PUCL Bulletin, October 2002

Bihar State PUCL Report:
Fake encounter killing of Surendra Bhagat

The PUCL received a complaint that Surendra Bhagat alias Bootan of Kisan Majdoor Sangrami Parishad was killed in Patna district on 1 May 2002, He was allegedly arrested by the police at Bijaura, P.S. Bhagwanganj, and killed in cold blood. Newspapers also carried the story and the entire allegation that the helpless father of Surendra Bhagat was not handed over the dead body for performing the last rites.

The State PUCL constituted a committee consisting of Prabhakar Sinha, National Vice President; Ramchandra Lal Das, President, Bihar PUC; Kishori Das; General Secretary, and Mithilesh Kumar, Secretary to hold an inquiry. The committee visited Bijaura and some areas around it and talked to a large number of people of the area. It also spoke to the S.D.P.O. Masaurhi, S K Barnwal, S.I. Mukesh Kumar, OC Masaurhi and the S.D.O. Masaurhi, Vinay Kumar, who joined us at the SDPO's residence where we were talking. The F.I.R., the seizure list, and other relevant documents were also examined. Some sources were contacted to ascertain the deceased's status in the organisation, i.e., CPI. (ML) PWG Mazdoor Kisan Sangrami Parishad.

The villagers of Bijaura and adjoining areas, who spoke to the PUCL, are not being identified to protect them from reprisal of which the people living in the areas with strong presence of the C.P.I. (ML), PWG are mortally afraid.

Opposite versions of the Incident: According to the police Surendra Bhagat was a Zonal Commander of the people's Guerrilla Army, who was killed during an encounter with the police on 1st May, 2002, but the villagers and other concerned contended that he was a Zonal Secretary of Kisan Mazdoor Sangrami Parishad, who was engaged in mobilising the people for participation in their rally against globalisation and POTA scheduled for 10 May, 2002 in Delhi and was at Bijaura in that connection when he was arrested and shot dead in cold blood. Obviously only one of the versions can be true.

The case of the police: According to the F.I R by the police, they had received the information that, the People's Guerilla Army is camping at the village Nagauli for the purpose of recruitment and training, and they also plan to execute some plan of action. The personnel present were of Magadh Divisional level. After consultation with higher officers including S.D.P.O. Shailendra Kumar Barwak, Rural (S.P.), Patna, Mukesh Kumar Saha, and others it was planned to raid the place. In pursuance of the plan, Police parties (which included the SDPO, OC Masurhi, OC Dhanarua, men from the CRPF, etc.) proceeded to Nagauli. The police party took position near a payeen (canal of small size) situated about one km to the North of Nagauli and half km to the south of Danara and which run from east to west.

They (i.e., the guerrillas) began to fire indiscriminately endangering the lives of the police. Then the police fired on the extremists with a view to make them surrender. The firing from both sides continued for one and half hours from 5.30 p.m., but the extremists did not surrender. Then the police (in the F.I.R the police personnel have been named) closed on the extremists crossing form south and moving towards north and east suddenly attacked the extremists causing them to run helter skelter ('Payeen ke dakshini kinaaara ki or crossing kartaa hue uttar ki or poorab se barhe tathaa achaanak ugrawaadiyon par hamlaa bol diye jisse ugrawaadiyon mein bhagdar mach gayaa ki usi beech uttar Danara ki or se phaayaring aane lagaa jaise ke tathaa andheraa kaa laabh uthaakar ugrawaadi uttar dishaa ki or bhaag nikale kyonki phaayaring band ho gayaa Jab jabaabi phaayaring band ho gayaa to doong evam light ke sahaare tathaa haath torch ki roshni mein sthal kaa neerikshan kiyaa to paayaa ki payeen mein Danara taraf jaane waali aar tor kar banaayaa gayaa rah par ek agyaat ugrawaadi goraa tandurust, umar karib 35 varsh khaaki wardi pahne bnayaan seenaa par baich 'PGA kaa chhaapaamaar seva' tathaa beech me hathauraa, hisia tathaa SLR kaa chamaktaa monogram yukta baich lagaaye goli se zakhmi mritt paraa hai.)

Then a list of arms, etc., which was recovered, at the site and on the deceased, has been described.

Note: The FIR gives the details of the material seized at Nagauli and its activities after the encounter, which has no bearing on the matter under our inquiry, as our inquiry is limited to finding out how Surendra Bhagat died.
However, it is pertinent to consider the material, which, according to the police, was with the deceased. These, apart from the blood stained clothes, include a cap with PGA Jan Chhaapaamaar Sena written on it, one country made rifle of 315 bore with one shell which has been fired, one land mine, one detonator, one walkie-talkie, one live hand grenade, one belt for shells with five live shells of 135 bore.

The SDPO Barnwal gave us the details of the old cases in which the deceased had been charge sheeted and declared an absconder The cases were registered in the P.S. Karpi, Kinjal, and Arwal and were under section, 121, 128, 307, 302, 324, 326, IPC, 27 Arms Act, 253, 34 IPC 25, 27, 35 Arms Act4/5 Explosive Act, 17 CLA, etc.

The cases had been registered between 1988 and 2001.

The SDPO was categorical in stating that the deceased was a 'Zonal Commander of People's Guerrilla Army'.

PUCL: how many rounds the extremists fired?
SDPO: 250 rounds.
PUCL: Have the Fired shells been collected?
SDPO: No.
PUCL: Then how can you be sure of the number of rounds fired?
SDPO: It is just an estimate
PUCL: Why did they fire so many rounds?
SDPO: They wanted to escape under the cover of fire.
PUCL: Why was there not even a minor injury caused to the police despite such heavy firing on them?
S.D.M: Because the police had the advantage of surprise.

On the question of handing over of the body to the father of the deceased, the officers gave different versions. Mukesh Kumar, OC Masurhi said that it was given to the father. The SDPO said that it was not given.
The father of the deceased, an 80-year-old man, complains that he was chased away by the police when he asked for the dead body of his son at PMCH, Patna.

The SDPO supported by the SDM stated that the PWG possessed very sophisticated arms and their squad had far superior training. He categorically stated that the District police were no match to them.

According to the I.G. Operation, Neelamani, the documents seized in the operation reveal that the G.A. is in possession of 107 SLR, 52 .303 rifles, 32 guns, 97 carbines, 117 old SLR, and 4 SLR Mark. According to him the deceased was a local Commander.

(From Aaj of 8 May, 2002: Surendra Gareri People's Guerrilla Army Kaa Sthaaniya Commander Thaa: Neelamani 'Surendra Gareri was a local Commander of the People's Guerrilla Army: Neelamani)

According to the I.G., there are 22 cases pending against the deceased.
The version of the villagers: The people of the area including Bijaura appeared quite familiar with Surendra Bhagat and remembered him with much affection. They fondly described his personality and gait as that of an officer (Jab chalte they to lagtaa thaa ki koi afsar jaa rahaa hai). The villagers said that he had been visiting them in connection with the programme of the rally to be held in Delhi to oppose globalisation and POTA which was scheduled for 10 May, 2002. They said that on the fateful he had gone to the village to give cards to the people who were to go to Delhi for the rally. We also saw many posters of the rally on the walls of the houses in the village.

The villagers confirmed that there were members of the 'Dasta' (armed squad) at the neighbouring village Nagauli. They also saw the police on the day i.e. 1st May 2002 and heard some shots fired. They did not confirm hearing sounds of heavy firing. They said that the 'Dasta' from Nagual had slipped away, and escaped the police net. They did fire a few shots while escaping.

According to them, Surendra ji wanted to escape from the village fearing arrest and left. Later, he was arrested and then killed by the police and they dressed them in the dress of the PGA. They said that the dress was even ill fitting. They all very unhappy at his death.

Many people on our way to the village categorically stated that Surendra Bhagat was killed in cold blood. Such people included several passers-by. All without an exception said that Surendra Bhagat was killed after being arrested.

PUCL to the villagers: Did you see him being arrested?
The Villagers: No.
PUCL: Then how do you know that he was shot dead in cold blood?
Villagers: Because he was at our village distributing cards and had left fearing arrest. He was not in the squad.
PUCL: But on what basis do you so confidently state that the police dressed him as PGA man and shot him?
Villagers: After a little silence they said, 'The Chaukidaars of the area have lo do their job for a living, but they are also friendly to the people. They told us all that happened.'

A villager of Bijaura was arrested at about 6 p.m. the same day, was beaten up by the police, taken to Nagauli and then later released. He had this so say: I was working in my field. The police arrested me at about six O'clock. They beat me when I could not answer their questions to their satisfaction. They said 'Meetings have been going on for the last three days, but you say that you know nothing.' They took me with them to Nagauli. They had arrested a passer-by who was also with me. At Nagauli, I saw Surendra ji in the police custody. After some time they asked me and the passer-by to go away. I do not know what happened afterwards. I had heard the firing by the 'Dasta', which escaped.

(1) The two versions are diametrically opposite. The truth would depend on the answer to the following questions:

1. Was Surendra Bhagat really a Zone Secretary of Kisan Majdoor Sangrami Parishad?

2. If so, would the same person be assigned to work as a Zonal Commander of the People's Guerrilla Army at the same time?

3. Would the Zonal Commander of the PGA fight the police with .315 bore country made rifle when it is an admitted fact that the PGA has SLRs, AK 47, 303 rifles, hand grenades and other sophisticated weapons?

4. In a real encounter situation, would the PGA not fight with sophisticated weapons of which it has plenty, and specially when its Zonal top brass were holding a camp at Nagauli?

5. If hundreds of shots were actually fired, would not the empty shells be found at the place of occurrence?

6. When the police in formation suddenly attacked the extremists causing them to run helter skelter, is it possible that just one person would die and no one else would be hit specially if they are running away?

7. When the extremists fired two hundred and fifty rounds during an encounter lasting for about two hours in which the police aggressively advanced on the extremists, is it possible that the policemen remain absolutely untouched and unharmed?

8. If the version of the villagers was concocted, why would they not claim that they saw the deceased being arrested and being shot?

9. Why would the people of the entire area deny the fact that an encounter had taken place?


(2) On verification from various sources at Patna, it has been confirmed that Surendra Bhagat was the Zonal Secretary of the Majdoor Kisan Sangrami Parishad of Magadh Zone- Further conformation is found in the pamphlets circulated in thousands at different places protesting against his killing in which he has been described as Secretary, of the Majdoor Kisan Sangrami Parishad It has farther been confirmed by various knowledgeable sources that the same person is never assigned to function as a Commander of the People's Guerrilla Army and an office bearer of an open organisation. The members of the armed squad are kept underground for reasons of safety.

The fact that the police found him with a. 315 bore country made rifle also goes to prove that he did not belong to the PGA, because it is an admitted fact that the PGA is armed with sophisticated weapons like SLR, AK 47 other automatic weapons and hand grenades. In the light of this fact admitted even by the police, it looks laughable that the Zonal Commander of the PGA should be fighting the police with a country made 315 rifles.

The story of an encounter appear unbelievable also because the police do not mention use of hand grenades, AK 47 SLR and other sophisticated weapons by the PGA when they were attacked by the police. Would it be natural for the PGA to refrain from the use of such weapons in an encounter 7 Or would it be plausible to believe that they had left them at home during their camping at Nagauli specially when the camp of the Zonal level. Further the fact that the police had not collected the empty shells allegedly fired by the PGA (250 rounds) also give a lie to its story of a full-scale encounter.

Again when the PGA was suddenly attacked by the police party (as claimed in the F.I.R.) making them run helter skelter, would only one person be hit and killed or there would be more targets hit when the PGA men ran halter skelter? Is U also not believable that even though the PGA fired 250 rounds, some on the police party suddenly attacking them not a single policemen was injured? It is specially noteworthy because it is admitted by the SDPO that the PGA men are better trained than the police. If the PGA and the police were engaged in a two hour long encounter, there was no advantage of surprise to the police as mentioned by the SDM.

The version of the villagers that Surendra Bhagat had gone to Bijaura in connection with the rally in Delhi is quite credible (believable) because if they had told us a concocted story there was nothing to prevent them from saying that they saw the police arrest and shoot the decease, but they never claimed to have witnessed his arrest and killing. They cited the Chaukidar as their source of information though they know that the Chaukidar would never dare corroborate their version if asked.

Even the villager who was arrested only said that he had seen the deceased in the police custody at Nagauli and does not claim to have witnessed his shooting by the police. These facts make their statements reliable and trust worthy. It is further significant that none in the locality we spoke to confirmed an encounter between the police and the Naxalites/party as they are called. However, man said that they heard sounds of firing but not numerous or prolonged. Though they did not claim to be a witness of it, there was none we met who did not say that the deceased was killed by the police in a fake encounter.

In the light of the facts and circumstances discussed above, we have come to the following conclusion:

  1. The deceased Surendra Bhagat was Zonal Secretary of Majdoor Kisan Sangrami Parishad and was at Bijaura in connection with the rally to be held in Delhi.
  2. He was caught somewhere near the village during the raid by the police which had gone to nab the PGA.
  3. It is true that the armed squad of the C.P.I. (ML) PWG was present at Nagauli, but managed to run away before being surrounded by the police.
  4. The deceased Surendra Bhagat was killed in cold blood and not in an encounter with the PGA which is the glaring instance of gross violation of human right which is either permissible under the Law of the land not it appeases the human conscience in any way.
  5. Disposal of the dead body: The police showed a callous disregard for the feelings of the 80 year old father of the deceased in not handing over the body of his son to him. An indecent haste was shown in disposing of the dead body presumably to ward off the possibility of a second post mortem being demanded. It is common knowledge that D.M. reports are manipulated to hide inconvenient facts in the case of custodial death and fake encounters.

Recommendation:

  • A case u/s 302 should be registered and handed over to the C.B.I.
  • A sum of Rs. two lakh be paid to the family of the deceased as compensation.


Note: Majdoor Kisan Sangrami Parishad is not a banned organisation, but is believed to be related to CPI (ML) PWG.

Prabhakar Sinha, National Vice-president; Ramchandra Lal Das, President, Bihar PUCL; Kishori Das, General Secretary; Mithilesh Kumar, Secretary

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