Ruled by the Indian National Congress led alliance, Jharkhand continued to face increased Naxalite violence. The Naxalites, also known as the Maoists, were reportedly active in 16 out of the 22 districts. According to the estimates of Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR), 44 persons including 28 civilians, 7 security forces and 9 alleged Naxalites were killed in the Naxalite conflict in the State from January to September 2007.
Both the Naxalites and the security forces were responsible for serious human rights violations including extrajudicial killings and torture. The Maoists targeted political activists. On 4 March 2007, Mr Sunil Mahato, General Secretary of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and Member of Parliament in the Lok Sabha was killed by the Maoists at Bakuria village in East Singhbhum district.
The NHRC revealed in July 2007 that there were as many as 84,000 cases of human rights violations under consideration of the NHRC out of which 3,000 were from Jharkhand. However, Jharkhand government failed to establish a State Human Rights Commission.
The Adivasis continued to face serious human rights abuses. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, a total of 332 cases of crimes against Scheduled Tribes were reported in Jharkhand during 2006.
Tribals have been arrested under false charges when they tried to access minor forest produce in Jharkhand. About 12,000 cases have been filed by the state’s Forest Department against tribals as of 12 August 2007 for claiming land rights by tribals guaranteed under the Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act. In a positive development, in August 2007, the government of Jharkhand ordered the release of all tribals who had been lodged in various jails in the state in connection with cases registered by the Forest Department and to pay compensation to all the villagers who had lost their paddy fields and vegetable farms due to forcible plantation undertaken by the state’s Forest Department.
According to information obtained by the Asian Centre for Human Rights under the Right to Information Act of 2005, the NHRC received three cases of police custody death in Jharkhand during the period of 1 April 2006 to 31 March 2007. It also reported two cases of ‘encounter deaths’ during the same period. The National Crime Records Bureau did not report death in police custody in 2006.
The Asian Centre for Human Rights documented other cases of extrajudicial killing including alleged fake encounters by the security forces in Jharkhand during 2007.
On the night of 1 February 2007, Lalku Mahto was shot dead by a Central Reserve Police Force officer identified as Ratan Singh. The victim was shot when he answered the door at Kole village under Keredari block during an anti-Naxalites search operation.
In June 2007, Dalit student identified as Dadan Kumar Ram was allegedly killed in a fake encounter by the Jharkhand Police at Ara in Hazaribag district.
According to the information received by the Asian Centre for Human Rights under the RTI Act, the NHRC received two cases of illegal arrest, two cases of unlawful detention, one case of disappearance and 128 cases of other police excesses in Jharkhand during the period of 1 April to 31 March 2007. The police failed to take action in 144 cases.
The police often tortured the accused persons during interrogation. On 19 December 2007, Ganesh Barnawal, a Public Call Office operator, was picked up from Kunda on the charges of killing journalist Promod Kumar Munna. He was tortured by the police to extract a confession statement from him during interrogation. According to the victim, two policemen tied two live wires around his neck and subjected him to electric shocks until he lost consciousness. The police reportedly brought him home unconscious on the night of the following day. The victim was admitted to Deoghar sadar hospital in serious condition on the morning of 21 December 2007.
The Maoists were responsible for gross violations of international humanitarian law. According to a report prepared by the Jharkhand Police, 70 per cent of the people killed by Maoists belong to tribal and Dalit communities.
According to the estimates of Asian Centre for Human Rights, 28 civilians were killed by the Maoists during January to September 2007. Political leaders and police informers were specifically targeted.
Political leaders killed in 2007 included Mr Sunil Mahato, General Secretary of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and Member of Parliament in the Lok Sabha killed at Bakuria village in East Singhbhum district on 4 March 2007; Mr Bishamber Singh of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) killed on 7 June 2007 in Simdega district; and Nand Kishore Singh, leader of Rashtriya Janata Dal, at Mokama village in Chatra district on the night of 22 November 2007.
On 6 September 2007, the Maoists shot dead two persons identified as Nimai Murmu Dalpati and Badal Pramanik during a raid at Digha village under Ghatshila police station in East Singhbhum district. They were killed for taking part in the Jamshedpur Lok Sabha by-elections held on 29 August 2007. The Maoists also chopped off the ear of a villager identified as Hansda during the raid. The Maoists had boycotted the by-elections.
The Maoists continued to kill alleged police informers. Some of those who were killed in 2007 included Ashok Saw at Dhawadih village under Lesliganj block in Palamu district on 18 February 2007; four villagers at Boda village in Latehar district on 28 October 2007 and Chhkauri Ganjhu was beaten to death by the Maoists after being accused of working as an informer of Jharkhand Prastuti Committee at Bendi village in Hazaribagh district on 25 November 2007.
The Naxalites continued to organise Jana Adalats, Peoples Court, to impose Maoist ‘justice’. On the night of 28 March 2007, two villagers identified as Teklal Mahto and Bhola Mahto were reportedly beaten to death by the Maoists following their trial in a Jana Adalat held at Sohrai forest in Giridih district. The deceased were among nine villagers whom the Maoists abducted from Badgawah and charged them with collecting levies while posing as Maoists. The Jana Adalat found four villagers guilty and released the others. The status of the two other victims was not known.
On 8 August 2007, Kamruddin of Chatra district was killed by the Maoists after trying him in a Maoist ‘court’ in front of the villagers. The court pronounced that the punishment should be slitting the victim’s throat and cutting off his limps. But when the victim pleaded for mercy, the Maoists revised the sentence and ordered that he be let off with a beating. His relatives rushed him to Hazaribagh, which is 75 km away, but he was declared dead on arrival at the Sadar hospital.
On 24 September 2007, Maoists killed two activists of Jharkhand Prastuti Committee (JPC) identified as Moinuddin Khan and Ram Kishun Bhuiyan at Lawalong village under Simeria police station in Chatra district. The deceased were abducted on 23 September 2007 and sentenced to death by a Jana Adalat on the charges of working against the Naxalites.
The Naxalites continued to destroy of public property.
On the night of 17 July 2007, the Maoists blew up the double-storeyed office of the Block Development Officer of Gomia in Bokaro district.
On the night of 31 July 2007, the Maoists detonated bombs in Bendi and Demu railway stations in Latehar district during their 24-hour Jharkhand bandh that began on 31 July 2007.
On 23 September 2007, Maoists blew up a railway station in Palamu district and railway tracks in two other districts.
On 7 October 2007, the Maoists set fire to the tower of Airtel, a private telecom company, in Dhotawa area of Katkamsandi in Hazaribagh district.
On 25 October 2007, the Maoists blew up a school building which was used as rest house for the security personnel during nights at Sobaranpur in Giridih district.
The judiciary continued to limited by judicial delay in Jharkhand. Yet, there were 11 vacancies out of the sanctioned strength of 20 judges in the Jharkhand High Court as on 1 January 2008. There were 66 vacancies out of the sanctioned strength of 503 vacancies in the District and Subordinate Courts as on 30 September 2007. Besides, there were a total of 49,276 cases pending with the Jharkhand High Court and a total of 2,63,901 cases were pending with the District and Subordinate Courts as of 30 September 2007.
Due to judicial delay, the Jharkhand High Court urged the State government to create 80 additional posts of judicial magistrates to cope with arrears in April 2007.
There has been lack of tribal representation in the judiciary of Jharkhand. Though the tribals constitute about one third (nearly 80 lakh) of the total population of the state, as of 18 May 2007, there was not a single tribal representative as a high court judge or district judge. There were about 300 lawyers from the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes, minorities and women out of the 1,836 practitioners registered with the Advocates Association of Jharkhand High Court. The state judicial service officers’ strength was about 430. Significantly, the law officers, appointed by the state government, to argue its cases in various courts, including the high court, did not have a tribal member either.
The National Crime Records Bureau of the government of India reported a total of 332 cases of crimes against the Scheduled Tribes in Jharkhand during 2006. These included 13 cases of murder, 21 cases of rape, 13 cases of kidnapping and abduction, 91 cases under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocity) Act of 1989, among others.
The conditions of the tribals were deplorable due to government’s apathy in Jharkhand. The Sabar tribes, one of the oldest in the Chottanagpur Plateau, were on the verge of extinction due to government’s apathy. In Darisai village, once dominated by over 200 Sabar families, was left with a mere 11 families consisting of only 47 people as on February 2007.
In Jharkhand, cases of alienation of tribal land have risen despite two laws - Chotanagpur Tenancy Act and Santhal Parangan Tenancy Act to prevent sale of tribal land to non-tribals in the state. A total of 2,608 cases have been filed by tribals with the Special Area Regulation Court in 2003-2004, which increased to 2,657 cases in 2004-2005 and further to 3,230 cases in 2005-2006. As of January 2007, 3,789 cases have been filed with the Special Area Regulation Court in 2007.
Lack of lawyers to take up land-related cases of the tribals further delayed adjudication. Around 5,500 land-related cases of tribals were pending in various district courts in Jharkhand as of March 2007. The government of Jharkhand had an annual budget of Rs 50 lakh to provide legal assistance to poor tribals to pursue their land-related cases. However, less than 10 per cent of the total allocated budget was spent over the last six years. Lawyers were unwilling to fight cases on behalf of tribals seeking government assistance. The offer of Rs 5,000 per case was cited as one of the main reasons for pendency of land-related cases in courts.
In February 2007, the Supreme Court allowed a tribal petitioner to file a fresh petition before the Jharkhand High Court for recovery of his land from a mining company. In its order, the Supreme Court held that the Jharkhand High Court was wrong to dismiss the petition of Surendra Dehri, a tribal who alleged that over 10,000 acres of “notified tribal land” had been usurped by mining contractors in connivance with the government officials. The High Court had dismissed his petition saying that it involved only “private interest”. But a bench of Supreme Court comprising Justices B.N. Agarwal and P.P. Naolekar stated that a clear violation of constitutional guarantees given to the tribals could not be held to be related to “private interest”.
The tribals of Jharkhand have also been protesting against the implementation of Koel Karo hydroelectric project by National Hydroelectric Corporation over the Koel and Karo rivers. The project, if implemented, would submerge as many as 256 villages involving 50,000 acres of forest area, 40,000 acres of agricultural land and 300 forest groves (considered sacred by the tribals), 175 churches and 120 Hindu temples.
The tribals have been intimidation and abuse including arrest for accessing minor forest produce. About 12,000 cases have been filed by the state’s Forest Department against the tribals as of 12 August 2007. Most of these cases related to the claims of land rights by the tribals guaranteed under the Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act.
On 12 August 2007, the government of Jharkhand ordered the release of all tribals who had been lodged in various jails in the state in connection with cases registered by the Forest Department and to pay compensation to all the villagers who had lost their paddy fields and vegetable farms due to forcible plantation undertaken by the state’s Forest Department.
On 17 June 2007, 35-year-old Jeevan Munda was allegedly beaten to death by forest officials on the charge of cutting a tree to make a bed in the Hazaribagh National Park in Jharkhand. Mr Munda’s body was found from a field with injury marks all over his body.
Violence against women including rape and dowry deaths continued to be reported. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, a total of 2,979 cases of crimes against women were reported in Jharkhand during 2006. These included 799 cases of rape, 410 cases of kidnapping and abduction, 281 cases of dowry death, 668 cases of cruelty by husband and relatives, 414 cases of molestation, 11 cases under Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act of 1956, among others.
The security forces were responsible for violence against women and children. Tribal women were especially targeted for sexual violence.
On 9 January 2007, the police arrested three Paharia tribal women along with several tribal men on the charge of killing of one Deba Paharia and detained them at Sundarpahari police station in Godda district. While the men were detained in the police lock up, the women were illegally detained in the residential quarter of the Officer-In-Charge (OC) of Sundarpahari police station, Dipnarayan Mandal. They were allegedly tortured and raped by Mr Mandal and the Assistant Sub Inspector Mahadev Oraon.
On 3 May 2007, Mohammed Alam, Assistant Sub-Inspector of Doranda police station was arrested on charges of repeatedly raping a 16-year-old since the first week of March 2007.
On 27 June 2007, a 15-year-old minor tribal girl, daughter of Mihilal, resident of Jarwatola village was allegedly gang raped by three police personnel of Nawadih Police Station including Officer-In-Charge Pramod Kumar during socalled anti-Naxal operation at Jarwatola village in Bokaro district of Jharkhand on 27 June 2007. Prior to raping the minor tribal girl, the police personnel had stripped naked and beat up her father Mihilal when denied having any knowledge about the Maoists.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau, a total of 112 cases of crimes against the children were reported in Jharkhand during 2006. These included 9 cases of murder, 28 cases of rape, 11 cases of kidnapping and abduction, among others.
The provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children), 2000 continued to be violated. Children were often tortured in homes/orphanages.
In August 2007, 10 tribal boys, aged between 8 and 13, fled the Uma Anathalaya (orphanage) at Koriya village in Dumka district due to inhuman torture. The boys were allegedly denied proper food and medicine, beaten regularly and forced to do hard work like bringing firewood and cleaning the entire campus. On 14 August 2007, Narayan Soren (8) allegedly died after the orphanage staff did not provide him food and medicine despite suffering from many diseases.
The security forces continued to occupy schools for military purposes, thereby making the schools targets of the Naxalites. As of mid-April 2007, 25 schools were converted into police camps. Many schools remained closed over the last five years. Estimates put the number of affected students at 12,000. A few schools such as Chatrapur Middle school of Daltanganj had been closed since 1990. Many schools have not been totally closed but the security personnel live in the school buildings. Often, children were forced to learn their lessons in the open sky, apart from living under the fear of the attacks by Maoists.
According to information obtained by Asian Centre for Human Rights under the RTI Act, the NHRC received 59 cases of death in judicial custody in Jharkhand during the period of 1 April to 31 March 2007.
In November 2007, an under-trial prisoner identified as Amarnath Singh was allegedly tortured after he was taken on a two-day police remand during interrogation at the Mango police station in East Singhbhum district. The victim alleged that he was unable to stand straight following the police torture.
1. See ACHR’s quarterly newsletter, Naxal Conflict Monitor series of 2007, available at http://www.achrweb.org/ncm/ncm.htm
3. State cry for human rights, The Telegraph, 25 July 2007
4. 2006 Annual Report of National Crime Records Bureau
5. Relief nod after forest eviction, The Telegraph, 13 August 2007
6. Relief nod after forest eviction, The Telegraph, 13 August 2007
7. Raid shock to villager, The Telegraph, 3 February 2007
8. ‘Fake’ kill, probe plea, The Telegraph, 14 June 2007
9. ACHR’s Complaint to the NHRC, Ref. No. JH/05/2007
10. 70% victims of Maoists are Dalit, tribals: Police, The Pioneer, 19 November 2007
11. See ACHR’s quarterly newsletter, Naxal Conflict Monitor series of 2007, available at http://www.achrweb.org/ncm/ncm.htm
14. RJD leader killed by Naxalites in Jharkhand, The Times of India, 23 November 2007
15. Two killed in Maoist attack in Jharkhand village, The Hindu, 7 September 2007
16. Naxals kill seven in Jharkhand, The Times of India, 8 September 2007
17. Maoists kill man for spying, The Shillong Times, 19 February 2007
18. Maoists gun down 4 more in Jharkhand, The Deccan Herald, 29 October 2007
19. Rebels hack driver to death, The Telegraph, 27 November 2007
21. Unplanned murder by Maoists, The Telegraph, 10 August 2007
22. Maoists kill two JPC activists, The Telegraph, 25 September 2007
23. Red show of strength, Telegraph, 19 July 2007
24. Maoists kill 1, blow up two railway stations, The Tribune, 2 August 2007
25. Maoists blow up railway station, tracks in E.India, Reuters, 23 September 2007
26. Rebels burn cellphone tower, The Telegraph, 8 October 2007
27. Maoists destroy school building in Jharkhand, The Times of India, 25 October 2007
28. Supreme Court of India, Court News- October – December 2007, available at: http://supremecourtofindia.nic.in/CtNewsOct_Dec07.pdf
29. HC defends record, The Telegraph, 28 April 2007
30. Cry for tribal judge in courts, The Telegraph, 19 May 2007
31. 2006 Annual Report of National Crime Records Bureau
32. Tribals in survival battle, The Telegraph, 10 February 2007
33. Tribal land grab cases on rise in Jharkhand, The Pioneer, 14 February 2007
34. Jharkhand lawyers not interested in land cases of tribals, The Hindustan Times, 5 September 2007
35. SC snubs land order, The Telegraph, 12 February 2007
36. Koel Karo: Tribal surge that stalled a dam, The Times of India, 5 June 2007
37. Relief nod after forest eviction, The Telegraph, 13 August 2007
39. Man cuts tree to make cot, beaten to death, The Deccan Chronicle, 19 June 2007
40. 2006 Annual Report of National Crime Records Bureau
41. Gangrape slur on Godda cops, The Telegraph, 29 January 2007
42. Rape tar taints cop image, The Telegraph, 4 May 2007
43. Gangrape inquiry ordered, The Telegraph, 9 July 2007
44. 2006 Annual Report of National Crime Records Bureau
45. Torture trail forces teenagers to flee, The Telegraph, 31 August 2007
46. Jharkhand schools become police camps, The Hindustan Times, 18 April 2007
48. Undertrial torture slur on cops, The Telegraph, 29 November 2007