The Human Rights Forum (HRF) demands that Greyhounds police personnel responsible for the killing of two adivasis Ganga Madkami (40) and Ganga Podiami (33), on the afternoon of February 21, 2016 in the Puttakota forest area of Koyyuru mandal in Visakhapatnam district of Andhra Pradesh be booked under relevant penal sections of the law and criminally prosecuted.
A two-member HRF team visited several villages in Korukonda block of Malkangiri district of Odisha on 31-3-2016 to elicit facts about the alleged encounter at Puttakota that resulted in the death of two adivasis and bullet injuries to one person. The team visited Balakati village in Dudametta panchayat, the native village of the two deceased and spoke with residents and family members. We went to Tumasapalli village, where we met and spoke with Irma Kawasi (50) the injured survivor of the February 21 firing.
Contrary to the fiction being peddled by the AP police including senior officials, Madkami and Podiami were not members of the Galikonda area committee of the Maoists. Nor was there any exchange of fire as the police have maintained. In matter of fact, there was no provocation of any sort by the adivasis warranting the police to exercise any force upon them, much less kill them.
Madkami and Podiami were adivasi farmers of Balakati who were, along with Kawasi, part of a group of 22 adivasis, all of them belonging to the Koya tribe, from three villages of Korukonda block — Balakati, Tumasapalli and Nemelguda (Mariwada panchayat). They set out into the forest on February 14 in search of wild game, a custom that is traditionally undertaken twice or thrice a year by the Koyas. Only those who are adept at tracking and trapping wild animals in the forest go out on these trips. The group ventured quite far from their area into the Puttakota reserve forest in AP since game there is aplenty and they expected to bring back home some good catch.
At about noon on February 21, Madkami, Podiami, Kawasi and Mukka Madkami set out for the hunt while the other 18 were preparing food. About two hours later, they were resting in a fairly open area with traditional bows and arrows and 2 country-made weapons when there was a burst of gunfire which felled Madkami and Podiami killing them instantly. A bullet hit Kawasi on his left upper arm and lodged itself inside while another one went through the upper portion of his right arm. A terrified Mukka Madkami,who was lucky to escape any injuries, fled. He returned to his village Tumasapalli five days later. (Tragically, he died on the night of March 30 of a snake-bite while asleep in his house.)
Irma Kawasi ran in the direction away from the gunfire and managed to reach Puttakota village where the residents helped him lie down in the village church. He was semi-conscious and unable to eat anything only sipping some water an old woman gave him. The police came looking the next morning and took him away with them and along with the bodies of Madkami and Podiami shifted them to Narsipatnam. After a post-mortem was done and information sent to Balakati, the police handed over the bodies to relatives of the deceased who brought them backand cremated them on March 25. The police also gave Rs 10,000 each to the two families. After preliminary treatment, Kawasi was taken to Visakhapatnam to a place he calls the ‘police medical centre at Kailasgiri’. He was operated upon and the bullet removed from his left hand. After convalescing, he was sent home by the police on March 16 after being given Rs 5000.
It is clear to us that on February 21, a combing part of the Greyhounds chanced upon the four adivasis, two of them with country-made weapons, in the Puttakota forest and opened fire straightaway. If their reaction was provoked by two of the adivasis holding country-made weapons, then it makes it no less of a crime. There was no attempt by the Greyhounds whatsoever to call out to the adivasis. A hail of bullets were immediately let lose killing two instantly and injuring a third.
Contrary to the habitual assertion by the police, this was not a case of “firing in self-defence resulting in the death of two Maoist cadre”. The Greyhounds shot dead two adivasi farmers as if they were wild game. Those responsible for these deaths cannot be allowed to wash their hands off in such a cavalier manner. They must be held accountable to the law.No mention has been made till date by the police about the injured Kawasi. The reason for keeping secret the treatment they got done for the injuries he sustained is obvious. Revealing it would have opened up the truth about the one-sided and unilateral firing by the police and the wanton,consequent death of two adivasi civilians.
We demand that the Greyhounds personnel as well as police officials concerned be charged under IPC 302 and other relevant penal provisions including screening of evidence as well as the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The investigation into this case must be handed over to the CBI. The families of the two deceased must be paid not less than Rs 10 lakh each and Rs 5 lakh must be given to Kawasi. We urge the Malkangiri Collector to visit Tumasapalli, meet Kawasi and ensure that he gets proper medical treatment in the weeks ahead so that he may fully recover.
(HRF general secretary, AP&TS)
(HRF executive committee member)