Encounter deaths of two PWG activists at Edu village, Karkala
A PUCL-Karnataka fact-finding investigation report
30 November 2003
General secretaries, PUCL Karnataka
Newspapers in Karnataka on 17.11.03 carried a report of the deaths of
Parvathi and Haajima, two activists of People’s War Group, in an
encounter with the police at Edu village in Karkala, Udipi district, Karnataka,
on 17.11.03. Another activist Yashoda was injured in the shooting, and
was hospitalized, while Anand and Vishnu, two male members o the PW group,
escaped. This team had been staying in a house in Edu village that the
police raided on the night of 16.11.03, which resulted in this encounter.
In connection with this encounter incident, the People’s Union
for Civil Liberties (Karnataka) held a press conference at Hotel Woodlands
on November 20, at 5:30 p.m. which was attended by several intellectuals,
eminent citizens and social activists. It was decided in this meeting
that a fact-finding mission led by PUCL-K would visit Edu village of Udupi
Accordingly, a team was formed comprising Dr. Laxminarayana, PUCL State
Secretary at Mysore, Shri Ramdas Rao - PUCL Secretary at Bangalore, Shri.
Maxwell Kumar - PUCL State Secretary & Secretary of
Dakshina Kannada District, Shri. Maridanadaiah, member of PUCL Mysore,
and Shri Lolaksha, leader of SC/ST Federation in Managalore, comprised
the fact-finding team of PUCL along with a number of lawyers and social
activists in this area. The team reached Edu village at 8 a.m. on 23.11.2003.
Edu village in Karkala taluk of Udipi district is a forest area
very near to Naravi between Moodubidhre and Karkala. It is close to the
Kudremukh National park region which has witnessed in recent years a widespread
agitation against the state government’s decision to establish a
National Park by evicting all adivsis and other cultivators of the land
Our team talked to 25-30 people in Naravi, which is close to Edu village,
about the police action and the events leading up to it. They told us
that in the last two years, teams of the People’s War Group (PWG)
had been visiting and meeting adivasis and other people in the area who
would provide food and shelter to them. They used to come at night and
with the people regarding the issue of evictions of adivasis in the Kudremukh
Nationa Park. While many of the PWG activists were armed, they did not
threaten villagers or cause any disturbance in the area. This
was contrary to police reports about the PWG activists harassing and terrorizing
the villagers. We found general support for the PWG’s political
aims, especially about their involvement in the mobilization of the adivasis
in their anti-National Park struggle. The people we talked to were of
the unanimous opinion that unless the government stops its policy of
evicting the tribals in the National Park, the PWG will continue to draw
support and sustenance from adivasis in this area.
However, many of the people we talked to were concerned about the impact
of the PWG's policy of armed incursions into the villages, especially
the police have stepped up their surveillance and combing operations in
the last two months, and often harass innocent villagers and force them
informers against the PWG dalams. In a press statement (released to the
press on 20.11.03), the PWG has vowed to retaliate the killing of its
activists by the police and to punish the informers. It has identified
the slain PWG activists as members of the Netravathi dalam which had been
assigned the task of mobilizing support for an armed struggle against
repression. In this statement, the PWG has asked people to support its
campaign of armed struggle.
events of 16-17 November 2003
Next, we visited the house in Edu village which was the scene of the shooting
incident that took place on 16-17 Nov. 2003. The occupants were at first
reluctant talk to us due to the intimidating presence of the police outside
the house, but after we reassured them that we had come on an independent
fact-finding investigation, they helped us to reconstruct the
events that took place on the night of 16 Nov. 2003. Subsequently, we
met the Police Superintendent of Udipi district and obtained additional
Getting information about the PWG activists staying in the house at Edu,
Shri Murugan, the SP of Udipi district, led a small police force of ten
policemen who reached the house on the night of 16.11.03, and hid themselves
in the cowshed facing the house. With the exception of Parvathi, who was
keeping vigil outside, the other PWG members, namely Ananda, Vishnu, Yashoda,
and Hajima were sleeping inside when the
police surrounded the house and started firing from the cowshed. As Parvathi
ran inside, she was shot at and collapsed in the main hall of the house.
While Ananda and Vishnu managed to escape from the house,
Hajeema and Yashoda (who were both unarmed) ran into one of the smaller
rooms where the police chased them.
The police shot Hajeema in the stomach, and she died instantaneously.
Yashoda tried to escape into a loft in the room, but she was brought down
by the police and shot at and injured. She was taken away in a van to
the hospital at Manipal. The police claim to have recovered from the house
a number of small weapons, including 3 shotguns and a rifle belonging
to the PWG team.
The police account of the encounter
After the investigation at the site of the encounter, we went to Udipi
and met the S.P. of Udipi district, Sri Murugan and recorded his statement:
"Our police department has been for some time keeping a track of
all Naxalite activities in the area. We received authentic information
about a group of Naxalites staying in a house at Edu village, so we quickly
organized a small force of 10 policemen (due to logistical reasons) and
went to the house.
I accompanied the team because I felt it was proper for me to lead my
men from the front. We waited in the cowshed and emerged outside. We found
Parvathi standing guard armed outside and we asked her to surrender. She
fired at us and we had to return the fire. She rushed into the house.
Then the Naxalites started firing at the police in the cowshed, and 2
policemen were injured. Two men among the Naxalites escaped in 2 different
directions and have not been captured yet; they are not in our custody.
We then entered the house and found the dead body of Parvathi in the main
hall. We went to a small room and found a woman (Hajima) who was seriously
injured and later succumbed to her injuries. We found another woman (Yashoda)
hiding in the loft who was also injured and we took her to the hospital.
She has a flesh wound but no serious injuries. No firing took place once
we entered the house. We could not make the Naxalites
surrender because 1. we were a small force of 10 policemen and 2. they
were firing at us constantly.
They were using lethal weapons (with "soft-nosed bullets" used
to kill elephants), and fired 10-12 rounds at us from shot guns and 2
rounds from a rifle. We fired 16 rounds in the exchange of fire."
findings about the shooting
When we examined the house and its surroundings, we found a number
of bullet marks on the front wall and left side wall of the house as well
as in the main hall, indicating that the police had fired continuously
at the house from the cowshed and from one side of the house. In the small
room where Yashoda and Hajima were shot, there were blood marks on the
walls that were smudged with cowdung in an attempt to erase them. When
we examined the shed in front of the house, we did not find any bullet
marks anywhere, in other words, no evidence of firing from the inside
1. On the basis of
a careful examination of the site of the shooting and other circumstances,
the police action of shooting down three naxalites, killing two women
and injuring another, appears to be unwarranted and completely out of
proportion to the nature of provocation/resistance offered. There was
no evidence of any firing from the Naxalites' side, and hence there was
every possibility of avoiding firing and securing the capture of Naxalites.
The fact that the police did not make any serious attempt to capture the
naxalites shows that the police action was a premeditated and extra-judicial
killing, in other words, a fake encounter.
2. The police claim to
have been shot at, but it is not clear what kind of injuries were sustained
by the police, whether from an air gun (as is reported in the newspapers)
or some other lethal weapon. The injured
policemen were discharged shortly after the action.
3. In order to establish
that it was a lawful encounter, the police should have immediately filed
an FIR, which did not happen till about a week after the
4. No charges were filed
against Yashoda, the injured PWG activist, for a week. She was kept in
illegal detention by the police till she filed a
complaint on 21.11.03. She was produced before the magistrate at Karkala
on 22.11.03, and remanded to the police custody. Yashoda is in a considerable
state of distress after the incident, and wants to be produced
before the court immediately.
5. It is clear that the
PWG strategy of armed struggle has led to police repression in the area,
with the supporters of the PWG having to bear the
brunt of the police's counterattack. This has every possibility of leading
to a competitive cycle of violence and counter-violence by the police
PWG militants in the area. This situation, if allowed to continue, can
only displace attention on the broader issue of the people's struggle
Kudremukh National Park.
of the fact-finding team
1. A judicial enquiry by
a sitting judge of the Karnataka high Court has to be
done regarding the encounter.
2. The team of police led
by Shri Murugan must be treated as accused in a murder case and legal
proceedings be initiated against them.
3. There should be no eviction
of adivasis from the Kudremukh National Park.
4. The package of measures
recently announced by the state government should be used for improving
the life of the adivasis, without evicting them.