Two women were shot at by CRPF officers on February 2 in in the forest of Rengaiguda village, around 450 kms from Raipur, under Polampalli police station limits, when a joint team of security forces was returning after an area domination operation.
Raipur: People in Gudelguda village in Jharkhand are filled with anger and resentment. Two women were shot at by CRPF officers on February 2 in in the forest of Rengaiguda village, around 450 kms from Raipur, under Polampalli police station limits, when a joint team of security forces was returning after an area domination operation.
While a woman named Podiyam Sukki died of the gunshot wounds, another woman Kalmi Dewe was wounded and is currently being treated at a hospital. The police have been calling them Maoists but villagers have rejected these claims and said that they were not involved in any skirmish.
Gudelguda villagers claimed that the CRPF jawans deliberately shot at the women. They even said that they forcefully made one of the wounded women wear a Naxal uniform while she was screaming in pain and that the police were trying to pass this incident off as an encounter when the firing was one-sided.
What the police says
Sukma SP Jitendra Shukla said that two women had sustained bullet injuries on Saturday in Polampalli region of Sukma district, one of whom died during treatment. they came under crossfire during an encounter between Maoists and CRPF men. The women were rushed to CRPF field hospital.
SP Jitendra Shukla in his press conference on Sunday said that in the forest, the encounter between the soldiers and the Naxalites lasted for about 10 minutes. “A firearm, Rs 9058 cash, cortex wire, detonator, gelatine sticks and other materials were recovered from the site of the encounter. During the encounter, both women were gathering woods in the forest nearby. After hearing the firing, both of them ran in the direction of the shootout and Podiyam Sukki was shot in the stomach while Kalmi Dewe was hit in the thigh,” he said.
He also said that a case has been registered against unknown people in connection with the death and a magisterial inquiry is going on.
Though police admitted that the women were common villagers from Gudelguda, villagers came forward with a different narrative that there wasn't any encounter that took place as there's also no forest close to Gudelguda village.
Police have paid Rs 25000 compensation to Sukki's family and Rs 20,000 to Dewe.
What the eyewitness says
Following the incident, Dainik Bhaskar's journalist Neeraj Bhadauria published the statement of Podiyam Hungi, the eyewitness in the incident. She recounted the details of the day.
"I, Podiyam Sukki and Kalmi Dewe had gathered at 7 am to collect timber from the forest near the village. We had an axe in our hands. We had just reached 500-600 meters away from the village when we saw jawans in the area. We immediately returned to the village. The moment we turned back, we heard a gunshot. We started shouting that we have come here to gather wood. I was at the back and Podiyam and Kalmi were ahead. Podiyam was shot from behind and so was Kalmi. I supported Kalmi and took her back to the village. I heard Podiyam screaming for water,” she said.
“When we returned with water, we saw that the jawans were trying to dress Podiyam in a Naxal uniform. When the villagers protested, they said that they would take her to the hospital. Podiyam was incessantly requesting for water and shivering. The jawans said that they will wrap her in a plastic bag and we protested saying that she will become breathless in it. Only three shots were fired during the whole incident. There was no skirmish or encounter,” she said.
When we went back with water for Podiyam Suqi, some young men were trying to wear her uniform. The villagers protested against this, the soldiers told him to take him to the hospital. During this time, dry water was demanding and shaking hands. Then the soldiers started to build them in the membrane (plastic bag), then we said that his breath would stop in the membrane. During this entire incident, only three bullets had gone, there was no such thing as an encounter. "
Soni Sori reaches the village
Soni Sori, a social activist working for tribal rights, reached Gudelaguda on Sunday with a 15-member investigating team on the second day of the incident.
Talking to Times Of India, tribal leader Soni Sori, who visited the village narrated first hand information collected from locals and said, "There were three women who went to collect fire woods on Saturday morning, about 500 metres from village and on spotting the CRPF men on a distance, they immediately turned back to return village in fear. But there came three rounds of firing from security forces despite that the women waved and showed them the woods and axe from far to claim they were common villagers and not Maoists. By then two women had sustained bullet injuries already."
As per the statement of villagers, Sori said that the jawans came to the women and on realizing they were village women, they carried the severely injured Podiyam Sukka saying that she was being taken to the hospital. The third woman somehow took the injured one Kalmi Dewe to village and group of other women rushed towards CRPF team to check on Podiyam.
Sori added that the group of women were shocked to see that CRPF men were trying to dress Podiyam in Maoist uniform while she was wailing in pain and was very much alive. When the women objected, the jawans tried packing her in plastic sheet excusing to rush hospital. The women were told that they could also bring injured Kalmi to the field hospital.
Sori said that Podiyam was dead by the time villagers reached the hospital. Calling it a fake encounter, tribal leader Soni Sori demanded judicial inquiry in the case.
Sukma police then have lodged an FIR against unknown persons over the killing and officials said that there would be magisterial probe ordered in the case while compensation was also given to families of both women.
But villagers and Soni Sori said that they were not demanding magisterial probe in the case but action against the offenders who fired at women.
Sori said that when the police have admitted that the women came under crossfire, they should act against those who fired at them.
Sukma Bandh called to protest this incident
Sarv Adivasi Samaj president, Prakash Thakur, stated that there was no encounter in the area and that the police’s claim of women being shot during a crossfire was categorically false. “Sukki died due to gunshot wounds and a gun was deliberately fired at her. All tribal communities demand strict action against the guilty policemen and call for a Sukma Bandh,” he said.
Questions arise after the encounter
The story being peddled by police officers has so many holes that it is proving itself wrong. A newspaper reported that “Our team inspected the site of the incident. The place where women were shot, there is no thick forest. On one side there is a field and on the other side, there is a pond. It can be understood that there is no place to hide or practise hidden firing during the encounter. After looking at the site of the incident, many questions raise themselves.”
Two days after the shootout in Gudelguda, women's axe and other tools were lying on the spot. But the marks of blood stains were missing from the site of the incident. Social workers, tribal communities and villagers believe that evidence was being tampered with to disturb the investigation.
In the last 15 years that BJP formed a government in the state, many such cases were reported. In many of them, police officers were found guilty but were never investigated or punished. This is the first such case in the newly formed Congress government. Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel had talked about investigating the atrocities against villagers on suspicion of being Naxals. All eyes will be on how the new government will deal with this Gudelguda incident with sensitivity.