Alban Toppo Describes His Illegal Detention
By Alban Toppo
16 December, 2009
Note from Alban Toppo, Advocate, Human Rights Law Network
On 10 December, 2009 at about 2:30 P.M. the Thana Incharge (TI) of Bhairamgarh Police Station Mr. K.S. Nand in civil uniform came to the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram (VCA) situated at Katiyarraas accompanied by approximately more than 25 SPO’s in 5 cars. Director of VCA Shri. Himanshu Kumar and few other volunteers of VCA were present. I was also present there to consult Himanshu Kumar about food conditions in the region as I am working on Right to food case before Supreme Court of India. TI spoke to Himanshu Kumar about taking Kopa Kunjam, s/o Lacchu Kunjam, resident of village Alnaar, Block – Geedam, P.S. Dantewada, who is a volunteer of VCA stating that they need him for some interrogation by the Superintendent of Police. He said, “SP साहिब ने बुलाया है, कुछ पूछताछ करनी है.”.
No notice was served for this. However on being asked by Himanshu Kumar to give some written notice about it, the TI Bhairamgarh immediately wrote on a piece of paper that, “प्रति कोपा, आपसे थाना दंतेवाड़ा में कुछ पूछताछ करना चाहता हूँ. कृपया आप मेरे साथ सादर P.S. कोतवाली चलें.” (I want to do some investigation with you at Dantewada Police Station. Please come with me to P.S. Kotwali). Being an Advocate present at the spot, I thought it to be my duty to accompany VCA Volunteer Kopa Kunjam to Dantewada police station. With the consent of Himanshu Kumar, Director-VCA I went alongwith Kopa Kunjam. At Dantewada police station we were asked to sit down. After making both of us wait for about half an hour, we were asked to come and sit in a vehicle( police car). Thinking that we were being taken to the S.P. Office, I sat in the vehicle. As vehicle proceeded, I introduced myself saying that I am an advocate, having done my law course from Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur itself very recently and am associated with Human Rights Law Network. When the vehicle crossed Dantewada, I became suspicious and asked as to where we were being taken now, to which TI, Bhairamgarh, replied, “Kopa Kunjam is now being taken to Beejapur District”. Kopa Kunjam started resisting to go further as he was not informed about being taken to Beejapur earlier. I also objected to it, stating that the police should follow necessary procedures under the law and should act as per guidelines of the Supreme Court and that they cannot take Mr.Kopa to Beejapur without giving any notice in this regard. By this time Kopa Kunjam who was resisting being taken to Beejapur , came out form the vehicle and I also got out of the Bolero vehicl. The TI along with 2 others got hold of Mr.Kopa and with the help of around 15 S.P.O’s bundled Mr. Kopa into another vehicle which was also coming along with them. When I again resisted to such behavior saying that it was illegal to behave in this manner, two S.P.O.’s started abusing and slapping me and bundled me also inside the car. Before being bundled into car, I somehow managed to send a text message to my senior Lawyer, colleagues and friends in Delhi about this incident. Noticing this my mobile phone was also snatched away by S.P.Os.
At about 5 P.M., we reached Bhairamgarh police station and we were asked to sit there inside the police station. We were kept at a place inside police station with two S.P.O. keeping an eye on us. At about 8:45 P.M. the officials of Bhairamgarh police station called me inside a room and tried to ask about the reason of me deciding to accompany Mr.Kopa. TI of Bhairamgarh was addressing me in an extremely rude and disrespectful manner and soon became violent and abusive. He started abusing me with slur and offensive language, which was followed by beatings with a thick bamboo stick and with a hard rubber cane, continuously slapping me while pulling my hair and kicking severely. After sometime he went out and started beating Kopa Kunjam. Kopa Kunjum was brought into the same room and both of us were beaten severely for 30 minutes by the TI Mr. Nand and an assistant constable Banjara, while some 15 other police staff & S.P.Os surrounded both of us. Later I was taken to a separate room and was questioned about the purpose of my stay in Dantewada and association with VCA. At around 10 PM, I listened someone saying that , “Sala Bada Admi hai , Delhi se Sahab ka phone aya hai.” Soon after this I was asked to write in a paper that I came to Bhairamgarh with Kopa Kunjam and as it has become late evening and there is no mode of transport and since the area is a very sensitive and unsafe, I myself have decided to spend the night at Bhairamgarh station, where I am staying safely.
Mr. Kopa was very badly beaten and had received serious injuries on his chest, back and leg, due to which he was even unable to walk and sleep properly. I have got injuries on front portion of elbow of right hand, biceps and back causing severe pain and swelling. I was even not able to move my hands and back due to severe pain. I was slapped regularly and was held by my hair. I tried to say that an advocate cannot be subjected to this kind of brutality, TI Mr. Nand reacted shouting that “ No Advocate in Bastar dares to speak in my presence and you talk a lot. Now show me how much you can talk! Show me how much law you know?” I spend whole of night shivering and in pain, speculating what next is to happen.
On 11 December, 2009 at 9:30 a.m. I was send to Dantewada police station accompanied by 4 S.P.O.’s in a vehicle and one head constable of Bhairamgarh police station, while mr. Kopa was kept detained. When they reached Dantewada Police Station, two volunteers of VCA were called and I was handed over to them.
I am writing to you about all this so that you take cognizance of this kind of brutality committed on me, which not only defies DK Basu Guidelines but also is probably unprecedented behavior ever shown to an Advocate for speaking up for the rights of a probable accused. It is against law, against democracy and even against morality to do this to an advocate.
Kindly take appropriate action against those who have abused power vested in them to beat and insult me.