On November 3 2020, Tamil Nadu native Velmurugan was killed in police firing during combing operations conducted by Thunderbolt in the Banasura Sagar forest area in the Padinjarathara police station limits of Kerala’s Wayanad district. Soon after his death, human rights activists in Kerala had alleged that it was a fake encounter, citing that the police force was not allowing even media persons to visit the spot even hours after the incident.
But what has drawn attention is an observation from the report that “there was fracture of lower one third of both thigh bones. The fractured ends on the right side were displaced. On the left side, it had a spiral pattern. The soft tissues around the fracture site were normal with no blood infiltration or bleeding. There were no external injury corresponding to the fracture sites.”
The expert also added that the observation that “soft tissues around the fracture site were normal” with no bleeding meant that the person was already dead when the attack happened. It means that the person’s heart had stopped pumping blood when he sustained this injury, the expert said.
Earlier, Velmurugan’s family had also alleged that he could have been killed in a fake encounter, citing the numerous bullet injuries on his body. However, the police claimed that they retaliated after he opened fire first. Notably, all the injuries Velmurugan sustained are below the neck and above the knees.
However, the postmortem report does not reveal the exact time of Velmurugan’s death. It states that since the body was refrigerated, the probable time of death cannot be specified.
“The injuries reveal that he was attacked cruelly from all sides. Both his legs were fractured after his death. This shows that even after he died, the police continued to attack him,” said CP Rasheed, Secretary of Janakeeya Manushyavakasha Prasthanam, a human rights group based in Kerala.
He also alleged that the postmortem report was not released all this time in order to hide the “brutalities of Thunderbolt”.
Meanwhile, the rights group has also slammed the judicial inquiry report submitted by the Judicial First Class Magistrate in Mananthavady to the Chief Judicial Magistrate in Kalpetta. The report, submitted on January 20, states that “the causes of injuries are distant ranged rifled firearms injuries and the injuries are sufficient to cause death in ordinary course of nature. I could find nothing extraordinary or unnatural to suspect as to the cause of deceased Velmurugan.”
However, rights activists have questioned why the judicial inquiry report does not mention the circumstances that led to the firing.
“If the incident has to be investigated, more time should be taken to check the ballistic and forensic reports. But without doing that, the magistrate report claimed there was nothing unnatural in the death. This is injustice,” Rasheed said.
Since the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front government came to power in the state, seven suspected Maoists have been killed in Kerala. In 2016, Kuppuswamy Devaraj and Ajitha were gunned in the Nilambur forests; in March 2019, Maoist leader CP Jaleel was killed at a resort in Wayanad’s Vythiri. The same year in October, four Tamil Nadu natives, reportedly members of CPI(Maoist) – Manivasakam, Karthi, Aravind and Rema – were killed in Palakkad district.
Earlier, a forensic report on CP Jaleel’s death had disproved the police’s claim that Jaleel had opened fire at the Thunderbolt commandos following which he was shot dead. The report revealed that there was no gunpowder residue near Jaleel’s body. He was shot in the head and shoulder.