While the Jharkhand government has been initiating measures to make sure Naxals surrender and are given handsome rehabilitation packages, the police have been framing hundreds of innocent villagers as Naxalites and putting them in prison.
Across prisons in Ranchi, Khunti, Saraikela, Chaibasa and some other districts of Jharkhand, many villagers are hoping to be free one day. Even after being freed, however, hardly any of them will be able to lead a normal life. Naxal groups spot such people and motivate them to join their ranks to target the police and the administration. In many cases, innocent men and women framed by the police as Naxals end up joining the militants to save themselves from further harassment by the police. The police, on the other hand, have supported or helped form groups such as Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC), Jharkhand Prastuti Committee (JPC), People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI), Jharkhand Jan Mukti Parishad (JJMP) and Jharkhand Liberation Tigers (JLT) with state support. These groups have come into direct clashes with Naxals and innocent villagers in some areas, which has only led to bloodying of the politics in the region.
A resident of Kundrugutu village in Bandgaon area in West Singhbhum district, Salan Purti was jailed for over a year before being freed. He had initially gone through a training programme of the Bharat Sevashram Sangh in handloom and used to earn his livelihood making clothes; some of his clients included policemen. Since being released from jail he has started pig farming to sustain himself.
On January 22, 2010, Purti was informed that the officer at Tebo police station had called for him. But the policemen who accompanied him instead took him to the Chakradharpur police station, where he was asked whether he knew the zonal commander of the Naxals; to which he replied that he had only heard his name. He was then taken to the Bandgaon police station where he was made to sign three to four blank sheets of paper and then thrown behind bars, but never presented before a magistrate, which is a violation of his rights since a person must be presented before a court within 24 hours of arrest. After five to six days, Purti was sent to the Chaibasa police station and then presented before a court in Chaibasa, where he was asked whether he was a Naxalite. He says police pressured him to accept before the court that he was a Naxal but he refused. He was later told that he had been charged under Section 17 of the CLA Act and would be charged under charges of sedition too. While Salan had no understanding of the law, he could sense that he was being branded a Naxal, after which he filed appeals in courts against the charges against him. Two cases were filed against him, out of which in one he was granted bail by the district court while in the other he got bail from the High Court.
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‘It is a Naxal ploy’
When Gulail spoke to Superintendent of Police Pankaj Kamboj about Salan Purti, Kamboj instead asked the correspondent how did she speak to Purti when the police had not been able to trace him for long. He asked the names of the people who had facilitated the meeting. On being asked whether Purti had been made to sign blank sheets of paper at the Tebo and Chakradharpur police stations, Kamboj did not answer. Instead, he said that this was a ploy of the Naxals to campaign against the police. He added that Purti was not getting reformed and might have to be arrested again. He claimed that Purti is an important member of the Naxal groups and was more dangerous than the Naxals in hiding because he lived like a normal person in the village. Clearly, the police consider even normal villagers Naxalites.[/jbox]
Purti says that after he got out of jail, Naxal groups approached him to join them but he declined. “Had I not been concerned about my wife and children I too would have joined the Naxals. But the local bank officer encouraged me to stay on track and work towards the development of the village,” he says.
One day when he was going home after meeting the bank official, policemen in civil clothes apprehended him at gun point, beat him severely and took him to the Chaibasa office of Kamboj. After confirming that nobody had spotted Purti being brought in, Kamboj threatened to put a cloth in his mouth and have him run over by a police vehicle. Purti was later taken to the Chakradharpur police station, where Kamboj met him again at night and ordered his release.
Before being released, the station in-charge Sakaldev Ram forced Purti to sign blank papers; it later turned out that the police had charged him under the Arms Act. They had claimed that he had been arrested from the house of a known Naxal around 7-8 p.m. that day and that a locally made pistol had been recovered from him. The police claimed the same in the court, although he had actually been picked up in the afternoon. The local media too reported the matter based on the police’s report and never tried to confirm the facts. Purti’s wife Salomi says that some policemen visited the house again and claimed that the family had given shelter to the Naxal zonal commander and that they had a large amount of cash in their house. When Salomi asked the policemen to search their house, they did not and left.
In another strange case, Rohda Manjhi, a resident of Jisuabeda village under Pirtand police station area in Giridih district, was jailed for over a year and declared a hardcore Naxal because he could not satisfactorily answer the police’s questions. Manjhi’s friends say he used to stay in the forests and had very little contact with local villagers or city dwellers and could not speak Hindi. He could only converse in the Santhali language and could not understand a word the policemen asked him.
NOT ONE CASE PROVED
NOT A SINGLE PROVEN CASE
According to the Human Rights Law Network, there are 39 villagers lodged in Chaibasa jail against whom the police have not been able to prove charges of them being Naxals. Ramlal Soi has been lodged in the jail for two-and-a-half years and has been charged under Sections 147, 148, 149, 216 and 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) along with the Arms Act and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). Soi, 50, does not even know the meaning of these Acts since the defence lawyer has not cared to tell him anything about it. Similarly, Kalyan Barjo, Gonda Nag, Kujur Gargi and many such people have been in jail for almost three years now despite the fact that the police have not been able to prove charges against any of them till date.
There are 49 people lodged in the Khunti jail under similar charges, more half of them arrested in 2010-11. There are 20 such people in the Ranchi jail and 16 in the Saraikela-Kharsavan jail against whom the police have not been able to prove the charges.
NO RESPITE AFTER SURRENDER
Sukhmani Devi, wife of surrendered Naxal Sanjay Pramanik, the area commander of the Dungardih, says that even after his surrender and so-called rehabilitation, her family does not feel safe. While Pramanik is in jail, she cannot go back to her home in the village. She lives in a rented house in Ranchi now. As per the earlier promises, she was given some money by the government after her husband surrendered but the promises of better education for their children and facility of constructing her own house remain unfulfilled. The Rs. 3,000 that she gets from the government every month is hardly enough to sustain herself and her two sons. A year after Prmanik’s surrender, the family was supposed to get Rs 1 lakh more but did not. She is now hoping that when her husband is released from jail, the government will fulfill its promise of giving him a job.
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NAXAL REHABILITATION POLICY – 154 have surrendered till date
The Jharkhand government has declared the following benefits for the Naxals who surrender
- Rs. 2.5 lakh in cash (Rs. 50,000 at the time of surrender and the balance in two annual installments)
- For rocket launcher/LMG: Rs. 1 lakh
- For AK-47/AK-56, sniper rifles: Rs. 75,000
- For .303 rifle/pistol/revolver: Rs. 15,000
- For remote controlled device: Rs. 6,000
- For grenade/hand-grenade: Rs. 2,000
- For wireless sets: Rs. 2,000 to Rs. 10,000 depending on range
- For IED: Rs. 6,000
- For explosives: Rs. 2,000 per kg.
Apart from this, the government offers following facilities for surrendered Naxals
- Vocational training at the cost of Rs. 3,000 per month
- Land for constructing a house
- Free medical and educational facilities for the family of surrendered Naxals
- In case there is a prize on someone’s head and he/she surrenders, the amount will be paid to the family
- Loan of up to Rs. 2 lakh for self-employment
- Rs. 5 lakh life insurance for each surrendered Naxal.
Bengali Babu, the area commander of the Gurudpidi village on the banks of the Koja river 50 km from Ranchi, is also lodged in jail after he surrendered. His daughter Sunita had also been part of the Naxal group and surrendered with her father. She is now completing her studies at the Kasturba Gandhi Girls School in Jamchuan with the help of the Rs. 50,000 that was deposited in her bank account after the surrender. But she has no idea about any of the other facilities that she can avail of. Her grandmother Pano Sori says that the family still lives in abject poverty. She has not even been able to avail the old age pension she is entitled to. Except the money that Sunita got, no other promise has been fulfilled and Sori is forced to work as a labourer even at the age of 70 to sustain the family.
TRIBAL YOUTHS ROT IN JAILS
Father Stan Swami, a social activist who has been working on the issues of tribals in Jharkhand, says there are almost 6,000 youths from tribal, Scheduled Castes (SC) and Other Backward Communities (OBC) who are in jails across Jharkhand for many years on various charges and there is nobody to pay for their bail. Earlier this year, Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh had also raised this issue with the state government, after which K. Vijay Kumar, ex-director general of police of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and advisor to Governor Syed Ahmed, wrote to the zonal inspector generals (IG) of police asking for details of cases against the tribals. The IGs have mostly said that the District Forest Officers (DFO) have registered most of the cases.
Father Swami refutes the IGs’ claims and says that only the DFOs could not have registered the cases. In an RTI application he filed in 2010, he asked for the number of people who had been arrested for being Naxals in the state. The reply, which came after a year, said that 441 people had been arrested in such cases, out of which 168 were tribals, 77 Dalits, 161 OBCs and 35 from the upper castes. Many of them had been arrested under charges of helping Naxals.
Father Swami says that many have also been jailed for keeping Naxal literature despite the fact that the government and various district administrations have not specified what kind of literature would classify as Naxal literature. He says that the police have also not followed instructions given by the Supreme Court in the D.K. Basu judgment. “The police should have the instructions painted on the walls of the police stations,” he says.
PRINCIPLES LAID DOWN BY THE SUPREME COURT IN THE D.K. BASU VS STATE OF BENGAL CASE
(i) The police personnel carrying out the arrest and handling the interrogation of the arrestee should bear accurate, visible and clear identification and name tags with their designations. The particulars of all such personnel who handle interrogation of the arrestee must be recorded in a register.
(ii) The police officer carrying out the arrest shall prepare a memo of arrest at the time of arrest and such memo shall be attested by at least one witness, who may be either a member of the family of the arrestee or a respectable person of the locality from where the arrest is made. It shall also be counter signed by the arrestee and shall contain the time and date of arrest.
(iii) A person who has been arrested or detained and is being held in custody in a police station or interrogation centre or other lock up, shall be entitled to have one friend or relative or other person known to him or having interest in his welfare being informed, as soon as practicable, that he has been arrested and is being detained at the particular place.
(iv) The time, place of arrest and venue of custody of an arrestee must be notified by the police where the next friend or relative of the arrestee lives outside the district or town through the Legal Aids Organization in the District and the police station of the area concerned telegraphically within a period of 8 to 12 hours after the arrest.
(v) The person arrested must be made aware of his right to have someone informed of his arrest or detention as soon as he is put under arrest or is detained.
(vi) An entry must be made in the diary at the place of detention regarding the arrest of the person which shall also disclosed the name of the next friend of the person who has been informed of the arrest and the names land particulars of the police officials in whose custody the arrestee is.
(vii) The arrestee should, where he so request, be also examines at the time of his arrest and major and minor injuries, if any present on his /her body, must be recorded at that time. The Inspector Memo’ must be signed both by the arrestee and the police officer effecting the arrest and its copy provided to the arrestee.
(viii) The arrestee should be subjected to medical examination by the trained doctor every 48 hours during his detention In custody by a doctor on the panel of approved doctor appointed by Director, Health Services of the concerned State or Union Terri tory, Director, Health Services should prepare such a panel for all Tehsils and Districts as well.
(ix) Copies of all the documents including the memo of arrest, referred to above, should be sent to the Magistrate for his record.
(x) The arrestee may be permitted to meet his lawyer during interrogation, though not throughout the interrogation.
(xi) A police control room should be provided at all district and State headquarters where information regarding the arrest and the place of custody of the arrestee shall be communicated by the officer causing the arrest, within 12 hours of effecting the arrest and at the police control room it should be displayed on a conspicuous notice board.