Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam
An encounter that took place seven years ago, in the Naxal area of Sarkeguda in Chhattisgarh, has brought the security forces under scrutiny. It is being said that the encounter, that led to the death of 17 ‘naxalites’ in 2012, was fake.
After almost seven years, the judicial commission examining this issue released a report saying that unlike the claims of the security forces, there were no naxalites involved in the Sarkeguda encounter.
Security forces had claimed that they had information of naxalite presence in the area. Local police and CRPF teams reached the spot and clashes took place in which 17 'naxalites' were killed.
Judicial Commission Formed on 11 July 2012
The then Raman Singh government had formed an investigation committee, under the leadership of retired Madhya Pradesh High Court judge, Justice VK Agarwal.
The 75-page report has raised questions on the power of security forces. When the incident took place, the Centre was being run by Congress-led UPA government and a few Congress leaders from Madhya Pradesh stood against their own party over this issue.
The Investigation Report
The investigation report has disclosed some sensational facts. On the basic question of naxalite presence in the area, the report states:
“There’s no strong evidence of the clashes with the naxalites, their presence or their participation in the meeting. There’s no evidence whether any of those killed or injured were naxalites.”
The security forces had claimed that the villagers opened fire on them but the report rejects these claims, saying that the investigation doesn’t show that those present at the meeting fired.
It also says that if the firing took place then DIG S Elango and Deputy Commandant Manish Barmola would have retaliated in self-defense. They were fully armed but they didn’t fire. It seems like a police party guide expressed suspicion of some attack from a distance and the security forces hastily opened fire.
According to CRPF and state police lawyers, six security personnel were also injured but the report says that an injury to the right toe does look like the result of firing from the other side.
It cannot be denied that these security personnel got hurt due to firing by their own comrades, the report added.
The counsel for the villagers had said that they were killed while fleeing and at least 10 of the 17 victims were shot in the back. According to the probe panel, the bullets fire at the heads of some of the deceased shows that they were shot from close quarters.
Villagers had claimed that hours after the so-called encounter, at 10:30 pm, a person was picked from his house the next day on 29 June. Reports seem to acknowledge this claim.
Post-mortem reports prove that clashes took place on the night of 28 June, while a man named Irpa Ramesh was assaulted and killed on the morning of 29 June.
On claims of recovered evidence being tampered with, Justice Agarwal said that the investigation was manipulated.
Commission Suspects Reason Behind Meeting
The commission also expressed doubt on the reason behind the meeting of Sarkeguda, Kottaguda and Rajpenta. After the clashes, the villagers had claimed that the meeting was held for the arrangement of festivity for Beej Pandum but the commission doesn't acknowledge this.
As per the report, considering the situation, presence of anti-social elements, timing, location and the furtive nature of the meeting, it doesn’t appear that the meeting was held for the preparations of Beej Pandum festival.