Faking anti-Naxal fight

Kashmir Times. Dated: 12/12/2019 8:11:17 PM

Security forces should be trained to desist from panic responses while dealing with extremists across India

Justice V K Agarwal judicial inquiry commission report censuring the security forces for the killing of 17 persons in an 'encounter' on the night of June 28-29, 2012 in Chhattisgarh amounts to faking anti-Naxal fight. The report goes on to suggest that no evidence existed to support the claim of the security forces that those killed on that night in three villages of Bijapur and Sukma districts were 'Naxalites'. The official assertion, two different teams led by a DIG marched into the forests to outflank subversives in a meeting only to be surprised by the gunfire. It was only the next day when light of the day penetrated the fog of battle, 17 Naxalites were lying dead and six uniformed men hurt. But the commission of inquiry did not find any evidence of a gun-fight and held that the firing had been one-sided from the very beginning till the end. The findings of the commission are a chilling and sordid catalogue of how truth can be subverted and buried by the very officers who are supposed to enforce the law. Though the commission puts it down to a disproportionate reaction from the anti-Naxal formation, the findings make it clear that the entire operation was botched from the start by poor intelligence, inadequate training, lack of communication, and hasty panic reaction. The more worrying part was afterwards. The post-mortem reports showed injuries on 10 of those killed were on their backs, not consistent with claims the firing had been in self-defence. Instead, the nature and location of the injuries suggested they were fired upon while fleeing, and were not in a position to pose a threat to the security forces. There were bullet shots on some of the heads, evidently from close quarters. There were injuries on the upper torsos caused by the butt of guns or rifles, signs of physical assault. The cataloguing and managing of the evidence relating to the armaments such as guns and detonators allegedly carried by the 'Naxalites' suffered from imprecise documentation. There were signs of manipulation in the timing of injury and post-mortem reports in at least one case.
The worse part for the security forces is that the commission concluded that injuries sustained by the uniformed personnel were more likely caused through friendly fire. Some of the recommendations are unexceptional, given the frequency of such incidents. Most remarkable, however, is the recommendation that training be imparted 'to improve mental fabric of security forces' with a view 'to make them more balanced so that they act with equanimity and do not succumb to panic reaction even in a critical situation'. This is not for the first time that a judicial commission has found the security forces involved in the 'heinous killing' of civilians, particularly the poor people. Previously also, similar incidents have been probed and found the uniformed personnel guilty of human rights violations not only in conflict areas but also in peaceful pockets, where such incidents are most unlikely to happen. It is also unfortunate that similar recommendations have been made by the commissions in the past for initiating action against the guilty officers but the reports have been gathering dust in piles of the records of the government corridors. It will be in the fitness of the things that such recommendations are acted upon by the governments of the day and prevent recurrence of such incidents, in which precious human lives are lost for no fault of theirs. The trigger happy officers and personnel should be punished to set an example for the future operations against extremists. Ways must be found to initiate action against the officers involved in this unfortunate operation and its heinous cover up.



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