PUCL Bulletin, March 2001

Bihar PUCL:

Report on Moonidih police attack

- By Ramchandra Lal Das, President, Bihar PUCL.
Vikas Kumar Sinha, Treasurer, Dhanbad PUCL.
Maghdesh Kumar, Secretary, Dhanbad PUCL

On receipt of information with respect to the police firing at Moonidih, a three member committee of enquiry was constituted consisting of PUCL State President, Ram Chandra Lal Das along with two others, Vikash Kumar Sinha and Maghdesh Kumar, member of Dhanbad district branch of Bihar PUCL. The committee visited the place of occurrence on 15.10.2000 and interviewed the people involved in the incident as well as the victims who sustained injury in the firing. The committee interviewed dozens of eyewitnesses who not only saw the incidence but actively participated in the agitation culminating in the alleged firing. As per their version more than two thousands were staging dharna on rail track carrying coal from Moonidih Colliery and to make provision of the supply of drinking water from the management. (HERE)

Owing to prolonged spell of agitation the management was under acute pressure to deal with the situation, since it was of its own creation. They approach the local police administration [asking] them to break the agitation by hook or crook. The local police also had a grudge against the agitating people as they were not being allowed to extract their money from the illegal work such as dice player and unauthorized coal lifters whom they have patronised, as usual. Weighes by larger vested interests and duly influenced and fed by the colliery, they conspired in tightening the noose over the agitation.

On 11.10.2000, the birthday of Late Jayaprakash Narayan the people were enthusiastic and in high spirit for agitation. They were chanting songs and raising slogans like 'either provide electricity and water or send us to jail.' (PANI DO BIJLI DO NAHIN TO JAIL DO). In the meantime the rack laden with coal proceeded towards Bokaro through the rail track where the agitationists were sitting, in a bid to see that rail stops. It was 9 am morning when the train was stopped from proceeding further. A memorandum of demands was given to the railway crew and requested not to move ahead in token of support for their genuine demands. The train was detained up to 3 pm when it was intercepted by the local rail police. The police agreed to detach the engine from the boggy. In the meantime the police took the opportunity of the reigning chaos and tried to nab the people and forcing them to wind up the agitation. Most of them were ladies and were subjected to verbal abuses by the cops in a filthy tone. And then suddenly, the police party started beating the people as they were well adamant not to budge even an inch from the place of Dharna; however they were always ready to be taken to jail.

The beating was so severe and brutal in nature, that that women folk and children specially received several injuries on their vital parts by lathis and hard hitting blows on soles and knees by the butt of the rifle. Due to this uncalled for beating most of the people ran away in fear of their lives but some of the more stubborn people in the agitation remained there unmoved. The remaining people though very few in number received repeated hard blows on their mouth, waist andlegs. The news of this police assault spread in the area like wild fire and the people from all sides started pouring in on the site to resist the police attack. The agitation had been completely nonviolent and peaceful and they professed their faith in Gandhi and JP. But after brutal lathi charge by the police the mob became much more angry and they showed their intension to resist it to any extent and in that manner the surrounding villagers used the traditional means of defence ---they started throwing stone and bamboo sticks in the air. The police party was sixty in number and fully armed with rifle and lathis but due to the presence of move then two thousands villagers surrounding them in protest, they took their heels in fear of their life. The injured people were carried to the local hospital run by the BCCL though many of them were simply dragged to their respective villages for providing medical aid.

In the Hospital itself the police party rushed and nabbed the seven persons namely Dabhan Mahto, Hari Prasad, Prahlad Karmakar, Ismaile, Ansari, Maheswar Mahto, and Bhagirath Mahto. These persons were badly beaten even at the hospital while they were receiving treatment and were dragged forcefully to the police station where again they received beating. The victims remained confined for two days in police custody and thereafter they were sent to judicial custody.

In this connection it is very pertinent to note that at the time of firing there was no deployment of any magistrate at the site nor were the victims were produced before the judicial magistrate concerned while being taken into custody. This is gross violation of criminal procedure code as well as natural justice and the fair trial.

The enquiry team next visited the local police and interviewed the officer in charge, Mr.Bachchan Misra at Moonidih under whose jurisdiction, the place of occurrence falls. Misra contradicted the aforesaid version and made counter allegations against the agitationists and justified the police action, which was resorted to save their life in self defence. Save and except supporting the FIR in toto he did not say anything. On the other hand he cast aspersions on the activities of the agitationists as being the part of a conspiracy to create panic and terror in the area. He showed exhibits seized from the place of occurrence. Which according to him, are subversive in nature. But on perusal of the same they were found to be insignificant.

The enquiry team also interviewed the injured women. An old lady, namely Akli Mahtain of Moonidih village was languishing with serious injury in her leg without any medical aid; she was even not provided with two square meals. The incident was further supported by the all the villagers including the women who were present on the site and who received minor injury inflicted by the police.

The enquiry team met the prisoners in Dhanbad District Jail. They were interviewed personally and were allowed to narrate the plight undergone at the hands of police. All the detainees had marks of injury on their body which are as follows.

  1. Darbari Mahto: Injury on the head, fingers of the hand, badly damaged, internal pain on waist due to severe beating by lathi. He was having unbearable pain in the entire body besides having injury on leg too.
  2. Ismaile Ansari: Injuries were found on finger, swelling on thigh, complained of effort of uprooting beard by police at the time of arrest.
  3. Maheswar Mahto: Swelling on his cheek, a very serious injury was still there on the upper part of his right hand. Having pain in waist and leg, resulting from hard blows by lathi and butt of the rifle.
  4. Bhagirath Prasad: Injury on left hand, a black sign over his thigh and buttock, which is though internal in nature but was unbearable till that time.

The others like Hari Prasad and Prahlad Karmakar also received various injuries on their body. Some of them complained that they had been to hospital to see the injured people who were they were arrested without any fault and any involvement of the alleged incident.

Shri Durbari Mahto said the police had taken away his diary and money of worth Rs.200/-. No inventory was prepared of those recovery. It was further complained that Prahlad Vishwakarma, Bhagirath, Maheshwar Mahto and Hari Prasad were arrested in the hospital, while they were attending the seriously injured victim of police atrocity without any fault on their part. Not only this, but the rice, pulse and potato that they purchased from the market was also seized.

One person named Sudher Mahto is still hospitalized who had received serious injury on his head which may be fatal for his life as his head has been broken and there is constant bleeding. The seriousness of his injury has not received any notice from the authority and no help whatsoever been made available from any corner. He is struggling for life, totally uncared., neglected and deliberately left to his destiny. Dilip Tiwari, Secretary of the Chhotanagar Vikas Sangh was arrested from the court room itself while he was on way to make Pairvi of detainees. Although there is no evidence that he was ever been charged for any offence whatsoever or that he had indulged in any violence.

The accused alleged that the disgruntled police force unleashed unhounded terror on the detainees in the Hospital itself then they were severely beaten and the same was continued in the police lock up also. It was further alleged that Inspector Mahendra Nath Tiwari slapped the victims and asked officers to assault by lathi and rifle butt even in the Putki PS.

The genesis of this incident is that the villages, namely Moonidih basti, Garbudih, Karitanr fall under the coal bearing base on which the Moonidih coalliery, a subsidiary of BCCL is operating mines, as per agreements and under the dictates of rehabilitation policy of the government of India. The villages, Moonidih and Garbudih were provided with electricity and water facility in the year 1993. The facilities continued till 1999. All of a sudden Mr. MS Gill, the present GM created trouble. The hardships of the people were further aggravated when there was acute shortage of drinking water as a result of the closure of the wells; this led to the emission of Methane Gas. The sudden trouble is the outcome of unscientific and illegal mining much beyond the purview of rules of mines safety and environmental protection and ecological balance. The colliery has carried out intensive underground digging of coal beneath the geographical area of the village. The colliery extracted the coal without cautioning the residents. No compensation has been paid to them in any manner and the mining was done clandestinely in a very negligent, reckless and arbitrary manner. Due to this illegal unscientific mining a hughe hole was created in the crust of the earth, leading to severe jerks and resulting in cracks in the field houses and roads. People have been living in a state of panic and insecurity.

The wells and tube wells suddenly caught fire due to ignition of Methane Gas pouring out. To save their skin, the BCCL Management immediately sealed the source of water. The cracks in the house were not repaired immediately. It came to their knowledge that in spite of all the precautions taken by them, many more houses still remain unprepared but all the source of water has been duly sealed. The cracks in the field are so enormous that these devoured one buffalo.

People's resistance took shape in the present agitation under the banner of Chhotanagar Action resulting in blocking of the railway track to pressurize management to negotiate a settlement of the dispute. The blockage of rail by squatting on the track was completely peaceful and without any violence whatsoever. However they were always ready to be taken to jail.

On the basis of a detailed enquiry and examining the witness, it was found that the police action was quite unwarranted and amounts to excessive exercises of power and unjustified use of force. The police and entire administration are in cahoots with the BCCL. The most pitiable part of the story is that the area has been totally left at the mercy of the BCCL. The State administration has completely abdicated its duty to provide safety and security to the people. The entire area covering ten villagers does not have any communication. Public distribution system is absent and there are no drinking water facilities. The BCCL in spite of clear agreement on the matter do not provide drinking water, in fact it has been sealed by them.

The stubborn attitude of the BCCL and apathy of the State administration led to the agitation. The arbitrary action of the police perpetrated by the inhuman action of the BCCL amounts to gross violation human rights. The police action in this connection is much more vindictive and uncalled for and has been done in utter disregard of several Supreme Court verdicts. Non-compliance of the aforesaid direction of the highest court of the land not only makes the erring police officer liable for departmental proceeding, rather it is a clear case of contempt. The officer in charge Mr. Bachchan Mishra of Moonidih O.P. along with all his associates are guilty of dereliction of duty.

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