PUCL Bulletin, July 2002

Report by Cuttack & Dhenkanal Branches, Orissa
Police Atrocities on the Villagers of Harbhanga, District Boudh

Members of the Investigating Team: Prasant Misra, Social Activist & Convener PUCL Dhenkanal; Fanindu Bhusan Mohapatro, Member, Nagrik Manch, Dhenkanal; Ms. Madhumita Panigrahi, Human Rights Activist and Advocate, Dhenkanal Bar; Prasanta Kumar Jena, Advocate Orissa High Court, Convener PUCL Cuttack, Member People for Justice and Human Rights; and Gajanan Tripathy, Journalist, The Samaj

Date of incident 20.2.2002, Date of Visit 17.3.2002 to 18.3.2002
Being informed of the alleged widespread police brutality, particularly on women in Harbhanga village of Boudh district in the night of 20.2.2002, a team comprising the members of PUCL, Dhenkanal & Cuttack units, some social activists from Dhenkanal and Journalist had gone to make an on the spot investigation into the matter, from 17-3-2002 to 18-3-2002. an outright survey of the village was conducted by the team and the team members met the victims of the alleged atrocity in their respective homes in the village, the In-charge Officer of Harbhanga PS, the SP and the Collector, Boudh, and the Medical Officer, Harbhanga PHC, and collected the version of each them.

Harbhanga village in Boudh district of Orissa is around 200 km away from the ate Capital, 50 km from the district head quarter and 25 km from the b lock head quarter at a place called Charichhak. The village has around 500 households with a population of around 2000. Harbhanga, on the banks of river the Mahanadi is said to have been once a prosperous navigation point of the erstwhile princely state of Boudh Raj, has suffered socio-economic degeneration through five decades of post-independence self governance engendering in the process large scale unemployment, poverty and labour exodus. Inundation of vast tract of cultivable land and severe drought conditions are routine phenomena in the area which shatter the financial backbone of this agro based economy.

Background of the incident

The events leading to the alleged police atrocity has been collected from the version of both the people and administration. It was gathered that there remains a long-standing discontentment among the people of the locality over consistent administrative apathy coupled with political cold-shouldering by the elected representatives, which have played havoc with the hopes and aspirations of the locality. The genesis of the public disenchantment with the district administration in the area may be traced long back to the transfer of Block office by the government from Harbhanga to Charichhak, around 22 kms from Harbhanga on the Bhubaneswar-Bolangir Highway, citing a flimsy ground of administrative inconvenience.

But the people's version tells a different story. They allege that the bureaucratic decision for shifting of the Block office to Charichhak was actuated by the insensible whims and caprices of some of the officials undermining the larger interest of the Harbhanga block which suffered from the strains of an ever sinking rural economy. And yet, paradoxically, Charichhak, then a desolate forest area was chosen as the site for making it the administrative hub of the Harbhanga Block, thereby virtually distancing the administration from the grass roots.

In 1996, reportedly a mammoth rally of around 1000 people from Harbhanga, Sankulei, Chhatrang, Kusang and Talagaon gram panchayats was organised which trudged about a distance of 60kms along the Jagannath Road bordering the Mahanadi demanding the construction of an irrigation project called Sagadia Nala Irrigation Project, reportedly a long standing demand which still remains unfulfilled despite the assurances by the successive governments leading to further waning of people's confidence upon the state politico-bureaucratic machinery.

The immediate incident, which sparked off peoples' resentment leading to police atrocity, is the agitation of the people against move of the Govt. to shift the proposed Fire Station at Harbhanga to Charichhak, allegedly at the behest of the District Collector in connivance with the local MLA and MP. As per the villagers contention, the District Collector had personally assured them to recommend for the establishment of a fire station at Harbhanga and for this purpose had even demarcated a plot of land there. Accordingly the Government of Orissa in Home Department vide its letter No. 804/ dated 16.5.2001 had taken a decision to this effect, but there the Collector in connivance with the local MLA and MP preferred to play false and thereupon a fresh recommendation was made again by the Collector himself for relocating the said fire station at Charichhak. The hard-pressed villagers whose sentiments were thus flayed beyond measure considered this action of the collector as an act of betrayal.

The people of Harbhanga area organised under the banner of Harbhanga Gana Sangram Samiti had called a dharna programme on 19.2.2002 in front of the Harbhanga PS to protest against this move of the Govt. the seemingly strange decision to stage the dharna before the police station was justified by the peoples' reply that because the police station happened to be the only governmental set up there, it was the obvious choice of them to air their grievance. Reportedly there was a formal resistance by the OIC Harbhanga PS in terms of snatching away of microphone, duree and effigies, obviously to intimidate the peoples' gathering.

At about twilight on 19.2.2002, the BDO, Satyanarain Singh and JE, Gajendra Padhy, both of Harbhanga Block, arrived at dharna site and started dissuading the assembly from continuing with the dharna without ever addressing to their grievances. But the agitators' insistence upon handing over the memorandum to the Collector in person resulted in an impasse which could not be resolved till 4 pm of 20th February. In the mean time the ADM and the Sub Collector had arrived at the venue of the dharna by noon but all their persuasions had failed to yield any positive results.

Sometime about 3.30 PM 20.2.2002, the Direct Collector along with the Superintendent of Police, Boudh, arrived on the spot. The deployment of armed forces reportedly was impressive in and around the police station by then. On their arrival, the agitators asked the Collector as to how he could make proposal to the Govt. to establish a fire station at Charichhak after he himself had already announced in a public an Amin who demarcated the spot a few days back.

The Collector denied any such allegation of writing to the Govt. But the protesters could confront him by producing the very letter of proposal submitted by the Collector himself which the villagers could collect from a local journalist of Harbhanga village. The people wanted that the Collector should promise to establish the Fire Station in their village there and then. On much insistence the Collector contacted the D.G. (Fire Services), Orissa, who reportedly stated that an irrevocable decision for locating the fire station at Charichhak had been taken and he expressed his helplessness at effecting any change in the order. The Home Secretary, Sri Sanjeeb Hota was also contacted but no solution could be evolved out.

This bottleneck led to a commotion among the crowd and the police alleged that the public had reacted at once with violence pelting stones at the police and officials upon which the police had to resort to charge at them with lathis. But the peoples' stand in and around the village of Harbhanga dismiss this as a defensive plea of the police. They allege that it was the cops who actually resorted to indiscriminate lathi charge without slightest provocation by the crowd while admitting to the fact that there was retaliation by some of the agitators in anger and desperation.

They started shouting slogans against the MLA, the MP and the DC while taking to stone pelting and brick batting. In such a fluid condition when an officer in charge needs to summon all his faculties of courage, calm and resourcefulness at hand to get the situation under control, the District Collector lost his nerve and preferred to flee the place in panic even ignoring the appeal of the Superintendent of Police to stay back until order was restored. His retinue of subordinates including the ADM, Sub-Collector, the BDO and the JE followed suit. Interestingly the PSO of the Collector was left behind by the latter in a hurry while trying to escape by two ambassador cars through an untenable route of the dry sand bed of a small river, where the car got stuck and was allegedly put on fire and damaged by the unruly crowd.

By about 9.30 pm of the 20th February this gutless show of administrative efficacy was over but the outcome was yet to be felt. Tear gas grenades were used and lathi charge resorted to for dispersing the crowd and once the police gained their ground they were ordered to nab the miscreants from out of the village at one. Armed with guns and lathis, bands of policemen held the luckless residents of Harbhanga hostage for almost five long hours on that night. Almost all the entrance doors ranging from the wood paneled ones belonging to the well offs to makeshift bamboo work panels of the poor were broken and made open by brute force and illegal ingressions were made into the privacies of homes by the senseless cops Merciless beating by lathis, butt ends of rifles and other available means of the inmates kicking out of doors of hapless poor women after unclothing them and numerous acts of molestation and outrange of modesty of womenfolk simultaneously shouting at them the vilest of abuse followed this trespass.

Snatching away of gold ornaments, looting of cash, handy household articles and even poultry and livestock have been reported. Home appliances, televisions, audio systems, mobiles and even thatched roofs of some of the houses have been gravely damaged beyond repair by the unruly men in uniform. Even no semblance of humanitarian behaviour was shown towards the babies and children, the unfortunate sick old ladies and to those even in their death throws. This rule of dread and horror drove most of the male members of the village to flight during and after the incident by the women were left behind at the mercy of a mad drunken force of policemen who were at their liberty to satisfy their basest bestiality with the hapless women by whatever way possible from unclothing to molestation. It was only by 2 pm that the macabre drams of terror was total and complete. This river side village got transferred into a virtual torture chamber of the most horrible kind during those five hours by an order of disciplined force groomed for and entrusted with the upkeep of social sanity.

Harbhanga is still seething under the humiliation and agony she had to suffer on that dreadful night; her wounds are still open and green. Even today more than a month after, forsaken houses can be seen, sure sings of plunder and looting writ large on the forlorn frames of those ill fated house. When the team arrived in Harbhanga proper at about 10.30 AM on 17.3.2002 they saw all the shops in the market place were closed barring one or two betel and tea shops and the whole village and bazaar of Harbhanga gave the picture of a place as if recently ravaged by a deadly war. The mud walls, wooden doors and windows, straw and tin roofs of the houses were damaged partially and completely in some cases. There were practically no people found outside except a few youths who met the team sometime after their arrival. Even though almost one month had already elapsed since the incident by the time the team arrived there, the entire area wore a desolate and deserted look.

Findings of the Team
As has already been mentioned, the team made its best possible effort to meet as much victims of the police atrocity as possible and also concerned officials of the administration to arrive at its findings. The version of victims and of the officials of administration are given in the annexures to this report. After on the spot investigation into the incident, and thorough analysis of the circumstance, version of the victims and all concerned in the administration, the team unanimously arrived at the following conclusions:

  • The women were mainly targeted by the uncontrolled police force in the night of 20.2.2002 and were fearlessly molested, assaulted and misbehaved at gunpoint. The molestation was indiscriminate, widespread and woman of all strata including primary school teachers, widows, minor girls and SC/ST women are the victims. Even the nurses of the hospital were not spared. (The first-person description of such atrocities by the woman victims have been given in the Annexure-I)
  • The police forcibly entered the houses of the entire village one after the other by breaking the doors and windows of the people. The male members who were present inside the houses or in the village were brutally assaulted irrespective of their age, illness or involvement in the agitation. Mainly lathis were used to assault the men
  • The police forces were drunk totally indisciplined and behaved like 'organised criminals' in absence of any controlling/commanding officer and there was no check on them. It appears the commanding officers, by their utmost carelessness created such a free-for-police situation.
  • No FIR has been filed by the villagers against the police atrocities, particularly the molestation of woman, because of the dread of police retribution.
  • There was no magistrate or responsible administrative officer to asses the situation and give order while the police force were allowed to do whatever they liked. Even after the incident neither the Collector nor any body else on behalf of the administration has tried to meet the villagers and to assess the situation. The Collector instead sedately expresses his lack of information about the reported cases of police excesses.
  • Fake cases have been initiated against many persons without ascertaining their involvement in the alleged offence.
  • The Collector was squarely responsible forth? entire incident from the people's agitation to the police atrocity on them .The false promise of the Collector in the open meeting to set up the fire station, thereafter acting secretly to shift it and then telling lies in the public about it added fuel to the anger of the people. Further the manner he fled the place after he was caught of the lies he was telling, that to, taking all the administrative officers and magistrates along with him, without assuaging the peoples' sentiment infuriated the agitators.
  • The Collector was vindictive as he had to made a volte face in the public being caught red-handed with documentary evidence of the lie he was talking regarding his innocence of recommending to the Govt. to shift the proposed fire station. Therefore to avenge his 'humiliation' in the public, before leaving Harbhanga he clearly gave green signal to the police to suppress the people by any means possible.
  • No action on the FIR submitted by the Medical Officer and only action on FIR by QIC, Harbhanga P.S shows the bias and vindictive attitude of the police and administration.
  • Many people had fled their homes out of fear of arrest and beating by the police. As far as possible, the team could collect the names 34 such missing persons who had not yet returned to their home even one month had already elapsed.
  • Although there was no contradiction regarding the day of police action i.e. 20.2.2002, the people arrested by the police were illegally detained and beaten in the police custody and were forwarded to the SDJM Court in Boudh only on 23,2.2002 beyond the stipulated time of 24 hours. The guidelines issued by the Supreme Court for making any arrest in the D.K. Basu case, has been flagrantly violated by the police.
  • The blacking out of such widespread atrocity and fearless molestation of women by the police, in the media in spite of the reported complaint of the people to the visiting teams of media persons, raises serious suspicion about the intention and role of media .


  1. From various such incidents of police atrocity in the recent past it is observed that whenever the male members somehow manage to flee their home out of fear of police atrocity, the women folk invariably become the softest victim of unbridled police bestiality like molestation, rape, and other kind of misdemeanor quite outrageous to the dignity of woman, without any fear of resistance. The trauma of the women victims is aggravated when the perpetrators of such bestiality go unpunished. The team sensed the same frustration among the woman victims of Harbhanga.

    It is now high time to device ways to give exemplary punishment to the policepersons who indulge in such beastly acts against women, which may act as deterrence against the unruly police. In the instant case exemplary punishment should be given to the actual perpetrators of bestiality in the police force toward women by instituting specific cases against them under relevant provisions of IPC and handing over the investigation to some agency apparently independent of the state police force. Their senior officers in the administration and police should be duly punished for criminal negligence of their duty by fleeing the spot, by not properly supervising and controlling the forces under their command and for remaining criminally indifferent by letting loose their force on the common people even without assessing aftermath of the incident.
  2. Strict action should be taken against the Collector for his condemn able exhibition of cowardice, incompetence and misconduct quite unbecoming of an officer of his status.
  3. Action should be taken against the concerned police officials for not complying with the Supreme Court's directive in arresting the people and holding the arrested persons under illegal custody almost for 72 hours without producing them before the magistrate within the stipulated time as per law.
  4. Action should be taken against Shri Barik, Second Officer of Boudh police station for physically torturing the arrested persons in the police custody and inflicting grievous physical injury on them.
  5. Due compensation should be paid to all the victims of police atrocity and damage to property should be duly compensated by the administration after proper survey
  6. The medical expenses incurred by the victims be reimbursed by the administration. The government should bear all the expenditures of those who are still under treatment.
  7. All the false cases instituted by the administration vindictively be immediately withdrawn and those are arrested be immediately released.
  8. Proper step should be taken by the administration to restore confidence among those who have still fled their home out of fear so that they can return to their home

List of Annexures
Annexure-I- Version of woman victims of police atrocities
Annexure-II- Details of cases of inflicting physical injury, damage to property and looting by the police
Annexure-III- Details of persons arrested and tortured in police custody
Annexure-IV- Version of officials of the administration and Medical Officer
*** *** ***

Annexure -1
Molestation of Woman by the Police - Version of the Victims
The team moved from door to door in Harbhanga village and went inside the houses to meet the people particularly the women, who mostly feared to come out and talk freely about the torture/police excess committed on them on the ill-fated night of20th-21st February, 2002.

The version of some of the woman victims of police atrocity are as follows:
Ms Pramodini Bai, Assistant Teacher
Aged about 33-34 years w/o Shri Prasanna Kumar Bai
"Sir don't ask us what they (police) have done to us rather ask what they have not done to us" This was Promodini's First reaction to the team's question while she was sobbing uncontrollably giving her statement in the presence of her husband and sister-in-law. On insistence for details she said, "I was inside my kitchen at about 10.30 P.M on 20th February 2002, when all of a sudden 15-20 policemen in drunken state using vulgar and filthy language in a high pitch broke open our front door and some of them also entered from the backyard gate of my house. They asked me to show the place where my husband and other male members were hiding. I was terrified and politely said them that I am a Govt. Servant (teacher) and my husband who is working as a teacher in the Govt. M.E. School) Kantamal, had already left the village 3-4 days ago on the election (Panchayat and Zilla Parishad) duty and I was no way connected with the agitation. But the policemen, at gun point, caught hold of me, undressed me and molested and abused me in the most vulgar and filthy language that can never be imagined. I could never dream of such a situation and am so much shocked that I do not know what to do. They also stuck our moped and Yamaha motor cycle in the lathi and damaged those".

Ms Suhasini Bai Aged about 40 years
(Widow of late Ashok Kumar Bai) Teacher in Dianhaghat Primary School
"On 20.2.2002 at about 10.30 P.M. I was in my bed room and about to sleep when about a dozen policemen forcibly entered into our house from both front gate and backyard gate and immediately started shouting in filthy language. They forcibly caught hold of my sari, snatched it away threatening me at gun point and molested me. I was at a loss of speech at the moment. They also broke the moped and motor cycle by their lathi and assaulted Gundichha Kumar Sal, the brother- in- law of Prasanna Kumar Bai who was present in the house in absence of Prasanna, being away on election duty during that time. I am ashamed of showing my face to anybody".
This widow was crying loudly while narrating her story to the members of the team.

Ms Sari Navak, W/o Adesara Navak. Scheduled Caste
"A group of policemen crashed open our front door and entered into our house all of a sudden .My husband was not at home. We were stunned with terror. They disrobed me all the while ranting vulgarities .All my pleadings for mercy and cries went in vain as they abused me in the vilest of ways .No part of my body was left untouched."

This young bride is still languishing in bed being badly bruised by police molestation and abuse. The trauma can still be seen both on her body and mind .

Ms Netramani Dipa (50 years) Schedule Caste
"At about 11 PM in the night of 20.2.2002 about 10-12 policemen forced enter my house, assaulted me by their lathi and without listening to my protest forcibly undressed me and molested me. I am scared of moving from my house from that date and have been starving".

Ms Mamata Naik (A 14 years old girl) Scheduled Caste. Daughter of Lalita Naik

"In the night of 20.2.2002 when I along with my family members were inside our house when a gang of police person shouting loudly entered into our Sahi and started beating the people randomly which was clear from the crying of the people in the dead of the night. They suddenly arrived at our door which was closed and started dashing against the door. At this point my father and brother quietly went away outside out of fear through the backdoor leaving my mother and me inside the house. Then 10-15 policemen came inside our house, one of them pressed the muzzle of his gun against my neck and 2-3 of them forcibly snatched away my frock and started molesting me . I was only crying terrified at their dastardly act."

Ms Nirmala Naik (45 years) Schedule Caste

"On the night of 20.2.2002 about some policemen came together shouting vulgar words and armed with lathi and gun. While a some of the policemen remained outside, 2-3 of them entered inside my house and threatened me and they tore my sari, petticoat and blouse and molested me and left my house. This act continued for about 10-15 minutes."

Ms Kumiidini Kalta (45 years)
On 20.2.2002 about 8-10 policemen in their uniform forcibly entered in my house while many others stayed outside and all of them were shouting ferociously in filthy language. The policemen who entered my house forcibly tore my sari, petticoat and blouse and molested me by showing guns and lathis. They asked me about the whereabouts of the male members and abused me without listening anything.

Karpura Naik (35 years, Schedule Caste), wife of Ramesh Naik

On 20.2.2002 at about 10 PM 20 to 30 policemen in their uniform came to our Sahi terrorising and shouting at the people .Out of them 5-7 policemen forcibly entered inside my house and asked about the male members. By that time my husband, son Rajesh had already escaped from the house out of fear. As I expressed my ignorance about their whereabouts of my husband and son, two of them suddenly caught hold of my sari and undressed me and molested me forcibly and they left the house within 10-15 minutes .They snatched away my gold chain and plundered my house.

My son and husband have not returned yet to our home and I do not know where are they till date

Ms Meera Naik (45 years. Schedule Caste)
On 20.2.2002, at about midnight around a dozen police person forcibly entered inside my house and while abusing in filth language they forcibly undressed me and molested me. Since then my 12 years old son Sabat Naik is missing from my house till date and I have no knowledge of him. (The woman was crying inconsolably while narrating the incident of that day)

Ms Binapani Das (24 years) wife of Rabindra Kumar Pas (Ex-Sarpanch candidate)

On 20.2.2002 at about mid night 10-]5 policemen forcibly entered inside my house and uttering foul languages caught hold of my sari, made me naked at gun point and molested me. While leaving our village they have taken away two goats with them.

Ms Kamala Mahanandia wife of Dandua Mahanandia
All of a sudden in the night of 20.2.2002 about 30-40 policemen came raising cries and 5-7 policemen entered inside my house and immediately pulled my sari, other apparels and molested me After ransacking my house they went out.

Ms Basmati Mahanandia

I am a cancer patient and while I was in my bed, 4-5 policemen entered inside my house and pulled my sari and abused me in filthy language, gave threatening and after ransacking the house left.

Ms Sita Fradhan (40 years) wife of Basanta Pradhan
About 20-30 policemen entered into my house around midnight of 20.2.2002 and at gun point asked me the where about of my husband and immediately pulled my sari, petticoat and blouse and molested me. They also damaged our bicycle.

The other women whom the team could meet and who reported molestation by police are Jyotsnamayee Behera, Ms Jambubati Naik etc,. When asked why any of them had not filed FIR or complain against the policemen the answer of almost all of them was "how can we complain to the very officers whose own force have committed this atrocities. Besides all the male members had fled the village and the situation was such that there was no guarantee we would not have been abused again by the police"

Annexure - II
Cases of Inflicting Physical Injury, Looting, and Damage to Property by the Police
The team was reported that the police, besides misbehaving with women, has severely and indiscriminately beat people inflicting grievous physical injury on them, indulged in looting and widespread damage to property of people .

Some of the victims of physical assault, damage to property and looting are as follows-

1. Ms Ourubari Maharana, Age-45 years, W/O Ditia Maharana, Right hand injured by police beating.

2. Ms Suryamani Sahu, Age-70 years, W/O Ramachandra Sahu -was kicked by police on his back despite her age

3. Kulamani Pradhan, Age 70, Sustained injury due to kicking by the police

4. Bataknishna Pradhan, Age 35, Balakrishana is a heart patient who had undergone surgery at SCB Medical College, Cuttack a few days before the incident. The policemen beat him black and blue braking open his door. When his wife Sabita and sister-in-law tried to shield his body lying on the floor, both the women were also not spared .Reportedly they also snatched away Sabita's necklace and took away Rs 8000/ in cash. Their TV set was also destroyed. Severe head injuries and loss of blood made Bata unconscious and thinking him to be dead the police left the house. While leaving they picked Bata's 5 years old son and threw him down, Dr. Antaryami Behera of Harbhanga PHC and its Pharmacist Sri Sahu along with Sri Surendranath Panda, a local drug-store owner rescued Bata and sent him in an ambulance to the hospital at Phulbani for treatment where he was still under treatment. The team saw the broken TV, dried blood stains, broken pieces of police lathi and other ransacked articles inside the house.

5. Rabindra Kumar Das- One colour TV and a motor cycle was totally damaged which the team could see. Rupees thirty-five thousand was also looted from his house.

6. Ratnakar Behera- TV, motorcycle were totally destroyed. A bicycle was take away .

7. Kumara Naik- 17 pairs of hen were allegedly taken away by the police from his house

8. Jambubati Naik- A pair of goat and 12 hens were taken away by the police from her house.

9. Hazari Pradhan - 2 goats were allegedly taken away from his house.

10. Russy Sethi - A grocery shop in a cabin belonging to the victim was totally ransacked by the police depriving Russy of his only source of livelihood. The cops reportedly made a feast of the looted eatables in the village Community Hall.

11. It was also gathered from the villagers that the arrested people who were shifted to Boudh police station were illegally detained there and subjected to inhuman beating. The Second officer of Boudh police station, one Mr. Barik, brutally assaulted and kicked the arrested persons. As a result of torture in the police custody Shri Naba Sahu's finger and knee were fractured, Saroj Bhukta's right leg fractured and Siba Bisi suffered multiple fractures.

List of People Arrested and Tortured in Police Custody

Narayan Danayak, Batakrushna Pradhan, Manoranjan Sethy, Jayanta Sethi, Bijay Kumar Dang, Dilip Pradhan, Nilamani Danga, Narasingha Nayak, Rabinarayan Nayak, Siba Bisi, Saroj Bhukta, Abhimanyu Bhukta, Pratibhu Panigrahi, Kumar Pradhan, Manoranjan Mahakud, Sarat Mahakud, Nabakishore Sahu, Dilip Bagha, Narayan Danayak, Chandra Danayak, Pradip Maharana, Rabindra Sahu, Priya Ranjan Dash.

Version of Officials of the Administration and Medical Office

1 - Version of Officer-In-Charge, Harabhanga P.S
After making door to door inquiry in Harbhanga village, the team met the Officer-in-Charge at Harbhanga Police Station, Ashok Kumar Mohapatra, at about 4 PM on 17.03.2002. Mr. Mohapatra joined Harbhanga P.S. in September 2001 before which he was in the Mohana Police Station.

According to the QIC, he and the constable, Brajananda Biswal (No-l 18) were present on 19th and 20th February 2002 in the Harabhanga P.S. at the time of incident. Although he read from the news paper that the local people have called for a protest bandh on 19.2.2002 against the Govt. decision to shift the proposed Fire Station from Harbhanga to Chhorichak, but there was no intimation to the police station by the Harabhanga Gana Sangram Samiti or by any other person.

After describing in detail the sequence of events from 19 to 20 February the QIC stated that at around 8 pm when there was heavy stoning on the police station 4 rounds of tear gas were fired at the public by order of the S.P. In the meantime the 2nd force had arrived (APR) which included 4/5 lady constables and the police force chased the people and arrested some of them.

When the team wanted to know as to who was assessing the situation and giving direction to the forces to act, the OTC refused to give any answer but stated that in the presence of superior officers on the spot (he meant S.P) the officers like him had no role to play either to issue orders or to take action on his own.

The OIC stated that police action started at about 10-10.30 PM and continued for some hours. He also stated that the police forces nabbed 24 persons from the village who were forwarded to the court of the magistrate at Baudh on 23.2.2002. He also stated that out of these 24 persons who were injured were medically examined and 8 injured policemen were also examined. The OIC said that the furniture of police Station were broken by the agitators, one motor cycle was partially damaged and the temporary straw shed for parking the vehicles inside the P.S. Compound was also damaged in stone throwing, but no person (policeman) got any serious injury, The OIC stated that to his knowledge no order was issued to the police force for entering the house of the villagers in the night and no blank fire was ordered. He stated that three cases have been instituted against the agitators i.e. 1) Habhanga P.S. Case No-7/2002 based on the FIR submitted by one staff of the BDO's office 2) Harbhanga P.S. Case No.8/2002 basing on the FIR lodged by the OIC of Harabhanga P.S and 3) Harabhanga P.S. Case No. 9/2002 basing upon the FIR lodged by the driver of the Collector and now these cases have been pending for investigation and the Circle Inspector, Baudh Shri B.P. Deuri has taken charge of these cases as Investigating Officer.

2 - Version of the Medical Officer of Harabhanga New PHC, Dr. Antarvami Behera.

After the team met the OIC of Harbhanga P.S, they went to meet the Doctor of the Harabhanga New PHC, Dr, Antaryami Behera, at about 5 PM on 17.03.2002.

Dr. Behera, as he admitted, was very much present on the date of the incident and on subsequent days and has personally witnessed the incidents. He said that on 19.2.2002, as per the previous announcement, the villagers of Harbhanga (about 300-among whom 30-40 women) sat peacefully at one corner of the village near the police station and shouted slogans against the Collector, ADM and the Government,

On 19.2.2002 at around 10 AM he (M.O) got the information from the villagers that the condition of one of the agitators sitting on 'dharnaa' had become serious. He immediately rushed to the spot and saw that one person had lost consciousness. He immediately brought it to the notice of the QIC and gave some preliminary treatment to the person. According to him the agitation was completely peaceful throughout the day and night of 19.2.2002 and on 20.2.2002 at around 8.30 AM another person sitting on dharna fell unconscious .Again he was called for and gave the available treatment to him.
On the same night i.e. 20.2.2002 he could see from his quarters that the police force were shouting and assaulting the villagers and he could very well hear panic-stricken cries of the people.

A man named Batakrushna, a cardiac patient, was assaulted by the policemen assaulting Batakrushna who sustained severe bleeding injuries. The doctor himself had to go to some of the injured and brought them to the hospital and treated some of them in the same night and has referred some others to the Phulbani Hospital as the treatment in Harabhanga was not adequate considering the nature of injuries suffered. The MO has also stated that he himself had to go to the police station on 21.2.2002 and had to treat I arrested persons inside the Harabhanga P.S and found one person to have been severely assaulted. Dr. Behera admitted before the fact finding team that 2 of his staff namely Bharati Mahapatra and Suprava Naik, who were also misbehaved and molested by the police, complained to him about their security as police force themselves misbehaved toward them, for which he himself made a written report to the QIC, Harabhanga on 21.3.2002 but till date he had not been provided with a copy of such FIR and was doubtful if it was at all registered .

The Doctor, after verifying his record available in the PHC gave a list of injured persons who had undergone treatment by him on that day: 1. Naba Kishore Sahoo 35 years; 2. Nilamani Danga 50 years; 3. Manoj Sethi 30 years; 4. Sharat Mahakud 30 years; 5. Jayanta Sethi 25 years; 6. Saroj Bhukta 25 years (suspected fracture in the right leg); 7. Bisikesan Binayak 30; 8. Suba Bisi 25 years; 9. Rabi Singh 24 years (Head injury); 10. Rabindra Pradhan 30 years;

3 - Version Of The District Magistrate (Collector)
The team met the Collector, Baudh, Brundaban Rath, in his office at around 12.30 PM on 18.3.2002 in its endeavour to elicit the truth behind the reported account of the Harbhanga incident. The Collector was aware of visit of the team well in advance as he told the team that he knew that a fact finding team was already there and that they (team) spent the night at the Forest Rest House at Boudh on 17.3.2002.

The Collector told the team that he was trapped in a pre-planned manner by the agitating people of Harabhanga who detained him for hours and insisted for assurance/commitment of establishment of a Fire station there. According to him he had never committed earlier to the people of Harabhanga to have a Fire station there at any point of time and that he was not a fool to do so. He said the team that his office can be compared to a post office which only carries the message from one point to another. It is the Govt. who takes the decision where the Fire station would be and he can only make a proposal/suggestion to the Govt.

The Collector admitted that towards May (2001) last he had proposed the Govt. to set up a Fire station at Charichhak. When asked by the team as to when there was already fire stations at Baudh and Phulbani which could be used for Charichhak area, what was the necessity of recommending the Govt. to establish another station at Charichhak thereby neglecting a remote part like Harabhanga, the Collector had no answer. He only said that he had also suggested that one additional fire station could be set up at Harabhanga area.

Describing the incident of 20th February the Collector said that at about 6 pm the crowd became restless and unruly. They had brought a tractor-load of stones and brickbats and shouting slogans the agitators began stone pelting and brick-batting. Therefore he directed the SP to resort to teargas and lathi charge to disperse the mob. Then he fled the spot with the officers and as the road leading to Baudh was blocked, after crossing the river by foot, he reached Baudh with the help of some villagers and sent the message to the S.P to take whatever action he could, against the agitating people.
The Collector also said "Had I not left the place, there would have been a holocaust."

The Collector attributed the cause of such agitation in the following way: Firstly, there are a group of Naxalites who are hiding in the day time and instigating people of the locality to rise against police and administration.

Secondly one Ajit Das whose wife was a candidate in the Panchayat election wanted to create such disturbances and has instigated the people.

Thirdly a local journalist, Chitta Sing, by giving information to the local people about the letter of Collector for change of venue of establishing Fire Station, had added fuel to discontentment of the people.

The Collector expressed his firmness in taking action against those who were already arrested and expressed no sympathy toward the victims of police atrocity. He expressed his ignorance about mass molestation of the women inside their own houses.

4 - Version of the SP, Baudh-B.K. Praharaj
The team sans its lady member had an audience with the S.P, Baudh, Mr B.K-Prahraj, in his office on I S .03.2 002 from 6 pm to 8.30 pm.

The SP stated that sudden decision of the Collector to go away from the spot on 20.2.2002 infuriated the agitators. It seemed that the SP was critical of the irresponsible manner in which the Collector left the spot along with all the magistrates and the way the Collector chose to move without escort by taking unnecessary risk,

The S.P narrated the incident of 20.3.2002 by staling that at about 9 PM, the Collector, ADM, Sub Collector, JE, BDO and the magistrate left in two vehicles leaving the S.P, OIC and the police force there to take charge of the situation when the agitators were becoming more aggressive in their approach, He (SP) continued in his effort to pacify the situation and at the same time took efforts for mobilisation of more force. When the agitators continued to pelt stones on the P.S, the police forces one after other arrived in small intervals and the action started at about 10-10.30 PM. When asked what type of action the police resorted to, the SP said that though there was increasing pressure on me from the forces to give order for firing he restrained himself, but he ordered the force to chase the people away.

The SP totally denied having any knowledge of assault or abuse on any woman inside their home in Harbhanga in the night of 20.2.2002,
When specifically questioned as to who wa5 assessing the situation controlling the police force (3 platoon of police OSAP with 3 sections of APR Forces) and who was giving direction to act, the SP could not give any answer except saying that he had ordered them to disperse and chase the people away but had not ordered them to go inside the house of the people or do any harm to them.

The SP, when asked as to whether he wanted to know the situation of the people in Harbhanga after the police action, replied that even though he had gone there twice after the incident he had never felt to contact people of the area.

The SP categorically denied the allegation of involvement of any Naxal or any other extremist group in the issue and expressly opined that the Collector's delayed arrival and abrupt flight without sincerely addressing to the grievances of the agitators did actually provoked the people. There was nothing as pre- planned about the incident and the reaction was quite incidental.

He said on the same night and the next day they arrested 24 people and he directed the QIC to take the arrestees to Baudh as their detention at Harbhanga may create more tension. SP admitted that whatever attack on the police was perpetrated by a few anti-socials among the crowd and that not all and not even majority of the villagers were involved.

He further said that a local journalist, Chitta Sing, who always found favour of the Collector and managed to take some work on contract in the Block, was instrumental in passing all information to the villagers on the proposal for shifting the fire station

Home | Index