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PUCL Bulletin, Decmber 2006

Killing of three persons in fake encounter at Nawada Ben, Bhojpur

Bihar PUCL report by Prabhakar Sinha, National Vice President; Ram Chandra Lal Das, Former State President; Nageshwar Prasad, State General Secretary, 17.09.06.

(Reports appeared in the media that the police had killed three criminals in an encounter at the village Nawada Ben, Bhojpur on August 25, 2006. It was followed by reports of the protest including blocking of the highway and movement of trains by the people alleging that the three persons were brothers and were killed by the police in cold blood after arresting them from their house.

A few members of the PUCL from Ara, the district headquarters of Bhojpur, also approached the State PUCL for an enquiry into the killing of the three brothers. It was decided to constitute a committee consisting of Dr Prabhakar Sinha, National Vice President, Ramchandralal Das, former President, Bihar PUCL and Nageshwar Prasad, State General Secretary. The committee visited Nawada Ben on 10.9.2006 and met a large number of villagers and the members of the family of the three slain brothers including the devastated widows. The police officers concerned were not available, as they were busy with the visit of some high official, who reached the village when we were leaving it. However, the version of the police was available in the F.I.R. of the incident filed by the Dy. S.P. Shambhu Sharan Thakur, who had initiated and led the operation).

Nawada Ben: A Specimen of Jungle Raj
The village is situated at a distance of 10 to 12 Kilometers from Ara and 1 to ½ km to the North of Karisath railway station on Delhi-Howrah main line. In short, it is not situated in a remote area not easily accessible to the police or the civil administration.

Its population is said to be about ten thousand. The houses in the village are not very close to one another and are in small clusters of a few together. Around the village, there are vast fields of fertile land, which has paddy crop at present. Controlling crime at the village should be very easy, yet in short span of time there have been as many as 17 murders there The story of the family of late Jagarnath Singh, whose three sons had been killed by the police on August 25(2006) is blood chilling. Late Jaganarth Singh, who was the Mukhiya of his Panchayat, was killed in December,1982, his son Hare Krishna Singh was murdered in April,2001 at his village, another son Hare Ram Singh was abducted never to be found, his grandson Narain Singh (12) was abducted and strangulated to death in September 2001, and finally his three sons, namely, Ramji Singh, Laxman Singh and Bharat Singh were shot dead by the police on 25 August,2006.Of his six sons the youngest, Shatrughna Singh, who was only six months old when his father was murdered, remains alive because, as he says, he was not at home on the fateful day.

According to Shatrughna Singh and corroborated by other villagers, their close associate, a retired school teacher Md. Ali and their labourer Jitan Mahto were also murdered in 2006 and 2002 respectively. The others of the village murdered include Paras Singh and Atam Singh in 1983/84, Daroga Yadav in 1999, Ramdeo Yadav in 1998, Guduk Dusadh in 1999, Suresh Singh in 2001, Ram Vilas Mahto in 2002, Bhuar Singh in 2006 and Sabha Yadav in 2006. A few names may be even missing. Thus, the administration had been allowing the villagers to kill one another and settle scores with complete difference.

The Version of the Police
The village is under Udwant Nagar Police station and Gajrajganj O.P. The Dy. S.P. states in the F.I.R. that following the information at 1 pm that the absconders Ramji Singh, Laxman Singh and Bharat Singh (in cases involving murder and offences under Arms Act) were hiding with their gang at Nawada Ben, he informed the S.A P and then organized 5 teams. He also claims to have learnt that they had been planning to commit some cognizable offence along with their 8 to 10 gangmen. The 5 police teams surrounded the village from all sides.

The Dy. S.P. moved from the North side. The police team also included the men from SAF, a force consisting of retired persons from the Armed Forces. The officer claims to have asked the alleged criminals to surrender, but they began indiscriminate firing from the arms that they had. They began to flee towards the (paddy) field in the south (i.e. of their house where they were sitting).The police also opened fire at them. They also fired at the police from the fields in the south. From that place, few criminals continued to flee towards the south, and the police also kept on chasing them and firing at them in self defence. All the criminals succeeded in running away, but one Lal Babu Pasi was arrested. The criminals fired about 100 rounds (at the police party).After the firing came to an end, two criminals were found dead in the paddy field in the south at a distance of ½ km (from their house) and one was found at a distance of 1/2 km to the south west (of the house).It is stated that arms of various description (mentioned in the F.I.R.) were also found near their dead bodies.

Note: All the three alleged criminals killed were three brothers, namely, Ramji Singh, Laxman Singh and Bharat Singh sons of late Jagarnath Singh, Mukhiya.

According to the F.I.R. SAF fired 94 rounds, Chhote Narain 5 rounds from his carbine, Suresh Choudhary 4 rounds from his rifle, Ram Naresh Pd Singh 5 rounds from his service revolver, Ranjit Kumar 5 rounds from his service pistol and R.B Choudhary 5 rounds from his service pistol. Thus, in all, 113 rounds were fired by the police.

The Version of the People
Most of the villagers said that the police descended on their village from all sides at 1 pm and asked them to go inside and close their doors and windows. Consequently, they could only hear the sound of firing but could not see anything. However, 76 year old Shatrughan Singh, a retired engineer from Jamshedpur said that he heard incessant firing and thought that it was directed at his toilet. He went on the roof of his house. Then, a commando (I thought him to be a commando because he had a ribbon around his head) said, “Utar Jao, Baba. (Climb down Baba.) I came down, but could hear voices. Someone was saying, ‘Sach Sach batao, Hathiyar Kahan Hai/” (Tell me truthfully, where are the arms?). Laxaman said, ”Hathiyar Mere Pas Nahi Hai” (I have no weapon). But the police continued to repeat the question. Then I could see that the police jumped into the compound of Thakur Singh. Later, I saw that they had killed Laxman. Then I saw that they had killed Ramji also. I did not see them being killed though. I had also heard a police man saying,” Sir, Aapasi Jhagra Hai. Pakar Kar Le chala Jay. (Sir, it is a case of mutual quarrel, we should take them in custody.).The other man said, ”ee Na Lachhumanwa hai. (He is the one who is Lachhumanawan). Everything was over by 2.30 p.m. or so.

Manoj Kumar Singh, a farmer from the village said, “I was sitting at my Dalan (outer portion of the house or a place for farmer’s chore where womenfolk do not live). Two of the brothers were sitting at their Darwaza (outer verandah of the house). The police were scolding even women and not letting anyone out of the house The police said, ”Maro, Maro, Sale Ko”. They dragged the two (i.e. Ramji Singh and Bharat Singh) towards the ‘Nahar’ (canal) and killed them; and they killed Laxman also after 15-20 minutes.” The police were hiding everywhere. They (i.e. the deceased) were unarmed. They killed Ramji and Bharatji very soon.

Rekha Kuanr, the wife of late Ramji Singh (who is an Up Mukhiya of the Panchayat) said, “ My husband, Bharatji and one of my ‘Bhaginas’ (my husband’s sister’s son) were sitting at their ‘Dooar’ (outer verandah).It was at about 12 or 1 noon. Laxmanji was lying in his room. We womenfolk were in the ‘Angana’ (inner portion of the house where women live). We heard the sound of firing coming from the North. The police were shouting “Maro, Maro, Pakaro, Pakaro”. We rushed out and saw that my husband and Bharatji had raised their hands and surrendered. I said,’ Sir, please do not fire now that my husband and ‘Devar’ (husband’s younger brother) have surrendered. Please arrest them and take them.”

According to her, 20 to 25 policemen entered their house and dragged Laxmanji from his room. The police tied the hands and feet of all the three. The Dy S P Thakur talked to someone on the mobile phone.” We tried to follow them when they began to drag them away, but they beat all of us (womenfolk of the family).So, we could not follow them. Later, they killed all the three”, she said. According to them they were killed near the ‘Bel tree’ (wood-apple).

Usha Kuanar, widow of Hare Ram Singh, Anita Kuanr, widow of Hare Krishna Singh, Rita Kuanar, widow of Laxman Singh and Sita Kuanr the mother of the deceased corroborated. Shatrughan Singh, the youngest of the brothers and the only one of the six to survive, is about 26 years of age and is an elected member of the Panchayat Samiti. He had gone to the Block Development Office on the day, and believes that he is alive solely on that account. The family believes that had he been present he would also have been shot dead.

Explaining the cause of the police hostility, he said that the police had been acting at the behest of the M.L.A. of Jagdishpur constituency, who is very hostile to them due to their enemity with the family of his brother’s ‘Samadhi’ (father-in-law of his brother’s daughter), who hails from Nawada Ben. He (Shatrughan Singh) along with the others is accused of involvement in the murder of the father of his brother’s ‘Samadhi’. He alleges that the police take no action against those who have been victimizing them. As a proof, he alleges that no arrest was made when his brother Hare Krishna Singh was killed by his villagers, no action was taken against the named accused when his nephew was murdered, similarly, no action was taken when his brother was shot at and injured in July 2002, complaint could be filed only at the behest of the court in 2004 against those who had abducted his brother Hare Ram Singh in November 2002, no action was taken when a dacoity was committed in their house in 2003 etc.

According to him, no action was taken against their enemies though they (i.e. Shatrughan Singh and his brothers) had been arrested on being accused of murder and attempt to murder. He is convinced that the police have been playing a partisan and hostile role due to the influence of the M L A from Jagdishpur named Bhagwan Singh Kushwaha. Since Shatrughan Singh was not present at the village at the time of the raid by the police, his statement is on the incident is not being recorded here.

Note: We are not expressing any opinion on either his allegation that the police never took any action against their enemies or the allegation that the police have been acting at the behest of the M.L.A. of Jagdishpur, as we have not verified them.

Evaluation of Evidence

Prima facie, it may appear that there is no clinching evidence to prove that the police caught the three brothers and shot them dead since no eyewitness has claimed to see them being shot. Even the members of the family have stated that they were not allowed to follow the police when they were dragging the three brothers away with them. Even the outraged villagers who have been blocking highways and railway against what they believe a cold-blooded murder have not claimed to have witnessed the killing.

However, it is this aspect of the evidence, which gives it the maximum credence. Giving false evidence even under oath is a common practice in our society so much so that no stigma attaches to a person for telling a lie in a court of law. Even so, neither the members of the family of the deceased nor their numerous supporters gave false evidence that they had seen the police killing the three brothers though they could have easily done so. They appeared so definite about the crime committed by the police that they did not try to resort to lies. But, their sense of outrage writ large upon their faces appeared as very credible evidence. However, that cannot be taken as conclusive proof of the guilt of the police and any conclusion may be arrived at only after analyzing the version of the police, which is recorded in their F.I.R. in the case No 154/2006 dated 25.8.2006.

The Place of Occurrence According to the Police
According to the F.I.R., the so called criminals were sitting and talking at the ‘Baithaka’ (a place where only men meet and sit in the villages) and had kept 4 to 5 rifles resting on the wall (Diwar Se Sata Kar Rakha Gaya Hai). The said ‘Baithaka’ is a brick construction facing North and is adjacent to the house of the deceased in the West. There are only three to four other houses nearby, and none is very close to one another. These few houses are surrounded by low paddy fields stretching to several kilometers on all side. The houses including the ‘Baithaka’ is on a higher piece of land and faces the North.

The truth of the version of the police would depend on the credible answer to the following questions:
1. Is it possible for the criminals to succeed in fleeing when they were admittedly (by the police) surrounded by the 5 teams of the police including the SAF in abroad day light at 2 p.m. specially, when there were no trees or tall plants to give them a cover ?

2. Is it possible for anyone of them to escape the 113 rounds of bullets fired at them when they were allegedly fleeing through the open fields and being chased by the police continuously firing at them? (According to the F.I.R. several criminals ran away safely).

3. According to the F.I.R., they were fleeing through the open paddy fields making themselves sitting ducks for the police instead of lying down in the paddy fields to escape being shot dead. Is ita natural response to bullets and a believable scenario?

4. Is it possible that in a gun battle (as recorded in the F.I.R.) taking place in an open area in which 100 rounds were fired at the police, no policeman sustained any injury? (the F.I.R. does not mention any injury to any policeman).

5. Is it credible that when 113 rounds were fired at the alleged criminals, nobody survived with any injury and all who were hit were fatally injured (i.e. shot dead)?

6. Is it credible that the bullets fired by the police should choose to kill only the three brothers and spare the rest?

7. Is it possible to accept the killing of the three brothers only as a mere coincidence, specially in view of the fact that 4 other members of the family have been killed earlier?

8. Is it possible that after a gun battle in which altogether 213 rounds were fired by both the sides, there were no marks of gun shot on the buildings except a few in the front of the ‘Baithaka’, facing North, which could have been made only by the police party which admittedly approached from the North ?

9. Is it possible that there would be no mark of bullet on the Southern side of the building if the fleeing criminal (as alleged) fired at the police from the South?

The Finding of the Committee
In the F.I.R. the three deceased have been described as criminals involved in various crimes including murder, attempt to murder and ‘Rangdari’ (extortion), but no details have been mentioned. However, the family confirmed that they were accused of murder and attempt to murder in the incidents that had taken place at their village. The only surviving brother of the deceased alleged a nexus between the M.L.A. of Jagdishpur and the police, which was responsible for the murder of his three brothers as well as the earlier acts hostile to them. In fact, statements were made also against some officers for their role at the time of the raid and subsequently. However, no opinion is being expressed by the committee on those allegations, as they have not been investigated by it.

On the question of the encounter leading to the death of the three brothers, the committee is of the opinion that the answers to the9 questions raised above, lead to the inescapable conclusion that there was no encounter and the three brothers were shot dead in cold blood. No person surrounded from all sides by five teams of fully armed police could escape in broad day light through open paddy fields, which could not give them any cover.

Besides, it would be suicidal for anyone to fire at the police when so completely overwhelmed by their number and fire power in a situation in which the possibility of escape was nil. It is also unbelievable that when hundred rounds were fired at the police, no policeman sustained any injury, specially when they claim to be chasing the fleeing criminals for a distance of almost ½ km through open fields exposing themselves to the bullets fired at them. No less believable is the fact that in a real encounter in which 10 criminals engaged the police in a gun battle, the bullets hit and killed only the three brothers and spared the rest. The claim of the police that the criminals were planning to commit some ‘cognizable offence’ at high noon (1 p.m.) is also prima facie false and appears to have been made to lend credence to their story of a gun battle between the police and the alleged criminals.

The truth appears to be that there was no encounter and the three brothers were killed in cold blood.

1. A thorough enquiry by an independent and impartial agency should be made to find out the reason for the administration, specially the police, to allow the ‘Jungle Raj’ to prevail at the village for years because but for the connivance and/or complicity of the police the ding dong battle between the villagers leading to so many murders over the years at a small village could not have been possible. The reason for the killing of the three brothers by the police and the truth about the nexus between some of the villagers of Nawada Ben, a politician related to him and the police leading to the prevalent ‘Jungle Raj’ cannot be known without such an enquiry.

2. According to the F.I.R. one Lal Babu Pasi was arrested on the spot on 25.8.2006 at 2 p.m. He was examined by a doctor at 5 p.m. on 26.8.2006 i.e. 27 hours after his arrest. The medical report shows that he had several simple injuries on different parts of his body, which were made within six hours from the time of the medical examination. The inescapable conclusion is that the injuries were caused while he was in the police custody i.e. he was subjected to the third degree method. This method is often used to extract some statement from a person to support the version of the police.

Recommendations
1. Murder case u/s 302 should be instituted against the police.

2. The case should be entrusted to the C.B.I. to ensure that the guilty are punished.

3. The C.B.I. should also be entrusted to investigate the role of the administration in allowing the ‘Jungle Raj’ for years and permitting it even till date.

4. A sum of Rs 3 lakh each should be paid to the wives of the deceased.

Observation
The police have claimed in the F.I.R. that they opened fire in self defence. The right to private self defence is available to every person, and the police are no exception. However, when causing death or injuries is justified by any person on the ground of self defence, he has to prove before a court of law that the circumstances warranted not only the use of force, but also the extent of force used (i.e. causing death or serious injury as the case may be).The accused has to prove that causing death or grievous injury was necessary for his self defence. Our police simply make a statement that they fired and killed in self defence (Atma Raksharth), and no further question is asked.

Thus, the plea of self defence in practice has become a license to kill, which is responsible for scores of murder by the police. The police should be required to justify the use of force causing death or grievous injury before a court of law to prevent wanton killings and establish the rule of law. –


People's Union for Civil Liberties, 81 Sahayoga Apartmrnts, Mayur Vihar I, Delhi 110091, India. Phone (91) 11 2275 0014