Thursday, July 20, 2006

An account of a cold blooded murder of a Naxalite

This is another report of the same event

Effacement of Naxalites: Encounter with truth of the bloody seventies

By Suchandana Gupta

Ramachandran Nair stared down the barrel: his officer had asked him to
kill or be killed. Nair killed. His victim, Naxalite leader Verghese.

"As I pulled the trigger," Nair recalls, "Verghese raised his fist and
raised a slogan: Mao unity zindabad, let the revolution win'."

In the Wynad jungles of Tirunelli, north Kerala, nearly 29 winters
ago, Nair shot Verghese at point blank range on February 18, 1970. A
constable of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Nair says his
pleas to take the Naxalite to court fell on deaf ears of his superiors
and he was threatened with his life.

"I thought of my wife and child and I chose to kill rather than get
killed," narrates a remorseful Nair as he collects sap from a rubber
tree in his native village of Parayaruvila, 65 km from here.

Nair is, perhaps, the first policeman who has voluntarily revealed the
gory details of a "fake" police encounter. His story is but one
chapter in the saga of killings that has been dubbed by human rights
activists as "state terrorism."

In the turbulent years following the Naxalbari uprising of 1968,
thousands of such killings in the country went unreported. Most of the
murders were in West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Bihar and Kerala.
In West Bengal, after the Left Front first came to power in 1977, it
set up two commissions to investigate the allegations. One of the
commissions was wound up midway; the other's report has been kept
confidential. In one conservative estimate, at least 1,900 youth were killed in
Bengal alone between 1968 and 1970.

The ghost of one such youth has come to haunt Kerala now because a
letter written by Nair to Verghese's associate, Vasu, 20 years ago,
somehow found its way to the pages of a Malayalam daily recently.

The retired constable wrote that he shot Verghese after he was
threatened by his superiors. The letter has opened a can of worms here
since it contradicts police records, which claim Verghese was killed
in an armed encounter.

"I have not been able to sleep peacefully since that day. I have been
constantly tormented by nightmares and the guilt that I killed a
brilliant young man," he told The Telegraph. "Had Verghese lived, like
his associates he would have been a reformed man."

"Deputy superintendent of police Lekshmana, commander of the
anti-Naxalite operations, threatened if I did not obey him I would be
dead," Nair continues. Lekshmana even promised to send a medal to
Nair's wife if he chose to become a martyr.

In Kerala, as in Bengal and Punjab and Assam, the state has often
trusted its handpicked officers to head the police's dirty tricks
department. In Calcutta, too, the police had crushed Naxalites with a
heavy hand. In his autobiography, former police officer Runu Guha
Neogy describes how Naxalites were tackled, but stops short of giving
graphic details of his "encounters."

Even after all these years, Nair shudders when he describes the act of
killing. "Verghese was blindfolded and handcuffed. I hesitated seeing
his helplessness. As I pulled the trigger, he raised the slogan," says

The scars have not healed with time. "I knew it was wrong. I knew the
police could not take the law into their own hands. We should have let
the court decide Verghese's fate," rues Nair.

The former constable had tried to reason with Lekshmana that the
captured Naxalite should be taken to court.

But Lekshmana said it was not for a constable to decide and ordered:
"It's you who must kill Verghese." But Nair asserts that he has no
Naxalite leanings. "As a policeman I have faced many armed Naxalites.
I would never have regretted if Verghese was killed in a true, armed
encounter," he says.

"I could not speak all these years as I had a family to feed," Nair
explains. But after retiring in June, this year, he decided to get the
burden off his chest.

Lekshmana, who retired as inspector-general, has refused to talk to
the press. His superior during the time of the killing, deputy
inspector general Vijayan, said: "It all happened nearly three decades
ago. I cannot remember the incident."

That also sums up the attitude of the ruling CPM-led Left Democratic
Front, which has been reluctant to order an inquiry into the killing.
The matter is now before Kerala High Court.

This article appeared in The Telegraph on November 15, 1998

Song -Mangal Pandey - The Rising

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