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PUCL Bulletin, August 2004

Misleading reporting of a lynching episode by Zee TV News

-- By Nishant Akhilesh, Secretary, PUCL Jharkhand, October 15, 2003

Letter to the Director of Zee News, Special Correspondence,New Delhi


Subject: Regarding your Special Correspondence Report on 11th October 2003 at 10 PM covering Lango of Dumaria Bloc, East Singhbhum, Jharkhand where 10 Naxals and their supporters were lynched on 7th August, 2003

Dear Sir, We held so far a very high opinion of the fairness, impartiality and conviction with which your news channel brings about the breakthrough stories, opinions and current news. We also realize the pressure of maintaining a round the clock news channel with the challenges of breaking news, stories and including events happening at a fast pace at various levels in a vast country like ours and therefore, there is always a possibility of human errors. However, when there is gross mistake by a channel of your repute the impression is bound to change.

The same happened and our confidence on you took a beating after having watched your special correspondence on lynching of Naxals and their supporters by villagers of Lango at Dumaria Bloc of East Singhbhum District in Jharkhand telecasted on 11th October, 2003 at 10.00 PM. In nutshell the two stories dramatized in that episode were based on half-truth and fabricated and opinion partial, prejudiced, against the mandate of our Constitution, not corroborated by facts and appears to be influenced by State.

The genesis and facts of that fateful incident are grossly different than depicted by your episode. We strongly feel that you unknowingly and unwittingly should not be party to the promotion of Human Rights Violation. That may not be your intention at all. Therefore, we decided to share our views and some facts relating to that incident.

As per the findings of our preliminary investigation, it was a well planned cold-blooded murder (extra judicial execution) organized by known activists of Nagarik Suraksha Samiti at the instance of Police Administration. It should be noted that Nagarik Suraksha Samiti is a creation of Police Administration (admitted openly by DGP, Jharkhand State in one of his exclusive interview in one of the local newspapers).

PUCL having done its preliminary investigation sent a report on 25.08.2003 to National Human rights Commission that promptly took cognizance on the same on 28.08.2003 and sent notices to the DGP and Chief Secretary, Jharkhand calling for a report in two weeks. The district Police and the State having sensed the possible prosecution in the same are all out to create a wrong impression in the minds of all concerned that there was a spontaneous reaction by the common villagers of the area against the immoral misdeeds of the Naxals and their supporters which eventually led their lynching not withstanding the facts suggesting otherwise.

It is imperative here to recall that members of Nagarik Suraksha Samiti are associated with Political Parties having serious economic and political interests in the area. Some of them were earlier hand in glove with these very Naxalites but when the Naxals confronted them on the complains of misappropriation of public money under village development projects and non- payment of minimum wages to the local villagers who worked as daily wage labourers under these project being implemented under their control they having sensed the danger lodged complains to the local Police. #

The Police Administration in its own interests organized them into Nagarik Suraksha Samiti to counter the grooving influence of Naxals known as PW activists in the area. We have information that on repeated complains by the members of Nagarik Suraksha Samiti to the local Police against interference by Naxals in the area they were firmly told by the District Police to ‘Do Something’ and then come for help to the officials of District Police.
Some prominent members of Nagarik Suraksha Samiti are criminally charged in cases ranging from non-payment of minimum wages, misappropriation of money in different village development projects. Golden Forest Scheme to the likes of Robbery and molestations. Before executing the said ‘extra judicial killings’ of Naxals and their supporters on the fateful day of 7th August 2003 the Police and Nagarik Suraksha Samiti had been doing their homework for quite some time. There have been frequent illegal arrests, confinement and Custodial torture by Police blatantly violating the D.K. Basu guideline of Supreme Court on Custodial Rights (see D.K. Basu vs. State of West Bengal, SCC, 1997) of the local villagers having or alleged to have direct/indirect link with Naxals.

These repressions were unleashed by the local Police at the instance of Nagarik Suraksha Samiti members and continued for months. In one such incident investigated by PUCL one Banka Pradhan of Lango village got arrested at the instance of one Purushottam Sardar an important member of Nagarik Suraksha Samiti. He was kept in illegal custody for three days at Jamshedpur, inhumanly tortured, declared as ‘MATARU PAREYA’ said to be a hardcore Naxal, produced in Court, not provided any legal aid as mandated under law and sent to Judicial Custody charging him under Arms Act and other sections of IPC. Then on the fateful day of Killings of Naxals and their associates on 7th August 2003 one of the two associates of Naxals who managed to survive despite severe beating was claimed to be ‘MATARIJ PAREYA’. The Police Administration was caught off guard and did not have moral courage to clarify who was the ‘REAL MATARU PAREYA’ and if Banka Pradhan was wrongly arrested earlier as ‘MATARU PAREYA’ why did the Police not withdraw the criminal charges against him which prima facie appear to be false.

After a series of repressions by Police at the instance of Nagarik Suraksha Samiti the members of Nagarik Suraksha Samiti (to he referred as NASUS hereinafter) were able to create fear in the minds of local villagers and that helped them succeeding in roping with some of villagers who had information about their (PWG’s) movement in the area and hatched up criminal conspiracy with the help of District Police to kill them extra judicially. How well the plan was formulated and executed can be gauged by this fact that the group of Naxals who visited their known houses in the village were first taken into confidence, unarmed, overpowered, handcuffed, Police, and prominent NASUS members informed and on apparent sanction of their ‘bosses’ started beating them black and blue till 9 of them succumb to their injuries on the spot (two of them who managed to survived were later sent to judicial custody).

The Police then informed the Local Press. However, they were not able to remove a noticeable ‘difference’. A local newspaper scribe who reached earlier was able to take photographs of dead who were handcuffed. However, some ‘intelligent persons’ having sensed the ‘error’ immediately removed the handcuffs from the dead bodies and an impression was forced to create that they (Naxals) were overpowered and simultaneously beaten to death by an angry mob of villagers therefore, the photographs which appeared in other newspapers (where their scribes reached later) portrayed the dead without any handcuff. (Later on two successive days on 22nd and 23rd August one Ledha Patter and other Khoka Munda were lynched the later one in front of one local scribe having connection with Naxals just after visit of Chief Minister and some of his cabinet colleagues on 21” August at Lango).
The District Police Officials immediately rushed to Lango to congratulate the villagers for their ‘bravery’.

PUCL, Jharkhand, which was keeping a close eye on the developments in the area immediately, condemned the incident terming it pre-planned extra judicial killings through a press statement requesting at the same time the Police to register an FIR of the crime. After an initial defiance but later sensing the wrath of Judiciary and others they were forced to register an FIR against unnamed 500 villagers. This was a sham in the clock, as Police apparently knew the names of those who organized the killings. It should be noted that so far the Police have neither commenced any investigation on the said FIR nor have they made any arrests in that connection. Police knows the repercussions of such an eventuality.

Here lies the most serious anomaly. Had your scribe gone independently and done some spade of work he would have unearthed the names of perpetrators of the said heinous crime. The name of those who organized the killings were known to the people of the area, the family-members of the victims and very well known to the Police. There is panic among those involved in the killings after National Human Rights Commission took cognizance of the case and sent notices. But they are now swearing in the name of East Singhbhum SP Dr. Arun Oraon who according to their own admissions has given them ‘firm assurance’ of not implicating them.
That was not all in the shabby side of the story. The Police Administration hurried with Post Mortem of the dead victims and disposed them off without waiting for anybody to make a claim for the dead bodies. We have been informed that some body from Amnesty International, India, New Delhi office called up at SP’s office at Jamshedpur requesting to wait as the relatives of the some of the victims desired to make a claim on the dead bodies but the Administration went ahead as per its plan.

The Post Mortems conducted also smacks of serious doubts on the fairness of the Post Mortem report.

The doctors who conducted Post Mortem did not preserve ‘VISCERA’ despite wide spread speculation (which also appeared in the local newspapers) that the victims were administered poisonous/toxic substances through food and/or water before they were overpowered and killed. Given the magnitude of the crime and the explanation offered to us it does not appear that the decision of not preserving the ‘VISCERA” was an in deliberate one.
After the lynching of Naxals and their associates the NASUS members planted stories of rape, exploitation and seeing of village girls to brothels through some local over enthusiastic scribes in local newspapers in an effort to create an impression of spontaneous anger of the local villagers against the immoral acts of Naxals and-their associates. However, in all seriousness we would like to state that during the course of our inquiry we have so far not come across any such incident precisely as reported in the local newspapers.

The serious political ramifications of the incident can be comprehended by the fact that one former MLA of CPI of the area claimed that NASUS were terrorizing activist of CPI other main stream left political party having colour of their party flag as red. This was not all, sensing the too obvious ulterior political motives of some of the members NASUS who are also office bearers of some leading political parties, some Pro-Jharkhand organization distanced themselves by terming the killings as sendra/hunting of innocent tribal people having political interests.

Now let us examine the comments made by senior district functionaries. The DC East Singhbhum Miss Nidhi Khare alleged that the Naxals first came begging for bread and thereafter started asking for the daughters of villagers. This is a serious allegation and cannot be dismissed lightly. Your scribe should have asked how may such incidents of forcible abduction of village girls by Naxals being reported to the District Administration? How many FIRs have they registered so far? What is the status of the enquiry into such incidents? What the administration have done so far to prevent the occurrence of such incidents? So far as we know there has not been a single FIR registered by the local Police in this regard till 24.08.03.
The SP East Singhbhum admitted of having encouraged the villagers to counter the modern weapons of Naxals by their own traditional weapons and their courage.

What is the fallout of this statement? Can we encourage people’s army to take on the criminals, mafias, criminal turned politicians, corrupt politicians, police officers and other government officials and those charged with committing crime under various section of I PC and violating constitutional mandate and other laws? It is our Constitutional mandate? Will the rule of law survive if such things are allowed? Recently a block level officer of Ichagarh block of West Singhbhum, Jharkhand was beaten to death by a group of people on the allegation of demanding bribe for a village level development project. Does he endorse that killing? If still he advocates this then what is the use of police force and Judiciary and spending crores of public money in the first place.

Our Constitution confers certain basic human rights without any discrimination on the basis of faith, action, religion, caste and sex etc. to the citizens of this country. One of the most basic human rights is the rights is the right to life and personal liberty as enshrined under Article 21 of our Constitution. It categorically states that nobody should be deprived of his life expect as per the procedure established by law. Yes the violent methodology of the Naxals is Constitutionally wrong and fundamental and against all democratic norms and humanity. That should be condemned in no mean words. But the similarity ends here.

The Naxals probably do not believe in the present system but if they violate law they are criminals as per the provisions of law and it is the duty of the Police to arrest and book them under law, duty of the prosecution to prosecute them and the duty of Judiciary to convict them. Whereas the Police force is there to maintain law and order, protect Human Rights and not turn themselves the violators of Human Rights and abettors of crime. If they indulge in this they are entitled to exemplary punishment as they are mandated to protect Human Rights and promote Rule of Law in society.
We now hope that after having gone through the text you would realize the gross injustice done to the victims, the villagers and of course to the reputation of your channel on account of your partial reporting. We do hope that you would take immediate remedial measures to restore your prestige and come out with corrected version of your ‘Special Correspondence’ by a thorough inquiry into the whole incident tracing the genesis of the incident and the aftermath. Thanking you. Yours truly, For People’s Union for Civil Liberties, -- Nishant Akhilesh, Secretary, Jharkhand October 15, 2003

 

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