The Letter Section
The Hindu

Dear Sir/Madam,
In his article (article2834675.ece) on the Republic Day gallantry award given to Chhattisgarh police officer Ankit Garg who reportedly tormented, tortured and raped school teacher Soni Sori, Aman Sethi quotes Vishwa Ranjan, Director-General of Police (Home Guards), as follows:

“The Police Medal for Gallantry is for a specific instance … it is not like the award for Meritorious Service … Ankit Garg led one of the teams in the Mahasamund [encounter].” Vishwa Ranjan also added that “the Soni Sori case was a separate issue that was now sub judice.” Apart from Mr Vishwa Ranjan’s bizarre reasoning that it is legitimate to give a gallantry award to a rapist and torturer, as long as the awardee has shown his mettle in a separate incident, what is the real truth behind the Mahasamund ‘encounter’ where his supposed ‘acts of bravery’ have earned Mr Garg the award? The murky details of this ‘encounter’ were scrupulously laid out in the report Just a little collateral damage (Just_a_little_collateral_damage.pdf) by an All India Fact Finding team.

According to the report, “On 9th October, 2010, Saturday, various evening newspapers carried reports of a fierce encounter that happened on the same day, between the Naxals and the state police force at Padakipali [in the Mahasamund district], near the Orissa border, in which it was claimed that 8 Naxals were killed and 2 police injured. Later, it was admitted that 2 of the persons killed were actually villagers of Ledgidipa, who were said to have been caught in the crossfire. Inspector General of Police RK Vij told PTI that the two villagers were used as a shield by the Maoists in the gunfight (chhattisgarh-6-naxals-killed-in-encounter-58547). Reports also carried news of a large quantity of arms and ammunitions having been recovered after the encounter, including a ―huge cache of explosives (six-maoists-killed-in-chhattisgarh-encounter_100443592.html). The entire episode was hailed as a great achievement by Director General of Police (DGP), Vishwa Ranjan. chhattisgarh_police_kill_eight_maoits_in_encounter_N98249.htm.

However it did not take long before cracks started appearing in the official version of the story. According to the report
“Two villagers had died in this encounter. Confusing and contradictory reports were presented in the media on the circumstances surrounding these deaths – from the initial allegations of the villagers being Naxals, to their being unfortunate victims caught in crossfire, to their being used as human shields by the alleged Maoists. By and large, most of the media reported the official version of what occurred during the encounter. However, around 12th October, different reports began to appear in which the responsibility of civilian death began to be laid on the security personnel.”

The Fact Finding Mission was easily able to track down the family of one of the victims, Gautam Patel. According to the family, “Gautam was eating his lunch in the aangan, being served by his wife Himadri [when] they saw Dau [a deaf and mute helper of Gautam] run inside the kitchen in a state of fear, and a huge commotion and sounds of firing from outside. Gautam reacted in fear by following Dau into the dark kitchen and hiding underneath the kitchen shelf. Meanwhile 50-60 police had entered the home following Dau. They accosted Uttam, the youngest brother, and asked him where they were hiding the Naxalites. Uttam pleaded with them that there were no Naxals inside the house; only Gautam, his brother, and their servant Dau….Despite Himadri‟s pleading and crying that there were no Naxals in their home, only her husband and Dau, four of the security personnel forcibly entered the kitchen and started shooting in the dark, killing both Gautam and Dau.”
The security personnel later told other members of the security force and the gathered villagers that “both Gautam and Dau had been killed by Naxals, but the family loudly refuted this, pointing to the particular force members who had entered the kitchen and killed Gautam and Dau.”

One might naturally ask what the much feted Mr Ankit Garg had to say about this horror show, and for which he has won the much coveted gallantry award. According to the Fact Finding report, the authors tried to “meet the Superintendent of Police Ankit Garg, DSP DK Sharma and Collector (Ms) D. Alarmelmangai. However, none of them were available at Mahasamund on the day of our visit. We could only meet Shri Bipin Manjhi, Additional Collector, in charge of the magisterial enquiry, who did not share any information with us, claiming that he knew only as much as we did from media reports!”

If Mr Garg deserves the gallantry award for raping and torturing a hapless woman in his custody, and for supervising the killing of innocent people, the BSF soldiers who tortured an emaciated and helpless man, at the same time videotaping their enviable act of bravery ( also deserve a medal for their extreme sadism, and for ensuring that the poor and the indigent of this great democratic country do not become too uppity and demand that they be allowed to live with dignity.

Sanjeev Mahajan
365 Walker Drive A
Mountain View
CA 94043

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