National Human Rights Commission,
Manav Adhikar Bhawan,
Block-C, GPO Complex, INA,
New Delhi- 110023
Days after the Jharkhand police opened fire on farmers protesting land acquisition for coal mines by the National Thermal Power Corporation in Badkagaon, Hazaribagh, on 1st October 2016 resulting in several deaths, the demonstrators are still shocked at what they claim was the excessive use of force by the administration.
The farmers have been opposing land acquisition of their multi-crop farmland for coal mines allotted to National Thermal Power Corporation since 2004. They had been on a sit-in protest near a mining site in Chiru Barwadih village for two weeks when the police tried to break their protest at 5 am on October 1. When the farmers, including several women, tried to stop the police from detaining Nirmala Devi, the member of legislative assembly from Badkagaon who was supporting the protest, the police fired 60 rounds of bullets into the crowd as reported by the villagers. The whole area has been turned into a military camp. Women farmers said they too were not spared. “The circle officer started dragging Nirmala Devi by her hair and clothes, when we tried to stop him, the police abused us…” said a village woman. “They chased us in the fields and broke all our utensils and material lying at the dharna site.” One farmer asked “we were on a peaceful protest and were not obstructing any officials for two weeks and were even talking to officials. Why did the circle officer try to attack us at 4 am? Why did he attack and abduct Nirmala Devi in early hours of morning? What sudden pressure were they under?” He added that police force had occupied Chirudih school building for the last three months, interrupting classes there. Here it should be mentioned that Ms. Nirmala Devi; the local Member of Assembly is still missing, her husband Mr. Yogendar Shau; an ex minister of Jharkhand government alleged that she was abducted by the police and in their captivity; later Mr. Shau has been arrested. On the other hand the district police in a media session claimed that Ms. Nirmala Devi is absconding as two FIRs have been registered against Ms. Nirmala Devi, Mr. Yogendar Shau and 500 and 200 others, respectively.
By 3rd October evening, hundreds of families had fled their homes after the police and paramilitary forces carried out a door-to-door search of houses in six villages in the mining area, in Chapakala, Chipakhurd, Sonbarsa, Churchur, Arahar and Nagri.
The Superintendent of Police; Hazaribagh, Mr. Bhimsen Tuti said the police had detained 10 residents on suspicion of having attacked the police but had allowed nine of them to go by 4th October evening. “We have video evidence of protestors attacking the Circle Officer and the Additional Superintendent of Police, and are looking for residents who we suspect to have attacked the police on 1st October,” said Tuti. But while the fact finding team asked medical details of the injured police officers the Hazaribagh Sadar Hospital failed to furnish the same and even the team visited the Hazaribagh Sadar Police Station and requested for the details; the then Officer in Charge of the PS; Mr. Sadre Alam told that the details are with the Badkagaon Police Station only and the Badkagaon is not accessible till 5th October.
On 4th October, former Chief Minister Mr. Babulal Marandi, former Member of Parliament from Hazaribagh Mr. Bhuneshwar Mehta of the Communist Party of India, Rashtriya Janata Dal state president Mr. Gautam Sagar Rana and Janata Dal (United) district president Mr. Bateshwar Mehta were stopped by the district administration from visiting the area. “The administration does not want out the stories of police atrocity to emerge, thus they have made a situation worse than emergency in Badkagaon,” said the political team. “We managed to meet some villagers who say all bullet injuries are above the waist. The intention was intimidation of farmers, not dispersal of crowd.”
Residents say five persons have died in police firing, including three students in their late teens, and more than 40 have been injured. On 4th October evening, the district administration put the number of deaths at four. It was the third time since 2013 that the police have fired on farmers in Badkagaon. The fact finding team collected the names of the deceased in official record at Hazaribagh Sadar Hospital. The deceased were:-
- Md. Mahtab; son of Mr. Majim Ansari, 30 years aged of village Chepakhurd under Badkagaon police station
- Ranjan Kumar Das; son of Mr. Kashinath Ram, 19 years aged of village Sindbari under Badkagaon police station
- Pawan Kumar Saw; son of Mr. Makharan Shaw. 19 years aged of village Sonbarsha under Badkagaon police station
- Abhishek Kumar Rai; son of Mr. Pawan Kumar Rai, 19 years aged of village Sonbarsha under Badkagaon police station
Post Mortem Register at Hazaribagh Sadar Hospital
All three 19 years’ aged boys were going to attend their private tuition while received bullets and died. The bodies brought to the hospital by police in two consecutive terms on 01.10.2016. A medical board was constituted, comprised by Dr. P. Choudhury, Dr. Major P.K Sinha and Dr. Tapas Kumar Rajak. Post Mortem Examination was done on 02.10.2016 and PME No. was 031. Shockingly the police brought the bodies straight to the morgue instead of the emergency of the hospital and no medical opinion has been taken that the bodies were dead or not. In PME register it was mentioned that died due to receiving bullets. It was reported that after gunshot, the policemen dragged the bodies to the Panchayat Bhawan and kept it in a vehicle there and not arranging medical attention and the villages heard screams for three-four hours before they succumbed to death.
The fact finding team met 5 grievously injured persons at Ranchi; 3 in RIMS and 2 at Health Point; a private facility. Mr. Bikash Kumar; son of Mr. Shibdeo Mahato, aged about 24 years of Sindwari village under Badkagaon police station has received bullet injury on his right thigh. He has been admitted to Trauma Center of RIMS. He was brought by the police. Till date no surgery has been done. Master Amit Kumar; son of Mr. Ramdhani Das; a 15 year school dropout also admitted at Trauma Center of RIMS. He is from Sonbarsha village. In his case bullet entered through right hand and stuck in his stomach. Mr. Kailash Kumar Shaw; son of Mr. Bhubenswar Shaw, 28 years old of Churchu village received bullet on his head. His father was also brutally beaten on 17th of May 2016 at protest site. Mr. Jibral Ansari and Md. Nizam admitted to Health Point; a private and expensive facility by police itself. Both of them received bullets on their backs. In Jibran’s case bullet exited through left shoulder. Dr. OP Srivastava; an anesthetist met the fact finding team just after attending the surgery on Jibran, told that he was stable. In both these cases the family members paid the ambulance hiring and medical expenses. Ms. Nazma Khatun narrated that while her husband Jibran was brought to Hazaribagh Sadar Hospital, the attending doctors referred for better facility and police brought them to this private hospital. The family spent Rs. 60000 till 4th of October 2016. Mr. Nizam was at Intensive Care Unit of the same hospital. It was also reported that one Mr. Rajesh Shaw of Sonbarsha village has been admitted to another private hospital called Medica. Police took grievously injured Rajesh to their captivity and on 3rd of October 2016, the brought him to Medica and left the scene. His family charged Rs. 1, 24, 000 by the private hospital, out of which Rs. 46,000 has been paid by the family. All of the injured and their family members informed in unison that the injured were either on their way to river for bath, on their way to attend natures call or heading towards the Dharna Sthal (protest site) after hearing that the local Member of Assembly; Ms. Nirmala Devi was being arrested by the police from the spot and in this course police brutally charged baton over the women protesters. Another major finding was; all the injured received bullets which were fired from a long distance; approximately 100- 300 meters; confirming that none were in a position to attack the police party.
Badkagaon in Hazaribagh district, 150 kilometers from the state capital Ranchi, has been the epicenter of a dogged protest for the last 12 years by farmers who do not want to sell their land to the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC). Their farms lie over the Rs 33,000 crore- Pakri Barwadih coal block. With a 1.6 billion-tons reserve, it is one of the largest coal blocks in the country.
According to NTPC data, seven years into the process, by 2015 it had been able to acquire 4,043 acres of the total 8,055 acres needed for the project. This includes forest and government-owned land. Of 8,745 affected families, only 2,614 have accepted compensation.
The farmers’ opposition has forced NTPC to revise the rate of compensation four times, more than doubling it from its initial offer of Rs 8 lakh per acre in 2007 to Rs 20 lakh per acre now. The affected families say this is inadequate compensation for their land and the norms should be four times the market value of land as per the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation Act, 2013
Several hundred families in 36 villages say they do not wish to sell their farmland at all. “We grow crops here all 12 months,” said a farmer. “We grow vegetables, pulses, wheat, we are self-sufficient and every morning five to seven trucks loaded with vegetables go from Badkagaon to Ranchi, Hazaribagh, Patratu. What will we eat if you deprive us of our livelihood?” The farmers complained that they had met Chief Minister Raghuvar Das in August, and he had assured them of an enquiry into the issue within ten days but they had not heard back a word since August.
The NTPC in 2014 cancelled its 27-year contract with its contractor, Thiess Mines. The mining contractor said that while the NTPC was inexplicably willing to spend Rs 7,000 crore on imported coal, it was unwilling to spend Rs 36 crore annually on a better compensation package for the affected villagers.
The NTPC floated a new tender where the mining contractor would have the responsibility for land acquisition and rehabilitation. A consortium of two companies, Thriveni Earthmovers and Sainik Mining, won the new tender last year and promised to start mining by the end of 2016. Thriveni has been accused of illegal mining in Odisha by the Shah Commission. Showing utter disregard to both public anger and law and order, the NTPC added fuel to fire by starting mining operations in Chirudih Barwadih Village in mid-May 2016. The people protested at the site and also started a Chita Satyagrah (Funeral Pyre Protest) in May this year. The political cost of the protests had forced even Chief Minister Raghubar Das to take note. He had intervened in the issue himself on 16 August 2016, expressing his wish to visit the area in 10 days and offer a new land compensation package to break the deadlock.
People with their lands at stake, facing improper compensation, started a Kafan Satyagrah (Shroud Protest) demanding the local administration investigate whether the NTPC had obtained the approval of the Gram Sabha, as required by law under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (RFCTLARR Act).
However, the acquisitions in the area have actually been carried out under the Coal Bearing Areas (Acquisition and Development) Act, 1957, and not the RFCTLARR Act. Areas acquired under this Coal Act, and 13 other Acts specified in the 4th Schedule of the RFCTLARR Act, are exempt, as per Section 105, from having to follow the more democratic acquisition procedures and benefits of the RFCTLARR Act. The Union government had actually extended the benefits of the RFCTLARR Act to all these 14 exempt Acts through an Executive Order dated 28 August 2015.
This Executive Order is however just Executive Order. It has not made it clear whether the nullification of the exemption would be applicable to acquisitions by the public sector NTPC in the area. The complexities in the regulations have made it unclear.
What has been crystal clear throughout is that villagers’ demands have been legitimate, legal, and democratic and until the police firing, completely peaceful and nonviolent. The demands make even more sense on economic grounds, as the area is highly fertile and produces three crops a year. It is also known as the vegetable basket of the Jharkhand state, with earnings reported to be as high as Rupees 200,000 a year from an acre of land!
Chronology of event
7th November, 2006, when NTPC planned to have the opening of their local office for PakriBarwadih project, there was an eight hour road block by dozens of tractors band several thousand people from five to eleven in the morning. Representatives from about 85 villages participated, and had taken out a procession from early in the morning. Cases were made, and several have been arrested. Badkagaon PS Case 139/06 u/s 147, 148, 340, 452, 353, 379, 427, 434 was registered against 550 persons.
7th December 2006, NTPC began the repair of their damaged Badkagaon office. A protest led by Mr. Mitalesh Dangi, with large numbers of people present, was held, but failed to stop the repair work.
6th January 2007 a Public Hearing was scheduled for the Pakri-Barwadi Project. The day before NTPC brought a party of about 100 village people to town, and in the middle of the previous night, at about midnight they assembled with them at the Hall, which was decorated with the appropriate Public Hearing banners and microphones. Their purpose is not clear, it seems they were going to make a video showing the people agreeing to their project, and send this to the MOEF, New Delhi, as evidence of public agreement, no matter what happened in the Hearing the next day. About 500 Agitation people had also come to the town the evening before. (This was because their leader Rafique Ansari had been arrested the day before, and they feared police would prevent them on the day by stopping the buses from running, a common tactic is to pull in the buses and hold them up for inspection etc.) The next day, by this time more people arriving from the villages, about 5000 people assembled at the Hall. By 1 pm neither NTPC nor SPCB people turned up, so the people then went to block the main town crossroads and highway for over an hour. There was a traffic jam for about one hour. By mid afternoon they dispersed. Police subsequently made criminal cases against about 400 people.
16 April 2007 there was another attempted Public Hearing for Pakri Barwadih project. The DC herself agreed that these PHs should be in the locality, hence this time it was held in the locality, at Badkagaon. Large numbers of public turned up, from the public and from the administration (Newspaper reports said that approximately ten thousand assembled), and very large numbers of police. The assembled public took over the venue, and didn’t allow the officers to speak, but they spoke. They got the officers to sign that the project would not take place. The public insisted that the criminal cases against several agitating people be withdrawn. The NTPC and Pollution Board officials sat for 4 hours were not able to get a word in. However, the police remained inactive throughout as physical violence was not resorted to.
23rd July 2013 A major incident in the form of a police firing on protestors resulting in the death of one and injuries to five others has occurred on July 23rd. This happened at the NTPC’s Chatti Bariatu proposed coal mining block. (This particular block is one of the three NTPC is undertaking to mine in the Karanpura valley, and is just a few kilometers away from its Pakri-Barwadih block).
14th August 2015 NTPC Pakri Barwadih at Dangi housing colony construction Police led a lathi charge against a procession of villagers protesting against the construction, , and eventually resorted to police firing. Injured in the incident were dozens of villagers, the government CO, Police Inspector and several police persons. The villagers set on fire the BDO’s vehicle, Badkagaon police vehicle, Block vehicle and a motor cycle.
17 May 2016: Under heavy police protection, Pakri Barwadih coal mine was opened. The police claimed that on the way back villagers stoned police vehicles, and police did lathi charge.
17- 18 May 2016 : on night of 17- 18 May, police conducted night time raids in villages Churchu, Sonbarsa, Darhi, and Chirudih. They forcibly entered houses broke open doors, and beat the village people, press photos show the extent of these beatings with several personal testimonies. Women and children were also victims.
19 May 2016: Barakgaon bandhi, total shut down of the bazaar, the whole area was closed down.
19 May 2016: a meeting of intellectuals at Badkagaon temple have decided to conduct fast from 25th May. Police action they alleged was at the behest of Triveni Sainik Co. and NTPC.
25 May 2016: 3 leaders, Mr. Loknath Mahato, Mr. MithaleshDangi, and Mr. Awad began ‘funeral pyre’ sit in protest at Badkagaon Durga Sthan.
29 May 2016: those on protest taken to Hospital, Mr. MithaleshDangi sent to jail. Their places taken up by other protestors.
25 July 2016: Opposition political party leaders did a sit in protest at this village.
28 July 2016: NTPC Triveni-Sainik Co. claim that 20 women, 17 youth have been sent for training to Bangalore, and 200-300 have been given temporary jobs, they are running a medical center etc.
30 July, 2016: at the complaint of NTPC Manager; Mr. MP Prasad, Police cases have been registered against the party leaders who entered the mining area on July 25, together with 450 unknown persons. Badkagaon PS Case no. 178/16, u/s 143, 109, 186, 447, 34 of CRRP, Coal mines Regulation Act, u/s 57(3), and Mines Act u/s 46(8).
2 August, 2016: Opposition leaders of most parties are coming together to lead a state wise agitation against the warrants of arrest against significant leaders for their support for the people displaced by Pakri Barwadih project. Arrest warrants have been issued against them for staging a dharna on July 25 without the permission of the Hazaribag district administration.
4 August, 2016: opposition leaders of the state led a march of several hundreds to NTPC mining site to court arrest. With no police reaction, they went to Badkagaon police station to court arrest, where the police said there were not enough grounds to arrest them.
6 August, 2016: Hazaribag MP Mr. Jayant Sinha, chaired a meeting aimed at resolving the issue, arguing that it wasn’t anyone’s’ power to stop NTPC work.
11 August, 2016: the prominent political leaders again courted arrest by entering the mines area, were detained, taken to distant Padma, and released in the evening.
12 August, 2016: government persons who came to measure the land were opposed by local land owners who would not let them. The later gave a written request of objection to the CO.
16 August, 2016 : Mr. Mithalesh Dangi of Aazadi Bachao Agitation cited Supreme Court verdict of July 8, 2013, case no 4549/2000 saying that land owners were real owners of the minerals below their land. He claimed that the 12,000 acres acquired by NTPC had approximately 1,600 MT coal. At market rate of Rs 3,000 per tonne, one acre holds coal worth Rs 40 crore.
30 August, 2016. A two day fast was held by political parties JVK, RJD, and JD(U) under leadership of Mr. Babulal Maranadi at Hazaribag Zila School. Several hundreds of people present.
31 August 2016 NTPC chairman-cum MD Mr. Gurdeep Singh flew in from Delhi to discuss the Pakri Barwadih issues with Jharkhand CM.
15 September 2016: “Kafan Dharana” started at Chiruadih mine site, led by MLA Ms. Nirmala Devi.
1 October, 2016: early morning paramilitary attacked women on dharna at Churadih, much beating with lathis and many wounded, Nirmala taken in police vehicle, stopped by people who pulled her out and also the ASP and CO whom they beat up. ASP ordered firing killing 4 as reported by the administration.
In this context, we believe that the consecutive attacks and intimidation by the State agencies upon the agitating peasantry of the said area are in infringement of the Constitutional guarantees under Articles 21 and 19 of Indian Constitution. The forcible attitude to grab their land is in contravening to the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. The recent police action is against the NHRC guidelines on Death during the Police Action.
It seems that the government of Chhattisgarh, in particular, the District Magistrate of Hazaribagh failed to maintain law and order of the area (AIR 1988 SC 93). The government have had an unholy nexus with some moneyed people did not care to protect its people and tried to grab the land illegally.
The police action was against international obligations stated in Article 6 and 7 of ICCPR, Articles 2,3,5,6 and 8 of Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials; Adopted by General Assembly resolution No. 34/169 of 17 December 1979 and Articles 4 and 5 of Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials Adopted by the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime
Police and administration of Hazaribagh did not follow the settled procedures set by Your Commission regarding police firing.
More importantly, the Member of Legislative Assembly of that area, being a woman, was forcefully abducted by police and not produced before any court of law.
Hence, I seek your urgent intervention in this particular incident and demand for:-
- A thorough and independent investigation over the recent incident of killing and injuring by police action
- Direction for compassionate hearing over the grievances of peasantry of that area
- Direction for withdrawal of all covert and overt restrictions by district administration to visit the place of occurrence
- Immediate withdrawal of criminal cases against agitating people
- Direction for immediate recovery of Ms. Niramala Devi; local MLA
- The errant police and para military force including the involved officials of district administration must be booked under specific criminal case and charges
- Adequate compensations for deceased and injured persons and their families
National Convener- PACTI
Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha
National Convenor (PACTI)
Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity