A high-profile civil society fact-finding team (FFT), set up by the Delhi Solidarity Group, has said in a report that more than a month after the gruesome death of four persons in police firing at Badkagaon, Hazaribagh, Jharkhand, villagers are under “constant trauma and fear”, with cops threatening them to “cause further killings if they do not part with their land.”
FFT consisted of Jawahar Lal Kaul (former additional and district judge, Uttar Pradesh); Prof Chauthi Ram Yadav ( Banaras Hindu University); Prof Vinod Kumar (National Law University, Delhi); Priya Pillai (environmental activist); Madhuresh Kumar (National Convener, National Alliance of People’s Movement - NAPM); Himshi Singh (NAPM); and Umesh Babu (Delhi Solidarity Forum).
It visited Badkagaon on November 7-9 to inquire into the incident following protest by thousands of unarmed villagers belonging to 28 villages of of Hazaribagh, Jharkhand, sitting on dharna against “forcible land acquisition” for the state-owned National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and a private mining company.
FFT report says, the dharna, whichbegan on September 15, and was supported by local MLA, Nirmal Devi. On the day of the incident, October 1, at around 3 am, police party raided the dharna site and heavily lathicharged for arresting Devi. At 4.30- 5,00 am police forcibly picked her up and moved away.
As the police convoy was moving, the villagers tried to stop the vehicle and free Devi. In this process, it opened multiple rounds of fire indiscriminately, resulting in the death of Mehtab Ansari, 30; Ranjan Kumar Das, 17; Abhishek Roy, 19; and Pawan Kumar, 17, got killed.
Mehtab Ansari,a daily wager, got caught in the police firing, and died on the spot; Abhishek died while he was on the way to bring his younger brother from tuition; Ranjan Kumar and Pawan Kumar were also returning from tuition, when bullets hit them.
FFT says, ever since, the villagers are “extremely terrified”, adding, “Many women and children still do not stay in the village after sunset due to fear of arrest and brutalization. Many villagers are still absconding due to fear of arrest and fake encounters.”
“No FIR has been registered against the guilty police persons”, the FFT says, adding, “No compensation has yet granted to the families of the deceased and the injured”. In fact, the injured are getting their medical treatment in private hospital borrowing lakhs of rupees from private money lenders. They are now under a heavy debt.
“Looking at the records and the testimonies of the victims and the villagers it is clear that the due process has not been followed in the land acquisition process”, FFT says, adding, despite the fact that the Forest Rights Act, 2006 makes it mandatory taking consent of the villagers and the Gram Sabha, it was not obtained. Even the public hearing held was “fake”.
On inquiring about the incident, FFT says, deputy commissioner Ravi Kumar Shukla “tried to justify the killing on the grounds of the exercise of the right to private defense as the villagers had beaten up the circle officer. However, the people’s view was that the circle officer was beaten up by the villagers after the police killed the said four persons.”