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Brutal beating by CRPF jawans 'exposes' anti-Adivasi face of security forces: Report

Guna Gope with his daughter
Counterview Desk
On 15 June, Central Reserve Police Force (CRP) personnel reportedly beat up about 20 people of Chiriabera village (Anjerbeda revenue village, Khuntpani block, West Singhbhum district), Jharkhand. Amongst them, 11 were severely beaten and three sustained grievous injuries.
Following the incident, the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JJM), a network of people’s organisations, activists, lawyers and academics, conducted a fact-finding inquiry into the incident. The fact-finding team comprised representatives of Adivasi Women’s Network, Adivasi Adhikar Manch, Bagaicha, Bhumi Bachao Samanavay Manch, Kolhan, Human Rights Law Network, Johar, Kolhan Adivasi Young Star Unity, and Our Land Our Life prepared a report following the spot inquiry.

Summary of the report:

On 15 June, about 20 persons were helping to repair the roof of Bonj Surin’s hut in Chiriabera. At about 12:30 pm, more than a dozen armed personnel of CRPF came to the village through the forest and surrounded Bonj’s house. Eventually, about 150-200 CRPF personnel and police came in the village.
The CRPF personnel asked the villagers working on the roof, in Hindi, to come down. As most of the villagers do not understand or speak Hindi, they could not understand what was being said. They realised by the shouts and gestures of the CRPF personnel that they had to come down. They were asked in Hindi about the whereabouts of Naxals. The people responded in Ho that they did not understand Hindi and did not know the whereabouts of Naxals.
The CRPF personnel started abusing the villagers on their inability to respond in Hindi. They then brutally beat the 20 people, one by one. The CRPF personnel used wooden sticks, batons, rifle butts and boots to beat the villager. Many victims and villagers told the fact-finding team that the whole area was resonating with their painful cries.
One of the victim, Ram Surin’s house was completely ransacked by the personnel. The trunks were broken and bags were torn. Essential ration supplies stored in the house – paddy, rice, pulses, peas – were thrown around and destroyed. Documents kept in the trunks – khatiyan (land document), malguzari raseed (land tax receipt) and Aadhaar of family members – were burnt by the personnel.
The family had recently sold goats for Rs 35,000 and kept the money in the trunk. The money was missing after the raid by the CRPF. Neither did the CRPF find any document of naxals in this house or with the victims nor did they collect and take away any document after the raid.
Bonj Surin, whose house was ransacked
Even though the victims clearly told the police at the hospital that they were brutally beaten by CRPF personnel, the FIR filed by the police obscures many facts of the incident and makes no mention of the role of the CRPF in the violence. The FIR mentions that the villagers were beaten by unknown criminals (Agyat Apradh Karmi) and does not refer to the CRPF even once. The police also tried to influence the victims in the hospital not to press charges against the CRPF.
On June 17, a few local newspapers reported that 50-60 armed Naxals had beaten people of Chiriabera on June 15. The reports attributed the violence to Naxals and not CRPF. Such media reports and the incorrect FIR (blaming armed criminals and not CRPF) filed by the police clearly indicate that there is a concerted effort to build a false narrative of Naxal violence in this incident and absolve the CRPF of any blame in this.
SP acknowledged that CRPF personnel had beaten villagers but kept calling the violence as mishandling and unprofessional behaviour
The incident and the highly objectionable response of the police again brings to light the continuing human rights violations faced by Adivasis of Jharkhand due to CRPF and police actions. It is also worrying that despite direct instructions of the Chief Minister (on twitter) to take necessary action in this case, the local police has filed an FIR that is an attempt to misdirect the investigation and absolves the perpetrators of the violence, the CRPF, of their role in the violence.
The fact-finding team met the Deputy Commissioner (DC) and the Superintendent of the Police of West Singhbhum district on July 28 to discuss the findings and inquire about administration’s response. The SP acknowledged that some CRPF personnel had beaten the villagers but he kept on terming the violence as “mishandling” and “unprofessional behaviour”.
The DC clearly said that there was no doubt about the role of CRPF personnel in the violence. They promised to look into the inaccuracies in the FIR and re-record the statement of the victims. The DC also said that the administration would ensure justice to the victims.
Jharkhand Janadhikar demands the following from the state government:
  • The police should immediately rectify the FIR (20/2020 dated June 2020 17, Goilkera PS)- name CRPF personnel as perpetrators in the FIR, record the testimonies of the victims accurately without any change and add relevant sections of IPC and SC-ST Act, as mentioned in the report, in the FIR. The government should also take action against the local police for not registering the testimony of victims as told to them and registering incorrect testimony. Immediately identity and arrest the CRPF personnel responsible for the violence.
  • The government should constitute a judicial inquiry and make its report public within a stipulated period of time. Strict disciplinary action should be taken against all administrative, police and CRPF personnel responsible for this violence. 
  • All the victims should be adequately compensated for the physical violence, mental harassment and loss of property. 
  • Jharkhand government should clearly instruct the local administration and security forces to not exploit people, especially Adivasis, in any way. All incidents of human rights violations by the state apparatus should be strictly dealt with. People should not be harassed by security forces under the garb of anti-Naxal operations. 
  • Local administration and security forces should be taught about Adivasi languages, customs, culture and worldview and the government should ensure their sensitivity towards Adivasis.

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