In the Saranda forest of Jharkhand, the CRPF had killed an Adivasi, Mangal Honhaga in a fake encounter on June 29, 2011. In an investigation on this encounter by the CID, the erstwhile Assistant Commandant of the 97th battalion of the CRPF, Shambhu Kumar Vishwas has been found to be guilty. The CID has applied to the Chaibasa Court for the issuing of an arrest warrant against him.
On June 28, 2011, a contingent of CRPF led by the Assistant Commandant of the 97th battalion of the CRPF, Shambhu Kumar Vishwas, arrived in Baliba village, which is located under the jurisdiction of Chhota Nagra police station, in the West Singhbhum district of Jharkhand. This contingent of the CRPF was running a campaign against the guerillas of the CPI (Maoist). According to the deceased Mangal Honhaga’s wife Mangari Honhaga’s statement, as soon as the CRPF reached the village, they grabbed 20-22 villagers, tied their hands behind their backs, and took the villagers along with them to carry their luggage. They kept the villagers without a roof on the night of June 28, and on June 29, they made the villagers transport their luggage to Bahda Forest. Mangal Honhaga was shot dead by the CRPF when he refused to transport their luggage any further.
Earlier on June 30, 2011, Assistant Commandant of the CRPF, Shambhu Kumar Vishwas lodged case number 6/11 at the Chhota Nagra police station. The case was registered under Sections 147, 148, 149, 353, 307, 302 in the IPC, Section 27 of the Arms Act, Section 17 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, and Section 13 of the UAPA. The Assistant Commandant Vishwas said in the FIR that they had used the villagers from Baliba and nearby villages to transport their luggage. These villagers were Mangal Honhaga, Tasu Siddhu, Angara Gudiya, Somiya Barjo, Koka Honhaga, Buddhu Barjo, Barto Honhaga, Somra Barjo, Soma Barala, Rondey Honhaga, Dubin Barjo, Lando Devgam, and Budhram Torkot. Then, when they climbed a hill, indiscriminate firing suddenly started from the other side. They also fired in defence. In this back and forth, Shambhu Kumar Vishwas fired 16 rounds, Sohan Lal Sharma fired 10 rounds, Soldier G.D. Simadri fired 6 rounds, G. Lal fired 7 rounds, and Mithilesh fired 10 rounds. He said that on the day of this incident, the surrounding areas were inspected by the forces, and Mangal Honhaga was found to have died during this incident. The bullet was found on the right side of his body. Vishwas said in the FIR that Mangal Honhaga was killed by a bullet fired by Maoists.
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People from Baliba and dozens of nearby villages came out to the streets in protest of the FIR filed by the erstwhile Assistant Commandant of the 97th battalion of the CRPF, Shambhu Kumar Vishwas. They started calling the entire incident a fake encounter, because according to the villagers, there was no encounter between the CRPF and the Maoists on that day. On seeing the villagers’ protest, the then Zonal Inspector General Reji Dundung investigated the incident and found the role of the CRPF and the police to be suspicious. After this, police case number 9/12 was registered in the Chhota Nagra police station, and an investigation of this case began.
In September 2012 itself, the Executive Magistrate who was investigating the Mangal Honhaga case, Podahat Chakradharpur in his report, declared the entire encounter to be fake. He said that in light of the descriptions given by the CRPF, the villagers, and the police, the encounter said to have taken place on the scene appears to not be true. In this situation, it is expected that the person who shot Mangal Honhaga be identified and the necessary investigation be started. The investigation supervisor along with the Magistrate found in their investigation that the CRPF soldiers had left for Chotanagra from Baliba along with Mangal Honhaga and the other villagers. S.K Vishwas’s contingent was walking ahead. Mangal Honhaga was walking with them. Sonua police station in-charge Rajesh Kujur, who was involved in a raid before the Magistrate and the Supervisor, said that after some time, the Assistant Commandant S.K. Vishwas moved ahead along with the villagers, making them carry the luggage. When they reached the mountain, the villagers kept the luggage and started running away. On seeing this, the CRPF soldiers began to chase after them with flashlights. Shambhu Vishwas said that if the villagers don’t stop they will fire at them, and then he started firing the bullets at them.
After this investigation report, the case was handed over to the CID in 2012 itself. Nearly 8 years later, the CID too has found the erstwhile Assistant Commandant Shambhu Kumar Vishwas, of the 97th Battalion of the CRPF, to be guilty in the fake encounter. The CID reportedly gave the guilty CRPF officer a notice asking him to appear for questioning, but he did not present himself to give his statement. Later, CID requested that the CRPF DIG make the Assistant Commandant give his statement. In response, the CRPF DIG asked CID to first provide documents related to the case, and after that, since the guilty CRPF officer was on duty, CID could come to the CRPF headquarters at any time within the duty hours to take his statement. According to reports, Shambhu Kumar Vishwas is at the CRPF headquarters at present.
Now that the Assistant Commandant of the CRPF has been declared guilty by the CID in the fake encounter of Mangal Honhanga, the question is that, will the CID be able to arrest the guilty CRPF officer and get him punished? This is one of many cases of fake encounters by the CRPF in Jharkhand that are blamed on Maoists. Investigations are ongoing in many of these fake encounter cases.
This article was translated into English by Damayanti Saha.