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Probe reveals fake Mao tag

- DIG inquiry says innocent booked under political pressure

Patna, Oct. 6: Even innocent persons in a Naxalite zone of Bihar are Maoists in the eyes of police, a probe by the Magadh range deputy inspector-general (DIG) has revealed.

Records with the Dumaria police station under Sherghati sub-division in Maoist-affected Gaya district show that at least four dozen people, including six members of a businessman’s family, have been booked on the charge of being Maoists and committing a crime they never committed.

The cat came out of the bag when director-general of police (DGP) Abhayanand took note of a series of complaints lodged by some residents of Dumaria and Barachatti, considered to be hotbeds of the Maoists, in Gaya district.

The complainants alleged that then Sherghati sub-divisional police officer (SDPO) Mahendra Kumar Basantri was acting as an agent of a powerful politician from the ruling party and was harassing innocent people of the area on one pretext or the other.

At least 40-50 people have been sent to jail in the past one year on false charges after being branded Maoists, the complainants alleged. The SDPO, they said, was also instrumental in lodging cases even against several political activists who did not toe the lines of the politician in question.

Basantri, who is at present posted as sub-divisional police officer of Maharajganj in Siwan district, refused to comment.

What shocked the police brass was that section 17 of the Criminal Law Amendment (CLA) Act was invoked against the people named accused in these false and fabricated cases. If a person is found guilty under the section, s/he is liable for punishment up to three years besides fine.

Sources in the state police headquarters said three cases lodged with Dumaria and Barachatti police stations were handed over to the Magadh range DIG, Nayyar Hasnain Khan, for fresh investigation as the accused were arrested and chargesheets submitted against them.

During investigation, the DIG found that seven members of a businessman’s family were sent to jail in a case related to Naxalite violence under Dumaria police station. Even some members of the family, who had come from Bokaro in Jharkhand and other places, to attend ‘shradh’ (rituals) were named accused and forwarded to jail.

The case (FIR No.48/11) was related to congregation of some Maoist cadres at the house of one Ajay Sah, a businessman of Dumaria. Two named accused in the case — Rakesh Sah and Ganesh Sah — were businessmen in Bokaro while the other accused persons were small-time traders.

The DIG found that six accused had nothing to do with the incident in which they were accused and booked under section 17 of the CLA Act, usually used against active members of the banned CPI (Maoist). The DIG gave a clean chit to the six. He, however, agreed that Ajay Sah may have been a sympathiser of the Naxalite outfit. “Ajay may have been funding the Maoist outfit active in the area,” the DIG’s report says.

Two other cases — one each lodged with Dumaria and Barachatti police stations — were found to be false by the DIG. The report said the cases were lodged out of political vendetta and the accused had nothing to do with the incidents. “People have been made accused in the incidents which never took place,” the DIG’s findings said.

After review of the three sample cases, the DIG asked the Gaya senior superintendent of police to approach the respective courts to provide relief to the people who have been implicated in false cases.

Gaya SSP Vinay Kumar confirmed that he had received certain guidelines from the DIG. “Don’t arrest any accused in the three cases, who are at large, till substantial evidence is gathered against them,” Kumar quoted the DIG as saying.

DIG Khan, when approached for comments, said he had already submitted a detailed report on the role of the SDPO in implicating innocent people in false cases to the police headquarters. “I am not supposed to make any comment on such sensitive issues,” Khan told The Telegraph.

DGP Abhayanand said he ordered the Magadh DIG to probe three sample cases on the basis of complaints received at his office. He said if the charges against the SDPO were true, then it’s a serious matter.

When informed about the submission of the report by the DIG, Abhayanand said: “I am yet to go though the report. Let me find out,” he told The Telegraph. Sources, however, said the DIG has recommended disciplinary action against Basantri, the former Sherghati SDPO, for his alleged partisan role.

Sources in the headquarters said the three cases, which branded innocent people of Gaya district as Maoists, were just the tip of the iceberg. “The findings of the Magadh range DIG are an eye-opener for the state police, particularly the top brass,” a senior officer posted at the police headquarters said.

Only a fortnight ago, a People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) probe team visited Sasaram district jail to inquire into allegations of five innocent people sent to jail by Kargahar police in Rohtas district on June 25 this year on charges of being involved in Naxalite activities.

The probe team, in its report, said the arrested people were supporters of CPI-ML New Democracy, a farmers' organisation, and were not members of the CPI (Maoist), as claimed by the police.