By Gladson Dungdung
19 June, 2010
On June 13, 2010, we 12 Human Rights Activists of Jharkhand started our journey before the dawn. We had heard a horrible story about an Adivasi woman who was killed in crossfire between the security forces and the Maoists. Her name was Jasinta. She was mere 25 years old married woman enjoying her life with her family in a village. Of course, she was a mother of three kids whose lives are at stake now. Therefore, we wanted to know the truth. We wanted to know whether she was a Maoist. The most important thing we wanted to know is, in what circumstances her right to life was taken away by the mighty gun and her three kids’ lives were put in the dark before the dawn. We wanted to know about the state’s response to the heinous crime against humanity. And of course, we wanted to know whether these three kids are innocent like the kids of our security forces?
Our fact-finding mission started moving on wheels. In the blazing sun of mid summer, we traveled across Chidambaram’s red corridor. Perhaps, the Adivasis of these areas would not have heard the buzzword ‘red corridor’. They would love to call these areas as “Adivasi corridor” instead of the red corridor. However, we did not see any Maoist in the forest. But of course, we saw the half-burnt forest, trees and greenery. Thousands acres of forest were burnt by the security forces while carrying out operations for hunting the Maoists. Perhaps, they could not hunt the Maoists but they hunted beautiful plants, herbs, wild animals, birds and innocent insects. They burnt the houses of wild animals, birds and million insects. Indeed, the Adivasis would have been booked under the forest conservation Act 1980 and the wild life protection Act 1972 if they had burnt the forest.
After 7 hours long journey, finally we reached to a village called Ladi, which is situated in a dense forest of Barwadih block of Lateher district in Jharkhand. The Kherwar Adivasis write their surname as “Singh” are in the majority in the village. There are 56 Kherwars families, 2 Oraons, 11 Porenya, 10 Korba, 1 Lohra and 1 Saw family reside in the villages. At the entrance of the village, the Kherwar Adivasis were cutting stones, which is their traditional occupation. They told us that each Kherwar family earns Rs. 80 per day by cutting stones. They sell the final product to small traders. The economy of the village is based on agriculture, forest produces and daily wage. Though the villagers were busy in their routine work but there was complete silence in the village. It seems like an empty village. No one would smile. They are living with fear, agony, anguish, uncertainty and anger.
After the introduction ritual was over, we were told to visit to the house of 28-year-old Jairam Singh, whose wife Jasinta was shot dead by the security forces on 27 April 2010. We entered into a beautiful mud house. The environment of the house was still full of shock, agony and anger. The family members were silent. The shock, agony and anger were visible on their faces. We were asked to sit on their traditional beds, which is made of wood and rope. After a few minutes Jairam Singh appeared in front of us with his two kids – Amrita and Suchit. He was not able to come back to normal life. He could not speak. He was still in the state of shock and agony. Whenever we asked about the incident, he just started weeping. He is a temporary forest guard therefore when the incident took place; he was in duty at a place called Garu, which is 20 KM far from his village.
Jairam told us that he has three kids therefore he demands for Rs.5 lakh as compensation, government job and education support to his children. He just says, “I want justice”. We saw Jairam’s two kids with hopeless face, feared and shocked. We wanted to see one more kid, who was merely 1 year old. Her name is Vibha Kumari, a sweet baby playing in her grandmother Bajwa Devi’s lap that time. We wanted to take some snap shots of these three kids with their father. But after seeing us Vibha started crying. She didn’t want to appear before us. She was crying continually even in her father’s lap. Perhaps, she assumes that we were there to snatch her from the family similar to what the security forces did with her mother. She was only crying, crying and crying. I was just shocked to see her endless cry for her mother.
Jairam’s younger brother 18 year old Bishram Singh, who was present at Home when the incident took place on April 27, 2010 told us what had happened that night in the red mud house. According to him the incident took place at 7:30 PM when all the family members were preparing for going to bed after having dinner together. Suddenly, they heard the sound of firing, coming from the outside of their home. Some one shouted, “Come out of the house otherwise we’ll set fire on the house”. After hearing terrified voice, they came out of the house except a cattle caretaker (Puran Singh) who was sleeping in the room.
The Security Forces tied the hands of Bishram Singh and abused others. There were about 12 security forces well dressed and guns in hands. They asked, “Is anyone inside”? They told to the security forces that their cattle caretaker is sleeping inside. The Jawans asked to bring him out of the house. Jasinta entered into the house for waking up cattle caretaker and bringing him out of the house. The security forces also entered into the house and started firing. One bullet hit Jasinta’s chest when she was coming out of the house with Puran Singh (cattle caretaker) and another bullet hit Puran Singh’s left hand. Jasinta fell down and died in the spot.
The security forces told Bishram Singh that he should tell the police officers, the media and the people that his elder brother’s wife was killed in crossfire and also told not to go for protest against the police. They threatened him for dire consequences if he goes against the will of the security forces. After the postmortem was conducted on April 28, Bishram was asked to put his signature on a blank paper. After the final rites, the villagers started protest against the cold-blooded murder and they had even gone to file a FIR against murderers of Jasinta but the FIR was not register in Barwadih police station. The case was merely recorded in a daily dairy. However, the police file a FIR, which blames the Maoists for murder of Jasinta.
After series of protest, the government announced Rs.3 lakh as compensation and a government job to the family of the deceased. Unfortunately, nothing has been done yet. The Family members were not given postmortem report, death certificate and copy of the FIR. On May 14, the police deployed a Journalist Sanjay Kumar of Hindustan (Hindi daily) as a mediator who brought Jairam Singh to Barwadih police station, where the officer in charge Birendra Ram asked Jairam Singh to put his signature on a blank paper and accept a cheque of Rs.90,000. But when Jairam Singh denied for putting his signature on a blank paper, the officer in charge sent him back with empty hand. Ironically, the security forces shot dead Jairam Singh’s wife, threatening to the family members for dire consequences and they are also attempting to swallow the compensation package. Despite the family members and villagers made many attempts by from pillar to post but no action was taken against the security forces and local police.
The Cattle caretaker Puran Singh, who is under treatment in Latehar Sadar hospital, also tells the complete story of what had happened in the house of Jairam Singh on April 27, which has no contradiction with the words of Bishram Singh. But the Barwadih police are putting hard efforts to convert the cold blood murder as a result of crossfire between the Security Forces and the Maoist. According to the Police version, the bullet of the Maoists killed Jasinta. While observation, we found the marks of two bullets on the wall, which had been fired from the entrance of the house reveals the truth. In the case of crossfire there would have been some sign of firing on police from inside of the house. The best evidence is, after firing on Jasinta, the security forces went inside the house and conducted search operation but they did not find any Maoist. The house has only one entrance therefore there is absolutely no change of the Maoists fleeing away, which clearly means there was no change of crossfire but it is a clear case of cold-blooded murder committed by the security forces.
After brutal murder of Jasinta by the security forces, her husband Jairam Singh has been playing a role of mother too. He looks after his three kids – Amrita Kumari, Suchit Kumar and Vibha Kumari. Now his youngest baby Vibha Kumari is surviving on cattle milk. Whenever the security forces faced bullet there is a tendency of the national media debate. The biggest question here is why there is no such national debate for Vibha, Suchit and Amrita? Why those beautiful shining faces do not debate in television channels when innocent children are made orphans by the bullet of the security forces? Why the Media is not sensitive to the issues of the Adivasis like Jasinta’s kids? Are these three kids not innocent? Are they a security threat to the nation? Why don’t we believe on the words of innocent villagers who have been facing the bullets of the security forces continually? Why there is a tendency of believing only on the holy words of the security forces and local police whose bullets take away the right to life of these innocent villagers.
I can understand the pain, suffering and agony of losing the parents. But here the story is extremely different. When my parents were brutally murdered, I was young enough to understand and bear the pain, suffering and anger of such a heinous crime. But these children don’t especially baby Vibha doesn’t. She doesn’t know where her mother has gone. She only cries in search of her mother’s lap. She cries in search of mother for breast-feeding. And of course, she cries in search of her mother’s love and compassion. Is she not innocent like the kids of our brave security forces? Who will wipe out tears from her eyes? How will she react when she would come to know that the security forces gunned down her mother? Can we blame her if she walks on the path of revenge against the security forces? Will the security forces again gun down her because she would become the biggest national security threat and we’ll let our licensed gunmen to enjoy impunity as they have been doing in a democratic country? Will this nation ever be sensitive to those thousands of Adivasis children like Vibha, Suchit and Amrita or we have to witness many more children crying for breastfeeding, love and compassion of their parents. Where does buck stop for violation of the rights of innocent Adivasi?
Gladson Dungdung is a Human Rights Activist and Writer from Jharkhand. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org