the security forces for a week in the second week of August, 2011. She said that the COBRA Jawans had captured her house for more than a week and she was living with them and also cooking for them. However, she does not want to talk on the case of sexual exploitation. According to the villagers and her husband Shree Khujuria Guria, Sukhmi Bankira was raped by 5 Jawans for a week. Since, her son was arrested and sent to Jail in allegation of being a Maoist therefore the assumption is, perhaps, she fears about her son therefore she does not want to disclose about the gang rape though she had told her husband Shree Khujuria Guria about the incident when he had come to village in holiday on August 14, 2011.
- In another case, the Jawans had attempted to rape Muni Guria W/o-Shree Opil Guria resident of Baliba village on June 29, 2011 in her house. She was rescued by her aunty. The victim Mrs. Muni Guria has given testimony to the investigation team of the NHRC, JHRM and Media persons as well.
- 74 year-old Tupa Honhanga was severely beaten by the security forces on August 3, 2011. After JHRM's intervention, the Secretary of Health (Govt. of Jharkhand) Mrs. Aradhana Patnaik had assured for his treatment but despite that Tupa was not admitted to Hospital. Finally, the family members admitted him to Sail Hospital at Kiriburu on 9 September, 2011. He was lying on the bed for more than a month. Interestingly, injury was not recorded in the medical report and it is mentioned as he has been suffering from the tuberculosis. This was done with the clear intention to save the cops.
- According to the press release of the Jharkhand Police, 33 Adivasis of Saranda were arrested and sent to jail during the ‘Operation Anaconda'. However, the police have no proof against 13 villagers except alleging them as merely active members of the CPI-Maoist. The police alleged that 13 are active members, 7 are PMS, 1 RPC, 1 SDS, 3 members of fighter group and 1 member of woman group and 7 are arms suppliers. Interestingly, 29 of them are the age of below 35 and secondly, all 33 villagers were booked under the UAPA, Arms Act and 17 CLA Act. How is it possible? It is clear that most of arrested persons are innocent villagers and police have victimized them to merely show the results of the anti-naxal operations.
- The security forces destroyed land entitlement papers, ration cards, education certificates, voter identity cards and job cards in Tholkobad, Gundijora, Baliba, Tirilposi and Bitkilsoy villages.
- Schools were closed and mid-day-meal was also suspended in 25 villages during the anti-Naxal operations. A para-teacher of Baliba Primary School Mr. Haris Mahto and the president of village education committee Mr. Suleman Topno were arrested after alleging them for helping the Maoists. The Jawans ate-up food-grain of the mid-day meal of Baliba, Tirilposi and Tholkobad. The force also captured kirana shop (private ration shop) of Mr. Pator Gagrai S/o - late Markan Gagrai, who is also the president of Village Education Committee and used to supply food grain under the midday meal for Primary School, Tirilposi. The police threatened him for killing if he comes to village. The Security forces had captured the Primary School of Tholkobad and destroyed books, boxes and science kits. The Jawans severely beaten para-teacher Oliver Barla (Tholkobad School) and also destroyed utensils, land patta and voter card of Binodini Purty, who is convener of the Mid-day Meal Committee (Tholkobad). Consequently, teachers stopped going to school and the schools were closed and mid-day meal was denied to the children of 25 villages along with Tholkobad, Baliba, Tirilposi.
- The construction works of two new school buildings were stopped at Baliba and Tirilposi villages as the police have arrested VEC head Suleman Topno and running behind Pator Gagrai the VEC head of Tirilposi. The right to education and food were completely denied to children of Saranda Forest during the anti-Naxal operations. The schools are still closed in many villages i.e. Tholkobad, Gundijora, Tirilposi, Bitkilsoy and Kudliba. There is no Anganbri centre in many villages and the High schools also lacking in the range of 30 to 50 kilometers in the Forest.
- There is no health facilities available in the range of 30 to 50 kilometers in Saranda Forest, hence the villagers depend either of Jholachap doctor (untrained medicine practitioners) or traditional medicine practitioners for the treatment. The National Rural Health Mission has completely failed in Saranda Region.
- The security forces had created livelihood crisis in the villages, terrorized the villagers, tortured, raped and killed them. As a result, the Adivasis of Tholkobad, Gundijori, Tirilposi, Bitkilsoy and Baliba had deserted their villages for a month in August 2011 during the "Operation Anaconda". The youth of 25 villages have migrated to elsewhere in fear of the police atrocities.
- The basic facilities - education, health, drinking water, road and electricity have denied to 125,000 Adivasis of Saranda in the name of Naxalites and it has become a distance dream for them. The villagers are also not benefited from the livelihood programmes like MNREGA and Welfare schemes like Housing, Old Age Pension, etc.
- The police and the security forces had not allowed the entry of the media persons and other outsiders in the villages as they had barricaded 25 villages, exploited villagers and committed rampant human rights violation therefore they were afraid of being exposed. For instance, the forces had burnt three houses of Tirilposi village in the month May 2011 but no one knows except the villagers. The Media persons were also not allowed to enter into the villages on the first day of investigation by the NHRC. However, after the intervention of the JHRM, the media and other stake holders were involved in the investigation. This is a self explanatory of violation of the freedom of expression by the district police and the security forces.
- According to the villagers, they feed, shelter and help the Maoists, and also obey their orders in fear of their lives. If they deny, the Maoists exploit them in the night and when the security forces come to the villages in the day, they torture them alleging as their supporters and sympathizers. The villagers are exploited from both the parties. Hence, they want to get rid of atrocities of both the parties. They want to live with peace and prosperous in Saranda Forest.
- The circumstantial evidences suggest that the anti-naxal operations have a clear mining interest. For instance, a China company "Electro Steel" has been given mining lease of "Dinsumburu mines", which is situated near Baliba and Kudliba villages, where the security forces committed rampant human rights violation. Similarly, 17 mining companies including Mittal, Tata, Jindal have been given mining leases in Saranda Forest therefore, the center and state governments want to clear the land through the anti-naxal operations. The Adivasis are not yet given land entitlement under the Forest Rights Act 2006 though they are eligible for it and secondly, the land entitlement and other papers of 4 revenue villages were also destroyed by the security forces so that they would not be able to claim their rights over the land they have been cultivating for years. Hence, the mining companies would comfortably acquire the forest and environment clearance for mining.
- A murder case under the section 302 of IPC should be filed against the CRPF Assistant Commandant Mr. Shambhu Kumar Biswas, for killing innocent villager Mangal Honhanga in the Saranda Forest and, he should be dismissed, arrested and sent to jail immediately.
- A case should also be filed against SDPO Mr. Ajay Linda, SP Mr. Arun Kumar and DIG Mr. Naveen Kumar for coining the brutal murder as a result of the crossfire. They should be dismissed immediately and sent to jail for their involvement in the brutal murder of innocent villager Mangal Honhanga.
- A CBI inquiry should be established on the cases of brutal killing of Manga Honhanga and Soma Guria, and also on the police atrocities against Adivasis in Saranda Forest.
A compensation package of Rs. 10 lakh, 1 job and security should be provided to both the families of Mangal Honhanga and Soma Guria.
- An independent committee (comprising of one retired High Court judge, one retired IAS Officer, one retired IPS officer, one senior Journalist, one Human Right Activist, one Social Activist and one Political Activist) should be constituted for the proper assessment of the affected villages and the villagers should be given adequate compensation against the loss of their food-grain, livestock and house-hold things, etc.
The basic services and facilities i.e. Education, Health, Drinking water, Road and Electricity should be provided to the villagers immediately.
- The Adivasis of Saranda Forest should be given land entitlement immediately under the Forest Rights Act 2006 and all the forest villages should be converted into the revenue villages and community rights should be also ensured to them under the FRA 2006.
- An independent Authority should be constituted for the Saranda Region for assessment, monitoring and implementation of the development projects (education, health, road, electricity and irrigation), livelihood programmes (MNREGA) and Welfare Schemes (Housing, Old Age Pension, scholarship, etc).
- The Constitutional Provisions for the 5th Schedule Area and PESA Act 1996 should be enforced properly in the Saranda Forest. Hence, the police and security forces should not enter into the villages without prior permission from the traditional heads (Mundas and Mankis) and they should also verify with them about the arrested persons before sending them to jail. The villagers must be taken into consideration by the police and security forces before any kind of anti-Naxal operation in Saranda to protect the rights of the villagers.
- The new mining leases of Iron-Ore given to all the corporate houses in Saranda Forest should be cancelled immediately as it is a clear violation of the Adivasis' rights under Forest Rights Act 2006, PESA Act 1996 and Chotanagpur Tenancy Act 1908.
Report Prepared and Released by
Sunil Minj Gladson Dungdung
Chairperson General Secretary
JHRM, Ranchi. JHRM, Ranchi.
C/o-Mr. Suleman Odeya, Near Don Bosci ITC Gate, Khorha Toli, Kokar, Ranchi -834001. Ph: 0651-3242752