26, Oct 2020
New Delhi: Alleged firing by the Bihar police on peacefully protesting Adivasis in Adhaura Block, Kaimur District on September 11, 2019 had led a four-member team from New Delhi to conduct a detailed fact-finding around the incident. The fact-finding team consisted of Amir Sherwani Khan (All India Union of Forest Working People), Matadayal from (All India Union of Forest Working People), Raja Rabbi Hussain (Delhi Solidarity Group) and Aman Khan an advocate from the Supreme Court. They visited the Adhaura Block, Kaimur District of Bihar from September 23 to 27, 2020.
A report based on the findings of the team was released in an online press conference by Brinda Karat, Polit Bureau member of the CPI(M) and Vice President of Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch, here today.
The report claimed “thousands of Adivasis” including women, men, youth and children from 108 villages of Adhaura Block had mobilised in front of the forest department office at Adhaura on September 10, 2020. These activists of Kaimur Mukti Morcha, sat on a dharna at Birsa Munda Smarak Sthal there. More than ten thousand pamphlets of this dharna were distributed since August 2020, and government and forest department officials were intimated about the dharna. (It may be noted that as per the Indian Census Data of 2011, the total population of Adhaura Block is 57,100 with a sex ratio of 926 women per 1000 men. 51% of its population belongs to Schedule Tribe. Most of the Schedule Tribe populace belongs to the Kharwar community).
The members of Kaimur Mukti Morcha were demanding the following:
• Implement Forest Rights Act 2006.
• Declare Kaimur as a Scheduled area as per the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution.
• Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 to be implemented effectively.
• The administrative reorganisation of Kaimur Valley.
• Scrap the 1927 colonial Indian Forest Act.
• Implement the Chhota Nagpur Tenancy Act.
• Abolish the proposed Kaimur Forest Wildlife Sanctuary and Tiger Reserve.
(The KMM’s demand to cancel all the decision to earmark the Kaimur Forest Wildlife Sanctuary and Tiger Reserve in the area is a long-standing demand. In the guise of the sanctuary and the reserve, the long overdue land rights of the Adivasis were being further endangered).
The fact finding team’s report claimed the administration did not pay heed to these demands. No one from the district authorities came forward to have any dialogue with the community. In the evening at around 6 pm, as there was no response from the authorities, the Adivasis, in fear of losing their ancestral land, forest and water, locked the gates of the forest department office. This constituted a symbolic gesture of their protest to make their voices of oppression heard.
On September 11, 2020, the sit-in dharna continued. The forest department officials came, broke the locks and entered the department building. Post noon, the Adivasis decided reaching out to the forest department officials to initiate a dialogue. But when the delegated representatives went inside the office, they were abused and manhandled by officials who were present. Later on, and quite suddenly, more police poured in, along with CRPF personnel, and unleashed a brutal assault on the Adivasis. The police opened fire and lathi-charged the protesters. During this period, an Adivasi named Prabhu from Chaphana village was shot by a police bullet, the bullet went through his ear and took a chunk of his ear’s muscle tissue. Police lathi-charged Adivasi women, men, youths and children viciously and many were injured “which went unreported”.
“Police brutality continued in the aftermath of this incident as well,” the fact finding team alleged. It claimed that Kaimur Mukti Morcha’s office in Adhaura was ransacked by police and seven activists were arrested on false charges. The arrested activists were first kept in police custody and later presented in front of the judicial magistrate of Kaimur district. All the activists namely; Sipahi Singh, 65 years from Goiyan, Dharmender Singh, 25 years from Bardihya, Pappu Paswan, 23 years from Jharpa, Lallan Singh Kharwa, 45 years from Baraap, Kailash Singh, 62 from Bardiha, Ram Shakal Singh Kharwar, age 52 years from Goiyan and Haricharan Singh, age 65 from Sarainar. All of them were arrested and were sent to judicial custody.
The Police filed an FIR against seven Kaimur Mukti Morcha Activists on September 11, 2020 around 2:15 PM. The fact finding team claimed that seven activists were not just fired upon and injured in the firing and lathi-charged but were also picked up by the police on trumped up charges. The FIR had been lodged under sections 147 (Punishment for Rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 145 (Joining or continuing in unlawful assembly, knowing it has been commanded to disperse), 323 (Punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 307 (Attempt to murder), 353 (Assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 332 (Voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty), 333 (Voluntarily causing grievous hurt to deter public servant from his duty), 337 (Causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) 338 (Causing grievous hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others), 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 427 (Mischief causing damage to the amount of fifty rupees), 342 (Punishment for wrongful confinement) of the Indian Penal Code and section 427 (Punishment for possessing arms, etc, with intent to use them for unlawful purposes) of the Arms Act.
On October 16, 2020, all seven activists were granted bail. Two days later, in response to the ‘boycott election call’ given by the Kaimur Mukti Morcha (KMM), an organisation formed in the 1990s to “democratically struggle for the land rights of the people of Kaimur”, political heavyweights including the central minister of state for home, Nityanand Rai, air dropped into the far reaches of Kaimur, pleading with the protesters to lift the boycott call.
Based on their findings, the fact-finding team in its report has demanded:
● Implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006 should be implemented effectively and speedily in the proper spirit that the Act was envisioned.
● Scrapping 1927, colonial Indian Forest Right Act. Declare Kaimur a Scheduled area under Panchayat (Extension Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996.
● Unconditional release of all arrested activists and quashing the FIR against all the accused people charged under false cases.
● A judicial inquiry should be facilitated by the state government of Bihar regarding the police firing and lathi charge incident on the peaceful Adivasi protestors in Adhaura block.
● Compensation to the persons who were charged on false cases and were injured by police firing and lathi-charged.
● Arrest of all the perpetrated officials who had fired and lathi-charged on the peaceful Adivasi protestors.
It may be mentioned that Kaimur was carved out from the Rohtas district of Bihar in 1993 and falls within the Kaimur Plateau which is part of the Kaimur Range. It consists of a series of descending plateaux. It is part of the Vindhya Range surrounded by Baghelkhand mountain range and Chota Nagpur Plateau. Kaimur district consist of two sub-district headquarters, namely: Bhabua subdivision and Mohaniya Sub-division. Adhaura is one of the eleven community development blocks of Kaimur district.
The original piece may be read here