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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Jharkhand: Villagers Framed As Naxals Rot In State Jails

By Fauz Raheel | Ranchi

While on the one hand the Jharkhand government has been initiating measures and plans to make sure Naxals surrender and are given handsome rehabilitation packages, the police have been framing innocent villagers as Naxalites and putting them in jails in the hundreds.

Across the jails in the districts of Ranchi, Khunti, Saraikela, Chaibasa and some others there are many villagers who are desperately hoping to be free one day. Even after being freed, however, hardly anyone is able to lead a normal life. Naxal groups spot such people and motivate them to join their ranks to get back at the police and the administration. In many cases innocent men and women framed as Naxals end up joining the Naxal groups to save themselves from further harassment by the police.
 The police, on the other hand, have supported or helped form groups such as Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC), Jharkhand Prastuti Committee (JPC), People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI), Jharkhand Jan Mukti Parishad (JJMP) and Jharkhand Liberation Tigers (JLT) with state support. These groups have come into direct clashes with Naxals and innocent villagers in some areas, which has only led to bloodying of the politics in the region.

A resident of the Kundrugutu village of Bandgaon area in the West Singhbhum district, Salan Purti was jailed for over a year before being freed. He had initially gone through a training programme of the Bharat Sevashram Sangh in handloom and used to earn his livelihood making clothes; some of his clients included policemen. Since being released from jail he has started pig farming to sustain himself.

On 22 January 2010 Salan was informed that he the officer at the Tebo police station had called for him. But the policemen who accompanied him instead took him to the Chakradharpur police station, where he was asked whether he knew the zonal commander of the Naxals; to which he replied that he had only heard his name. He was then taken to the Bandgaon police station where he was made to sign 3-4 blank sheets of paper and then thrown behind bars, but never presented before a magistrate, which is a violation of his rights since everyone is to be presented before the court within 24 hours of arrest. 

After 5-6 days he was sent to the Chaibasa police station and then presented before the court in Chaibasa, where he was asked whether he was a Naxalite. He says that the police pressured him to accept before the court that he was a Naxal but he refused to do so. He was later informed that he had been charged under the section 17 of the CLA Act and would be charged under charges of sedition too. While Salan had no understanding of the law he could sense that he was being branded a Naxal, after which he filed appeals in the courts against the charges against him. Two cases were filed against him, out of which in one he was granted bail by the district court while in the other he got bail from the High Court.

Salan says that after he got out of jail Naxal groups started approaching him but he declined the offer. “Had I not been concerned about my wife and children I too would have joined the Naxals. But the local bank officer encouraged me to stay on track and work towards the development of the village,” he says. After meeting the same bank officer one day when he was heading home policemen in civil clothes apprehended him at gun point; they beat him severely and forced him into the police jeep, dragging him to the Chaibasa office of the Superintendent of Police (SP) Pankaj Kamboj. The SP, after confirming that nobody had spotted Salan being brought in, threatened to put a cloth in his mouth and have him run over by a police vehicle. Salan was later taken to the Chakradharpur police station, where Kamboj met him again at night and then ordered his release.

But before being released the station in-charge Sakaldev Ram forced him to sign 2-3 blank papers and it later turned out that the police had charged him under the Arms Act. They had claimed that he had been arrested from the house of a known Naxal around 7-8 pm that day and that a locally made pistol had been recovered from him. The police claimed the same in the court, although he had actually been picked up in the afternoon. 

The local media too reported the matter based on the police’s report and never tried to confirm the facts. Salan’s wife Salomi says that some policemen visited the house again and claimed that the family had helped hide the zonal commander of the Naxals in their house and that a handsome amount of cash was also there in the house, to which she said they could search the house. The policemen did not do so and just left.

In another strange case, Rohda Manjhi, a resident of the Jisuabeda village of the Pirtand police station area in Giridih district, was jailed for over a year and declared a hardcore Naxal because he could not answer their questions. His colleagues say that Manjhi used to stay in the forests and had very little contact with local villagers or city dwellers so could not speak Hindi. He could only converse in the Santhali language and so could not understand a word of what the policemen asked him.

As per the Human Rights Law Network there are 39 villagers lodged in the Chaibasa jail against whom the police have not been able to prove the charges of being members of Naxal groups. Ramlal Soi has been lodged in the jail for two and a half years and has been charged under sections 147, 148, 149, 216 and 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) along with the Arms Act and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). Soi, 50, does not even know what the meaning of these acts is since the defence lawyer has not cared to tell him anything about it. Similarly, Kalyan Barjo, Gonda Nag, Kujur Gargi and many such people have been in jail for almost 3 years now despite the fact that the police have not been able to prove charges against any of them till date.

There are 49 people lodged in the Khunti jail under similar charges, more half of them arrested in 2010-11. 

Similarly there are 20 such people in the Ranchi jail and 16 people in the Saraikela-Kharsavan jail against whom the police have not been able to prove the charges. While the cases drag on, the innocent tribals are forced to go through hardships in the jails.
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