Man killed while ‘out hunting’ in Latehar, cops claim ‘cross-fire’

With the village in a no-network zone, the news of Brahmdev Singh's death only emerged a week later.

A MAN from the tribal community was killed in Piri village under Garu block of Latehar district on June 12 in what police claim was a “cross-firing”. With the village in a no-network zone, the news of Brahmdev Singh’s death only emerged a week later.

This is the second such incident in just over a year, with a tribal alleged to be a Maoist killed in a similar “cross-fire” in Khunti district on March 18, 2020. A CID inquiry had later held CRPF personnel responsible for the death of 36-year-old Roshan Horo.

In its FIR in the Latehar case, police say that around 8 am on June 12 they spotted around 12 men with “arms” and told them repeatedly to surrender, but they opened fire. “In this situation police fired in self-defence… and held five people with arms without any papers… A body was found at the base of a hill, and was identified as Brahmdev Singh,” the FIR, registered on June 13, says, without making any mention of how Singh died.

The charges in the FIR against the villagers include rioting, unlawful assembly, assault or criminal force to deter a public servant from discharging duty, attempt to murder, and under the Arms Act.

The villagers say Brahmdev Singh and five others were out hunting as part of the tribal Sarhul festival. The tribals said that while they had a country-made “hunting gun” with them, there was no firing from their side.

Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, a rights body, brought out a report on Singh’s death Wednesday, saying the police FIR shows “they are trying to hide the truth”. According to the Mahasabha the villagers who had gone hunting had panicked on seeing security personnel present. “People started running. Suddenly, the security forces started firing without any warning… One of the bullets hit Brahmdev.”

Latehar SP Prashant Anand denied any attempt to hide anything. “The FIR is out in the public. We have referred the case to the CID,” he said.

He said security personnel had found the men with arms in the forest and taken “best possible caution in controlling the situation”. “There was an exchange of fire and a villager died in the cross-firing.”

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