Death of villager mired in controversy

Sukma: Chhattisgarh police confirmed the death of Mediyum Bandhi, a 27
year old adivasi from Aitpal village, in the Sukma police station in
Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district. Police claim they shot Bandhi
as he tried to escape from the lock-up. Bandhi was shot three times in
the back with a Self Loading Rifle (SLR).

Bandhi’s death comes three days after an explosion, triggered by the
Communist Party of India (Maoist), killed 15 civilians and 16 members
of the security forces.  Many of the policemen killed were Special
Police Officers based out of Sukma.

According to Sukma police, Bandhi, 27, and Podiyam Kosa, 25,
were apprehended on Wednesday morning from Aitpal
village as they were wanted in a number of criminal cases including
murder.  The two villagers were first taken to Gadiras police
station for questioning and then brought to Sukma as Gadiras does not
have a lock-up.

“The villagers were brought [here] at about 6:30 pm” said Sukma SHO

Sandeep Chandrakar. “At about 7:15 pm we took them out of the cell

for dinner when two shots were fired outside the thana.  Bandhi
slipped out of his handcuffs and ran out of the thana’s open gate and
so we opened fire.”  Chandrakar says Bandhi’s body was found more
than 100 metres from the gate.  Podiyam Kosa is still in police

Others, however, contest the SHO’s account.

“A group of 300 to 400 uniformed men came to our village just before
the sun rose on Sunday May 16,” said a villager at Aitpal. “They rounded up all the men and tried to take us away.”  According to the villager, only the intervention of the village women saved most of the men but the soldiers grabbed Bandhi and Kosa, tied

scarves around their mouths and eyes and marched them off to Gadiras.

“We caught the two men on Sunday May 16,” confirmed Rajesh Jha, Town
Inspector of Gadiras Police Station, “But they both escaped the same
day.”  Jha claims the two men were absconding for three days
before they caught by the Sukma police on May 19.  Jha maintains that
Bandhi tried to escape for the second time in four days when he was
shot three times in the back.

“Bandhi was killed in a fake encounter,” said Manish Kunjam, former
MLA of the Communist Party of India and president of the Adivasi
Mahasabha, “The police are now issuing contradictory statements.”  The
CPI has issued a statement condemning the killing. Kunjam believes
Bandhi was probably killed on the afternoon of May 19 in the
thana, rather than at 7:15 PM while trying to escape.
His theory is bolstered by the fact that on the afternoon of May 19,
locals reported hearing two shots fired within the boundaries of the
Sukma thana.  When the Hindu spoke to Chandrakar that afternoon, he
claimed that the shots had been fired by accident. “A bullet was
lodged in the chamber of a police officer’s SLR,” said Chandrakar,
“The gun malfunctioned and 2 rounds were fired.”

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