Police Station In-charge
Gangalur police station
Bijapur district, Chhattisgarh
26 May 2013
Subject: Killings of adivasi civilians in Edesmetta village on 17 May 2013
1. Yesterday, we visited Edesmetta village that falls under your jurisdiction and enquired into the killings of adivasis, which according to newspaper reports, had occurred on 17 May 2013.
2. We talked with relatives of those killed and injured as well as with other eye-witnesses and villagers; visited the site of the firing; and today we have also talked with the Inspector of Gangalur police station.
3. Residents of Edesmetta are Maria Gond adivasis. There are 78 houses in this village, which are divided into 6 hamlets. The village is situated in the midst of forests and villagers are dependent on agriculture and forests for their survival.
4. People told us that Friday, 17 May, was the last day of the seed sowing festival (beej pandum), which had begun three-four days ago. Around 70-100 male members of the village (adults, youth and children) representing their respective households were present in the field where the male and female deities (Roi-Gama), worshipped during the beej-pandum, are kept. They had started assembling from 6.30 pm and the ceremony began at around 9 pm.
5. The field where the festival was being celebrated is surrounded by forests. A thatched shed on one side includes wooden sculptures of the deities. Many small leaf bundles and agricultural implements hang from the beams of the roof on both sides. Pointing at the bundles, people said that at the start of the ceremony that evening the village pujari (priest) first collected the grain that each family had brought and then re-divided it amongst all. Then the portion of each family were tied in bundles; these are the seeds that will be sown this season.
After this, people lit a large bonfire near the thatched shed and singing the song of beej-pandum and playing the pen akum, a brass trumpet-like musical instrument that has a narrow tube and a flared bell, they started walking around the fire; according to custom each has to go around the fire thrice.
6. Around 10 pm., with the idea of quenching their thirst, three youth headed towards a water source that is on the east of the field. It is then that they noticed the security forces who had been watching them under cover of bushes and trees. According to the villagers, the security personnel caught the three, but two youth (Punem Chukku and Karam Sannu) managed to escape while the third youth, Karam Budhram, was beaten severely by the security forces and left for dead. Around this time, firing commenced from all directions. In the disturbance that followed people ran towards their homes.
According to the villagers, only the police and security forces were firing [there were no maoists and no exchange of fire with them]. In the shootout, 8 civilian villagers were killed of which 4 were children (two are below ten years) and 4 civilian villagers were injured, of which one is a ten year-old child. Besides, one member of the security force was also killed, though, he was a victim of cross-firing between the security forces.
7. List of those killed and injured is as follows. All the persons who were killed or injured are male because according to the Maria-Gond tradition only male members can participate in the beej-pandum.
Names of those who were killed
|Name||Age (years)||Father’s name||Hamlet|
|1.||Karam Pandu||35||Karam Unga||Kadwapara|
|2.||Karam Guddu||10||Karam Pandu|
|3.||Karam Masa||16||Karam Lacchu|
|4.||Punem Sonu||30||Punem Gutta|
|5.||Punem Lakku||15||Punem Lakku|
|6.||Karam Somlu||35||Karam Pandu||Permapara|
|7.||Karam Joga||35||Karam Aaitu||Gaitapara|
|8.||Karam Budru||8||Karam Joga|
Names of those who were injured
|Name||Age (years)||Location of the bullet injury|
|1.||Karam Somlu||40||upper back|
|2.||Punem Somlu||20||right upper arm|
|4.||Karam Chotu||10||through right thigh|
8. People believe that the police and security forces who were involved in this incident had come from Gangalur police station.
9. We learnt that on 17th night on their way back the police took dead bodies of Karam Masa and the security person as well as three others (Karam Aitu, Karam Manga and Karam Lachu) with them. The three were beaten on the way.
10. On 18th morning women from Karam Masa’s family and other village women went to the police station and protested and forced the police to free the three they had taken the previous day as well as hand over Masa’s body. Masa was cremated that day.
11. On 18th morning, at around 10 am, a batch of around a hundred policemen and security forces came to the village from the Cherpal-Todka direction. By that time the relatives of the deceased had taken the dead bodies to their homes. After repeated requests by the security forces they handed the bodies to them for post-mortem.
12.The post-mortem was carried through in the Community Health Centre in Gangalur by Dr. Biswas, who was heading a panel of medical personnel. We learnt about this from the Inspector of Gangalur police station. After the post-mortem women and other family members took the deceased to their village for last rites.
13.On 20th, around 300-400 policemen and security forces came to the village again. It was reported that senior officials who were accompanying the force apologised to the villagers accepting that they had made a mistake.
14.People mentioned that the government has since talked about providing compensation but they have refused to take it so far.
15. We learnt from the Inspector of Gangalur police station that an FIR related to the case had been lodged in the Gangalur police station by the officer who was leading the team of policemen and security forces (CoBRA). The FIR mentions that the deaths and injuries occurred due to an armed encounter between the security forces and the maoists.
16. We have provided the information that we learnt in the course of our fact-finding so that people’s testimonies may reach you, this incident of injustice is enquired into truthfully and as per due procedure, and justice is achieved.
Bela Bhatia Honorary Professor
Tata Institute of Social Sciences
V.N. Purav Marg
Deonar, Bombay – 400 088.
Also on behalf of other team members, all of the Human Rights Forum, Andhra Pradesh:
VS Krishna (HRF State general secretary)
G Mohan (HRF State secretary)
SK Khadar Babu (HRF Khammam district president)
K Sudha (HRF Visakhapatnam district committee member)
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