PUCL Bulletin, February 2005
Report of the Bihar PUCL:
Police terror at Nauagarhi, P.S. Mufassil, district Munger since august 17, 2004
– By Prabhakar Sinha, Kishori Das, Mithilesh Kumar
The Bihar State PUCL constituted a committee consisting of Dr. Prabhakar Sinha, National Vice-President, Kisohri Das, General Secretary and Mithilesh Kumar, Secretary to enquire into the allegation reign of terror let loose by the police on the inhabitants of Nauagarhi since 17.08.2004. The General Secretary and the Secretary visited the village on 27.08.2004 and made a preliminary enquiry.
It was followed by the visit of the full committee on 13.9.2004. The terrified villagers, who had not fled the village or those who were in hiding in the neighbourhood, came out in a large number to tell the committee their tale of woe. They included men, women and young men including students from school and college Some of the people who spoke to the committee included Vijay Tanti (who runs a private school) Sintu Kumari, a young woman who runs a coaching schools, Pankaj Kumar, a college students, Dr. S.P. Prasad, a Homeopathic doctor and an elderly man, Harilal Mandal (75), Pyarelal Mandal, Ras Bihari Mandal, Rajiv Kumar, Asha Devi, Anju Devi, Bhubaneshwari Devi, Gyatri Devi, Anjali Devei and Nirmala Devi. The committee also met the Officer in charge of the Mufassil Thana Navin Prasad (Paswan) and went through several F.I.Rs. filed in connecting with the incidents taking place at the place.
The villagers also submitted photocopies of the relevant press reports and a pamphlet issued on behalf of the Bhagat Singh Memorial Students Committee popularly known as the B.M.S.C. and referred to as such in this report.
It is a ‘Kasba’ (town) situated on Patna Bhagalpur Road at a distance of about nine kilometers to the east of Munger. Parts of village are known as Mahadvpur, Totaha and Maniarchak i.e. in addition to Nauagarhi. The inhabitants belong to the backward and Dalit communities, namely, Tanti, Bania, Dhanuk Rajak (washerman) Pasi, Thakur (Nai), Dom, Gangota, Swarnakar (goldsmith) Ravidas, Barhi, Yadav, Gorhi, Kanu, Sao and Kewat. Though they belong to backward and Dalit communities, they are not very poor as is the case of the people from these communities in general. They are better than their counterparts elsewhere because many of them work outside the state and are not dependent on the local employment and wages which are meager. It is a pleasant surprise to find the inhabitants full of self confidence and pride with women not lagging behind men. The young men are very articulate to be full of noble sentiments and idealism. They young were angry men seething with moral indignation born of righteousness. The women, too, showed unusual self confidence and boldness.
Bhagat Singh Memorial Students Club and Sangrami Mahila Samiti
The young men, who all belonged to the B.M.S.C., said that outraged by the atrocity committed by the local police and the ‘Rangdars’ (goons) they decided to make the people conscious of their rights and teach them to oppose and end the atrocity from which they had been suffering. With this in view, they formed the B.M.S.C. and organized young men including students to oppose the numerous acts of exploitation of the poor by the police as well as the local goons. They alleged that the police regularly took away vegetables etc. from the poor sellers, 4 kerosene cans (from the poor men selling it on the road side), forced the owners to let them use their tractors for patrolling without payment, allowed gambling to make money from it, implicated villagers in some cases in which they were named to extort money, and took money from them for the favour of letting them off.
They claimed that after they organized the B.M.S.C. the atrocities ended because the organization took up cudgel on behalf of the people, fought against injustice committed by the police, other officers, contractors, local Rangdars and other criminals. According to them they had succeeded in ridding the people of their area of the scourge of extortion and other forms of exploitation by the police and the anti social elements. They also claimed to have organized the Sangrami Mahila Samiti, which also participated in the fight against injustice.
They stated that they had no relation with any political party, organization or ideology. Bhagat Singh to them was a symbol of fight against injustice, and they were inspired by similar idealism. The Sangrami Mahila Samiti was also a purely local organization and had no relation with any organization of similar name elsewhere.
The PUCL committee paid close attention to the issues which they took up with a view to ascertain their claim that they had no political affiliation and was inclined to believe that they spoke the truth. This view was further strengthened by the categorical statement of the Officer incharge of Mufassil Thana Navin Kumar that they had no political affiliation and had become very conscious of their power so much so that they expected even the police to enter their area with their permission. The committee also found that they had no outside support in the hour of their distress and had to fend for themselves which had become very difficult with the police pouncing upon anyone from the village and sending him to jail. From all the available evidence, one comes to the conclusion that it is a case of a clash between a group of young men seething with righteous indignation at the unjust ways of our police and the police, which is intolerant of anyone questioning even illegal action.
The chain of events leading to the reign of terror, 03.08.2004
The Mufassil police arrested one Prasadi Sharma on the charge of selling illegal liquor. He was at the time of arrest in possession of two bottles of illegally brewed liquor. He belonged to the Maniachak Tola of Nauagarhi. It was the day of ‘Haat’ (temporary Bazar) and the Bhagat Singh Chowk was crowded with the people from Nauagarhi and adjoing villages. When the villagers saw Prasidi Sharma in the police jeep, they surrounded the jeep and wanted to know why he was arrested. They forced the police to release the arrested person. The police finding itself surrounded by the agitated villagers allowed Prasadi Sharma to go and returned back. However, an F.I.R. was registered against 15 named persons from Maniarchak (case no. 177/2004, Mufassil P.S.).
10.8.2004: When the members of the B.M.S.C. came to know of the case instituted against the villagers, they went to meet the Dy. S.P. Vinod Kumar, who told them that the case was being looked into by the S.P. Munger Jai Prakash Narain Singh. They went to meet the S.P., who according to them, refused to meet them saying they were extremists (Ugrawadi). Following a heated argument between the guards on duty and the members or the B.M.S.C. the guards allegedly roughed them up and drove them out. They, then, went to the District Magistrate, who according to them, promised to get the matter examined by the S.P.
11.08.2004: 25 to 30 women sat on a daylong Dharna near the Bhagat Singh Chowk demanding withdrawal of the case against their co-villagers, but no official came to meet them.
17.8.2004: The people of the village resorted to the jamming of the main road from 9 a.m. demanding to see the D.M. and the S.P. Instead, the Dy. S.P. went to the place which did not satisfy them (the villagers). There was incidents of stone pelting by the incensed crowd resulting injuries on police that included Dy. S.P. conse1quently the police with drew from there. The police later returned in much greater number and resorted to bursting of tear gas shells and lathi charged and also resorted to firing. The villagers were chased away by the police that followed them to their houses and beat them up. The police also entered the houses of the people and vandalized them. After chasing, beating and vandalizing their houses, several persons were arrested also. As many as five cases were instituted against a large number of named and unnamed accused.
The version of the people
The villagers including some members of the B.M.S.C. said that a few person were involved in brewing liquor illegally. They are very poor and do it at a very small scale. There are two persons who have the license to sell liquor in the locality. The police are in league with them and conducts raids against the illegal sellers of alcohol at their behest. On 3.8.2004, the police arrested Prasadi Sharma with two bottles of liquor. It was the day of ‘Haat’ (Bazar) and when the villagers saw him in the police custody, they surrounded the police and asked for the reason for his arrest. Not satisfied with the reply, they compelled the police party led by Navin Prasad, Officer in Charge, Mufassil P.S. to release him. The police returned leaving him behind, but instituted cases against 17 persons charging them with various offences. 8 to 10 persons met the Dy. S.P. on 8.8.2004, with a memorandum for withdrawal of the cases. Later they went to see the S.P. on 18.8.2004. 8 to 10 persons met the Dy. S.P. on 10.8.2004, but he refused to see them on the ground that they were ‘Ugrawadis’ (extremists).}
They alleged that they were also roughed up by the guards there. Then, they saw the D.M. who assured them that he would ask the S.P. to look into the matter. However, nothing came out of it. On 11.8.2004, women sat on ‘Dharna’ at the Bhagat Singh Chowk, but no official took any notice of them. At about 11 a.m. the Dy. S.P. Jamalpur, Binod Kumar arrived, but failed to satisfy the angry people and began to fire. There were 25 to 26 policemen including the Officers in charge of Mufassil and Rampur P.S. in response, some people hurled stones on the police party. Those people acted at the instance of the police to bring a bad name to the peaceful demonstrators. However, a few eyewitnesses from the village said that stones were first hurled at the Dy. S.P., who got injured. Then a few rounds were fired, but none was injured. The police party withdrew from the scene. Some people overturned a government jeep which was there and set fire to it.
It was at about 2.30 p.m that the police returned in a large number. According to their estimate, there were about 300 policemen that included several officers. Some local leaders asked them (the representatives of the villagers) to accompany them to the officers for a talk, but while they were proceeding towards them, the police began bursting teargas shells followed by a lathi charge. The villagers who had been blocking the road ran for safety towards the village, but were chased by the police. It was then that the ‘Tandav’ (a dance of destruction) by the police began.
Dance of destruction by the police
According to the villagers, the police followed the fleeing villagers upto Mahadevpur, Totaha and Maniarchak abusing and beating anyone including women and children they met. They forcibly entered houses without discrimination, destroyed property, beat up inmates including the old and took away money, gold and any thing else of value.
The following persons narrated their tale of suffering and showed the committee their destroyed articles or complained of valuables taken away:
a. Sintu Kumari is a young women, who runs a coaching school in her house. Her house was totally vandalized. Her computer was taken away, its printer and her TV set were smashed into pieces, so were any other article found in her house.
Her boxes were forced open and articles destroyed or allegedly taken away. It was alleged that her Suzuki motor cycle, gas oven, jewellery and other valuables were taken away by the police. The police allegedly took away Rupees twenty five thousand in cash also. Her house presented a scene of complete destruction in which not one article was left intact. Though she was present on the first visit of the PUCL, she had left the village for fear of being arrested on our second visit. The house was shown to the committee by her relatives who were there.
b. Prakash Sharma is a carpenter. His house was broken open by the police who forced their way in and began beating two of his sons, namely, Pankaj Kumar and Neeraj Kumar. When the mother of the two pleaded with the police to spare them she, too, was roughed up by them. The two young men were taken away and sent to the jail.
c. Anuplal Mandal is a farmer. The police smashed the tiles on the roof of his house and took away his new tractor which was in his name. He said that he was in jail in case involving murder and had been released on bail only a few days ago. His son was also wanted in the case, but was not arrested till then. The policemen asked Rupa Kumari, the daughter of his nephew to give them the key to the house. When she refused the 16 year old girl was beaten up by the police. Harilal Mandal of the same family said that they took away Rupees twenty five hundred from the house which was kept for paying the installment of the loan for the tractor. He also accused the police of taking away other things also from the boxes they had broken open.
d. Ranjan Tanti’s house was also attacked and all articles taken away by the police. He has fled away from the village.
e. Dudhi Paswan’s grandson Gyan Shankar was caught by the police while he was going to fetch medicine. He was beaten up and sent to the jail.
f. Siddheshwar Gupta alleged that the police entered his house and began to beat his grandson mercilessly. When he begged them to spare him, they beat him badly. They snatched from his lap his one year old grandson and threw him on the ground. They left while taking his grandson Pramod Kumar with them.
g. Mani Devi complained that the police entered her house and beat up her ten year old daughter named Gudia, They took Sikandar Gupta along with them.
h. Asha Devi said that the police beat her up and took away her gold chain, a pair of ‘Payal’ and rupees two thousand. When she filed a complaint in a court, the police visited her on 10.09.2004, abused her in the filthiest of language and asked her to withdraw the case. They threatened her with dire consequences if she did not comply.
i. Pabitri Devi said that the police began beating the children as soon as they arrived at about 4 P.M., “when I protested, they beat me also. They also broke into my house and took away rupees four hundred fifty which I had with me.’’
j. Dukhi Thakur’s one-year-old son was lifted up and thrown on the ground by the police. We (i.e. the PUCL) saw the child with one of his arms in plaster.
k. Dr. S. Prasad, who is a homeopathic doctor, said that he saw the police beating Pankaj Kumar and Neeraj Kumar and also the roughing up of their mother by the police when she begged for mercy to them. He also saw that one of the boys was forced to accompany the police in his undergarments.
l. Gayatri Devi said that on 19.08.2004, the Officer in charge of Briarpur Baijnath Chowdhary, of Mufassil Navin prasad and of Naya Ram Nagar Deo, Kishore Prasad arrived with a big force at 5.15 in the morning. When there was a slight delay in opening the door they began to climb on the roof of the house. Just then her maternal grand father Ram Ratan Prasad opened the door. Baijnath Prasad said “yahi hai Parmodawa ka ghar (this is the house of Pramod), Buddha Sala Ugrawadi Palta hai (The old fellow keeps an extremist)”. Saying this, he began to beat the old man with slaps as well as with butt of the rifle.
Ram Ratan Prasad was dragged to the courtyard and the policemen were ordered to search for Pramod, They entered all the rooms, vandalised whatever they could lay their hand on and abused in the filthiest language her Mamis (maternal aunts) and Nani (maternal grand mother). They forced them to part with the gold ornaments which they were wearing: gold bracelets, chains three in number, earrings, and took them away along with Rupees five thousand and watches. When her mother Munni Devi came, in her ornaments were also taken away.
j. Bhubanshwari Devi complained that a quarrel took place between her son and one Gautam Kumar Sao. She filed an FIR with the Mufassil police but she discovered that the police implicated in the same case Anil Kewat and many others with whom she had no quarrel. They have been charged with ‘Rangdari and also rape.
n. Many men and women came forward to tell the committee several incidents of atrocity to which they had been witnesses. They also informed the Committee that a large number of the villagers had fled away because the police was indiscriminately arresting people and implicating them in false cases.
The observation of the committee
The Committee found clinching evidence of terror in the village. A large number of houses were locked since the inmates had fled from the village due to the fear of the police. In fact, even those families which had members working in influential positions in the government had fled due to the fear of the police. Those arrested were not receiving proper help because nobody felt safe enough to go to Munger court to do ‘Pairvi’. The police had instituted cases against named as well as unknown persons and arrested anyone the liked. The terror was so great that while the villagers were talking to the Committee of the PUCL, someone informed them that the police were seen in the area they young men bagged to be excused and hastily disappeared. They returned only after learning that the police were not visiting their village.
The Committee also visited several houses which were alleged to have been vandalised. They found Situ Kumari’s house in a shambles and evidence of damage in many other houses. Some of the houses with tell tale evidence of damage were those of Anup Mandal, Pabitri Devi and a few others. The allegation of theft of ornaments, cash or sackful of what (as alleged by Harilal Mandal) was difficult to verity. However, terror of the police was evident everywhere.
The version of the police
Navin Kumar the Officer in charge of Mufassil Thana, who has also filed the F.I.R. on 3.8.2004 and 17.8.2004 spoke to the committee and was cooperative in furnishing information. He stated that he has received a written request from Nav Chetna Samiti to stop the sale of illegal liquor in the area. On 3.8.2004, they went to Nauagarhi without anticipating any trouble. So he was not accompanied by more than the usual number of policemen. He made an arrest there of a man with illegal liquor. He was surrounded by a crowd which demanded to se the warrant of arrest. The crowd wanted the arrested person released. Not wanting to open fire, I released the man. On return, I informed the higher authorities, who instructed me to file a case which I did.
On 17.8.2004, they jammed the road at Nauagarhi. The police reached there with the S.D.O. and D.S.P. Madan Mukhiya, Vikas Tanti, Pramod Sao, Binod Sao, Nawal Sao, Sintu Kumari came and began to hurt brickbats ‘We were mentally not prepared to open fire, so we returned. Later with the A.D.M. (Additional District Magistrate) and tear gas etc. we went fully prepared and also fired 15 rounds. We arrested a few persons even beating them. We recovered the pamphlets of B.M.S.C. and an album with photographs from Pramod’s house.
The second day, we raided the house of Madan Mukhia and arrested him. We also recovered three books of the M.C.C. These people had damaged and broken the glass of the vehicles of the Executive Magistrate and the A.D.M. Earlier a murder had taken place at Bariarpur, but these people had blocked the road at Nauagarhi. They hurled brickbats on the occasion causing injuries to a person (going by a tractor) who subsequently died in the Patna Medical College and Hospital. The road was Jammed under the banner of B.M.S.C. Earlier, they had also damaged the glass of a government bus. These all people are not political and do all these to established their supremacy (Varchaswa). Last year, they had misbehaved with an officer during the flood relief work also. In fact, they have made it their habit to block the road at Nauagarhi (aae din ye log Nauagarhi me Sarak Jam Karte Rahte Hain).
To fight the police they demand ‘Rangdari’ against which a case has been filed which is case No. 209/04. There are other cases against them arising out of the incident of 17.8.2004 (187/04, 188/04, 190/04, 191/04 and 192/04). 18 persons were arrested on 17.08.2004 and one person on 19.8.2004. We continue to visit the village to arrest some people.
The committee asked the following questions to which he answered as follows:
PUCL: Are you aware of the direction of the Supreme Court regarding the procedure to be followed by the police while arresting a person?
Navin Kumar: No, I have received the copy of the judgement only yesterday. I am not aware of its contents.
PUCL: Did the police indulge in beating and destruction of property at the village during the raid of the village ?
Navin Kumar: How was it possible with the senior officers present there ?
PUCL: Did you take away the tractor of Anuplal Yadav from his house ?
Navin Kumar: Yes, there is an order of attachment of his property because his son is an absconder in a murder case. The tractor is there. (he pointed to a tractor in the thana compound and also showed us the attachment order against Anuplal’s son).
When pointed out that the tractor belonged to Anuplal Mandal and not his son whose (i.e. Anup Lal’s Son’s) how could he attach it, he said, “He can move the court for the release of his tractor.”
Findings of the committee
- The police acted within the framework of the law in arresting Prasadi Sharma, who was admittedly involved in the illegal sale of liquor and was in possession of two bottles liquor at the time of his arrest. The police also acted sensibly in releasing him on the demand of the agitated villagers rather than resorting to the use of force.
- The police acted with restraint in withdrawing from Nauagarhi in the forenoon of 17 August, 2004 when attacked by the villagers blocking the Patna Bhagalpur Road with brickbats in which the Dy. S.P. was admittedly injured. Their return in the afternoon with more police force and higher officers was warranted, as the administration could be expected to allow the road to remain blocked indefinitely.
- The Additional District Magistrate, who arrived with the police, failed in his duty in so far as he did not make any effort to get the blockade lifted by talking to the villagers, whose sole demand was to meet the senior officers but he resorted to road clearing by use of force and swung into action immediately after his arrival. The allegation in the F.I.R. that the crowd resorted to murderous attack on them using fire arms appears to be concocted, specially because no fire arm was recovered from the arrested persons. (Though we could not meet the A.D.M., the F.I.R. does not mention any effort having been made by him to talk to the villagers).#
- Though the administration did not make any effort to get the road cleared without use of force, the force used at the place of occurrence was not excessive as nobody sustained grievous injury, and even through the police fired fifteen rounds nobody was hit. Clearly, the fire was opened to scare and not to kill or cause injury. This conclusion is inescapable in view of the fact that the Police Mannual forbids firing in the air or firing blank shots with which Magistrates and police officers are bound to be familiar. ~
- However, the conduct of the police in raiding the village, indiscriminately beating men, women, children and the old, breaking open houses, destroying property and humiliating the entire population is reminiscent of the police during the British Raj and is unpardonable. It is a disgrace in a democracy and is not only condemnable but also deserving of severe punishment.
- The Supreme Court direction in the D.K. Basu case in arresting the villagers has been treated with utmost contempt on all counts. The responsible authorities cannot be allowed to take shelter behind the claim of ignorance as was done by the officer in charge of Mufassil Thana.
- The C.B.I. should be entrusted with the case involving the unauthorized breaking into the houses, destroying property, indiscriminately beating men, women, children, and the old and also the allegation of loot and theft. The guilty must be punished to put an end to the mob like behaviour of the police and to make them observe the law of the land.
- Appropriate action should be taken against those responsible for violating the mandatory direction of the Supreme Court in D.K. Basu case. The guilty should be punished for contempt of court in addition to being proceeded departmentally as directed by the Supreme Court.
- The police should be made more accountable for indiscriminately involving people in cases to prevent implication of innocent persons in false cases, as is the common practice today. Some legal provision should be made to prevent this malpractice so rampant in the country.
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