& Dhenkanal PUCL, Orissa:
on the Villagers of Harbhanga, Orissa
Being informed of the alleged widespread police brutality, particularly
on women in Harbhanga village of Boudh district in the night of 20.2.2002,
a team comprising the members of PUCL, Dhenkanal & Cuttack units,
some social activists from Dhenkanal and a Journalist had gone to make
an on-the-spot investigation into the matter, from 17-3-2002 to 18-3-2002.
An outright survey of the village was conducted by the team and the team
members met the victims of the alleged atrocity in their respective homes
in the village, the In-charge Officer of Harbhanga PS, the SP & the
Collector, Boudh, and the Medical Officer, Harbhanga PHC, and collected
the version of each of them.
Harbhanga village in Boudh district of Orissa is around 200 km away from
the state Capital, 50 Km from the district head quarter and 25 km from
the block head quarter at a place called Charichhak. The village has around
500 households with a population of around 2000. Harbhanga, on the banks
of river the Mahanadi is said to have been once a prosperous navigation
point of the erstwhile princely state of Boudharaj, has suffered socio-economic
degeneration through five decades of post-independence self-governance
engendering in the process of large scale unemployment, poverty and labour
exodus. Inundation of vast tract of cultivable land and severe drought
conditions are routine phenomena in the area which shatter the financial
backbone of this agro-based economy.
Background Of The Incident
The events leading to the alleged police atrocity has been collected from
the version of both the people and the administration.
It was gathered that there remains a long-standing discontentment among
the people of the locality over consistent administrative apathy coupled
with political cold-shouldering by the elected representatives which have
played havoc with the hopes and aspirations of the locality. The genesis
of the public disenchantment with the district administration in the area
may be traced long back to the transfer of Block office by the government
from Harbhanga to Charichhak, around 22kms from Harbhanga on the Bhubaneswar-Bolangir
Highway, citing a flimsy ground of administrative inconvenience.
the people's version tells a different story. They allege that the bureaucratic
decision for shifting of the Block Office to Charichhak was actuated by
the insensible whims and caprices of some of the officials undermining
the larger interest of the Harbhanga block which suffered from the strains
of an ever-sinking rural economy. And yet, paradoxically, Charichhak,
then a desolate forest area was chosen as the site for making it the administrative
hub of the Harbhanga Block thereby virtually distancing the administration
from the grass roots.
In 1996, reportedly a mammoth rally of around 10000 people from Harbhanga,
Sankulei, Chhatrang, Kusang, and Talagaon gram panchayats was organised
which trudged about a distance of 60 kms along the Jagannath Road bordering
the Mahanadi demanding the construction of an irrigation project called
Sagadia Nala Irrigation Project, reportedly a long-standing demand which
still remains unfulfilled despite the assurances by the successive governments
leading to further waning of peoples' confidence upon the state politico-bureaucratic
The immediate incident which sparked off peoples' resentment leading to
police atrocity is the agitation of the people against move of the Govt.
to shift the proposed Fire Station at Harbhanga to Charichhak, allegedly
at the behest of the District Collector in connivance with the local MLA
and MP. As per the villagers contention, the District Collector had personally
assured them to recommend for the establishment of a fire station at Harbhanga
and for this purpose had even demarcated a plot of land there. Accordingly
the Government of Orissa in Home Department vide its letter No 804/dated
16.5.2001 had taken a decision to this effect, but there the Collector
in connivance with the local MLA and MP preferred to play false and thereupon
a fresh recommendation was made again by the Collector himself for relocating
the said fire station at Charichhak. This action of the collector was
considered as an act of betrayal by the hard-pressed villagers whose sentiments
were thus flayed beyond measure.
The people of Harbhanga area organised under the banner of Harbhanga Gana
Sangram Samiti had called a dharna programme on 19.2.2002 in front of
the Harbhanga PS to protest against this move of the Govt. The seemingly
strange decision to stage the dharna before the police station was Justified
by the peoples' reply that because the police station happened to be the
only governmental set up there, it was the obvious choice of them to air
their grievance. Reportedly there was a formal resistance by the OIC Harbhanga
PS in terms of snatching away of microphone, duree and effigies, obviously
to intimidate the peoples' gathering.
At about twilight on 19.2.2002, the BDO, Satyanarain Singh and JE, Gajendra
Padhy, both of Harbhanga Block, arrived at dharna site and started dissuading
the assembly from continuing with the dharna without ever addressing to
their grievances. But the agitators' insistence upon handing over the
memorandum to the Collector in person resulted in an impasse which could
not be resolved till 4 pm of 20th February. In the mean time the ADM and
the Sub-Collector had arrived at the venue of the dharna by noon but all
their persuasions had failed to yield any positive results.
Sometime about 3.30 PM 20.2.2002, the District Collector along with the
Superintendent of Police, Boudh, arrived on the spot. The deployment of
armed forces reportedly was impressive in and around the police station
by then. On their arrival, the agitators asked the Collector as to how
he could make proposal to the Govt. to establish a fire station at Charichhak
after he himself had already announced in a public meeting here (Harbhanga)
that the Fire Station would be established in Harbhanga and had deputed
an Amin who demarcated the spot a few days back.
The Collector denied any such allegation of writing to the Govt. But the
protesters could confront him by producing the very letter of proposal
submitted by the Collector himself which the villagers could collect from
a local journalist of Harbhanga village. The people wanted that the Collector
should promise to establish the Fire Station in their village there and
then. On much insistence the Collector contacted the D.G. (Fire Services),
Orissa, who reportedly stated that an irrevocable decision for locating
the fire station at Charichhak had been taken and he expressed his helplessness
at effecting any change in the order. The Home Secretary, Sri Sanjeeb
Hota was also contacted but no solution could be evolved out.
This bottleneck led to a commotion among the crowd and the police alleged
that the public had reacted at once with violence pelting stones at the
police and officials upon which the police had to resort to charge at
them with lathis. But the peoples stand in and around the village of Harbhanga
dismiss this as a defensive plea of the police. They allege that it was
the cops who actually resorted to indiscriminate lathi-charge without
slightest provocation by the crowd while admitting to the fact that there
was retaliation by some of the agitators in anger and desperation.
started shouting slogans against the MLA, the MP and the DC while taking
to stone pelting and brick batting. In such a fluid condition when an
officer in charge needs to summon all his faculties of courage, calm and
resourcefulness at hand to get the situation under control, the District
Collector lost his nerve and preferred to flee the place in panic even
ignoring the appeal of the Superintendent of Police to stay back until
order was restored. His retinue of subordinates including the ADM, Sub-Collector,
the BDO and the JE followed suit. Interestingly the PSO of the Collector
was left behind by the latter in a hurry while trying to escape by two
Ambassdor cars through an untenable route of the dry sand bed of a small
river, where the car got stuck and was allegedly put on fire and damaged
by the unruly crowd.
By about 9.30 pm of the 20th February this gutless show of administrative
efficacy was over but the outcome was yet to be felt. Teargas grenades
were used and lathi charge resorted to for dispersing the crowd and once
the police gained their ground they were ordered to nab the miscreants
from out of the village at once. Armed with guns and lathis, bands of
policemen held the luckless residents of Harbhanga hostage for almost
five long hours on that night. Almost all the entrance doors ranging from
the wood-paneled ones belonging to the well-offs to makeshift bamboo work
panels of the poor were broken and made open by brute force and illegal
ingressions were made into the privacies of homes by the senseless cops.
beating by lathis, butt ends of rifles and other available means of the
inmates, kicking out of doors the hapless poor women after unclothing
them and numerous acts of molestation and outrage of modesty of womenfolk
simultaneously shouting at them the vilest of abuse followed this trespass.
Snatching away of gold ornaments, looting of cash, handy household articles
and even poultry and livestock have been reported. Home appliances, televisions,
audio systems, mobiles and even thatched roofs of some of the houses have
been gravely damaged beyond repair by the unruly men in uniform. Even
no semblance of humanitarian behaviour was shown towards the babies and
children, the unfortunate sick old ladies and to those even in their death
throws. This rule of dread and horror drove most of the male members of
the village to flight during and after the incident but the women were
left behind at the mercy of a mad drunken force of policemen who were
at their liberty to satisfy their basest bestiality with the hapless women
by whatever way possible-from unclothing to molestation.
was only by 2 pm that the macabre drama of terror was total and complete.
This riverside village got transferred into a virtual torture chamber
of the most horrible kind during those five hours by an order of disciplined
force groomed for and entrusted with the upkeep of social sanity.
Harbhanga is still seething under the humiliation and agony she had to
suffer on that dreadful night; her wounds are still open and green. Even
today more than a month after, forsaken houses can be seen, sure signs
of plunder and looting writ large on the forlorn frames of those ill-fated
houses. When the team arrived in Harbhanga proper at about 10.30 AM on
17.03.2002 they saw all the shops in the market place were closed barring
one or two betel and tea shops and the whole village and bazar of Harbhanga
gave the picture of a place as if recently ravaged by a deadly war. The
mud walls, wooden doors and windows, straw and tin roofs of the houses
were damaged partially and completely in some cases. There were practically
no people found outside except a few youths who met the team sometime
after their arrival. Even though almost one month had already elapsed
since the incident by the time the team arrived there, the entire area
wore a desolate and deserted look.
Findings Of The Team
As has already been mentioned, the team made its best possible effort
to meet as much victims of the police atrocity as possible and also concerned
officials of the administration to arrive at its findings. The version
of victims and of the officials of administration are given in the annexures
to this report. After on-the spot investigation into the incident, and
thorough analysis of the circumstance, version of the victims and all
concerned in the administration, the team unanimously arrived at the following
The women were mainly targeted by the uncontrolled police force on the
night of 20.2.2002 and were fearlessly molested, assaulted and misbehaved
at gunpoint. The molestation was indiscriminate, widespread and woman
of all strata including primary school teachers, widows, minor girls
and SC/ST women are the victims. Even the nurses of the hospital were
not spared. (The first-person description of such atrocities by the
woman victims have been given in the Annexure-I)
The police forcibly entered the houses of the entire village one after
the other by breaking the doors and windows of the people.
The male members who were present inside the houses or in the village
were brutally assaulted irrespective of their age, illness or involvement
in the agitation. Mainly lathis were used to assault the men.
The police forces were drunk, totally indisciplined and behaved like
'organised criminals' in absence of any controlling/commanding officer
and there was no check on them. It appears the commanding officers,
by their utmost carelessness created such a free-for-police situation.
No FIR has been filed by the villagers against the police atrocities,
particularly the molestation of woman, because of the dread of police
There was no magistrate or responsible administrative officer to asses
the situation and give order while the police force were allowed to
do whatever they liked. Even after the incident neither the Collector
nor any body else on behalf of the administration has tried to meet
the villagers and to assess the situation. The Collector, instead, sedately
expresses his lack of information about the reported cases of police
Fake cases have been initiated against many persons without ascertaining
their involvement in the alleged offence.
The Collector was squarely responsible for the entire incident from
the people's agitation to the police atrocity on them. The false promise
of the Collector in the open meeting to set up the fire-station, thereafter
acting secretly to shift it and then telling lies in the public about
it added fuel to the anger of the people. Further the manner he fled
the place after he was caught of the lies he was telling, that too,
taking all the administrative officers and magistrates along with him,
without assuaging the peoples' sentiment infuriated the agitators.
The Collector was vindictive as he had to made a volte face in the public
being caught red-handed with documentary evidence of the lie he was
talking regarding his innocence of recommending to the Govt. to shift
the proposed fire station. Therefore to avenge his 'humiliation' in
the public, before leaving Harbhanga he clearly gave green signal to
the police to suppress the people by any means possible.
No action on the FIR submitted by the Medical Officer and only action
on FIR by OIC, Harbhanga P.S shows the bias and vindictive attitude
of the police and administration.
Many people had fled their homes out of fear of arrest and beating by
the police. As far as possible, the team could collect the names of
34 such missing persons who had not yet returned to their home even
one month had already elapsed.
Although there was no contradiction regarding the day of police action
i.e. 20.2.2002, the people arrested by the police were illegally detained
and beaten in the police custody and were forwarded to the SDJM Court
in Boudh only on 23.2.2002 beyond the stipulated time of 24 hours. The
guidelines issued by the Supreme Court for making any arrest in the
D. K. Basu case, has been flagrantly violated by the police.
The blacking out of such widespread atrocity and fearless molestation
of women by the police, in the media inspite of the reported complaint
of the people to the visiting teams of media persons, raises serious
suspicion about the intention and role of media.
From various such incidents of police atrocity in the recent past it
is observed that whenever the male members somehow manage to flee their
home out of fear of police atrocity, the women folk invariably become
the softest victim of unbridled police bestiality like molestation,
rape, and other kind of misbehavior quite outrageous to the dignity
of women, without any fear of resistance. The trauma of the women victims
is aggravated when the perpetrators of such bestiality go unpunished.
The team sensed the same frustration among the woman victims of Harbhanga.
It is now high time to device ways to give exemplary punishment to the
policemen who indulge in such beastly acts against women, which may
act as a deterrence against the unruly police.
In the instant case exemplary punishment should be given to the actual
perpetrators of bestiality of the police force toward women by instituting
specific cases against them under relevant provisions of IPC and handing
over the investigation to some agency apparently independent of the
state police force. Their senior officers in the administration and
police should be duly punished for criminal negligence of their duty
by fleeing the spot, by not properly supervising and controlling the
force under their command and for remaining criminally indifferent by
letting loose their force on common people even without assessing aftermath
of the incident.
Strict action should be taken against the Collector for his condemnable
exhibition of cowardice, incompetence, and misconduct quite unbecoming
of an officer of his status.
Action should be taken against the concerned police officials for not
complying with the Supreme Court's directive in arresting the people
and holding the arrested persons under illegal custody almost for 72
hours without producing them before the magistrate within the stipulated
time as per law.
Action should be taken against Shri Barik, Second Officer of Boudh police
station for physically torturing the arrested persons in the police
custody and inflicting grievous physical injury on them.
Due compensation should be paid to all the victims of police atrocity
and damage to property should be duly compensated by the administration
after proper survey.
The medical expenses incurred by the victims be reimbursed by the administration.
The government should bear all the expenditures of those who are still
All the false cases instituted by the administration vindictively be
immediately withdrawn and those are arrested be immediately released.
8. Proper step should be taken by the administration to restore confidence
among those who have still fled their home out of fear so that they
can return to their home.
Annexure-I - Version Of Woman Victims Of Police Atrocities.
Annexure-II - Details Of Cases Of Inflicting Physical Injury, Damage To
Property And Looting By The Police.
Annexure-III - Details Of Persons Arrested And Tortured In Police Custody.
Annexure-IV - Version Of Officials Of The Administration And Medical Officer.
Molestation Of Woman By The Police-Version Of The
The team moved from door to door in Harbhanga village and went inside
the houses to meet the people particularly the women, who mostly feared
to come out and talk freely about the torture/police excess committed
on them on the ill-fated night of 20th-21st February 2002.
version of some of the woman victims of police atrocity are as follows:
Smt. Pramodini Bai, Assistant Teacher
Aged about 33-34 years wife of Prasanna Kumar Bai
"Sir don't ask us what they (police) have done to us rather ask what
they have not done to us" This was Promodini's first reaction to
the team's question while she was sobbing uncontrollably giving her statement
in the presence of her husband and sister-in-law. On insistence for details
she said: "I was inside my kitchen at about 10.30 PM on 20th February
2002, when all of a sudden 15-20 policemen in drunken state using vulgar
and filthy language in a high pitch broke open our front door and some
of them also entered from the backyard gate of my house.
They asked me to show the place where my husband and other male members
were hiding. I was terrified and politely said them that I am a Govt.
Servant (teacher) and my husband who is working as a teacher in the Govt.
M.E. School, Kantamal, had already left the village 3-4 days ago on the
election (Panchayat and Zilla Parishad) duty and I was no way connected
with the agitation. But the policemen, at gun point, caught hold of me,
undressed me and molested and abused me in the most vulgar and filthy
language that can never be imagined, I could never dream of such a situation
and am so much shocked that I do not know what to do. They also stuck
our moped and Yamaha motor cycle with the lathi and damaged those".
Suhasini Bai Aged about 40 years,
(Widow of late Ashok Kumar Bai) Teacher in Dianhaghat Primary School
"On 20.2.2002 at about 10.30 P.M. I was in my bedroom and about to
sleep when about a dozen policemen forcibly entered into our house from
both front gate and backyard gate and immediately started shouting in
filthy language. They forcibly caught hold of my sari, snatched it away
threatening me at gun point and molested me. I was at a loss of speech
at the moment. They also broke the moped and motor cycle by their lathi
and assaulted Gundichha Kumar Sal, the brother- in- law of Prasanna Kumar
Bai who was present in the house in absence of Prasanna, being away on
election duty during that time. I am ashamed of showing my face to anybody".
This widow was crying inconsolably while narrating her story to the members
of the team.
Smt. Sari Nayak wife of Adesara Nayak, Scheduled
"A group of policemen crashed open our front door and entered into
our house all of a sudden. My husband was not at home. We were stunned
with terror. They disrobed me all the while ranting vulgarities.
All my pleadings for mercy and cries went in vain as they abused me in
the vilest of ways. No part of my body was left untouched." This
young bride is still languishing in bed being badly bruised by police
molestation and abuse. The trauma can still be seen both on her body and
Smt. Netramani Dipa (50 years) Schedule Caste
"At about 11 PM in the night of 20.2.2002 about 10-12 policemen forced
enter my house, assaulted me by their lathi and without listening to my
protest forcibly undressed me and molested me. I am scared of moving from
my house from that date and have been starving".
Mamata Naik (14 years old girl)
Scheduled Caste. Daughter of Lalita Naik
"In the night of 20.2.2002 when I along with my family members were
inside our house when a gang of police person shouting loudly entered
into our Sahi and started beating the people randomly which was clear
from the crying of the people in the dead of the night. They suddenly
arrived at our door which was closed and started dashing against the door.
At this point my father and brother quietly went away outside out of fear
through the backdoor leaving my mother and me inside the house. Then 10-15
policemen came inside our house, one of them pressed the muzzle of his
gun against my neck and 2-3 of them forcibly snatched away my frock and
started molesting me. I was only crying terrified at their dastardly act."
Nirmala Naik (45 years) Schedule Caste
"On the night of 20.2.2002 about some policemen came together shouting
vulgar words and armed with lathi and gun. While some of the policemen
remained outside, 2-3 of them entered inside my house and threatened me
and they tore my sari, petticoat and blouse and molested me and left my
house. This act continued for about 10-15 minutes."
Kumudini Kalta (45 years)
"On 20.2.2002 about 8-10 policemen in their uniform forcibly entered
in my house while many others stayed outside and all of them were shouting
ferociously in filthy language. The policemen who entered my house forcibly
tore my sari, petticoat and blouse and molested me by showing guns and
lathis. They asked me about the whereabouts of the male members and abused
me without listening anything.
Karpura Naik (35 years, Schedule Caste)
Wife of Ramesh Naik
On 20.2.2002 at about 10 PM 20 to 30 policemen in their uniform came to
our Sahi terrorising and shouting at the people. Out of them 5-7 policemen
forcibly entered inside my house and asked about the male members. By
that time my husband, son Rajesh had already escaped from the house out
of fear. As I expressed my ignorance about their whereabouts of my husband
and son, two of them suddenly caught hold of my sari and undressed me
and molested me forcibly and they left the house within 10-15 minutes.
They snatched away my gold chain and plundered my house.
My son and husband have not returned yet to our home and I do not know
where are they till date.
Meera Naik (45 years, Schedule Caste)
On 20.2.2002, at about mid night around a dozen police person forcibly
entered inside my house and while abusing in filthy language they forcibly
undressed me and molested me. Since then my 12 year old son Sabat Naik
is missing from my house till date and I have no knowledge of him.
(The woman was crying inconsolably while narrating the incident of that
Binapani Das (24 years)
Wife of Rabindra Kumar Das (Ex Sarpanch candidate)
On 20.2.2002 at about mid night 10-15 policemen forcibly entered inside
my house and uttering foul languages caught hold of my sari, made me naked
at gun point and molested me. While leaving our village they have taken
away two goats with them.
Kamala Mahanandia Wife of Dandua Mahanandia
All of a sudden in the night of 20.2.2002 about 30-40 policemen came raising
cries and 5-7 policemen entered inside my house and immediately pulled
my sari, other apparels and molested me. After ransacking my house they
I am a cancer patient and while I was in my bed, 4-5 policemen entered
inside my house and pulled my sari and abused me in filthy language, gave
threatening and after ransacking the house left.
Sita Pradhan (40 years) Wife of Basanta Pradhan
About 20-30 policemen entered into my house around midnight of 20.2.2002
and at gun point asked me the where about of my husband and immediately
pulled my sari, petticoat and blouse and molested me. They also damaged
The other women whom the team could meet and who reported molestation
by police are Jyotsnamayee Behera, Smt Jambubati Naik etc. When asked
why any of them had not filed FIR or complain against the policemen, the
answer of almost all of them was "how can we complain to the very
officers whose own force have committed this atrocities. Besides all the
male members had fled the village and the situation was such that there
was no guarantee we would not have been abused again by the police".
Cases Of Inflicting Physical Injury, Looting And
Damage To Property By The Police
The team was reported that the police, besides misbehaving with women,
has severely and indiscriminately beaten people inflicting grievous physical
injury on them, indulged in looting and widespread damage to property
of people. Some of the victims of physical assault, damage to property
and looting are as follows:
- Smt Glirubari Maharana-Age-45 year, w/o Ditia Maharana, right hand injured
by police beating.
- Smt Suryamani Sahu-Age-70 year, w/o Ramachandra Sahu - was kicked by
on his back despite her age.
3 - Kulamani Pradhan-Age 70, sustained injury due to kicking by the police.
4 - Batakrushna Pradhan-Age 35, Batakrishana is a heart patient who had
undergone surgery at SCB Medical College, Cuttack a few days before the
incident. The policemen beat him black and blue braking open his door.
When his wife Sabita and sister-in-law tried to shield his body lying
on the floor, both the women were also not spared. Reportedly they also
snatched away Sabita's necklace and took away Rs. 8000/- in cash. Their
TV set was also destroyed. Severe head injuries and loss of blood made
Bata unconscious and thinking him to be dead the police left the house.
While leaving they picked Bata's 5 year old son and threw him down. Dr.
Antaryami Behera of Harbhanga PHC and its Pharmacist Sri Sahu along with
Sri Surendranath Panda, a local drug-store owner rescued Bata and sent
him in an ambulance to the hospital at Phulbani for treatment where he
was still under treatment.
The team saw the broken TV, dried bloodstains, broken pieces of police
lathi and other ransacked articles inside the house.
5 - Rabindra Kumar Das - One colour TV and a motorcycle was totally damaged
which the team could see. Rupees thirty-five thousand was also looted
from him house.
6 - Ratnakar Behera- TV, motorcycle were totally destroyed. A bicycle
was take away.
7 - Kumara Naik- 17 pairs of hen were allegedly taken away by the police
from his house.
8 - Jambubati Naik - A pair of goat and 12 hens were taken away by the
police from her house.
9 - Hazari Pradhan - 2 goats were allegedly taken away from his house.
10 - Russy Sethi - A grocery shop in a cabin belonging to the victim was
totally ransacked by the police depriving Russy of his only source of
livelihood. The cops reportedly made a feast of looted eatables in the
village Community Hall.
11 - It was also gathered from the villagers that the arrested people
who were shifted to Boudh police station were illegally detained there
and subjected to inhuman beating inside the police hazat at Boudh police
station. The Second officer of Boudh police station, one Barik, brutally
assault and kicked the arrested persons. As a result of torture in the
police custody Shri Naba Sahu's finger and knee were fractured, Saroj
Bhukta's right leg fractured and Siba Bisi suffered multiple fractures.
List of people arrested and tortured in police custody:
Narayan Danayak, Batakrushna Pradhan, Manoranjan Sethy, Jayanta Sethi,
Bijay Kumar Dang, Belasena Danga, Dillip Pradhan, Nilamani Danga, Narasingha
Nayak, Rabinarayan Nayak, Siba Bisi, Saroj Bhukta, Abhimanyu Bhukta, Pratibhu
Panigrahi, Kumar Pradhan, Manoranjan Mahakud, Sarat Majakud, Nabakishore
Sahu, Dilip Bagha, Narayan Danayak, Chandra Danayak, Pradip Maharana,
Rabindra Sahu, Priya Ranjan Dash.
Version of Officials of the Administration and Medical
I - Version Of Officer-In-Charge, Harbhanga P.S.
After making door-to-door inquiry in Harbhanga village, the team met the
Officer-in-Charge at Harbhanga Police Station, Ashok Kumar Mohapatra,
at about 4 PM on 17.03.2002. Mohapatra joined Harbhanga P.S. in September
2001 before which he was in the Mohana Police Station.
According to the OIC, he and the constable, Brajananda Biswal (No-l18)
were present on 19th and 20th February 2002 in the Harbhanga P.S. at the
time of incident. Although he read from the newspaper that the local people
have called for a protest bandh on 19.2.2002 against the Govt. decision
to shift the proposed Fire Station from Harbhanga to Charichhak, but there
was no intimation to the police station by the Harbhanga Gana Sangram
Samiti or by any other person.
After describing in detail the sequence of events from 19 to 20 February
the OIC stated that at around 8 pm when there was heavy stoning on the
police station 4 rounds of tear gas were fired at the public by order
of the S.P. In the meantime the 2nd force had arrived (APR) which included
4/5 lady constables and the police force chased the people and arrested
some of them.
When the team wanted to know as to who was assessing the situation and
giving direction to the forces to act, the OIC refused to give any answer
but stated that in the presence of superior officers on the spot (he meant
S.P) the officers like him had no role to play either to issue orders
or to take action on his own.
The OIC stated that police action started at about 10-10.30 PM and continued
for some hours. He also stated that the police forces nabbed 24 persons
from the village who were forwarded to the court of the magistrate at
Baudh on 23.2.2002. He also stated that out of these 24 persons who were
injured were medically examined and 8 injured policemen were also examined.
The OIC said that the furniture of police station were broken by the agitators,
one motor cycle was partially damaged and the temporary straw shed for
parking the vehicles inside the P.S. Compound was also damaged in stone
throwing, but no person (policeman) got any serious injury.
The OIC stated that to his knowledge no order was issued to the police
force for entering the house of the villagers in the night and no blank
fire was ordered. He stated that three cases have been instituted against
the agitators i.e. 1) Harbhanga P.S. Case No-7/2002 based on the FIR submitted
by one staff of the EDO's office; 2) Harbhanga P.S. Case No. 8/2002 basing
on the FIR lodged by the OIC of Harbhanga P.S; and 3) Harbhanga P.S. Case
No. 9/2002 basing upon the FIR lodged by the driver of the Collector and
now these cases have been pending for investigation and the Circle Inspector,
Baudh Shri B.P. Deuri has taken charge of these cases as Investigating
2 - Version Of The Medical Officer of Harbhanga New PHC, Dr. Antaryami
After the team met the OIC of Harbhanga P.S, they went to meet the Doctor
of the Harbhanga New PHC, Dr. Antaryami Behera, at about 5 PM on 17.03.2002.
Dr. Behera, as he admitted, was very much present on the date of the incident
and on subsequent days and has personally witnessed the incidents. He
said that on 19.2.2002, as per the previous announcement, the villagers
of Harbhanga (about 300-among whom 30-40 women) sat peacefully at one
corner of the village near the police station and shouted slogans against
the Collector, ADM, and the Govt.
On 19.2.2002 at around 10 AM he (M.O) got the information from the villagers
that the condition of one of the agitators sitting on 'dharna' had become
serious. He immediately rushed to the spot and saw that one person had
lost consciousness. He immediately brought it to the notice of the OIC
and gave some preliminary treatment to the person. According to him the
agitation was completely peaceful throughout the day and night of 19.2.2002
and on 20.2.2002 at around 8.30 AM another person sitting on dharna fell
unconscious. Again he was called for and gave the available treatment
On the same night i.e. 20.2.2002 he could see from his quarters that the
police force were shouting and assaulting the villagers and he could very
well hear panic-stricken cries of the people. A man named Batakrushna,
a cardiac patient, was assaulted by the policemen. Batakrushna sustained
severe bleeding injuries. The doctor himself had to go to some of the
injured and brought them to the hospital and treated some of them in the
same night and has referred some others to the villagers and sent the
message to the S.P to take whatever action he could, against the agitating
The Collector also said, "Had I not left the place, there would have
been a holocaust".
The Collector attributed the cause of such agitation in the following
Firstly, there are a group of Naxalites who are hiding in the daytime
and instigating people of locality to rise against police and administration.
Secondly, one Ajit Das whose wife was a candidate in the Panchayat election
wanted to create s disturbances and has instigated the people.
Thirdly, a local journalist, Chitta Sing, by giving information to the
local people about the letter Collector for change of venue of establishing
Fire Station, had added fuel to discontentment of people.
The Collector expressed his firmness in taking action against those who
were already arrested and expressed no sympathy toward the victims of
police atrocity. He expressed his ignorance about mass molestation of
the women inside their own houses.
3 - Version Of The S.P, Baudh - B.K. Praharaj
The team sans its lady member had an audience with the S.P, Baudh, B.K.
Praharaj, in his office 18.03.2002 from 6 pm to 8.30 pm.
The SP stated that sudden decision of the Collector to go away from the
spot on 20.2.2002 infuriated the agitators. It seemed that the SP was
critical of the irresponsible manner in which the Collector left the spot
along with all the magistrates and the way the Collector chose to move
without escort by taking unnecessary risk.
The S.P narrated the incident of 20.3.2002 by stating that at about 9
PM, the Collector, ADM, Sub Collector, JE, BDO, and the magistrate left
in two vehicles leaving the S.P, OIC, and the police force there to take
charge of the situation when the agitators were becoming more aggressive
in their approach. He (SP) continued in his effort to pacify the situation
and at the same time took efforts for mobilisation of more force. When
the agitators continued to pelt stones on the P.S, the police forces one
after other arrived in small intervals and the action started at about
10-10.30 PM. When asked what type of action the police resorted to, the
SP said that though there was increasing pressure on me from the forces
to give order for firing he restrained himself, but he ordered the force
to chase the people away.
The SP totally denied having any knowledge of assault or abuse on any
woman inside their home in Harbhanga on the night of 20.2.2002.
When specifically questioned as to who was assessing the situation controlling
the police force (3 platoons of police OSAP with 3 sections of APR Forces)
and who was giving direction to act, the SP could not give any answer
except saying that he had ordered them to disperse and chase the people
away but had not ordered them to go inside the house of the people or
do any harm to them. The SP, when asked as to whether he wanted to know
the situation of the people in Harbhanga after the police action, replied
that even though he had gone there twice after the incident he had never
felt to contact people of the area Phulbani Hospital as the treatment
in Harbhanga was not adequate considering the nature of injuries suffered.
MO has also stated that he himself had to go to the police station on
21.2.2002 and had to treat 11 arrested persons inside the Harbhanga PS
and found one person to have been severely assaulted.
Dr. Behera admitted before the fact finding team that 2 of his staff namely
Bharati Mahapatra and Suprava Naik, who were also misbehaved and molested
by the police, complained to him about their security as police force
themselves misbehaved toward them, for which he himself made a written
report to the OIC, Harbhanga on 21.3.2002 but till date he had not been
provided with a copy of such FIR and was doubtful if it was at all registered.
The Doctor, after verifying his record available in the PHC gave a list
of injured persons who had undergone treatment by him on that day:
Naba Kishore Sahoo, 35 years; Nilamani Danga, 50 years; Manoj Sethi, 30
years; Sharat Mahakud, 30 years; Jayanta Sethi, 25 years; Saroj Bhukta,
25 years (suspected fracture in the right leg); Bisikesan Binayak, 30
years; Suba Bisi, 25 years; Rabi Singh, 24 years (Head injury); Rabindra
Pradhan, 30 years.
4 - Version Of The District Magistrate (Collector)
The team met the Collector, Baudh, Brundaban Rath, in his office at around
12.30 PM on 18.3.2002 in its endeavour to elicit the truth behind the
reported account of the Harbhanga incident. The Collector was aware of
visit of the team well in advance as he told the team that he knew that
a fact finding team was already there and that they (team) spent the night
at the Forest Rest House at Boudh on 17.3.2002.
The Collector told the team that he was trapped in a pre-planned manner
by the agitating people of Harbhanga who detained him for hours and insisted
for assurance/commitment of establishment of a fire station there. According
to him he had never committed earlier to the people of Harbhanga to have
a fire station there at any point of time and that he was not a fool to
do so. He told the team that his office can be compared to a post office
which only carries the message from one point to another. It is the Govt.
who takes the decision where the fire station would be and he can only
make a proposal/suggestion to the Govt.
The Collector admitted that towards May (2001) last he had proposed the
Govt. to set up a fire station at Charichhak.
asked by the team as to when there was already fire stations at Baudh
and Phulbani which could be used for Charichhak area, what was the necessity
of recommending the Govt. to establish another station at Charichhak thereby
neglecting a remote part like Harbhanga, the Collector had no answer.
He only said that he had also suggested that one additional fire station
could be set up at Harbhanga area.
Describing the incident of 20th February the Collector said that at about
6 pm the crowd became restless and unruly. They had brought a tractor-load
of stones and brickbats and shouting slogans the agitators began stone
pelting and brick-batting. Therefore, he directed the SP to resort to
teargas and lathicharge to disperse the mob. Then he fled the spot with
the officers and as the road leading to Baudh was blocked, after crossing
the river by foot, he reached Baudh with the help of some.
The SP categorically denied the allegation of involvement of any Naxal
or any other extremist group in the issue and expressly opined that the
Collector's delayed arrival and abrupt flight without sincerely addressing
to the grievances of the agitators did actually provoked the people. There
was nothing as pre-planned about the incident and the reaction was quite
He said on the same night and the next day they arrested 24 people and
he directed the OIC to take the arrestees to Baudh as their detention
at Harbhanga may create more tension. SP admit whatever attack on the
police was perpetrated by a few anti-socials among the crowd and that
not all and not even majority of the villagers were involved.
He further said that a local journalist, Chitta Sing, who always found
favour of the Collector and managed to take some work on contract in the
Block, was instrumental in passing all information to the villagers on
the proposal for shifting the fire station.
Date of Incident - 20.2.2002, Date of Visit - 17.3.2002 to 18.3.2002
Members of the Investing Team: Prasanta Misra, Social Activist & Convener
PUCL Dhenkanal; Fanindu Bhusan Mohapatro, Member, Nagrik Manch, Dhenkanal;
Ms. Madhumita Panigrahi, Human Rights Activist and Advocate, Dhenkanal
Bar; Prasanta Kumar Jena, Advocate Orissa High Court; Convenor, PUCL Cuttack;
President, People for Justice & Human Rights; Niranjan Panda, Advocate
Orissa High Court; Member, PUCL Cuttack; Member People for Justice &
Human Rights; Ganjanan Tripathy, Journalist, The Samaj