Why Were Madhya Pradesh Poachers Killed In Encounter Seen With Politicians?

The Madhya Pradesh police are under scanner after a fact-finding team concluded that the encounters in which three men were killed in May were staged.

Guna, Madhya Pradesh: Haseen Bano's house in Madhya Pradesh's Baduria on May 13 was buzzing with celebrations as her granddaughter was getting married. The family was celebrating haldi rituals when two village headmen—Gagan Sarpanch and Kalla Sarpanch—showed up. They asked for Bano's sons, Naushad and Shahzad, to join them for hunting. The two brothers left the house while the family celebrated the duo's haldi ceremony .

Hours later, the festivities turned into mourning for Bano and her family when the two sarpanchs returned with Naushad's dead body.

Also Read: A 100-Year-Old Fishermen Community In Gujarat Allege Discrimination For Being Muslims

A day later Bano's house was demolished by the administration as they accused her sons of poaching. Her other son, Siraj Khan (whose daughter was getting married), and 77-year-old husband Nisar Khan were arrested and tortured, she alleged. The police accused the father-son duo for hiding Naushad's body.

Bano alleged that police killed Shahzad when he came home for his brother's last rites.

While Bano and her family are grappling with the loss, the Madhya Pradesh Police have come under scanner over encounters between May 13 and 17, 2022 in Guna district. Along with Naushad and Shahzad, Chotu Pathan alias Zaheer Khan was gunned down over the allegations of peacock and blackbuck poaching.

Also Read: In Bid To 'Punish Rioters' In MP, House Under PM Awas Yojana Destroyed

A fact-finding report now alleges that the encounters were staged to protect Madhya Pradesh's "high profile criminals" involved in poaching.

Fact-Finding Report

A report by rights group National Confederation of Human Rights Organizations (NCHRO) claims that the encounters were carried out to "take revenge and protect the real culprits of poaching." The report also hints at connection between the three slain youth with politicians.

"Madhya Pradesh police are killing innocent men from the minority community after nabbing them and demolishing their houses to take revenge. State politicians have links with the criminals. In the newspapers, the photos of politicians were published along with the criminals. The police are killing people from minority communities to protect the high-profile criminals," the fact-finding report, released on 24 May, stated.

Also Read: A Coaching Centre That Produces UPSC Exam Toppers Is A Dream For Many

President of Madhya Pradesh NCHRO, Aradhana Bhargava, said the slain poachers had connections with high-profile sand mafia across the state. They used to fetch sand for contractors.

"Had they been alive, many things would have come out during the investigation. It would have come out for whom they were working for. They had connections with politicians from Congress as well as BJP. They were killed in the encounters to hide these things," Aradhana, who was also part of the fact-finding team, said.

Politician-Poacher Links

The NCHRO report mentioned the alleged link between poachers and politicians while referring to photographs of a minister in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh with the three slain youth. The photos were shared by Congress' Madhya Pradesh unit on May 15.

The photos showed Shahzad with state cabinet minister Mahendra Sisodia and Bharatiya Janata Party's district vice president Hirendra Singh. Another photo showed Naushad and Hirendra Singh in the same frame. In another photo, Sisodia was seen sitting with another accused at the dining table.

The BJP counter-attacked the Congress after spokesperson Hitesh Bajpai shared an image of an "accused" with Congress MLA Jaivardhan Singh, son of senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh. However, the name of the accused in the image with Singh was not shared.

Local activists say the nexus between poachers and politicians has been a norm in the state. Pushpraj, a local forest activist, told BOOM that the poachers are given protection by politicians and the administration.

"In Aaron, poaching continues with protection from politicians and administration. But the question here is that if this was the first time when police were tipped off about poaching. They must have been informed about such incidents in past too. But how many times have the accused been nabbed?" he asked.

A nexus between the officials and poachers in Madhya Pradesh was exposed back in 2008 when Panna Tiger Reserve located in Chatarpur district lost all its tigers. A intelligence report had then pointed at the nexus between the forest officials and the poachers. According to Down to Earth, the report had discovered at least 19 cases of poaching of large carnivores, including 11 cases of tiger poaching carried out between 1989 and 2010.

As far as the poaching of blackbucks is concerned, The Times of India reported on 14 February that Madhya Pradesh has recorded the highest number of cases related to the poaching of blackbucks. Out of 139 cases of killing blackbucks between 2018 and 2018, the state accounts for 31 cases of poaching in India. During this period, 38 persons were arrested in cases related to poaching. Bhopal, Raisen, Sehore and Guna are the circles where varieties of deer is found.

Staged encounter?

NCHRO's Aradhana said there was no reason to kill the three men as they were under police scanner.

"The police should have arrested them and followed the judicial process. They would be given punishment by the court. If the encounters are the rule, what is the need for the judiciary? The police did not have the right to kill anyone," Aradhana said.

Police version of the encounter differs from what the fact-finding report said after speaking to the family of Naushad and Shahzad.

Police said the first encounter took place on May 13 after the police was tipped off about some people poaching blackbucks and peacocks in the Sagarbakhera jungle. The poachers allegedly opened fire on the police team that had reached the spot. The police retaliated and three cops were killed in the ensuing gunbattle.

The report asked why the police went into jungles to nab the poachers without being accompanied by forest department officials as per law. Questions have also been raised over the fact that police took a private vehicle to nab the poachers.

The police claimed they had found Naushad's dead body from his house in wee hours of May 13, while Shahzad was killed in the encounter on the evening of May 14. Later, two other accused were arrested and were shot in their legs as they tried to escape from the police custody.

Siraj, brother of two slain men, had refuted the police charges. "Police have not arrested Kalla Sarpanch and Gagan who brought Naushad uncle on a bike on Saturday early morning. He was badly hurt and died a few minutes later. Later, police came to our house and thrashed the entire family," he was quoted as saying by the Hindustan Times.

Chotu Pathan was reportedly killed on May 17 when he tried escaping the police custody.

Police Response

The police have denied any foul play in the encounters. Advocate Vasid Khan, a member of the fact-finding team, said that the police denied all allegations and findings of the team. "They behaved as though they are completely clean and did nothing wrong. And such allegations are usually hurled against the police," Khan said.

BOOM spoke to police to know the stats of the case. However, Aamod Singh Rathore, Station Head Officer of the Aaron Police Station, said he was posted there just a few days ago and was not aware of the investigations related to the encounter case.

"There are no details related to the case available in the diary of the police station. All these cases are being supervised by the higher officials," Rathore said.

The former SHO of the police station also declined to comment on the case. There have been transfers within the department after the encounters. Guna SP Rajeev Kumar Mishra, like several other officials, has been transferred from the district after the encounters.

If you value our work, we have an ask:

Our journalists work with TruthSeekers like you to publish fact-checks, explainers, ground reports and media literacy content. Much of this work involves using investigative methods and forensic tools. Our work is resource-intensive, and we rely on our readers to fund our work. Support us so we can continue our work of decluttering the information landscape.

📧 Subscribe to our newsletter here.

📣You can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Linkedin and Google News
Show Full Article
Next Story
Our website is made possible by displaying online advertisements to our visitors.
Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker. Please reload after ad blocker is disabled.