Samuel Champia in Ranchi on Thursday. Telegraph picture
Ranchi, March 14: Pastor Samuel Champia is a simple man for who helping the police — merely giving directions to personnel in pursuit of rebels — turned out to be something of a cardinal sin.
He landed in jail after the police picked him up and framed him as one of the masterminds behind the killing of 28 CPRF personnel by Maoists at Baliba in West Singhbhum on April 7, 2004.
Champia (37) was acquitted by the special POTA court of justice S.H. Kazmi two days ago, after he had languished for nine years behind bars for a crime that the police or the prosecution could prove.
This morning when Champia was released from Birsa Munda Central Jail, he appeared bewildered and wobbly, though he relished stepping out of darkness. His senses have weakened, for he cannot remember when the police arrested him or the charges heaped on him. He is even mistaking dates and years.
“I, along with a few friends, was going to attend a marriage when they (forces) asked me the route to Baliba. One day, the police picked me up, thrashed me and forced me to sign on a plain paper. My only mistake was that I helped the police,” Champia told The Telegraph.
The police, in its chargesheet, termed him a Maoist conduit who passed secret information on the movement of security forces towards Baliba. The contention of the police was that Champia tipped off the rebels, as a result of which they could trigger the landmine blast and opened fire on the personnel who were returning from an anti-Naxalite operation.
Praveen Kumar Singh, the then district superintendent of police now posted as deputy inspector-general (Palamau), was leading the troops in the operation. Along with his driver, Singh managed to escape after receiving bullet injuries on his palm.
The court today announced the quantum of punishment for two undertrials in the case — William Marandi (37) alias Napoleon, a graduate in liberal arts from Pune University and an expert in landmine explosives who joined CPI(Maoist) in 2004, and Shahdeo Mahto.
For Champia, life had changed completely in nine years.
In jail, not once did he see his daughter Lily Grace who was barely six months old at the time of his arrest. His wife Rasanti often visited him but neighbours distanced themselves from the family fearing police reprisal.
A native of village Bandunasa at Manoharpur in West Singhbhum that runs into Saranda, Champia was a pastor at Baliba’s Believers’ Church.
After his release, a couple of his well-wishers from the Believers’ Church in Ranchi brought him to a chapel in the state capital.
Defending oneself in such cases booked under provisions of POTA is all the more challenging, given the fact that the burden of proof lies on the accused.
Life term for duo
The special POTA court of justice S.H. Kazmi today awarded rigorous life imprisonment to two undertrials, William Marandi and Sahdeo Mahto, who were accused of involvement in the 2004 killings of 28 CRPF jawans at Bailba in Saranda forest of West Singhbhum.
Marandi alias Napoleon, a resident of Khodasaru village in Jamtara was a graduate in liberal arts from Pune University and an expert in explosives who joined the CPI(Maoist) in 2004. Mahto is a resident of Uthana village in Keredari area of Hazaribagh.
Prosecution lawyer B.N. Sharma, however, expressed dissatisfaction over the quantum of punishment.