The significance of the V.K. Agarwal Commission of Inquiry, whose report was tabled in Chhattisgarh Assembly on Monday, is that this is the first inquiry commission to have indicted the CRPF for an anti-Naxal operation.
By casting doubts on the CRPF’s version of the encounter in June 2012, the one-judge commission has cast a cloud on other, similar operations for which no such inquiry has been conducted.
What is even more damning are the following findings of the Agarwal Commission:
1. At least 10 of the 17 villagers killed by the CRPF had been shot on their back, suggesting that the firing was deliberate and unprovoked.
2. Post-Mortem reports of the injuries indicated that the firing was done from a close range and not from a distance, as claimed by the CRPF.
3. Post-Mortem reports also indicate that several of the deceased had been assaulted before being shot. Lacerated wounds were inflicted by butts of rifles, the Commission concluded.
4. While the DIG S. Elango and CRPF Assistant Commandant Manish Bamola were leading the CRPF company and were allegedly at the front, neither of them fired a single shot, casting doubts on the CRPF’s version that Maoists had opened fire on the security force.
5. The six CRPF constables, who were said to have been injured by Maoists, complained of injuries on their “ left toe, right wrist, right elbow, left calf below the shin and the right jaw besides injuries on the ribs” , which could have been sustained before or after the encounter on June 28, 2012.
6. The Commission also concluded that the constables could not have sustained injuries on their toes and calves if they were lying prone on the ground, as they had claimed.
7. Several villagers sustained a large number of bullet injuries in a small area of their body, indicating burst firing, which the CRPF denied having resorted to.
8. The sister and two daughters of Irpa Ramesh told the Commission that he was dragged out of his house on the morning of June 29, assaulted and then shot.
Despite the damning findings, the Commission has not recommended any action against the CRPF. Instead, it has recommended equipping the force with better equipment, walkie talkies, night vision, bullet proof jackets, better training and sensitising programmes.
While lawyers representing the villagers argued that the fact that the Government had paid compensation of Rupees two lakhs each to the kin of the deceased showed that the killed villagers were not Maoists, the Commission recorded its doubts about the gathering.
It was implausible that villagers would have gathered in the open at night to discuss preparations for a festival, it concluded. That at least seven of the villagers killed or injured ( 17 were killed and 10 were injured), had criminal cases pending against them and at least one was accused of having been involved in a jail-break, Justice Agarwal (Rtd) held, was sufficient to conclude that the gathering was not of peaceful, law abiding citizens.