A fake encounter uncovered

A fake encounter uncovered

The report of the Justice VK Agarwal Commission, which probed the death of 17 villagers in Bijapur, Chhattisgarh, on June 28, 2012, has unravelled the unsavoury truth about one of the most controversial encounters of recent times. The encounter and the killings were then touted as a major success of the security forces in their anti-Maoist operations. It was claimed that the forces had conducted the operation based on prior intelligence about a plan by Maoists to attack them. According to the forces’ version, they had opened fire on the Maoists in self-defence and in retaliation, which resulted in 17 deaths. All the 17 were claimed to be Maoists who were active in the area. The story was challenged on the basis of many inconsistencies and apparent improbabilities. The suspicion that it was a fake encounter has now been proved by the commission’s report.  

The commission has found that the story was totally made up and the 17 dead were innocent villagers who were holding a meeting to discuss sowing operations. They were fired upon without provocation by the security forces and 11 adults and six minors were killed. The nature and location of the injuries were clear giveaways. Most of the dead had been shot from behind, some in the head and some others from close quarters. One person was actually shot the next day. There were injuries from physical assaults also. The accounts of surviving villagers had also contradicted every point in the official version. It was also found that the injuries claimed to have been sustained by the security forces personnel in the encounter were not genuine. The view that the illegal and inhuman conduct of the security forces was one reason for aggravation of the Maoist threat is validated by such cases. 

It is important that the excesses and atrocities committed on people by organs and agents of the State be brought before the people, especially when there is a growing tendency in the country to suppress human and fundamental rights. It is unfortunate that investigations take too long to expose such crimes which are nothing but acts of State terror. It is necessary that the security forces and other agencies are held accountable for their actions and the perpetrators of acts like the Bijapur massacre punished. The forces are often not equipped to face the complex situation in Maoist or other operationally difficult areas. The commission has made recommendations to improve their training, facilities and even their mental state. It is equally important that respect for human rights becomes an important part of State policy not only in matters related to policing but in every interface with the people. 

 

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