On August 6, mainstream newspapers across the country reported that 15 “Naxals” were killed in an “encounter with security forces” near Sukma in Chhattisgarh. The news also reported that two others “including a senior cadre and an injured woman rebel” were held after a “gun battle” with the security forces.
As per the reports that appeared, the “firing” lasted for around one and a half hours and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Bastar Range, Vivekanand Sinha said that the operation was carried out by District Reserve Guard (DRG) personnel and that the “operation was launched over last few weeks.”
However, local activists and journalists have highlighted that this was a fake encounter and that those killed were innocent villagers.
LingaramKodopi, a journalist and documentary film-maker from Chhattisgarh wrote after meeting the concerned villagers from four villages, “Yesterday, in the morning, 15 Adivasis from Sukma District, Mehta Panchayat’s four villages, namely:
1) Adivasis youngsters from Nulkatong:
- HidmaMuchaki/ Lakhma;
- Dev Muchaki;
- SodiPrabhu/ Bheema;
- MudkamAayatha/ Sukka;
(All these killed are within the age group of 14 to 17 according to the information of the locals)
2) Adivasis from Gompad village:
- KadthiHadma/ Deva;
- MadkamHunga/ Sukka;
- Vanjam Ganga;
3) From Kindrampada:
4) From Velpocha:
1. VanjamHunga/ Nandi
As one can notice, the reports by LingaramKodopi indicate that of the 15 Adivasis killed in the alleged encounter, as many as 7 were minors as per local information. The Adivasi leader and member of political party, AamAadmi Party (AAP), SoniSori, who also visited the area, confirmed this and said that the killed Adivasis were farmers, who were, in fact, working in their fields when they were attacked by state forces.
Kodopi further recorded, “MadkamBhudhari who hails from Nulkatong, one female, was shot in the leg. VanjamHunga who is from Velpocha village was taken by State Police and is being stated as a Naxal. Apart from her, three other youngsters are in their custody.”
Kodopi informs that many villagers from the area are being beaten by the police which includes pregnant women. He, along with another civil rights activist, RamdevBachel met the villagers. He further reports that the villagers allege that this was no encounter and that all the people killed are local villagers. Also, that naxals weren’t present in the villages as was being reported in the mainstream reports. Lingaram appealed that “anyone who would like to know the truth can come and see for themselves by travelling and meeting the people in these four villages of the Metha Panchayat.”
He reminded in his note that two years back, on June 14, 2018, a woman named MaddamHidme’s daughter was raped, and killed. Later it was alleged that she was a Naxalite. In this context, the AamAadmi Party (AAP) had also organised a rally from Aug 9-15 in 2016. Her case is still going on in Bilaspur High Court and villagers await justice still.
In the latest case, the villagers have not even been returned the bodies of their relatives and it is claimed by the state forces that the post-mortem is still going on, as per Linagaram’s note. He says, “Yesterday the 15 Adivasis were killed and brought in polythenes. The Chief Minister, Raman Singh is commending Sukma district SP Abhishek Meena, DM Awasthi, ADJ Naxal ops and others on this ‘great achievement’. Later, they may even be rewarded with National awards. Perhaps, the CM doesn’t know that those killed aren’t Naxalites, but innocent villagers.”
Questioning if Adivasis didn’t fit in the imagination of Indian nation, he alleged that the BJP government is hell bent on ruining the true spirit of the nation and wants to establish a state of hooligans, with the help of RSS. As the Chhattisgarh elections loom over the state, he asks if the citizens will contribute in changing this rule of lawlessness?
While on the one hand the world celebrated August 9 as the Indigenous people’s day, Adivasis in India are exploited with impunity, especially in regions such as Chhattisgarh. Highlighting this situation, Kodopi also added, “While the world celebrates Indigenous people’s day, these four villages, Gompad, Kindrempad, Nulkatog and Velpocha’s would be mourning their 15 Adivasi youth killed.”
He drew attention to hypocrisy of the Chhattisgarh state in celebrating the Indigenous peoples day with the leadership and involvement ofministers such as Cabinet Minister of Chhattisgarh state, KedarKashyap, Chairman of Scheduled Tribes Commission, Chhattisgarh state,VikasMarkam, Chairman of the National Commission of Scheduled Tribes, Nandkumar Sai and others, who are well aware of what is happening with the Adivasis and yet they have chosen to close their eyes to their plight. In fact, he believes that they are complicit in the exploitation of the Adivasis.
He appealed that of the eight crore Adivasis, the conscious ones should come forward and raise voice for their community and the protection of Adivasis.
Leader SoniSorihas urged the state to immediately bring to halt the multiple fake encounters taking place in the state in the name of Naxalite operations.