The malicious attacks on Adivasis are on the rise even as illegal felling of trees and other intimidation tactics by the forest department continue in isolated incidents across the country. The latest incident took place in Madhya Pradsh where some forest officials illegally detained, assaulted and tortured two activists: Kailash Jamre and Pyarsingh Waskale working for Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan in Burhanpur district Madhya Pradesh.
On August 29, two Adivasis- Jabarsing Keriya and Somla Chamarsingh were picked up while going back to their village after buying groceries. No information was provided to villagers until late that night. The next morning, the forest staff called Kailash Jamre and asked some of them to come to court to apply for bail for the two tribals. Pyarsingh Waskale accompanied Kailash as they attended the hearing of Jabarsingh and Somla. The forest department offered no evidence, nor did they present a chargesheet of the crimes committed by the two, however their bail application was rejected. As Kailash and Pyarsingh were exiting the court, on August 30, they were forcibly picked up by Khaknar Range Officer Abhay Singh Tomar and a few others.
Kailash and Pyarsingh were then taken to Khaknar Range office, where they were illegally locked up all night, and were allegedly brutally beaten up by around 20-25 staff and officers. According to Kailash, 2 or 3 people would hold their limbs while the others beat them with lathis. Most were drunk, and kept abusing them for ‘talking too much about the law and being the leaders of the sangathan’.
When the news of the illegal detention reached the village, many Adivasis gathered at Khaknar police station late at night and demanded registration of FIR against the forest officials. But, like in so many other cases of recent times, the police refused to file FIR and instead threatened the Adivasis with arrest. They were also allegedly misled by the police that Kailash and Pyaarsing had been taken to Burhanpur and that they had not been mistreated and would be produced in Court the next day.
They were brought to the District Court, Burhanpur, the next day and as Kailash and Pyarsingh were so brutally beaten up in custody, Kailash could barely stand and collapsed in court, whereafter he was hospitalised for 6 days and he is still unable to walk.
Both Kailash Jamre and Pyarsing Vaskale, of Rehmanpur village in Khaknar block are active members of Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan and constantly educate Adivasis about the provisions of the Forest Rights Act and their other legal rights. They have also, along with others, been active in opposing illegal clearing of forests which is happening with the active connivance of forest officials. They were mercilessly beaten up by forest department officials who said, “Tum hi jyaada kanoon karte ho.. dekhte hai teri sangathan kitni mazboot hai” (You are the ones who talk too much about the law.. now let’s see how strong your organisation is).
The region has a history of violence against Barela and Bhilala Adivasis who are claimants under the FRA. The forest staff, for decades has been demanding money from Adivasis for sowing, harvesting along with threats of false charges and cases slapped on them. Kailash and Pyarsingh are activists who for the past two years have been generating awareness about the Forest Rights and other legal rights and entitlements for Adivasis – putting an end to the decades of extortion by forest staff and officials from Adivasis for simply growing food.
Kailash himself and Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, as an organization have written to the District Collector and Superintendent of police giving a detailed account of the incident and demanding action. They have demanded that strict action be taken against the forest officials and they be booked under sections of the IPC as well as the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act as also the false cases against the adivasis and the activists be withdrawn.
Organisations that work at grassroots level to awaken and strengthen tribal communities seems to have become the new target of forest officials possibly because these activists always come to the rescue and raise their voice along with fellow adivasis whenever any injustice is meted out by forest officials.
The letter may be read here.