Kosi Sori is Podiyami Jogi: Another fake encounter in Chhattisgarh?

In a video released on December 23, journalist and documentary film maker, Linga Kodopi has alleged that contrary to what was claimed by the security forces, the recent encounter of one Kosi Sori appears like a case of fake encounter. Linga says, “This is just one such in a series of many fake encounters namely Gompad, Gumpud, Revali and more.” On December 15, 2017 reports had emerged in various newspapers saying how an alleged top Maoist leader Papa Rao’s close aid Kosi Sori was killed in an encounter. The Special director general of police (anti-Naxal operations) operations) DM Awasthi had said, “The woman cadre Kosi Sori of Pamed area committee of CPI(Maoist), was killed in an encounter on Saturday morning. The encounter went on for two hours when the team of nearly 100 jawans were out on search operation”

fake Encounter

However, in other reports that have emerged since the said encounter took place, journalists alleged that though the security forces have claimed that they killed one Kosi Sori, it was actually Podiyamii Jogi, a resident of Jarpalli who was killed. In an interview given to this writer, Linga Kodopi claimed, “We can prove her identity, but what proof the security forces have that they killed Kosi Sori? We do not even know who Kosi Sori is.”

Linga has raised some crucial questions in the video. “It does not look plausible that an encounter between security forces and Naxalites has taken place here. Why would the Naxals be residing in a home and not forests? Moreover, there was not even a meeting taking place. If at all a meeting was taking place, why people from only these few houses would be participating in it?”

Following the encounter, a fact finding team comprising the Adivasi leader Soni Sori, journalists Linga Kodopi, Pushpa Rokde and Nitin Rokde, and block head Punem visited the area.

Podiyami Jogi was 18 years of age. Her mother had died and her father married again. Just like other villagers, she would help anyone who would visit from outside. She would give them food and water, which is usual for any Adivasi household. She also worked on fields.

As per Linga, the villagers said that on December 15, 2017, Podiyami Jogi, a resident of Jarpalli village in Bijapur, was visiting a relative namely Madavi Ayate in another village Hempuram, not too far from her residence. She left the next morning at around 9 am, carrying a bag on her shoulder. Reportedly, this is when the security forces surrounded her from all sides. Scared, she started running. Linga is anguished, “The terror of security forces is so paramount that anybody will run. Even I am scared of them”. This is why Podiyami kept running. After running for about 500 metres, as Podiyami was going to enter a house, the security forces allegedly fired on her. The villagers told Linga, “On hearing the sound of gunfire, when we reached the spot, we saw that the policemen were hurriedly wrapping up a woman’s body in plastic.”

Illustration: Sushmita

The villagers had to struggle even to take the dead body, says Linga. They were beaten up by the policemen and the body was taken to Pamed police station on a cot. After a couple of hours, a group of women from the village reached there.

The villagers told Linga and Soni Sori that they were beaten up when they asked for the dead body. Though the women returned, the boys who went to the police station were not allowed to leave. They were released only on the next day. The boys returned and told the villagers that the dead body was in Bijapur, so the villagers went to collect it on December 16. The villagers preserved the body for 6 days in the hope that someone will come and investigate the encounter, said Soni.

“It is not the security force’s prerogative to house-search every household to look for Naxalites. If they want to search then they can roam in the forests. The bullets that I have shown in the video, have all been fired on houses. What sort of encounter takes place in the ambit of one’s house?” asks Linga. Usually the police say that encounters take place in forests because they get scared and fire for fear of their life. However here the situation was different. He further adds, “If you see the open field and the houses, it is hard to imagine a situation in which a circumstance for the said encounter could have been created.” He questions about the need to carry out such an ‘encounter’ when the security forces could have easily shot Podiyami on her feet if their intention was to stop and catch her. He says that by labelling Adivasis  killed in this manner as Naxalites, the security officials make themselves eligible for prize money and other accolades.

Soni Sori says, “When I visited the spot, I saw that Podiyami’s dead body was preserved by the villagers.” They told her, “We will not carry out the last rites of the dead body. Our culture and traditions are getting destroyed because of this fight. Today, we can’t even perform our rituals and customs to send off our dead.” She mentions, all of the 2500 odd villagers who had gathered, said that we will preserve our culture while simultaneously fighting this war. Finally, waiting for justice, Podiyami Dul, the deceased’s father buried the body on December 21. He has highlighted that Podiyami was the sole bread winner of the family and was looking after him and her brother.

As if all this was not enough, the police officers have allegedly threatened the Adivasis not to enter the forests. “CM Raman Singh and others do not get tired of claiming that they are finishing off Naxalites, but what they are actually doing is finishing off Adivasis.”

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