02, Feb 2018 | Sushmita
Sulo Kashyap, father of Arjun Kashyap who was killed in an alleged fake encounter in Bastar, Chhattisgarh in August, 2016, has moved the Chhattisgarh High Court praying for an independent judicial inquiry into the cold-blooded murder of his son. He is also demanding disciplinary proceedings against the errant officers, compensation to the family of the deceased and protection from continuous police harassment.
Arjun was Sulo Kashyap’s eldest son and a resident of Chandameta, Darbha in Bastar Chhattisgarh. He was a student of Class 9. He would work in the fields with his father to help the family of sixteen financially. Arjun was merely 18 years old. Arjun was married young and wanted to pursue his studies but the subsequent events did not allow him to do so.
Fake Encounter of Arjun Kashyap
On August 17, 2016 mainstream newspapers carried the headline, “Four naxalites gunned down in Chhattisgarh.” This was based on a statement released by the Chhattisgarh police that in a joint operation of District Reserve Guard (DRG), Special Task Force (STF) and district force, a ‘dreaded’ Naxalite commander Arjun Ram and three of his aides were gunned down after a fierce gun-battle between the Naxalites and security forces.
Arjun was accused of blowing up a government ambulance in 2014 in Kamanar that left seven dead, including five Jawans of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the murder of a former village Sarpanch of Koleng in May 2015, and the killing of a villager from Kandanar village in August 2015.
However, his father Sulo, who is the petitioner in this case, vociferously disputes the police’s version. He alleges in the petition that Arjun, an unarmed Adivasi young man was picked from his house on the night of August 15, 2015 and killed in cold blood by the security forces.
A Plot to Kill
The petition says that Arjun was already battling false charges of being a Naxalite in a case in which he was arrested in May 2015.
Since he was a juvenile on the date of the incident, it was argued in front of the ADJ I, Jagdalpur by his lawyers from Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group (JagLAG) that the person that police claimed to be “Arjun s/o Kodi, age, 30years” was in fact a school going boy of 17 years of age and that his father’s name was Sulo. The Court, after going through his school documents and the testimony of the Principal of his school, declared that he was, in fact, a juvenile. In an order dated May 26, 2015, the judge transferred his case to the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB).
Even though his case was transferred to the JJB, he was still not transferred to juvenile home from Central Jail. Only after 4 months of his being inside*, the magistrate recognised that he was wrongly confined in the jail and transferred him to the juvenile home on August 19, 2015. After this, witnesses started coming to testify in the court. All the witnesses who testified reportedly said that they didn’t see Arjun on the site on which he was alleged to be present during the time of the crime. In fact, the entire chargesheet didn’t bear his name anywhere except mention of a 30 year old Arjun in a confession of a co-accused. On 30 December 2015, Arjun was granted bail by the juvenile board. Arjun was constantly present in the court on all dates of his hearing. Before his next scheduled date, i.e. August 31, 2016, he was murdered in a fake encounter, as per the petition.
Harassment and Intimidation of Arjun’s family
In a Facebook post soon after his killing, his lawyer, Ms. Isha Khandelwal asked, “How can you call him a ‘hardcore naxalite’ when he was appearing in every court hearing since he was released on bail?”
After his cold-blooded murder, Arjun’s family members were harassed and intimidated by the police so that they could not file any complaint. Both the sisters of Arjun were forcibly picked up by the police, shown as surrendered Naxalites and forcibly detained at the Livelihood College. His father was also picked up various times and beaten up, threatened, and even offered land and job in exchange of keeping silent. As a result of the continued harassment by the police, the family of the deceased had to even relocate to another village.
Despite this, Sulo, Arjun’s father has decided to wage the battle of justice for his son in the courts. He went to Bilaspur to file a case in the high court challenging the encounter, asking for investigation into this case and compensation for the family. JagLAG filed this petition on January 4, 2018. At this juncture, they await the reply of the state. In the last order court has also asked the state to not harass Arjun’s family.
Arjun’s case raises some chilling questions. If Arjun was already attending all the court proceedings, what could have been the basis of killing him in an encounter? What is happening to the other youth of Chhattisgarh if this is the atmosphere of violence in which they are growing up? A boy’s mere dream of pursuing education was ended abruptly. We need your support in this fight against fake encounters of Adivasi youth and men and in enforcing the rule of law in these areas.