Mandsaur killings: Farmers apprehensive as JK Jain Commission's leaked report absolves state machinery

Mandsaur will never forget the sixth day of the 10-day protest that started on 1 June last year when hundreds of farmers took to the streets demanding remunerative prices for produce and a waiver on farm loans. It was on that day that violence erupted on the streets of Mandsaur and six farmers from the Patidar community fell prey to gunshots. The families of the victims allege that the police administration fired these gunshots. The justice (retd) JK Jain Committee was instituted to submit a report to the Madhya Pradesh government. The report, which was to be tabled in the state Assembly in its Monsoon Session by the Madhya Pradesh government, has already been leaked to the media. A copy of the report is with Firstpost and it describes the killings as nitaant avashayak and nyay sangat which translate, respectively, to necessary and justifiable.

 Mandsaur killings: Farmers apprehensive as JK Jain Commissions leaked report absolves state machinery

Victims of Mandsaur firing killed on 1 June 2017. News18/Manoj Sharma

The JK Jain Commission is of the view that the protesters at Bahi Parshwanath in Mandsaur were provoked by political leaders but at the time of the agitation no leader was present there and anti-social elements present on the scene took control of the situation. It stated that a departmental inquiry is going on against the then collector Swatantra Kumar Singh, the then superintendent of police Om Prakash Tripathi and the SP city Sai Krishna. The report elaborates that in the backdrop of the tense conditions that developed, the district administration issued a brief that two companies of the Vishesh Sashastra Bal (special armed force) be put on duty and a letter was sent by the district administration asking for 500 tear gas cells.

The report states that internet service providers were asked to shut services from 2 June to prevent rumours from spreading and that the district magistrate requested that Neemuch police be given more personnel. The incident explained point by point in the report is that some agitators clambered atop the roof of the police station and broke into the quarters of female constable Jyoti, causing physical damage and starting a fire.

The document states that police station officer Anil Kumar Singh sought permission from his senior officers for firing tear gas shells on agitators and then fired 16 rounds of them. When he saw that this didn’t deter the mob, he took permission for lathi charge. As per the report, this too didn't deter the agitators from raging ahead and breaking into the police station's record room and attempting to burn it down. After this, the report states, the station officer sought a written permission from senior officials to fire gunshots and an ultimatum was issued by the station officer after which the firing party was given an order to 'fire up in the air'.

The report also mentions that constable Prakash fired four rounds, constable Akhilesh fired nine rounds, and constable Veer Bahadur fired three rounds, constable Hari Om fired three rounds and constable Nandlal one round. Now, the point number 26 goes on to state the names of three of the peasants who were killed in the firing — Chainram, Satyanarayan and Abhishek Patidar. If the firing was in the air, then how did these people die?

Point number 21 of the report states that CCTV cameras and computers were damaged by the agitators. But Prafull Patidar, a farmer from the region, who was present at the protest, has a different story to share. He told Firstpost that Abhishek Patidar (one of the victims) and his brother Madhusudan Patidar were crossing over to the Piplya Mandi police station side and were fired at because the police suspected they were approaching the police station to burn it down. If the allegation of the police were to be true, he asked why it did not release CCTV camera footage. Kaluram Patidar, older brother of slain Kanhaiyalal Patidar (another one of the six farmers who was killed) said that his FIR was not registered in the Narayangarh police station close to his house.

Gunwant Patidar, the zila upadhyaksh of Mandsaur, added that on the same day these men died, the minister for home affairs in the state Bhupendra Singh had gone on record and made a statement that the farmers died while clashing amidst themselves. It was after this that the families of victims decided to have the post-mortems videographed. He told Firstpost that there were three cameras placed inside the district hospital and alleged that the video footage was destroyed by the police administration. "The families of victims hired local videographers for this, then what happened to the evidence?" Gunwant further alleged that CCTV footage of Hotel MP at Bahi Parshwanath was tampered with and mobile phones of some boys present on the spot were confiscated and returned later.

He told Firstpost that there were three cameras placed inside the district hospital. Abhinav Dhanodkar, who is arguing on the behalf of the farmers in the Indore High Court, alleged that the video evidence hadn’t been submitted to the commission. In conversation with Firstpost, he said that he has refused to appear in the final stages of the case because of the lack of evidence being presented from the other side. "Their (the government’s) version of the story is that one jawan was injured and the police fired in self-defence. Aside from statements made by the collector, the SP and other witnesses who were injured, there’s nothing else to substantiate this claim," said Dhanodkar alleging that hand-written copies of permissions look forged as though they were prepared later.

The document lists the reasons why advocate Abhinav Dhanodkar refused to argue the matter due to lack of documentation supplied by the other side and the lack of legal support offered by the JK Jain Commission.

Mahesh Patidar, one of the petitioners on behalf of the victims of the Mandsaur firings of June 2017, said that the farmers decided to file a petition in the Indore High Court against the refusal of local police stations to register their FIRs regarding the Mandsaur firings.

Another lawyer Anand Mohan Mathur, who is fighting the case on behalf of the the families of the slain farmers also slammed the JK Jain Commission report and termed it anti-farmer and pro-government.

"The authorities made written submissions of over 1,000 pages, of which 200-300 pages constituted affidavits and witnesses’ statements. Was it possible for the commission to finish talking to the farmers in one day? The commission could ask for two months’ time from the government to file report, then why didn’t it seek more time to complete hearing of both sides?" the 91-year-old lawyer said in a statement which he shared with Firstpost.

"IPC Section 202 entails that intentional omission to give information of offence by person bound to inform shall earn him or her imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both. The existing IPC sections have failed in case of the Mandsaur incident," said Mahesh. He also asked why the National Human Rights Commission hasn’t intervened, demanding fast-tracking of justice, or just justice?

The leaked sections of the report that is to be tabled by the Madhya Pradesh Cabinet are causing anxiety among the farmers who expect nothing less than justice from the state government at least in what happens to be an election year.

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Updated Date: Jun 22, 2018 14:06:57 IST