Buradamamidi Killings: HRF Submission To Magisterial Probe

The Sub Collector
Visakhapatnam district


Sub: Submission by Human Rights Forum to Magisterial Inquiry into the death of two Adivasis in an alleged encounter with the police near Buradamamidi village in Pedakodapalle panchayat of Pedabayulu mandal in Visakhapatnam district on the intervening night of March 15-16, 2019

We have gathered from media reports that a magisterial inquiry is being conducted by you into the deaths of two Adivasis Batti Bhushanam and Sidaari Jamadhar in an alleged exchange of fire near Buradamamidi village of Pedabayulu mandal on the intervening night of March 15-16 this year.

The Human Rights Forum (HRF) is a citizens’ forum established with the objective of working for the protection of Constitutionally guaranteed/internationally recognised rights of the people. We are concerned with ensuring, among other things, that the agencies of the State, like the police, adhere to the law in the discharge of their duties. We believe that citizens must be tried and punished, if found guilty, only in accordance with a procedure laid down by the law of the land and no one can be subjected to extra-judicial execution by the State. That would be contrary to Articles 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution. We therefore place before you the following:

At the very outset we take strong exception to an assertion made in the Press release issued by you on June 26, 2019 informing the public about this magisterial inquiry. It is stated in the release that two Maoists had died in an exchange of fire between the police and the Maoists in the forest area of Pedakodapalle village on March 16 this year. How can the two Adivasis who died on that night be described as ‘Maoists who had died in an encounter with the police’ without any manner of enquiry having been done so far by the government to determine the circumstances of their death. In all such cases, the police behave as a judge of their own case and put out a narrative intended to exonerate themselves. Your description in the Press

falsehood. It is our contention that the two Adivasis were not Maoists and there was no exchange of fire on that night. That you did not see fit to prefix the words ‘exchange of fire’ and ‘Maoists’ with the word ‘alleged’ in your press release is an omission we take serious objection to.

Following media reports, a two-member HRF fact-finding team along with functionaries of several Adivasi organisations on March 19 visited the area where the deaths occurred. We examined the spot where the two Adivasis, Batti Bhushanam (52) and Sidaari Jamadhar (30) were shot to death and spoke in detail to two Adivasis, Sidaari Rambabu and Koda Bonjubabu, who were lucky to survive the firing. We also interacted with residents of Pedakodapalle, Buradamamidi, Mettaveedhi and Jayantikota who accompanied us to the area.

We have no hesitation in stating that the official police version that 2 contingents of Greyhounds and CRPF personnel who were on combing operations were fired upon by Maoists of the Pedabayulu Area Committee following which they were compelled to retaliate thereby resulting in the death of two Maoist squad members is a brazen and shameless lie. There was no exchange of fire on that night, only unprovoked, one-sided firing by the police that led to the death of two Adivasis. What is more, the firing was not preceded by any warning.

The facts of the case are as follows: After dinner on March 15, Bhushanam and Bonjubabu (residents of Mettaveedhi, a hamlet of Pedakodapalle) and Jamadhar and Rambabu (first cousins and residents of the Pedakodapalle main village) set out for a hunt hoping to strike some game, mainly birds. This is normal and fairly regular practice in Adivasi society, particularly in the dry summer months. Bhushanam and Jamadhar were each carrying a country-made weapon and had torchlights fixed with a strap across their head while the other two were holding torches.

The four crossed the local Gede Gedda and after a sojourn beyond Jayantikota took a turn back around midnight descending the Arnambayalu hill near Buradamamidi village. All four were dressed in civil clothes. They were walking on a track in fields belonging to Buradamamidi residents when they were shot by the police from about half a furlong away to their left. There was no forewarning whatsoever. Both Rambabu, who was walking in front, and Bonjubabu who was at the back ran for their lives. Ramababu crawled some distance and then ran by the local rivulet away from the spot where they were fired upon. He was so terrified that he hid in the hills and atop a mango tree and only emerged at about 8 am near his village. Bonjubabu ran to his village Mettaveedhi and to the relative safety of his home.

Bhushanam, a farmer and pensioner with three children and Jamadhar, a farmer who was recently married, were not so lucky. Both died as a result of the firing which continued for several minutes. Within a few hours of this, the police trotted out the customary concoction of an exchange of fire with Maoists. They are trying to pass off these senseless killings that resulted from their own criminality as one of an “encounter” by invoking the plea of self-defence. What is even more alarming is that these wanton killings did not take place in some remote habitation. As you know, Buradamamidi is only about 15 km from Paderu, the divisional headquarters.

We also wish to place on record that this is not the first time that such killings have taken place. In the Visakhapatnam Agency itself we recall the killing of three Adivasi youth (Marri Nageswara Rao, Mamidi Gopala Rao and Musidi Bangarayya) on December 3, 2007 near Kannavaram village of Budharalla panchayat in Koyyuru mandal. On that occasion the youth were part of a group of 25-30 adivasi villagers of Nallabilli and Kannavaram who were scaring awaywild animals like wild boar from laying waste to their fields.They were resting at a perennial stream when they were fired upon by Greyhounds personnel and killed on the spot. This happened at around 4.30 pm!

And on the afternoon of February 21, 2016 two Adivasi farmers Ganga Madkami (40) and Ganga Podiami (33), residents of Balakati village in Korukonda block of Malkangiri district in Odissa, who were out hunting, were fired upon and killed by Greyhounds in the Puttakota forest area, also in Koyyuru  mandal. On that occasion, the police got hold of Irma Kawasi, who was injured, got him treated at Visakhapatnam where he was operated upon and then sent him home after about three weeks! In both these killings, the police put out the utter falsehood that the deceased were armed Maoist cadre – of the Galikonda Area Committee.

As is known, Adivasis set out to the forest, with which they have a deep and organic relationship, for a myriad of work. People of several villages in the area told us that following the Buradamamidi killings they were hesitant to venture out, particularly at night. Till date, there is palpable fear in the Agency region with Adivasis fearing for their safety.

As you are aware, an encounter by definition means an exchange of fire. At the conclusion of every alleged encounter, the police officer in charge of the police party that has participated in the alleged encounter gives a complaint in the local police station, which is registered as a crime under Section 307 of the IPC (read with other appropriate sections). This means that the crime is registered as one of attempt to murder by the now deceased as a consequence of which the police, according to the complaint, had to resort to firing in self-defence causing death.

It is the HRF’s considered view that the Buradamamidi case must be registered as two crimes, that is under Section 307 and 302 respectively in the Pedabayulu police station under which jurisdiction the crime has been committed. The first is a crime of Attempt to Murder by the now deceased and the other a crime of Culpable Homicide Amounting to Murder by the police purportedly in self-defence. Therefore, the concerned police personnel have to be put on trial. The burden of establishing a preponderance of probabilities in favour of the exception relating to self-defence to a competent court rests upon the police personnel who have fired causing death. Importantly, the case must be investigated by an agency completely independent of the State police. This lawful procedure has not been followed by the law enforcing authorities in the instant case. We reiterate that this must be done without further delay. The families of the deceased must be suitably compensated by the government.

VS Krishna
(HRF AP&TS Coordination Committee member)

Y Rajesh

(HRF AP State secretary)


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