New Delhi: Civil society organisations have demanded a judicial enquiry into an incident of assault and police firing on Adivasi demonstrators in Bihar’s Kaimur district. Releasing a fact-finding report on Friday, members of the organisations said that the demonstrators “were not just fired upon and injured in the firing and lathi-charged but were also picked up by the police on trumped-up charges”.
According to the report, on September 11, when a delegation of Adivasi protesters tried to reach out to the forest department officials at Adhaura block of Kaimur to initiate a dialogue, they were abused and manhandled by officials.
“Later on, and quite suddenly, more police poured in, along with CRPF personnel, and unleashed a brutal assault on the Adivasi demonstrators. The police opened fire and lathi-charged the protesters,” the report notes.
“During this period, an Adivasi person Prabhu from Chaphana village was shot by a police bullet, the bullet went through his ear and took a chunk of his ear’s muscle tissue. Police lathi-charged Adivasi women, men, youths and children viciously and many were injured which went unreported. Police brutality continued in the aftermaths of this incident as well,” the report further adds.
They claimed that since September 10, thousands of Adivasis, including women, men, youths and children, from 108 villages of Adhaura Block were protesting under the banner of Kaimur Mukti Morcha in front of the forest department office at Adhaura demanding the implementation of the Forest Rights Act 2006 and rollback the proposal of Kaimur Forest Wildlife Sanctuary and Tiger Reserve.
It was also alleged that on September 12, Kaimur Mukti Morcha’s office in Adhaura was ransacked by police. As per the team, seven activists affiliated with Kaimur Mukti Morcha were arrested on false charges by the police. The arrested activists were first kept in police custody and later presented in front of the judicial magistrate of Kaimur district. They were charged under different sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including the Arms Act.
On October 16, all the seven activists were released on bail. Moreover, two days later, in response to the ‘boycott election call’ given by the Kaimur Mukti Morcha (KMM), political heavyweights, including the central minister of state for home, Nityanand Rai, met the protesters in Kaimoor, requesting to call off the boycott call.
Violation of forest rights
The report has been prepared by a four-member team, consisting of Amir Sherwani Khan and Matadayal of All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP), and Raja Rabbi Hussain of Delhi Solidarity Group (DSG) and Aman Khan, an advocate practicing at the Supreme Court. They visited Adhaura between September 23 and 27. The report has been co-published by AIUFWP, DSG and Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP).
Speaking to The Wire, Amir Sherwani Khan, a member of the team said, “The forest department constantly violates FRA 2006 by controlling people’s rights over minor forest produce, which is very important for their livelihood.” Khan further said that Adivasi land is being taken without proper consent from Vansamiti and Gram sabhas.”
“We have demanded a judicial enquiry, because villagers want enquiry and action against the police and forest department, implementation of FRA 2006,” Khan told The Wire. According to him, villagers are panicked and terrified because 29 villagers have been charged in a fake and concocted case with serious charges of IPC, such as 307 (Attempt to murder) and the Arms act.
Other demands of the team included a proper and speedy implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006, scrapping colonial Indian Forest Right Act 1927, quashing the FIR against all the accused people charged under false cases and compensation to the persons who are charged on false cases and were injured by police firing and lathi-charged. They have also demanded to declare Kaimur a Scheduled area under Panchayat (Extension Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996.
Earlier, on September 30, AIUFWP and CJP had registered a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) demanding an FIR against the officials for unleashing violence and hampering the implementation of the Forest Rights Act under Section 3 (i) (g) of the SC/ST Act.
“As organisations committed to reclaiming the rights over the land of the Adivasi and Forest Dwelling communities and a civil rights group committed to the rule of law and equality before the law as enshrined in the Indian Constitution, we urge this Hon’ble Commission to, in exercise of its powers and functions: “(a) inquire, suo motu or on a petition presented to it by a victim or any person on his behalf [or on a direction or order of any court], into complaint of (i) violation of human rights or abetment thereof; or (ii) negligence in the prevention of such violation, by a public servant,” reads the complaint signed by Roma Malik of AIUFWP and Teesta Setalvad of CJP.
Speaking at the launch of the fact-finding report, Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Brinda Karat condemned the police action and the consistent harassment of Adivasi groups by forest officials. Karat praised the community for their consistent stands, and supported the demand for a judicial inquiry into the police firing. She also demanded the quashing of the “false cases” and FIRs lodged against 29 protestors.