To Get Away With Murder, Chhattisgarh Style

The graves of the villagers of the now eeriely empty Dorla-para of Gompad. The bodies were exhumed by the state of Chhattisgarh on the 23rd of January.

This article appeared in The New Indian Express on the 28th of February, 2010.

Sets: The Supreme Court and the inaccessible jungles of Dantewada.

Cast – missing witnesses and supreme court petitioners, a controversial activist, a young superintendent of police, counsel for the petitioners Colin Gonsales, counsel for the respondents Ajit Jha and DGP Chhattisgarh Vishwaranjan.

Plot – the truth about the killing of nine villagers at the onset of Operation Green Hunt.

Act I – It was alleged that, in the early morning of the 1st of October, 2009, a police party killed nine innocent adivasis at the village of Gompad, Dantewada district, Chhattisgarh.

There were no press reports about it, no press conferences and no bodies were taken to the police station. There were numerous conflicting accounts of whether it was ever announced by the police.

Testimonies of the villagers: The Maoists were present outside the village in the morning but they had disappeared long before the security forces arrived. All those who were killed were villagers of Gompad and two were from Bandarpadar. Three of them were women, one of them was an eight year old girl, and an eighteen month old baby Katam Suresh lost three of his fingers. His deceased mother was missing her nose and her body was found before the remnants of her burnt home. Two other deceased villagers – Soyam Subbaiya (20) and Soyam Jogi (18) were a newly married couple.

One more villager was killed from the neighbouring village of Nukaltong and another from Velpocha on the same day.

Act II – Activist Himanshu Kumar takes the victims of violence of Gompad, Velpocha, Nukaltong and the village of Gacchanpalli where five villagers were killed on the 17th of September, 2009 to the Supreme Court and files a Writ Petition (criminal) No.103 of 2009, against the State of Chhattisgarh, Respondent no.1.

The Supreme Court accepts the petition and requests the State of Chhattisgarh to file a reply.

Act III – Activist Himanshu Kumar is hounded out of Chhattisgarh, his right-hand man Kopa Kunjam is imprisoned and petitioner no.13 Sodhi Sambo who was in the care of Mr. Kumar is detained at Kanker police station on her way to receive treatment for her injured leg. She will be kept in virtual confinement at Jagdalpur’s Maharani Hospital with no access to her lawyer, activists or the press.

The Supreme Court passes an order directing that the Respondents would in no way obstruct Sodhi Sambo from going wherever she pleases. So instead of letting her go wherever she pleases (which no one could ask her about as she had no access to anyone), the respondents take her to Delhi, AIIMS hospital themselves and she is again, not allowed access to her lawyer, activists or the press.

At the same time, villagers who had come for a public hearing at Dantewada (organized by Himanshu Kumar) on the 5th of January, 2010 were last seen being driven away by the police in four Bolero vehicles without license plates.

Katam Suresh of Gompad who is now around two years old, and his father Katam Dulaiah, along with Soyam Rama and Soyam Dhulla from Gompad were taken away and were last seen at Konta Police Station on the 14th of January, 2009.

Colin Gonsales, advocate for the petitioners, on the 10th of January: ‘Apparently all the 12 tribal petitioners from the writ petition have been picked up and are in custody of the police, and it is possible that they will be coerced to withdraw from the case.’

On the 22nd of January, Justice Sudarshan Reddy and S.S. Nijjar, presiding judges of the Supreme Court passed an order allowing lawyer Colin Gonsales and activist Himanshu Kumar access to Sodhi Sambo at AIIMS, stating, “we direct that the respondents shall not create  any obstacle in the way of petitioner No.1 and/or advocate for the petitioners in meeting petitioner No.13, in which the police shall not be present.”

However it soon came to light that Sodhi Sambo was discharged from AIIMS. Counsel of State of Chhattisgarh Ajit Jha had previously told the court that the Chhattisgarh State had no objection to anyone meeting her and that she was still in AIIMS.

Act IV – On the 23rd of January, the police exhume the bodies of the villagers of Gompad while the lawyers claim they’re tampering with evidence.

On visiting Gompad, it has been observed that articles of clothing have been removed from the graves. A bottle of phenyl as well as the packaging of surgical gloves lie around the graves.

Act V – The Supreme Court directs the State of Chhattisgarh to produce all the petitioners by Monday the 15th of February, 2010. The State claims all of them have gone back to their villagers, the lawyer for the petitioners claim all of them are still in custody of the police. No independent verification is possible.

On the 9th of February, a police party attempts to go to the village of Gacchanpalli to bring the petitioners to court and are allegedly ambushed by Maoists around the village of Gorkha.

No local journalists visit the spot yet two SPOs are reported to be seriously injured.

On the 15th of February, the police present the petitioners of the village of Gompad – Sodhi Sambo along with Soyam Rama and Soyam Dhulla to the Supreme Court. They also presented petitioners Muchaki Sukdi from the neighbouring village of Nukaltong and Kunjam Idma from the village of Velpocha.

They were always in the custody of the police, and the police claimed they did this to protect them from Maoists who might consider them to be police informants.

Act VI – On the 15th and 16th of February, six of the petitioners (of all the villages but Gacchanpalli) confirm that killings took place but they don’t know who attacked their villages on the said day.

As of February 18th, all the villagers still living at Gompad and the villagers of Velpocha claim that it was the police who had attacked them on that day. They had come at six in the morning at Gompad, burnt two houses and killed nine people. They had killed one young boy Kunjam Hoora from Velpocha and another Muchaki Bhoote from Nukaltong a while later.

According to press reports from the South Asia Terrorism Portal regarding the 1st of October, the police claimed to have killed two Maoists around the Nukaltong forested area, and detained nine villagers for ‘interrogation.’

DGP Vishwaranjan writes in the Outlook: “The police have since August 2009 been receiving credible intelligence about Maoist designs to oppose Operation Green Hunt by killing tribals or committing other atrocities and then blaming the security forces.”

Act VII – On the 18th of February, Sodhi Sambo’s parents claim they met their daughter at Jagdalpur three ‘saptaahs’ ago (three market days ago, which is three weeks). Superintendent of Police Amresh Mishra had initially claimed that Sodhi Sambo’s parents were her attendants at Jagdalpur hospital in the first week of January. That was six ‘saptaahs’ ago. The next of kin of both Kunjam Idma and of Soyam Rama and Soyam Dhulla, claim that their relatives never made it home after a meeting in Dantewada more than two months ago – the date of the botched public hearing on the 5th of January.

Kattam Dullaiah and his 2 year old son Suresh from Gompad, who are NOT petitioners are still missing.

Act VIII – Similarly, a few days after the alleged ‘ambush’ at Gorkha, villagers from Gacchanpalli begin to appear at the markets in Andhra Pradesh and claim that the police had come to their village and taken away 20 people.

(3) Comments Write a comment

  1. well written. the supreme court if it wants can force a cbi inquiry as a prelude to taking action against the guilty as it did in the sohrabuddin case. it remains to be seen whether it will do so.

  2. Pingback: In Chhattisgarh, The Only Criminal Is Law « moonchasing

  3. Pingback: In Chhattisgarh, The Only Criminal Is Law « Struggle News Worldwide

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