Following the ban imposed by the Supreme Court on Salwa Judum and the use of special police officers (SPOs) for counter-insurgency duties, the Central Bureau of Investigation was tasked by the apex court’s bench with probing allegations that the Chhattisgarh police had violated the human rights of villagers in Tadmetla, Timapuram and Morpalli in Sukma district in March 2011.
The CBI filed a chargesheet against several SPOs in 2016 but seven years after the incident, the trial has not made any headway.
The Wire has accessed the CBI’s confidential internal closure report in the case which preceded the filing of the chargesheet and which contains material far more damning than the chargesheet itself – symptomatic of the deliberate dilution of the case by the agency. Among the beneficiaries of this dilution is the top Chhattisgarh police officer, S.R.P. Kalluri. Two witnesses told CBI investigators that they saw Kalluri taking part in the burning of Adivasi dwellings in Tadmetla; however, the investigating team was instructed by its superiors to delete their names from the final list of witnesses submitted to the court.
It is in the section on lapses by the Chhattisgarh police, that the CBI’s closure report captures the extent of the rot in the system. The CBI points to a purposive skewing of records to favour the police, no record keeping on ammunition – leaving open the possibility of illegal sales – and no record of the names of the police personnel involved in operations, making it difficult to fix responsibility in cases of gang rape or arson.
This is a problem that has also been highlighted repeatedly by human rights activists in allegations of gang rape, as well as attacks like the one in Sarkeguda in June 2012, where 17 villagers, including minors, were killed, allegedly by the security forces.
The relevant passages of the CBI report bear quoting in full:
Lapses / omissions / commissions on the part of Chhattisgarh police
“2. Though the aforesaid allegations could not fully be substantiated either way nor the offenders could be identified fully beyond reasonable doubt, but still the discussion made hereunder on the major lapses on the part of State/Chhattisgarh Police would show that perhaps there is more to the problem than meets the eye. The lapses discussed below is though not very helpful in identifying the individual offender, but definitely it shows the culture and approach of the State/system which has led to the current crisis and unless earnest corrective measure are taken it will continue to nurture the crisis making it worse. To get a proper view of the whole facts, the facts and circumstances need to be seen in the background of all the five cases involving different villages and different time as being part of one and same act of police.
“3. Unlike the FIR in other cases i.e. RC 8,9 & 11 of 2011, the FIR in this case does not mention the purpose of the visit of Police party to the village Tadmetla. However, during their examination, Shri SRP Kalluri, the then DIG-cum-SSP, Dantewada, now IG, Bastar Range and Shri D.S.Maravi have been maintaining the operation/visit to the villages including Tadmetla to be in connection with inquiry of complaint of Human Rights Commission. They have also furnished correspondences in this connection to support their claim regarding the visit by the security force to be in connection with inquiry into complaint of Human Rights Commission. However, the minutes of meeting dated 05.03.2011 submitted by Shri R.K.Thakur, DIG,CRPF, reveals clearly that the operation was not at all connected with any inquiry into any complaint of Human Rights Commission and rather it was a pure anti-naxal operation only. Though FIR in the instant case also mentions it to be in connection with naxal search operation, but when seen in the background of whole of operation starting from 10.03.2013 to 16.03.2016, it would reflect the mischievious mind of Chhattisgarh police, because of which, they have been taking the alibi of inquiry into complaint of Human Rights Commission, though it was clear on their mind from the very first day that the operation was one of Anti-Naxal Operation only. This mischievious mind assumes significance in determining the nature of lapses omitted/committed by Chhattisgarh Police, discussed above and also hereunder to be either as simple administrative/departmental irregularity or a criminal act.
“4. Unlike in other cases i.e. RC 8,9 & 11 of 2011, the details of the personnel who participated in the operation at Tadmetla have not been mentioned. It is simply mentioned that 250 personnel of CG Police and 95 personnel of CRPF/CoBRA. Hence, it is not possible to find out who exactly participated in the operation. The Supdt. of Police, Sukma, however, has furnished the list of 323 personnel who had participated in the operation.
“5. The FIR mentions use of 89 rounds of ammunitions, but the police could not furnish the break up of the same with individual firer. During examination only two SPOs / Constables have confirmed about the rounds used by them during the operation. However out of 250 personnel as reported to have participated in the operation at Tadmetla only 75 could be examined.
“6. The District Police (SP, Sukma) submitted that they are not issuing weapons / ammunitions for a specific operation, rather they issue weapons and ammunitions after training of the police force depending on their place of posting which they use in the forthcoming operations. They could not submit the details of Arms & ammunitions issued to all the police force who had participated in the operation especially in Tadmetla operation. Hence, the actual ammunitions used in the Tadmetla operation has not been established other than the figure mentioned in the FIR and letter of SP, Sukma.
“7. This is really a very worrisome fact and has got very serious ramifications, where there is no strict accounting and the govt. is not sure about the exact number of ammunitions issued to its personnel. This could even lead to illegal trading of ammunitions to the very perpetrators of naxalism and terrorism.
“8. Out of 323 personnel mentioned in the list furnished by the SP, Sukma, who had participated in the operation, nearly 75 SPOs / Auxiliary Constables have been examined in this case. Out of those SPOs / Auxiliary Constables examined, some of them namely Kattam Ramesh, Muchaki Podiya, Jagdev Markam, Kartam Manoj, Kartam Nanda, Umesh Amla, Neela Sodi, Soyam Ramesh, Uika Somudu, Amrit Lal Thakur etc. have stated that they had not participated in the Tadmetla operation although their names are figuring in the list of 323 personnel who had participated in the operation as furnished by SP, Sukma vide his letter No.1106 dated 17.11.2015. Hence, the statement of these witnesses prove that either the SP, Sukma has furnished an erroneous list of SPOs / Police personnel participated in the operation or the abovesaid witnesses have not revealed the truth during their examination.
“9. Creating confusion regarding number of police personnel who actually participated in the operation assumes significance here because there are allegations by villagers against individual police personnel, who as reported by police had not participated in the entire operation. If in reality more than the stated security personnel had participated and on record the names of whole force which had participated is not available, then it would have other serious implications. There is a possibility of commission of crime by those personnel, whose names are not reflected in the official records and yet remain away from clutches of law as no record would show their names for having participated in the operation under question. When this aspect is seen in totality, the gravity of this mischief can be comprehended. The FIR of RC.08(S)/2011 mentions the number of security personnel as 340 and the FIR of RC.11(S)/2011 mentions the number of security personnel as 327, who had participated in the operation, yet the police has furnished list of only 323 personnel. This fact assumes significance when seen in the backdrop of allegations of villagers / some through Smt. Nandini Sundar. Some of the SPOs who have been alleged to have committed the crimes during said operation as reported by police had not participated in the operation. The names are Korsa Sannu, Telam Mokha, Sodi Dashru, Barse Mara, Madkam Sannu, Madkam Dasru and Kawasi Mara in RC 11/2011 and Korsa Sannu, Hundam Masa, Shyam Lal Sannu in this RC 10/2011.
“10. The investigation also revealed that the Police had not done any briefing/debriefing or prepared any briefing/debriefing report before/after the operation at Tadmetla.
“Added to the aforesaid serious lapses on the part of Chhattisgarh Police, if the attack on CBI team on 09.02.2012 and the incident that happened with CBI team on 02.11.2015 at Kanker are read together, then it raises serious doubts about the conduct of Chhattisgarh Police in the matter. Not only there has been delay in furnishing the right information/documents required by CBI, but also there has been efforts to frustrate investigation by CBI. So much so that the Chhattisgarh Administration has even gone to the extent of filing a false affidavit in the hon’ble Supreme Court that there was no attack on CBI team as alleged by CBI. The said affidavit has been filed by Shri A.N.Upadhyay, the then Secretary, Ministry of Home, Govt. of Chhattisgarh, now, posted and functioning as Director General, Chhattisgarh Police.”