TAPKARA POLICE FIRING
THE FEBRUARY MASSACRE OF INNOCENT TRIBALS & MINORITIES
February 01, 2001. Thursday
Place: Derang Village, Tapkara Out Post [O.P.], Torpa Police Station [P.S.],
Ranchi District, Jharkhand, INDIA
GENESIS OF THE DISTURBANCE
Mr R.N. Singh, Officer-in-Charge, Tapkara Out Post (O.P.), Torpa P.S. and Mr Akshay Kumar, Officer-in-Charge, Rania Police Station along with a contingent of about 20-25 armed policemen went in two trucks (BPS 5915 and BR 14A 5666) for patrolling Lohajimi area of Tapkara O.P. While going from Tapkara to Lohajimi, the Police force crossed the wooden barrier of Derang by using the open passage on one side of the barricade. The Derang Barrier on the road was put up by the Gram Sabha (Village Panchayat) of Derang in 1977 in order to put a check to the unauthorized entry of the outsiders into the area. The same police force returned to Tapkara taking the same road and crossed the Derang Barrier in the same way as above. They stopped their vehicles about 50 metres away from the Derang barrier. About 10 to 12 policemen got down from the two trucks and uprooted the barrier and started loading the wooden barrier in their truck when Mr Amrit Guria saw them. It was 3.30 in the evening on February 01, 2001.
Mr Amrit Guria, son of Jaimasih Guria, resident of Gutuhatu, Tapkara O.P., a tribal ex-serviceman, arrived at the barrier spot on his way home from his work in the fields. Mr Amrit Guria asked the Police as to why they removed the barrier and why they were taking it away. To the simple and spontaneous query and objection raised by Mr Amrit Guria, the Officer-in-Charge of Tapkara O.P., Mr R.N. Singh, who was in his civil dress, said: Sala vakalat karta hai. Tum yahan ka laat saheb hai kya? (You are advocating, You bastard! Are you the lord of this place?) [Sala literally, brother-in-law is a colloquial term. If used in anger, it is as abusive as the term bastard. Futher occurances in this report will hence be translated as such.] Mr Amrit replied: Han main apne ghar ka laat saheb Hun Lekin aapke jaisa nahin. (Yes, I am the lord of my house, but not like you are.) Hearing this reply of Mr Amrit Guria Mr R.N. Singh and Mr Akshay Kumar became furious and abused Mr Amrit with the worst possible vulgar words and also ordered the policemen present there to thrash MrAmrit. Immediately about 10-12 policemen who were standing with the Police Officers, started beating Mr Amrit Guria ruthlessly with the butts of their rifles, besides kicking and raining fist-blows on him. While Mr Amrit was attacked by the Policemen, he started crying bachao, bachao (help, help) with all his might.
Hearing the desperate cry of Mr Amrit Guria, Mr Lawrentus Guria, son of the late Mr Chamru Guria, resident of Latthuatoli, village Derang, and also a tribal ex-serviceman, rushed to the spot where the policemen were beating Mr Amrit Guria. He pleaded with the Policemen to stop beating Mr Amrit Guria, as he was already bleeding profusely. Mr Lawrentus also asked them: Isko kyon marte hain (Why do you beat him)? In the meantime Mr Amrit Guria fell on the ground and became unconscious. The police officers R.N. Singh and Mr Akshay Kumar told the same policemen who were beating Mr Amrit Guria: Is sale Ko bhi maro (Thrash this bastard as well). Immediately the policemen pounced upon Mr Lawrentus Guria and started to thrash him too with the butts of their rifles and by kicking him with their boots. Somehow Mr Lawrentus Guria extricated himself from their hold and ran towards the village shouting for help. Sensing trouble from the villagers the policemen hurried back into their trucks and fled the scene by 4.00 p.m. Mr Lawrentus Guria came back from the village with four young men to the spot where Mr Amrit Guria was lying unconscious and they carried him to his house in Gutuhatu village.
Mr Amrits family members attended on him till he regained consciousness. Then they rushed him to the Government Referral hospital at Torpa in a vehicle. Mr Amrit was given the first aid at the O.P.D. (Out Patient Department) and then around 8.30 p.m. he was taken home, where he is recuperating. The villagers reported the incident to the Paraha Raja (King of the Village Confederacy), Mr Raja Paulus Guria, who in turn, called for a meeting of villagers at Bhandartoli village, Tapkara O.P.
VILLAGE LEADERS MEET TO RESPOND TO THE POLICE ATROCITY
Around 9.00 p.m. on February 01, the village leaders gathered at Bhandartoli. In the meeting Mr Amrit Guria and Mr Laurentus Guria were asked to give the details of the incident. Listening to them and also after verifying the missing barrier at Derang, the leaders found that the policemen had unauthorizedly removed and taken away the barrier and that they had mercilessly beaten Mr Amrit who tried to stop them from stealing the barrier and roughed up Mr Laurentus who tried to defend Amrit. Some of the youth present at the meeting wanted to go immediately to the Tapkara O.P. and meet the Police officers there and ask for an explanation for having removed the barrier and for beating up Mr Amrit and Mr Laurentus. The village elders decided against this suggestion of the youth saying: Raat mein thana jaana theek nahin hoga kyonki ve hamen chor ya dacait samajh kar karyavahi kar sakte hain, isliye kal hi is par kadam uthayenge (It may be inappropriate to go to the police station at night, since taking us to be thieves or dacoits, they may resort to action. Let us postpone our step till tomorrow). Everyone in the meeting accepted the decision of the village elders and it was decided to hold a peaceful meeting at the Shaheed Sthal (Martyrs Memorial) about 100 metres from the Tapkara O.P. on Friday, February 02, around 9.00 a.m. so that they could get an explanation from the Police Officers. The village meeting ended around midnight of February 01 and all went off to their respective houses with the resolve to peacefully participate in the proceedings the next day.
February 02, 2001. Friday
PEACEFUL PUBLIC MEETING AT TAPKARA
The simple people from neighboring villages of the Rania Police station and Tapkara O.P. areas started arriving at the Shaheed Sthal of Tapkara from 9.00 a.m. onwards for the proposed peaceful meeting. Raja Paulus Guria, who is old and sick came to the meeting around 10.00 a.m. The village representatives held a meeting at the Shaheed Sthal, Tapkara and decided to present a written charter of demands to the Police Officers at Tapkara O.P. In the meantime the crowd started to swell into thousands and slowly it filled the entire open area of the Shaheed Sthal beyond the office of Tapkara O.P. The memorandum was ready around 1.00 p.m. The village representatives chose four leaders to be their delegates to meet the Police Officers. These were: (1) Raja Paulus Guria, (2) Mr Soma Munda, (3) Mr Vijay Guria, (4) Mr Sadar Kandulna and (5) Paulus Guria. The memorandum contained four demands:
1. The police should replace the barrier at Derang with due respect and as per the tribal custom.
2. Each of the injured victims -- Mr Amrit Guria and Mr Lawrentus Guria should be paid a compensation of Rs. 50,000 (US$1=Rs45).
3. The present Officers-in-charge of Tapkara O.P. Mr R.N. Singh and Mr Akshay Kumar of Rania Police station should be suspended from their post and removed from the place.
4. From now on only tribal police officers and tribal police constables should be posted in tribal areas.
PEOPLES REPRESENTATIVES MEET THE OFFICERS
Around 1.00 p.m. the Sub-Divisional Police Officer of Khunti, D.S.P. (Deputy Superintendent of Police) Mr F.K.N. Kujur accompanied by the L.R.D.C. (Land & Revenue Deputy Commissioner) cum acting S.D.O. (Sub-Divisional Officer) of Khunti, Mr Anup Sharan, arrived at the Tapkara O.P. along with more police force probably after receiving news from the Tapkara O.P.
As the delegates were moving towards the Tapkara O.P. the people followed their delegates up to the entrance of the O.P. office shouting slogans for the removal of the guilty officers as well as for their other demands. Raja Paulus Guria, sick and frail, was seated on a cot in front of the Tapkara O.P. office gate, while one of the delegates read out the demands to the public before presenting it to the police officers. The public unanimously approved of the demands. Around 1.00 p.m. the delegates, led by Raja Paulus Guria entered the office of Tapkara O.P. and after narrating the incident of February 01 presented their set of demands to the D.S.P. of Khunti in the presence of L.R.D.C., Mr R.N. Singh, Mr Akshay Kumar and the police constables. After hearing the report of the delegates and their demands, the D.S.P. expressed his inability to take action against the Police Officers as it was not under his jurisdiction to suspend or remove the police officers. Hence the D.S.P. told them that he was contacting the S.P. (rural) who was competent to consider their demands. The D.S.P. also told Raja Paulus Guria that the police had gone simply to do their duty. Mr R.N. Singh intervened and told Raja Paulus Guria: Humne jaate vakt aapko pukara tha par aap ghar par nahin the (While on our way, we did give you a call, but you were absent), to which Raja Paulus Guria replied: Are sahab, Ham ghar par hi the? Tabiat kharab hone ke karan, hum khatiya par lete hue the. Hum gaadi ki awaz sunkar bahar nikle the par apki gadi paar ho chuki thee (O Sir, was I absent? Being ill disposed, I was lying on bed. I heard the sound of your vehicle and came out, but you had already passed by).
Then all the delegates came out of the Tapkara O.P. office and reported the matter to the public. In the meantime some people expressed their desire to call the local M.L.A. (Member of Legislative Assembly), Mr Koche Munda, from Torpa and accordingly Mr Pradeep Gupta was dispatched to Torpa to bring the M.L.A. The public peacefully continued raising slogans for the removal of the guilty officers and for an adequate compensation for the injured.
LOCAL M.L.A. AND REPRESENTATIVES MEET OFFICERS
Around 3.00 p.m. Mr Koche Munda, the local M.L.A., arrived at the Tapkara O.P. and taking along the delegates went into the O.P. Office to meet the officers. After being briefed about the situation by the delegates and the explanations given by the police officers Mr Koche Munda said that the behavior of the officer-in-charge of Tapkara O.P. towards the public was not only objectionable but unacceptable. He said: Tapkara ka daroga public se accha bartav nahin karta hai 26 January ko mere saath bhi accha bartav nahin kiya, isliye iska yahan rahana bekar hai (The Police Sub-inspector of Tapkara does not behave properly with the public On January 26, his behaviour towards me was improper too. Hence it is futile to keep him here). Then thumping the table he said: Isko yahan se avilamb hataya jai (Let him be removed from here immediately). Both the police officers, Mr R.N. Singh and Mr Akshay Kumar were furious at the M.L.A. Mr Koche Mundas remarks about them. That too in front of the D.S.P. Then the D.S.P. informed Mr Koche Munda and the delegates that he had contacted the S.P. (Rural) and that the S.P. would be coming around 4.P.M. Then Mr Koche Munda along with the delegates came out of the office of Tapkara O.P. and standing on the verandah of the office addressed the public in Mundari saying that the D.S.P. had contacted the S.P (Rural), who would be coming and that the guilty officers would be removed immediately from there. Then Mr Koche Munda, left the O.P. and went to a nearby shop. The delegates waited in the verandah of the O.P. office for sometime then moved towards the people and told them to wait till the arrival of the S.P. As Raja Paulus Guria reached the gate, he heard some commotion behind him inside the O.P. and turned back to find out what was happening. He saw Mr R.N. Singh, Officer-in-charge of Tapkara charging out of the O.P. office wielding a lathi (club) and shouting at the top of his voice: Maro salon ko, Order aa gaya. Sala Munda logon ko sikha denge (Beat the bastards. We have got orders now. We will teach the Munda bastards a lesson). He was followed by Mr Akshay Kumar and about 20 to 25 policemen all armed with their lathi shouting Order ho gaya: Maro salon ko (The order has been issued: Thrash the bastards). The D.S.P. and L.R.D.C. did not come out of the office.
LATHI CHARGE ON WOMEN AND CHILDREN
Since women and children were in the front rows they were the first victims of the lathi charge. When the rampaging police continued mercilessly beating women and children, the people got agitated and started brick-batting at the police. One of the pregnant women, Mrs Kumulen Guria, who was injured and admitted in R.M.C.H. (Rajendra Medical College Hospital), Ranchi, in a serious condition, is a mute witness to the atrocities of lathi charge by the Police. All the policemen including Mr R.N. Singh and Mr Akshay Kumar retreated to the O.P. building and started firing at the people without any warning through the windows facing the people. The people ran for cover in all directions. As the people were fleeing the place the police charged out of the O.P. building firing indiscriminately on the fleeing crowd. They pursued the fleeing people even up-to the Urdu school which is situated about 200 yards from the O.P. building.
EYE WITNESS ACCOUNT OF THE BRUTAL KILLING
One of the eye witnesses to the firing was Ms Angelina Guria who had taken shelter behind the left side bunker of Tapkara O.P. for about an hour till the police returned to the O.P. building. The firing according to her went on for nearly an hour, that is, till about 5.30 p.m. When, in spite of the firing the people stood their ground, the police fired about five tear-gas shells and the people started to flee the O.P. area and two of these shells fell near the Shaheed Sthal. The Police went after the fleeing public shooting in all directions. One of the police also fell victim to their own firing. When the armed police returned to the O.P. after the firing, one of the policemen threatened to shoot Ms Angelina if she did not flee. In the meantime some of the injured people were crying for help and for water and she went to the nearby house and brought drinking water for four of the injured. Then the policemen moved around the place collecting the dead and the injured and dragged them to the premises of the O.P. Some of the injured, like Samuel Topno say that the police used the lathi to strangulate and kill him after he was dragged to the O.P. The verandah of a nearby building is a mute witness to the bloodshed by the dead innocent of whom all except one are tribals. Other eye witnesses and leaders like Raja Paulus Guria, Soma Munda, who took shelter opposite the O.P. in the carpentry shop owned and run by Mr R.N. Singh, corroborate the statement of Ms Angelina Guria.
Raja Paulus Guria, who stayed around the Tapkara Bazar till 8.00 p.m., saw 6 of the injured being treated at Dr Dasains clinic, 3 treated at Dr Farooqs clinic and one at Dr Kashis clinic. The Koel-Karo Jan Sangathan (Koel-Karo Peoples Unity) arranged an ambulance through Mr Vijay Guria and his colleagues but the Torpa Police prevented them to take the ambulance to Tapkara.
POLICE CREATE EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THEIR ACTION
According to the eye witnesses the vehicles were not burnt till about 5.30 p.m. The policemen left the O.P. area and went after the people. Some unidentified anti-social elements set fire to the Police Jeeps standing near the Shaheed Sthal under a Banyan tree. The police also started to torch private vehicles (motor cycles and cycles, exact number not known) parked near the Shaheed Sthal. After this the Police prepared their meal and had liquor and then started to break the roof, windows and doors of the O.P. building. Then around midnight they loaded the dead and the injured into the truck and after firing a few shots from their rifles, abandoned the Tapkara O.P.
February 03, 2001. Saturday
Place: Tapkara O.P.
Early morning, on February 03, the village leaders and the people of the area came to Tapkara O.P. in search of the dead, the injured and the missing. They prepared the list of the dead, the injured and the missing persons. Some of the villagers went to R.M.C.H. Ranchi, to enquire about the dead and the injured. According to the list of the Village leaders there were 8 dead of which 7 were tribals and one of the Muslim Community.
LIST OF THE DEAD
S.No. Name, Fathers Name, Village, P.S.
1. Mr Sameer Dahanga, Raphael Dahanga, Banda Jaipur, Rania
2. Mr Sundar Kandulna, Bokhre kandulna, Banai mundatoli, Rania
3. Mr Prabhusahay Kandulna, Daud Kandulna, Belsian Jarakel, Rania
4. Mr Lucas Guria, Late Jaimasih Guria, Gondra, Rania
5. Mr Soma Joseph Guria, Late Junas Guria, Gondra Jaipur, Rania
6. Mr Boda Pahan, Late Tomba Pahan, Champabaha, Torpa
7. Mr Sursen Guria, Michael Guria, Derang, Torpa
8. Mr Jamal Khan, Late Alauddin khan, Tapkara, Torpa
LIST OF THE INJURED IN THE R.M.C.H. RANCHI
S.No. Name, Village, P.S.
1. Mr Elias Guria, Chukatoli Tapkara, Torpa
2. Mrs Kumulen Guria, Koinara, Rania
3. Mr Samuel Topno, Gondra, Rania
4. Mr Paulus Guria, Kalet, Torpa
5. Mr Masihdas Kandulna, Banda Jaipur, Rania
6. Mr Saban Bhengra, Gondra, Rania
7. Mr Enem Topno, Binda, Koinara Rania
8. Mr John Kandulna, Koddakel, Rania
9. Mr Francis Guria, Gondra, Rania
10. Mr Masihdas Guria, Koinara, Rania
11. Mr Martin Kandulna, Koddakel, Rania
12. Mr Jaipal Surin, Beharatoli Tapkara, Torpa
13. Mr Arvind Guria, Dimbukel, Torpa
14. Mr Herman Guria, Gutuhatu, Torpa
15. Mr Jhenga Guria, Gutuhatu, Torpa
About 20 others injured were treated at the local clinic and at home and the final list is still awaited from the people.
February 04, 2001. Sunday
This Sunday was the BLACK SUNDAY for the people of Tapkara O.P. and Rania P.S. News reached the people that the Police had brought 7 dead bodies from Ranchi after post-mortem and that relatives of the dead were called to claim the bodies for the burial. People started to arrive at the Tapkara Shaheed Sthal in big number to bid farewell to their martyrs. When the bodies were brought to the Shaheed Sthal, the leaders held a meeting and asked the relatives of the deceased about the place of burial. All the families except the Muslim Community agreed to have a common burial for their dead at the Shaheed Sthal. Hence seven martyrs were buried at the Shaheed Sthal with full honour and reverence as per the tribal custom.
1. The genesis of the disturbance is the unjustified removal of the Derang barrier by the police and their criminal assault on Amrit Guria.
2. The Referral Hospital authorities of Torpa, where injured Mr Amrit Guria was brought in after the incident failed to inform the local police at Torpa about the case and treated the matter casually, even as Mr Amrit Guria specifically informed them that he had sustained injury on account of the violent attack by the police at Tapkara. The Torpa P.S. should have registered case against the guilty under the provisions of S.C. and S.T. Prevention of Atrocities Act. The authorities at Torpa Thana (Police Station) have failed in their duty to register a F.I.R. (First Information Report) against the Police.
3. In spite of the presence of the local M.L.A., Mr Koche Munda, and the peoples representatives at the O.P., the police at Tapkara O.P., were bent on creating violent disturbance in a predetermined and a preplanned manner rather than having recourse to tactical peaceful methods of solving the dispute and using the good-will of the peoples representatives.
4. The civil and police administration did mighty little from 9 a.m. till about 3.30 p.m. of February 02. Besides the S.P. (rural) never appeared in the scene of trouble. The police lathi charged (caned) on the slogan raising, unarmed, peacefully gathered public.
5. The sequence of events show that the police (i) resorted to lathi charge on women and children without any warning (ii) started indiscriminate firing without following the procedure of opening fire. (iii) tear gas shells were hurled only after the firing (iv) the vehicles were set on fire after the firing. (v) the police themselves set fire on some of the vehicles including private vehicles. (vi) the police themselves removed the furniture of the O.P. and set fire on the records.
6. Mr Koche Munda has so far not issued any statement regarding the whole incident.
7. The inhuman and brutal treatment meted out to the dead and the injured is clearly a violation of Human Rights, especially of the poor tribals of the area. Some of the injured who could have been saved, were brutally killed. Some other injured were unlucky as the Torpa Police did not allow the ambulance to proceed to Tapkara.
8. The determination of the people of Koel-Karo area to stop the construction of the dam even by shedding their blood has once again proved to the world the resolve of the tribals of Jharkhand.
9. The death of the policeman Jaleshwar Ram has to be investigated.
1. It could possibly be a well planned strategy of the administration to test the strength of the Koel-Karo Jan Sangathan to withstand the new move of the present Government to go ahead with the Koel-Karo dam. Refer to the Statement of the Prime Minister on the Koel-Karo dam.
2. This incident could be the result of peoples objection to the nexus between the timber mafia and the Officer-in-Charge of Tapkara O.P. Mr R.N. Singh in smuggling wood from the forest for his carpentry shop at Tapkara.
3. This incident has occurred because of lack of respect for and understanding of the ethos of local tribal people and their customs regarding the outsiders entry into the area. Outsiders are required to seek entry permission from the local Paraha Raja.
4. The untimely disappearance of the local M.L.A. from the scene of the trouble is questionable as to what might have transpired between him and the police officials behind the back of the delegates.
5. The police showed an attitude of arrogance, hostility and hatred against the tribals all through the episode.
The above report* has been prepared by the following citizens of Jharkhand after a visit to the place of occurrence at Tapkara and after a public inquiry at the Shaheed Sthal, Tapkara on February 07, 2001 :
1. Mr Paul L. Kongari, Advocate, Rtd A.D.J. (Additional District Judge)
2. Mr Marcus Kindo, Advocate, Rtd. C.J.M. (Chief Judicial Magistrate)
3. Mr Himanshu Kachhap, Rtd. A.D.M. (Additional Deputy Magistrate)
4. Mr Aloysius Demta, Rtd A.D.M.
5. Mr Placidius Kiro, Rtd. D.C. (Deputy Commissioner) (Excise)
6. Mr Savari, Advocate
7. Ms Jyotsna Dang
8. Mr Dhanik Guria, Advocate
Local expressions paraphrased, abbreviations explained and presented by Cyprian Ekka. E-mail : email@example.com