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BEARING WITNESS : VOICES FROM BASTAR

Monday 30 January, 3-6 pm

Constitution Club of India (Dy. Speaker’s Hall, annexe)




Bastar in Chhattisgarh is the nursery where the Modi sarkar’s version of development – the offspring of the toxic marriage of corporate capitalism and militarised nationalism – is being carefully nurtured and brought to fruition.

The Maoist insurrection provides the perfect cover for the exploitation of Adivasi lands and forests, which are now defined not as part of India’s heritage of natural resources but as sources of profits for mining companies, businessmen and contractors. Bastar has been turned into a war zone where the Constitution is suspended and the rule of law does not exist even on paper. The police under the command of IG Bastar SRP Kalluri are brazen in their disregard for the Constitution and the rule of law, flouting all norms and procedures to establish a reign of terror and violence in the region.

Events over the last two years have shown how far the state is prepared to go in pushing this distorted version of development. Community leaders who question the actions of the police are arrested on vague charges and held for indefinite periods, with no access to courts or legal representation. Young Adivasis are picked up and forced to pose as “surrendered Maoists” or shot in cold blood and paraded as “Maoist commanders”. Police and paramilitary patrols roam the countryside, looting and plundering in the name of search and combing operations. Sexual violence against women is the strategy of choice to terrorise communities into silence.

Silence and invisibility are essential to the success of the Bastar model of development. The Bastar police has therefore launched a systematic campaign of intimidation and harassment against all those involved in investigating and exposing human rights violations in Bastar. Adivasi leaders, lawyers, media professionals, academics and researchers and social activists have all been targeted with threats, slander, false cases, illegal arrests and murderous attacks by the police and vigilante groups facilitated and patronised by them.

Soni Sori, Bela Bhatia and Shalini Gera are among the human rights defenders who are challenging the power of the state by breaking the silence and bearing witness to the attempted murder of democracy in Bastar.

We invite you to hear them speak about their lives and experiences in Bastar, and share the stories of resistance and resilience that the state is trying to silence and erase.
 

onwards

BEARING WITNESS : VOICES FROM BASTAR

Monday 30 January, 3-6 pm

Constitution Club of India (Dy. Speaker’s Hall, annexe)




Bastar in Chhattisgarh is the nursery where the Modi sarkar’s version of development – the offspring of the toxic marriage of corporate capitalism and militarised nationalism – is being carefully nurtured and brought to fruition.

The Maoist insurrection provides the perfect cover for the exploitation of Adivasi lands and forests, which are now defined not as part of India’s heritage of natural resources but as sources of profits for mining companies, businessmen and contractors. Bastar has been turned into a war zone where the Constitution is suspended and the rule of law does not exist even on paper. The police under the command of IG Bastar SRP Kalluri are brazen in their disregard for the Constitution and the rule of law, flouting all norms and procedures to establish a reign of terror and violence in the region.

Events over the last two years have shown how far the state is prepared to go in pushing this distorted version of development. Community leaders who question the actions of the police are arrested on vague charges and held for indefinite periods, with no access to courts or legal representation. Young Adivasis are picked up and forced to pose as “surrendered Maoists” or shot in cold blood and paraded as “Maoist commanders”. Police and paramilitary patrols roam the countryside, looting and plundering in the name of search and combing operations. Sexual violence against women is the strategy of choice to terrorise communities into silence.

Silence and invisibility are essential to the success of the Bastar model of development. The Bastar police has therefore launched a systematic campaign of intimidation and harassment against all those involved in investigating and exposing human rights violations in Bastar. Adivasi leaders, lawyers, media professionals, academics and researchers and social activists have all been targeted with threats, slander, false cases, illegal arrests and murderous attacks by the police and vigilante groups facilitated and patronised by them.

Soni Sori, Bela Bhatia and Shalini Gera are among the human rights defenders who are challenging the power of the state by breaking the silence and bearing witness to the attempted murder of democracy in Bastar.

We invite you to hear them speak about their lives and experiences in Bastar, and share the stories of resistance and resilience that the state is trying to silence and erase.
 

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The ‘crime’ of documenting human rights violations

16 Nov 2016
The registration of grave charges of murder and criminal conspiracy against respected academics and human rights defenders Nandini Sundar of Delhi University and Archana Prasad of JNU, and Sanjay Parate (Chhattisgarh CPI (M) state secretary), among others, is the latest chapter in a long ignoble saga of open police bullying of journalists, rights workers and dissenters in the troubled Bastar region.

Nandini
Image: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

They are charged with organising on the night of November 4 2016, the murder with sharp weapons of a tribal man Shamnath Baghel in his village Nama. The police claims that the murder was to avenge Baghel’s protests against Maoist violence in his village.
 
as ‘fabricated’ and ‘a direct assault on our democratic polity’ which ‘indicates the growing trend of authoritarianism in the state’ by the CPI (M). This is the latest in a long roll-call of cases filed by the local police against those who tried to record the truth of what was happening in this troubled region.

Bastar is one of the most dispossessed enclaves of the country. Outsider settlers savagely dispossessed local tribal communities of their lands and forest produce, trapping them in cycles of debt.

Dispossession from their lands and forests continued in the hands of the ‘developmental state’, for roads, factories, mines and the so-called ‘scientific management of forests. This dispossession became even more acute with the advance of the neo-liberal state, as for-profit powerful companies grew impatient to extract the forest and mineral wealth of the lands occupied by indigenous tribal communities.

This ferocious, sustained and multi-armed oppression and dispossession led some tribal people to support and join far-left Maoist groups, who promised them justice and protection.

The state responded, not by addressing the massive injustices and exploitation, but by constructing this in the public discourse as a grave security challenge to the integrity of the nation. It unleashed what is not less than a civil war, with various arms of the state using every weapon in their arsenals. It is now standard drill for villages to be routinely raided and for villagers to be rounded up and detained for alleged Maoist sympathies. Some do support the Maoists against what they see as an oppressive state, whereas many of them are only by-standers and persons coerced into support.

Their predicament and insecurity was aggravated further, when the state encouraged armed vigilante groups of surrendered Maoists to turn upon their own people with rape, arson, intimidation and killings, silently or openly supported by the police. The Salwa Judum for four bloody years between 2005 and 2008, undertook mass burning of villages and forced the residents into camps, as well as unleashed massive killings and rapes. Although Salwa Judum is banned by the Supreme Court, new vigilante groups are being openly encouraged by the police administration.

The Maoists in the meanwhile have also splintered into rival factions, and often are riddled with violent rivalries and corruption. They enjoy some real support from oppressed tribal people, especially some young people, but are also known to resort to brutal intimidation, targeted killings of alleged ‘informers’, and periodic violent assaults on security forces, leading to the tragic loss of life of large numbers of usually junior members of the forces.

The ‘crime’ of Nandini Sundar and her colleagues has been that they have bravely both documented the recurring human rights violations of the security forces and vigilante groups propped up by the state; and challenged these in the country’s highest courts. It was Sundar’s petition in the Supreme Court that led it to ban the Salwa Judum. But especially since the IG Police (Bastar range) SRP Kalluri took charge, new vigilante formations like the Salwa Judum have surfaced. Baghel who was killed belonged to one such vigilante formation called Tangiya (meaning ‘axe’).

Caught in the unending cycles of violence of a security state and of militants of the extreme left, there seems no end to the suffering of the indigenous communities which have long inhabited the forested plateau and hills of Bastar. Attempts to silence independent and credible voices like those of Sundar and Prasad will only leave them even more isolated and hopeless.
 
(Writer is the author of Looking Away: Inequality, Prejudice and Indifference in New India)

This article was first published on Hindustan Times and republished with author permission.

The ‘crime’ of documenting human rights violations

The registration of grave charges of murder and criminal conspiracy against respected academics and human rights defenders Nandini Sundar of Delhi University and Archana Prasad of JNU, and Sanjay Parate (Chhattisgarh CPI (M) state secretary), among others, is the latest chapter in a long ignoble saga of open police bullying of journalists, rights workers and dissenters in the troubled Bastar region.

Nandini
Image: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

They are charged with organising on the night of November 4 2016, the murder with sharp weapons of a tribal man Shamnath Baghel in his village Nama. The police claims that the murder was to avenge Baghel’s protests against Maoist violence in his village.
 
as ‘fabricated’ and ‘a direct assault on our democratic polity’ which ‘indicates the growing trend of authoritarianism in the state’ by the CPI (M). This is the latest in a long roll-call of cases filed by the local police against those who tried to record the truth of what was happening in this troubled region.

Bastar is one of the most dispossessed enclaves of the country. Outsider settlers savagely dispossessed local tribal communities of their lands and forest produce, trapping them in cycles of debt.

Dispossession from their lands and forests continued in the hands of the ‘developmental state’, for roads, factories, mines and the so-called ‘scientific management of forests. This dispossession became even more acute with the advance of the neo-liberal state, as for-profit powerful companies grew impatient to extract the forest and mineral wealth of the lands occupied by indigenous tribal communities.

This ferocious, sustained and multi-armed oppression and dispossession led some tribal people to support and join far-left Maoist groups, who promised them justice and protection.

The state responded, not by addressing the massive injustices and exploitation, but by constructing this in the public discourse as a grave security challenge to the integrity of the nation. It unleashed what is not less than a civil war, with various arms of the state using every weapon in their arsenals. It is now standard drill for villages to be routinely raided and for villagers to be rounded up and detained for alleged Maoist sympathies. Some do support the Maoists against what they see as an oppressive state, whereas many of them are only by-standers and persons coerced into support.

Their predicament and insecurity was aggravated further, when the state encouraged armed vigilante groups of surrendered Maoists to turn upon their own people with rape, arson, intimidation and killings, silently or openly supported by the police. The Salwa Judum for four bloody years between 2005 and 2008, undertook mass burning of villages and forced the residents into camps, as well as unleashed massive killings and rapes. Although Salwa Judum is banned by the Supreme Court, new vigilante groups are being openly encouraged by the police administration.

The Maoists in the meanwhile have also splintered into rival factions, and often are riddled with violent rivalries and corruption. They enjoy some real support from oppressed tribal people, especially some young people, but are also known to resort to brutal intimidation, targeted killings of alleged ‘informers’, and periodic violent assaults on security forces, leading to the tragic loss of life of large numbers of usually junior members of the forces.

The ‘crime’ of Nandini Sundar and her colleagues has been that they have bravely both documented the recurring human rights violations of the security forces and vigilante groups propped up by the state; and challenged these in the country’s highest courts. It was Sundar’s petition in the Supreme Court that led it to ban the Salwa Judum. But especially since the IG Police (Bastar range) SRP Kalluri took charge, new vigilante formations like the Salwa Judum have surfaced. Baghel who was killed belonged to one such vigilante formation called Tangiya (meaning ‘axe’).

Caught in the unending cycles of violence of a security state and of militants of the extreme left, there seems no end to the suffering of the indigenous communities which have long inhabited the forested plateau and hills of Bastar. Attempts to silence independent and credible voices like those of Sundar and Prasad will only leave them even more isolated and hopeless.
 
(Writer is the author of Looking Away: Inequality, Prejudice and Indifference in New India)

This article was first published on Hindustan Times and republished with author permission.

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Never Named Anyone, Says Wife Of Murdered Tribal On Professor Nandini Sundar - NDTV

11 Nov 2016
Days after the murder of a villager in Chhattisgarh's Maoist-hit Bastar, the police cited his wife's complaint to name Delhi University professor Nandini Sundar and Jawaharlal Nehru University's Archana Prasad as murder suspects.

Adivasi Murder

Sitting in her home at a village around 400 km from Raipur, Shamnath Baghel's wife Vimla told NDTV that she didn't name Nandini Sundar or anyone at all, even the killers.

Vimla says the family was sleeping on November 4, when the Maoists knocked on their door.

"When I did not open the door, they broke it down. They barged in and dragged my husband out of the house. They had guns, swords...They pointed a gun at me and asked me to stay inside. There were 15-20 men... I did not know any of them. I could not see them properly as they flashed a torch at me. They did not say a word. They took him and killed him on the road," said Vimla.

Did they take the name of Nandini Sundar? "No," she said, adding that she gave no names to the police.
 
The entire story may be read here
 
Meanwhile, the Chhatisgarh government assured the Supreme Court today that it will not arrest Delhi University professor Nandini Sundar, who was named as an accused in the alleged murder of a tribal person in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh.The assurance came as the bench of Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel indicated that they may put on hold the FIR in which Sundar and other civil society activists have been named as accused in the November 4 murder of Shamnath Baghel by Maoists.
 
 
Related Articles:
Police term accused Professors Naxals, ‘Attack on Activism’ says booked Professor
Online Petition demands Withdrawal of Charges against Sundar, Prasad and Others

Never Named Anyone, Says Wife Of Murdered Tribal On Professor Nandini Sundar - NDTV

Days after the murder of a villager in Chhattisgarh's Maoist-hit Bastar, the police cited his wife's complaint to name Delhi University professor Nandini Sundar and Jawaharlal Nehru University's Archana Prasad as murder suspects.

Adivasi Murder

Sitting in her home at a village around 400 km from Raipur, Shamnath Baghel's wife Vimla told NDTV that she didn't name Nandini Sundar or anyone at all, even the killers.

Vimla says the family was sleeping on November 4, when the Maoists knocked on their door.

"When I did not open the door, they broke it down. They barged in and dragged my husband out of the house. They had guns, swords...They pointed a gun at me and asked me to stay inside. There were 15-20 men... I did not know any of them. I could not see them properly as they flashed a torch at me. They did not say a word. They took him and killed him on the road," said Vimla.

Did they take the name of Nandini Sundar? "No," she said, adding that she gave no names to the police.
 
The entire story may be read here
 
Meanwhile, the Chhatisgarh government assured the Supreme Court today that it will not arrest Delhi University professor Nandini Sundar, who was named as an accused in the alleged murder of a tribal person in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh.The assurance came as the bench of Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel indicated that they may put on hold the FIR in which Sundar and other civil society activists have been named as accused in the November 4 murder of Shamnath Baghel by Maoists.
 
 
Related Articles:
Police term accused Professors Naxals, ‘Attack on Activism’ says booked Professor
Online Petition demands Withdrawal of Charges against Sundar, Prasad and Others

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Online Petition demands Withdrawal of Charges against Sundar, Prasad and Others

09 Nov 2016
An online petition demanding withdrawal of charges pressed against the academicians and activists by Chhattisgarh police in the case of murder of a tribal villager, has been receiving support not just from India, but also from parts of world like South Africa, UK and USA.


Prof Nandini Sundar

The petition, uploaded by Prof Aparna Sundar addressed to the president, prime minister and home minister of the country, alleges that the charges have been fabricated by police.

On Sunday, Chhattisgarh police booked Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Professor Archana Prasad, Delhi University (DU) professor Nandini Sundar, Vineet Tiwari of Joshi Adhikar Sansthan, Delhi, Chhattisgarh CPI(M) state secretary Sanjay Parate, Mangalram Karma, and Manju Kawasi, CPI activist and Sarpanch of Guphidi in Sukma district for the alleged murder of a tribal villager Shamnath Baghel on November 4. Baghel had earlier this year complained to the police that Prof Sundar and others are inciting tribals against the government.

SabrangIndia had earlier reported that the Chhattisgarh police had called all the accused academicians and activists ‘Naxals’, and had booked them under sections 120 B (criminal conspiracy), 302 (murder), 147 (punishment for rioting), 148 and 149 of IPC.

However, talking to SabrangIndia, Prof Prasad and Parate had called the allegations ‘bogus’ and had termed it as an attack on activism. Several academicians have since stepped forward showing their support, including JNU Teachers’ Association and the said petitioner.

The petition, which has received support from 404 people so far, elaborates on work done by those named in the FIR in the insurgency-afflicted area and their repeated attempts at achieving peace in Bastar. It has also blamed Chhattisgarh police for fabricating the charges in order to intimidate the activists. It has been endorsed by many users who claim to be belonging to several other countries.

Read the full text of the petition below:

We, the undersigned, are outraged by recent charges of murder that have been laid against Delhi University professor Nandini Sundar, JNU professor Archana Prasad, Vineet Tiwari (of Joshi Adhikar Sansthan, Delhi), Chhattisgarh CPI(M) state secretary, Sanjay Parate, Mangalram Karma, and Manju Kawasi, CPI activist and Sarpanch of Guphidi in Sukma district, by the Chhattisgarh police in the killing of Shamnath Baghel.
 
The charges are patently fabricated, and follow a pattern of intimidation by the Chhattisgarh police every time evidence is released of their lawless prosecution of the war against the Maoists. Earlier this year, Sundar, Prasad, Tiwari and Parate were part of a fact-finding team that looked at the impact of Maoist violence and state excesses on ordinary villagers in Bastar, finding that they were victims of fake encounters, rapes, arrests, beatings, IED blasts, and killing of informers, implicating Maoists, police, and security forces. The residents of Bastar were also found to be facing the renewal of attacks by civilian militias armed by the state. At that time too, the district administration of Bastar had tried to implicate the fact-finding team on fake charges on the basis of a contrived complaint. More recently, when the police were charge-sheeted on the basis of evidence gathered by Sundar and others for carrying out arson in an operation in 2011, they retaliated by burning effigies of her and other activists and journalists in order to intimidate and incite violence against them.
 
Sundar and others have put on record their unequivocal condemnation of the killing of Shamnath Baghel. Their writing and interventions on the ongoing war in Bastar have consistently condemned all forms of violence, whether by the state or by the Maoists.
 
We are saddened by the climate of silencing of dissent that is becoming widespread in India and concerned that the work of researchers, journalists, lawyers and activists is being monitored and controlled to quell critical scrutiny of governmental actions. We believe such silencing of opposing views poses a grave danger to the democratic values of India.
 
We condemn the police tactics of intimidating and harassing of journalists, lawyers, researchers, political leaders and human rights activists who have been documenting and speaking out against the violence and brutality unleashed by the police, paramilitary, and civilian militias against the local population of Bastar in the war against the Maoists. We demand that the Government of India unconditionally withdraw all charges against all the six persons who have been falsely accused by Chhattisgarh police. We further demand that an inquiry be set up to interrogate the manner in which the police is interfering with law and taking the liberty to frame researchers and activists to create an atmosphere of terror.

Online Petition demands Withdrawal of Charges against Sundar, Prasad and Others

An online petition demanding withdrawal of charges pressed against the academicians and activists by Chhattisgarh police in the case of murder of a tribal villager, has been receiving support not just from India, but also from parts of world like South Africa, UK and USA.


Prof Nandini Sundar

The petition, uploaded by Prof Aparna Sundar addressed to the president, prime minister and home minister of the country, alleges that the charges have been fabricated by police.

On Sunday, Chhattisgarh police booked Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Professor Archana Prasad, Delhi University (DU) professor Nandini Sundar, Vineet Tiwari of Joshi Adhikar Sansthan, Delhi, Chhattisgarh CPI(M) state secretary Sanjay Parate, Mangalram Karma, and Manju Kawasi, CPI activist and Sarpanch of Guphidi in Sukma district for the alleged murder of a tribal villager Shamnath Baghel on November 4. Baghel had earlier this year complained to the police that Prof Sundar and others are inciting tribals against the government.

SabrangIndia had earlier reported that the Chhattisgarh police had called all the accused academicians and activists ‘Naxals’, and had booked them under sections 120 B (criminal conspiracy), 302 (murder), 147 (punishment for rioting), 148 and 149 of IPC.

However, talking to SabrangIndia, Prof Prasad and Parate had called the allegations ‘bogus’ and had termed it as an attack on activism. Several academicians have since stepped forward showing their support, including JNU Teachers’ Association and the said petitioner.

The petition, which has received support from 404 people so far, elaborates on work done by those named in the FIR in the insurgency-afflicted area and their repeated attempts at achieving peace in Bastar. It has also blamed Chhattisgarh police for fabricating the charges in order to intimidate the activists. It has been endorsed by many users who claim to be belonging to several other countries.

Read the full text of the petition below:

We, the undersigned, are outraged by recent charges of murder that have been laid against Delhi University professor Nandini Sundar, JNU professor Archana Prasad, Vineet Tiwari (of Joshi Adhikar Sansthan, Delhi), Chhattisgarh CPI(M) state secretary, Sanjay Parate, Mangalram Karma, and Manju Kawasi, CPI activist and Sarpanch of Guphidi in Sukma district, by the Chhattisgarh police in the killing of Shamnath Baghel.
 
The charges are patently fabricated, and follow a pattern of intimidation by the Chhattisgarh police every time evidence is released of their lawless prosecution of the war against the Maoists. Earlier this year, Sundar, Prasad, Tiwari and Parate were part of a fact-finding team that looked at the impact of Maoist violence and state excesses on ordinary villagers in Bastar, finding that they were victims of fake encounters, rapes, arrests, beatings, IED blasts, and killing of informers, implicating Maoists, police, and security forces. The residents of Bastar were also found to be facing the renewal of attacks by civilian militias armed by the state. At that time too, the district administration of Bastar had tried to implicate the fact-finding team on fake charges on the basis of a contrived complaint. More recently, when the police were charge-sheeted on the basis of evidence gathered by Sundar and others for carrying out arson in an operation in 2011, they retaliated by burning effigies of her and other activists and journalists in order to intimidate and incite violence against them.
 
Sundar and others have put on record their unequivocal condemnation of the killing of Shamnath Baghel. Their writing and interventions on the ongoing war in Bastar have consistently condemned all forms of violence, whether by the state or by the Maoists.
 
We are saddened by the climate of silencing of dissent that is becoming widespread in India and concerned that the work of researchers, journalists, lawyers and activists is being monitored and controlled to quell critical scrutiny of governmental actions. We believe such silencing of opposing views poses a grave danger to the democratic values of India.
 
We condemn the police tactics of intimidating and harassing of journalists, lawyers, researchers, political leaders and human rights activists who have been documenting and speaking out against the violence and brutality unleashed by the police, paramilitary, and civilian militias against the local population of Bastar in the war against the Maoists. We demand that the Government of India unconditionally withdraw all charges against all the six persons who have been falsely accused by Chhattisgarh police. We further demand that an inquiry be set up to interrogate the manner in which the police is interfering with law and taking the liberty to frame researchers and activists to create an atmosphere of terror.

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Police term accused Professors Naxals, ‘Attack on Activism’ says booked Professor

08 Nov 2016
Delhi University (DU) professor Nandini Sundar, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) professor Archana Prasad and eight others were booked on Saturday for the alleged murder of a tribal villager in conflict-ridden Sukma district of Chhattisgarh.

Archana Prasad
Prof Archana Prasad. Image credit: Youtube

Police said 10 persons have been booked under sections 120 B (criminal conspiracy), 302 (murder), 147 (punishment for rioting), 148 and 149 of IPC.

The FIR based on the complaint lodged by the deceased’s wife also names Vineet Tiwari associated with Delhi’s Joshi Adhikar Sansthan and Sanjay Parate, state secretary, Chhatisgarh CPI (M) and other localites. 

Bastar SP Rajendra Dash told SabrangIndia, “This is an extremely serious issue. FIR has been registered and investigation is underway."

Interestingly, Prof Prasad told SabrangInidia that she hasn’t been to the village in last six months, and Prof Sundar has told ANI that she hasn’t been to the area since May.

When questioned about the role of the Delhi-based professors and the political leader in the case, he said, “All of them are Naxalites. All of them. Strict action will be taken against them.”

Armed Naxals had allegedly killed the villager, Shamnath Baghel, with sharp weapons on late night on Friday (November 4) at his residence in Nama village of Tongpal area. Earlier this year in April, Baghel had filed a complaint against Sundar and others with the police and had accused them of inciting tribals against the government and seeking their support for Maoists.

Dubbing the charges against her 'baseless', Prof Arachana Prasad told SabranIndia, “This is clearly done by Chhattisgarh government in an attempt to keep Salwa Judum alive. This is the reason they’re looking for scapegoats and we’re being targeted, because we’re academicians. I’ve been going to Bastar since last 30 years and know a lot more than the police, who’re speaking of ‘strict action’. All of this is politically motivated.”

Prof Prasad also said that she hasn’t been to Bastar in last six months and claimed that there is no connection whatsoever between her and the alleged murder.

Prof Prasad accused the government of waging an attack on activism through such scheming. “They [CPI (M)] are not Maoists. They have a political party. They’re trying to put the onus on democratic political parties. They (government) are obviously trying to attack the political activism.”

Parate expressed similar concerns over the allegations and said, “This is nothing but an offensive on the very structure of the democracy. It’s happening everywhere in the country, not just in Bastar. They are trying to impede the activities of political parties. They don’t want political parties who are speaking up for tribals, who’re taking a stand against the oppressors. They want to eliminate our activism.”

Calling the charges against him and the professors ‘bogus’ he said, “Even they (police) know that there is no case. Still, they’ll drag us into it just to make things difficult for us. But, it won’t work.”

Parate also said that a state-wide protest will be planned to condemn the alleged framing of the professors and political activists.
 

Police term accused Professors Naxals, ‘Attack on Activism’ says booked Professor

Delhi University (DU) professor Nandini Sundar, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) professor Archana Prasad and eight others were booked on Saturday for the alleged murder of a tribal villager in conflict-ridden Sukma district of Chhattisgarh.

Archana Prasad
Prof Archana Prasad. Image credit: Youtube

Police said 10 persons have been booked under sections 120 B (criminal conspiracy), 302 (murder), 147 (punishment for rioting), 148 and 149 of IPC.

The FIR based on the complaint lodged by the deceased’s wife also names Vineet Tiwari associated with Delhi’s Joshi Adhikar Sansthan and Sanjay Parate, state secretary, Chhatisgarh CPI (M) and other localites. 

Bastar SP Rajendra Dash told SabrangIndia, “This is an extremely serious issue. FIR has been registered and investigation is underway."

Interestingly, Prof Prasad told SabrangInidia that she hasn’t been to the village in last six months, and Prof Sundar has told ANI that she hasn’t been to the area since May.

When questioned about the role of the Delhi-based professors and the political leader in the case, he said, “All of them are Naxalites. All of them. Strict action will be taken against them.”

Armed Naxals had allegedly killed the villager, Shamnath Baghel, with sharp weapons on late night on Friday (November 4) at his residence in Nama village of Tongpal area. Earlier this year in April, Baghel had filed a complaint against Sundar and others with the police and had accused them of inciting tribals against the government and seeking their support for Maoists.

Dubbing the charges against her 'baseless', Prof Arachana Prasad told SabranIndia, “This is clearly done by Chhattisgarh government in an attempt to keep Salwa Judum alive. This is the reason they’re looking for scapegoats and we’re being targeted, because we’re academicians. I’ve been going to Bastar since last 30 years and know a lot more than the police, who’re speaking of ‘strict action’. All of this is politically motivated.”

Prof Prasad also said that she hasn’t been to Bastar in last six months and claimed that there is no connection whatsoever between her and the alleged murder.

Prof Prasad accused the government of waging an attack on activism through such scheming. “They [CPI (M)] are not Maoists. They have a political party. They’re trying to put the onus on democratic political parties. They (government) are obviously trying to attack the political activism.”

Parate expressed similar concerns over the allegations and said, “This is nothing but an offensive on the very structure of the democracy. It’s happening everywhere in the country, not just in Bastar. They are trying to impede the activities of political parties. They don’t want political parties who are speaking up for tribals, who’re taking a stand against the oppressors. They want to eliminate our activism.”

Calling the charges against him and the professors ‘bogus’ he said, “Even they (police) know that there is no case. Still, they’ll drag us into it just to make things difficult for us. But, it won’t work.”

Parate also said that a state-wide protest will be planned to condemn the alleged framing of the professors and political activists.
 

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Soni Sori: The State is lawless

31 Oct 2016
Soni Sori, a human rights defender and an Adivasi school teacher from Chhattisgarh, was in Mumbai recently to talk at an event organised to commemorate Justice (retired) Suresh Hosbet's 25 years of contribution to the human rights struggle in India post his retirement. This event was orgainsed by Majlis, a women's rights organisation in collaboration with Human Rights Law Network (HRLN), Centre for Study of Society and Secularism (CSSS) and People's Watch. Sori, who has endured serious custodial torture for nearly two years, spoke at length about her experience working for her community in Bastar.

Soni Sori Bastar
Image credit: Countercurrents.org

Following is the translated transcript of her speech delivered on October 1 in Mumbai:
 
My warm regards to everyone gathered here. I am extremely happy to be present before you all for such an important event commemorating Justice Suresh's 25 years in activism. His contribution is commendable, both as a judge and as an activist. Justice Suresh had recently travelled to Chhattisgarh. I was informed by one of the fellow activists about his visit. I did not know about Justice Suresh then.

Even when I was told he is a senior person, I thought of him as one of the several other activists and human rights lawyers who come from cities to support our cause. But when I saw him in Bastar, I was completely astounded that a man at such a ripe age wants to still travel to remote corners of the country to defend their rights. Although, he had managed to reach Bastar, I was not sure if he could take the travel ahead to those inaccessible villages in the region. When I suggested he should take it easy and not venture to far off villages, he promptly replied, "I have travelled all the way to examine the condition of Adivasi communities in this region, I will travel ahead." I, in fact, even tried to warn him of the possibility of long walks that he would have to undertake to reach some villages. He was very willing and asked me to not sweat over his travel. We went to one of the remotest villages which involved both travelling in a vehicle on the rickety road and then covering a long stretch on foot. But, nowhere did he appear tired. He was zealous and wanted to meet as many villagers as he could. When people got to know a retired judge had travelled from Mumbai to hear them out, they got hopeful. Villagers gathered in large numbers to talk to him and put forth their grievances. Justice Suresh patiently listened to each and every person gathered. He took note of every complaint made and patiently tried to address them one by one. His visit not only inspired people in general, but also helped some of them to take immediate steps.

Justice Suresh
Justice Suresh Hosbet. Image credit: The Indian Express

At the gathering, a pregnant Adivasi woman called Hurre had also come. She was heavily pregnant. Her husband Hunga was arrested a few days ago for his alleged involvement in a blast case. Hurre had pleaded for her husband's innocence before the police, but they did not relent. They took Hunga away, leaving Hurre distraught. The police had hit her on her stomach with the rifle butt when she tried to prevent Hunga's arrest. She had suffered a deep injury. Hurre knocked one very door in search of justice. When she reached the police station inquiring about her husband's arrest, the police claimed Hunga was taken to the court. When she reached the court, she was told her husband was locked up in the jail. So, she rushed to the jail. She aimlessly kept shuttling between the police station, court and jail for several days. Fed up, she contacted me and sought my help in finding her husband. Amidst this, she delivered a premature child. After the delivery, Hurre who was still frail and fatigued, insisted on meeting her husband. Hurre and I went to meet him at the Dantewada jail. After a lot of persuasion, we could finally meet Hunga in the jail. Hunga had not seen his newborn boy before. It was an emotional moment to see Hunga meet his son in the the jail. Hunga advised Hurre to not visit him in the jail and focus on making their thatched hut sturdy. He wanted the money they had painstakingly saved to be spent on the house as planned and not on travelling to visit him. Hurre returned to her village and a few days later she succumbed to the complications that developed due to the harassment by the police. After Hurre's death, our focus now is on her infant child.

Since Hunga is in jail and Hurre is no more, we had to find ways to keep their child alive and healthy. On Justice Suresh's suggestion, we decided to move to the High Court for arrangements to be made for the child's food. The court passed a favourable order and asked the collector to make necessary arrangements for the child. That one visit by Justice Suresh helped us find a way to help Hurre's family.

When I saw him there, helping our movement, I was reminded of my father. It is very courageous of someone his age to travel into the remote area and help people.

Seeing him, I was reminded of an incident from the time I was in the prison. My old father, who was shot in his leg, which rendered him handicapped would come to the court for every hearing, and stand at a corner. I would insist he didn't come to the court and keep standing like this. He would reply that he stood there since he cannot help me in any other way. He would say he had no money, no power to save me, but still the courage to stand by me. He once told me, "I want you to remember that your crippled father is standing here for you every day. I do not want you to lose hope. If I can stand under the scorching sun, you can't lose hope. You have to fight back." So when I saw Justice Suresh in my village, I was reminded of my father's efforts. There is a lot to learn from Justice Suresh and his undying spirit.

In Bastar, law has its own way of functioning. When a woman is raped anywhere in the country, the Supreme Court intervenes, asks for an immediate action, an immediate FIR and investigation. But this is not the case in Bastar. There is no law, no system, and no sensitivity in handling women in this region. Let the Supreme Court say anything, let the high court give any directions, the police here will do as they like. They do not care for law or for its people. If you take cases of sexual assault by the police in Bastar, you will find even after an FIR, the police do nothing. On the contrary, the victims live under constant terror here. And the police continue to unleash its terror on people here. If the state machinery continues to work like this and the government neglects lives here (Bastar), people will continue to die here. It appears that the system is built to harass people here and the police continue to operate with complete impunity.

Take the recent case of killing of two young school-going boys. One of them was sleeping in the house. When the armed force entered his house, he kept saying I am a school-going child. Look at my Aadhar card, look at my school I-card. I am not a Naxal. Even as he continued to beg, the policemen dragged him out of the house, thrashed him badly and took him far away from the house and gunned him down.
Even in case of such a brutal, cold blooded murder, there is no FIR against the police, no investigations. What law is this, which allows the state to kill without any accountability, with such impunity? If there is a justice system in place, if there are courts to deliver justice, then they should have to function too. Then why doesn't it work in Bastar? His family is running from pillar to post seeking justice.
 
Another villager called Karma was killed by the police and declared to be a Naxalite. His family produced his citizenry documents to establish he was a law-abiding citizen and had no link with the arms movement. If a person has lived all his life in the village, and has been publicly present, how can police then declare him a Naxalite and that too after his death? We ask when did he go underground, when did he pick up arms, when did he become a Naxalite, when did the government declare reward on his name? Even when they brutally murder our people, we still hold on to bleak hopes that someday, we will get justice. Instead, the same police officers unabashedly come and threaten us. They threaten women of dire consequences. They threaten to kill young boys of the family. What type of state is this which hates its own people?

Soni Suri
Image credit: India.com

It has become so easy for Chhattisgarh government to declare anyone and everyone a Naxal. Those assigned with the task of upholding democratic principles in this country are busy killing it. Murderers are secure in this democracy, but the victims are not.

Women particularly are easy targets here. Young mothers in Bastar mostly step out to nearby areas to work as agricultural labourers. They time their work in such a way that they are able to take periodic breaks to breast feed their infants who are left back home. As these women take these breaks and head home, they invariably are apprehended by the police. The police interrogate them as if they were Naxals.

Even when these young mothers tell the police they are headed home to breastfeed their children, the police do not relent. To prove their innocence, the women are forced to bare their chests on gun point and squeeze out milk. Even after all the abuses she is made to wait, she cannot go and feed her hungry child. Can her frail body regenerate the milk once again in such a short time span? These daily abuses leave her humiliated and her child hungry. These abuses are not even accounted for. As if Adivasi lives are so dispensable that anyone can come and do whatever they like. There is no accountability of any kind.

We are not asking for some special protection for our people. We are only saying if there is an established legal system in this country, then the state should function within the limits. If the government wants our land and our wealth, doesn't it have the responsibility of protecting our interests too? Should development be an inevitable agenda, then the government should first have a system in place ensuring that every Adivasi life is protected and their interests secured. If government wants to procure our land, there is a law in place. Whether good or bad, the law exists and the government should at least try to stick to its own laws. How can this government kill Adivasis and speak of development? How can this be even termed as development? You cannot vacate villages, displace every one and claim that you worked towards development. If the government is really serious about development, it must focus on making lives of villagers better. There is no electricity, potable water, schools in most villages. Shouldn't the State focus on providing these things to the villagers instead of killing them?

The State is killing Adivasis in the name of development. Madkam Hidme of Gompad village is one of the recent victims of the State brutality. She was picked up from her house while she was sleeping, brutalised, gang-raped by policemen and then shot dead. We still decided to opt for a legal battle. On August 15, I along with her mother and sister went to her village and addressed the villagers and urged them to understand the values of democracy, their legal rights and the need to assert our constitutional rights. As planned, we looked for a place to hoist a flag in the village. We looked around entire village but could not find a single school or aanganwaadi there. We finally went to one open space and hoisted the flag there. This is state's development! They can send policemen to Adivasi houses, brand them as Naxals and brutalise them, but cannot set up a single school in the village.
 
When Adivasis speak of development, there is no one to hear their voice. If they approach a collector for setting up of a school, they are sent away. The collector doesn't even give Tribals an opportunity to make an appeal. They want forest-dwellers to remain in the forest forever. They are not interested in our development. But when they want our lands and forests, they unleash terror on us and kill us.

After the gang-rape incident of Delhi, entire nation joined hands seeking justice for her. I am not saying that the incident was not brutal and we should not have come together for her, but such incidents happen every day in Bastar. Adivasi girls are assaulted every day in Bastar. But there is no one to fight with us. They rape us and then brand us as Naxals. But no one comes ahead in support of us and speaks against the State atrocities. What happened in JNU with Kanhaiya and Umar Khalid was terrible. But when it happened to those two young boys of Bastar, there was no uproar. The boys were simply killed and not one protested was organised anywhere outside Chhattisgarh. They were school-going kids. Imagine if this were to happen to some students in your college, how the entire nation would have joined hands against the state and demanded immediate justice. Why doesn't the youth of this country assert itself when children are killed in Bastar? Will the government not kneel, if a concerted effort is made? Our children don't deserve justice?

Just when I was leaving for Bombay, five Adivasi youth (from the same village where two school kids were killed) came to me seeking help. They are afraid, the police will kill them. We have moved a petition before the High Court. I asked them why are they so afraid. They said, the thanedaar has threatened them that on the first opportunity, he will get rid of them. Of them, three men have already been to jail. Other two have even surrendered under police pressure. Still they are not spared. The police now want to have them killed. Engulfed in fear, those men spend every night in the forest. Since police mostly strike at night, these men stay away during the night time. They go deep in the forest, wait for rains to subside, find some dry space and sleep. Such is the terror of police here. One can't sleep in their house, can't visit the market, and can't lead a normal fearless life.
 
Worst affected are young girls of 12-13 years of age. They are forced to tie mangalsutra around their necks. Hoping to be let off by the police, almost all girls are forced to move around with those black beads around their necks. Even then girls are not spared. The police continue to attack them. They are publicly humiliated, spoken to inappropriately in highly sexual tone, and many are even sexually assaulted.

This state claims to be protecting its Adivasi population. Is this the way to protect its people? In the name of Naxalism, they are openly brutalising us and will eventually wipe out our existence.
 
There is a dire need to have more and more participation of civil society from rest of the country. While people are actively working in other parts, it is essential that they pay more attention to what is happening in Bastar. Media has an important role to play here. You have seen how attempts were made to completely crush the media here. But that should not discourage us. If some journalist travels from Delhi or Bombay or Kolkata, our stories will defintely travel outside.

Bastar
Representational picture. Image credit: NDTV

 An entire drama has been staged in the name of surrender. Young boys and girls are randomly picked up from villages and are shown as surrendered Naxals. These youths are given only two ultimatums, either to die or sign those papers. What do these terrorised youths know? They think signing those papers is a wise decision to make. Only to realise later that those papers declare them as surrendered Naxals.

As news spreads, the Maoists punish them. If the police let them go, the Maoists kill them. Adivasis are stuck between the police and Maoists. Either ways they get killed.
 
Another case of a boy named Arjun recently came to light. He was sent to jail in 2015. He was released on bail after spending few days in jail. On every court hearing, he would diligently be present before the court. Not once did he miss the court hearing. Suddenly one day, the police went to his house and arrested him. They declared a Naxal who carried three lakh rupees reward on his head has been arrested.

This boy Arjun, who was arrested in another petty case and was released on bail, was not even in hiding. If the police wanted, they could have arrested him much earlier. He was lawfully released on bail by the court. There was no mention of the reward amount until he was re-arrested. His sister, who tried to speak up against the police, is now taken into the custody. It has been over 15 days since her illegal arrest.
 
This is the condition of Bastar, of Chhattisgarh. No voice of dissent can be raised; no Adivasi can raise her voice for justice. This State is lawless. No law, no rule applies here. The law that applies and governs the middle class, the ruling class and the upper caste in the rest of the country, does not protect the Adivasis of Chhattisgarh.
 
I have personally suffered a lot in past few years. It is not possible to fight the might of this State. But I will continue. This is no more my individual fight. It is the fight of every Adivasi here. We are threatened every day, our voices crushed; but we will continue to fight.
 
The speech was transcribed by Sukanya Shantha.
 
(This article was first published on Round Table India.)

Soni Sori: The State is lawless

Soni Sori, a human rights defender and an Adivasi school teacher from Chhattisgarh, was in Mumbai recently to talk at an event organised to commemorate Justice (retired) Suresh Hosbet's 25 years of contribution to the human rights struggle in India post his retirement. This event was orgainsed by Majlis, a women's rights organisation in collaboration with Human Rights Law Network (HRLN), Centre for Study of Society and Secularism (CSSS) and People's Watch. Sori, who has endured serious custodial torture for nearly two years, spoke at length about her experience working for her community in Bastar.

Soni Sori Bastar
Image credit: Countercurrents.org

Following is the translated transcript of her speech delivered on October 1 in Mumbai:
 
My warm regards to everyone gathered here. I am extremely happy to be present before you all for such an important event commemorating Justice Suresh's 25 years in activism. His contribution is commendable, both as a judge and as an activist. Justice Suresh had recently travelled to Chhattisgarh. I was informed by one of the fellow activists about his visit. I did not know about Justice Suresh then.

Even when I was told he is a senior person, I thought of him as one of the several other activists and human rights lawyers who come from cities to support our cause. But when I saw him in Bastar, I was completely astounded that a man at such a ripe age wants to still travel to remote corners of the country to defend their rights. Although, he had managed to reach Bastar, I was not sure if he could take the travel ahead to those inaccessible villages in the region. When I suggested he should take it easy and not venture to far off villages, he promptly replied, "I have travelled all the way to examine the condition of Adivasi communities in this region, I will travel ahead." I, in fact, even tried to warn him of the possibility of long walks that he would have to undertake to reach some villages. He was very willing and asked me to not sweat over his travel. We went to one of the remotest villages which involved both travelling in a vehicle on the rickety road and then covering a long stretch on foot. But, nowhere did he appear tired. He was zealous and wanted to meet as many villagers as he could. When people got to know a retired judge had travelled from Mumbai to hear them out, they got hopeful. Villagers gathered in large numbers to talk to him and put forth their grievances. Justice Suresh patiently listened to each and every person gathered. He took note of every complaint made and patiently tried to address them one by one. His visit not only inspired people in general, but also helped some of them to take immediate steps.

Justice Suresh
Justice Suresh Hosbet. Image credit: The Indian Express

At the gathering, a pregnant Adivasi woman called Hurre had also come. She was heavily pregnant. Her husband Hunga was arrested a few days ago for his alleged involvement in a blast case. Hurre had pleaded for her husband's innocence before the police, but they did not relent. They took Hunga away, leaving Hurre distraught. The police had hit her on her stomach with the rifle butt when she tried to prevent Hunga's arrest. She had suffered a deep injury. Hurre knocked one very door in search of justice. When she reached the police station inquiring about her husband's arrest, the police claimed Hunga was taken to the court. When she reached the court, she was told her husband was locked up in the jail. So, she rushed to the jail. She aimlessly kept shuttling between the police station, court and jail for several days. Fed up, she contacted me and sought my help in finding her husband. Amidst this, she delivered a premature child. After the delivery, Hurre who was still frail and fatigued, insisted on meeting her husband. Hurre and I went to meet him at the Dantewada jail. After a lot of persuasion, we could finally meet Hunga in the jail. Hunga had not seen his newborn boy before. It was an emotional moment to see Hunga meet his son in the the jail. Hunga advised Hurre to not visit him in the jail and focus on making their thatched hut sturdy. He wanted the money they had painstakingly saved to be spent on the house as planned and not on travelling to visit him. Hurre returned to her village and a few days later she succumbed to the complications that developed due to the harassment by the police. After Hurre's death, our focus now is on her infant child.

Since Hunga is in jail and Hurre is no more, we had to find ways to keep their child alive and healthy. On Justice Suresh's suggestion, we decided to move to the High Court for arrangements to be made for the child's food. The court passed a favourable order and asked the collector to make necessary arrangements for the child. That one visit by Justice Suresh helped us find a way to help Hurre's family.

When I saw him there, helping our movement, I was reminded of my father. It is very courageous of someone his age to travel into the remote area and help people.

Seeing him, I was reminded of an incident from the time I was in the prison. My old father, who was shot in his leg, which rendered him handicapped would come to the court for every hearing, and stand at a corner. I would insist he didn't come to the court and keep standing like this. He would reply that he stood there since he cannot help me in any other way. He would say he had no money, no power to save me, but still the courage to stand by me. He once told me, "I want you to remember that your crippled father is standing here for you every day. I do not want you to lose hope. If I can stand under the scorching sun, you can't lose hope. You have to fight back." So when I saw Justice Suresh in my village, I was reminded of my father's efforts. There is a lot to learn from Justice Suresh and his undying spirit.

In Bastar, law has its own way of functioning. When a woman is raped anywhere in the country, the Supreme Court intervenes, asks for an immediate action, an immediate FIR and investigation. But this is not the case in Bastar. There is no law, no system, and no sensitivity in handling women in this region. Let the Supreme Court say anything, let the high court give any directions, the police here will do as they like. They do not care for law or for its people. If you take cases of sexual assault by the police in Bastar, you will find even after an FIR, the police do nothing. On the contrary, the victims live under constant terror here. And the police continue to unleash its terror on people here. If the state machinery continues to work like this and the government neglects lives here (Bastar), people will continue to die here. It appears that the system is built to harass people here and the police continue to operate with complete impunity.

Take the recent case of killing of two young school-going boys. One of them was sleeping in the house. When the armed force entered his house, he kept saying I am a school-going child. Look at my Aadhar card, look at my school I-card. I am not a Naxal. Even as he continued to beg, the policemen dragged him out of the house, thrashed him badly and took him far away from the house and gunned him down.
Even in case of such a brutal, cold blooded murder, there is no FIR against the police, no investigations. What law is this, which allows the state to kill without any accountability, with such impunity? If there is a justice system in place, if there are courts to deliver justice, then they should have to function too. Then why doesn't it work in Bastar? His family is running from pillar to post seeking justice.
 
Another villager called Karma was killed by the police and declared to be a Naxalite. His family produced his citizenry documents to establish he was a law-abiding citizen and had no link with the arms movement. If a person has lived all his life in the village, and has been publicly present, how can police then declare him a Naxalite and that too after his death? We ask when did he go underground, when did he pick up arms, when did he become a Naxalite, when did the government declare reward on his name? Even when they brutally murder our people, we still hold on to bleak hopes that someday, we will get justice. Instead, the same police officers unabashedly come and threaten us. They threaten women of dire consequences. They threaten to kill young boys of the family. What type of state is this which hates its own people?

Soni Suri
Image credit: India.com

It has become so easy for Chhattisgarh government to declare anyone and everyone a Naxal. Those assigned with the task of upholding democratic principles in this country are busy killing it. Murderers are secure in this democracy, but the victims are not.

Women particularly are easy targets here. Young mothers in Bastar mostly step out to nearby areas to work as agricultural labourers. They time their work in such a way that they are able to take periodic breaks to breast feed their infants who are left back home. As these women take these breaks and head home, they invariably are apprehended by the police. The police interrogate them as if they were Naxals.

Even when these young mothers tell the police they are headed home to breastfeed their children, the police do not relent. To prove their innocence, the women are forced to bare their chests on gun point and squeeze out milk. Even after all the abuses she is made to wait, she cannot go and feed her hungry child. Can her frail body regenerate the milk once again in such a short time span? These daily abuses leave her humiliated and her child hungry. These abuses are not even accounted for. As if Adivasi lives are so dispensable that anyone can come and do whatever they like. There is no accountability of any kind.

We are not asking for some special protection for our people. We are only saying if there is an established legal system in this country, then the state should function within the limits. If the government wants our land and our wealth, doesn't it have the responsibility of protecting our interests too? Should development be an inevitable agenda, then the government should first have a system in place ensuring that every Adivasi life is protected and their interests secured. If government wants to procure our land, there is a law in place. Whether good or bad, the law exists and the government should at least try to stick to its own laws. How can this government kill Adivasis and speak of development? How can this be even termed as development? You cannot vacate villages, displace every one and claim that you worked towards development. If the government is really serious about development, it must focus on making lives of villagers better. There is no electricity, potable water, schools in most villages. Shouldn't the State focus on providing these things to the villagers instead of killing them?

The State is killing Adivasis in the name of development. Madkam Hidme of Gompad village is one of the recent victims of the State brutality. She was picked up from her house while she was sleeping, brutalised, gang-raped by policemen and then shot dead. We still decided to opt for a legal battle. On August 15, I along with her mother and sister went to her village and addressed the villagers and urged them to understand the values of democracy, their legal rights and the need to assert our constitutional rights. As planned, we looked for a place to hoist a flag in the village. We looked around entire village but could not find a single school or aanganwaadi there. We finally went to one open space and hoisted the flag there. This is state's development! They can send policemen to Adivasi houses, brand them as Naxals and brutalise them, but cannot set up a single school in the village.
 
When Adivasis speak of development, there is no one to hear their voice. If they approach a collector for setting up of a school, they are sent away. The collector doesn't even give Tribals an opportunity to make an appeal. They want forest-dwellers to remain in the forest forever. They are not interested in our development. But when they want our lands and forests, they unleash terror on us and kill us.

After the gang-rape incident of Delhi, entire nation joined hands seeking justice for her. I am not saying that the incident was not brutal and we should not have come together for her, but such incidents happen every day in Bastar. Adivasi girls are assaulted every day in Bastar. But there is no one to fight with us. They rape us and then brand us as Naxals. But no one comes ahead in support of us and speaks against the State atrocities. What happened in JNU with Kanhaiya and Umar Khalid was terrible. But when it happened to those two young boys of Bastar, there was no uproar. The boys were simply killed and not one protested was organised anywhere outside Chhattisgarh. They were school-going kids. Imagine if this were to happen to some students in your college, how the entire nation would have joined hands against the state and demanded immediate justice. Why doesn't the youth of this country assert itself when children are killed in Bastar? Will the government not kneel, if a concerted effort is made? Our children don't deserve justice?

Just when I was leaving for Bombay, five Adivasi youth (from the same village where two school kids were killed) came to me seeking help. They are afraid, the police will kill them. We have moved a petition before the High Court. I asked them why are they so afraid. They said, the thanedaar has threatened them that on the first opportunity, he will get rid of them. Of them, three men have already been to jail. Other two have even surrendered under police pressure. Still they are not spared. The police now want to have them killed. Engulfed in fear, those men spend every night in the forest. Since police mostly strike at night, these men stay away during the night time. They go deep in the forest, wait for rains to subside, find some dry space and sleep. Such is the terror of police here. One can't sleep in their house, can't visit the market, and can't lead a normal fearless life.
 
Worst affected are young girls of 12-13 years of age. They are forced to tie mangalsutra around their necks. Hoping to be let off by the police, almost all girls are forced to move around with those black beads around their necks. Even then girls are not spared. The police continue to attack them. They are publicly humiliated, spoken to inappropriately in highly sexual tone, and many are even sexually assaulted.

This state claims to be protecting its Adivasi population. Is this the way to protect its people? In the name of Naxalism, they are openly brutalising us and will eventually wipe out our existence.
 
There is a dire need to have more and more participation of civil society from rest of the country. While people are actively working in other parts, it is essential that they pay more attention to what is happening in Bastar. Media has an important role to play here. You have seen how attempts were made to completely crush the media here. But that should not discourage us. If some journalist travels from Delhi or Bombay or Kolkata, our stories will defintely travel outside.

Bastar
Representational picture. Image credit: NDTV

 An entire drama has been staged in the name of surrender. Young boys and girls are randomly picked up from villages and are shown as surrendered Naxals. These youths are given only two ultimatums, either to die or sign those papers. What do these terrorised youths know? They think signing those papers is a wise decision to make. Only to realise later that those papers declare them as surrendered Naxals.

As news spreads, the Maoists punish them. If the police let them go, the Maoists kill them. Adivasis are stuck between the police and Maoists. Either ways they get killed.
 
Another case of a boy named Arjun recently came to light. He was sent to jail in 2015. He was released on bail after spending few days in jail. On every court hearing, he would diligently be present before the court. Not once did he miss the court hearing. Suddenly one day, the police went to his house and arrested him. They declared a Naxal who carried three lakh rupees reward on his head has been arrested.

This boy Arjun, who was arrested in another petty case and was released on bail, was not even in hiding. If the police wanted, they could have arrested him much earlier. He was lawfully released on bail by the court. There was no mention of the reward amount until he was re-arrested. His sister, who tried to speak up against the police, is now taken into the custody. It has been over 15 days since her illegal arrest.
 
This is the condition of Bastar, of Chhattisgarh. No voice of dissent can be raised; no Adivasi can raise her voice for justice. This State is lawless. No law, no rule applies here. The law that applies and governs the middle class, the ruling class and the upper caste in the rest of the country, does not protect the Adivasis of Chhattisgarh.
 
I have personally suffered a lot in past few years. It is not possible to fight the might of this State. But I will continue. This is no more my individual fight. It is the fight of every Adivasi here. We are threatened every day, our voices crushed; but we will continue to fight.
 
The speech was transcribed by Sukanya Shantha.
 
(This article was first published on Round Table India.)

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Sabrang

A New Book Goes Into the Most Militarised Area in the Country (And It Isn’t Kashmir)

10 Oct 2016

How the Indian state allowed mining interests to deprive the people of Bastar of their land.

Mining in Bastar
Image: Scroll.in

Mining and militarism have a deeply intimate history. In 2003, when India liberalised its mining policy, the de facto Maoist control over the region was seen as constituting a major obstacle to rapid industrialisation and land acquisition. Industry associations like the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) explicitly supported the government’s offensive against the Maoists and called for the involvement of the private sector in this effort:

The growing Maoist insurgency over large swathes of the mineral- rich countryside could soon hurt some industrial investment plans. Just when India needs to ramp up its industrial machine to lock in growth and when foreign companies are joining the party – Naxalites are clashing with mining and steel companies essential to India’s long-term success.Human rights activists argue that it is not a coincidence that Salwa Judum began just when the state government had signed a memorandum of understanding for a steel plant with the Tatas in June 2005.

Around the same time, Essar was acquiring land for another steel plant in Dhurli and Bhansi villages, and both the Tatas and Essar were given captive iron ore mines on the Bailadilla hills. “Public hearings” were held in Lohandiguda, Dhurli and Bhansi in order to fulfil the official requirement under PESA of eliciting villagers’ “consent”:

The villagers under the leadership of Dantewada Adivasi Mahasabha and Sangharsh Samiti Dhurli, said that on 9th September the police forced them to sign No objection letters. Two constables were posted in each house. No outsider was allowed at the meeting place. People were not allowed to leave their homes or to talk to each other. According to villagers, at 9 am they were forced into vehicles, and taken to the meeting location. Supporters of the opposition leader (Mahendra Karma) also helped the police in this process. The villagers related that they were taken into a room in twos, and pistols were placed at their temples to make them sign where told. They were told to not step out of the village afterwards.

Those villagers who refused to sign were arrested, and Section 144 (prohibitory orders on assembly) was imposed on the area.

In North Bastar, 22 paramilitary camps fortify the prospective Raoghat mines. Villagers near the mine told us that some 10 years ago, when the project was being proposed, the police took away all their bows and arrows, leaving them vulnerable to attacks by wild animals. Since then they have arrested several village leaders protesting against the mines and railway line. Even the prosaic words of the Rapid Environmental Impact Assessment report on the Raoghat mines reveal how incalculable the loss to both people and nature would be if the mines and the railway line linking Dalli Rajhara to Jagdalpur came up. The country would lose:

26 plant species that are included in the red list of rare and endangered species of vascular plants of India; high average growing stock and ultimately, the presence of 22 mammalian species of which 15 are in either Endangered or Vulnerable list of IUCN appendices or WPA schedules; large number of insects including a few rare ones (identification in progress), 28 species of Butterflies and 102 species of bird from 38 families.

The site proposed for the mining waste dumps, the report warned, would destroy the drainage of the entire valley; and indeed the entire culture of the people would likely become extinct.
Important as mining and resource extraction are, they are not the whole story. Land acquisition has been taking place across the country, and while the police often work as corporate agents, firing on villagers protesting against land acquisition, they have not resorted to Salwa Judum–style grouping elsewhere. Instead, what we see is the coming together of several interests – the security establishment in Delhi, local politicians, the police, the mining industry, the Hindu chauvinist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and unemployed youth.

The Indian state may have let its sovereignty slide in the abandoned adivasi homelands of India, untouched for years by basic services like education or health.

Elsewhere in Uttar Pradesh or Bihar, the police coexist with and are often subservient to the armed power of local big men. However, Maoist control over vast areas is untenable for the state. A casual glance at the topography through which the Salwa Judum moved and the burned villages it left in its wake will show that there is no one-to-one correlation between the villages attacked and the mining areas. Instead, major Maoist strongholds were targeted for the first attacks, and others that fell en route were burnt almost randomly.
The RSS has always seen the left as its primary enemy. A report by an RSS think tank talks of the history of conflict between the Maoists and Sangh organisations such as the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, Vidya Bharati and ideologically similar groups like the Gayatri Parivar, and proudly confirms the RSS hand in Salwa Judum:

The participation of Gayatri Parivar, Sangha Parivar and the Divya Seva Sangh [sic] situated in Gumargunda village of Dantewada is incredible...This movement [Salwa Judum] started fifteen years ago through the peaceful People Awakening Programme. The overall objective of the movement is to form a village security committee. This movement stays completely away from any publicity or propaganda. This is their main strength.

For Congress politician Mahendra Karma, the alleged leader of the Judum, the campaign was a chance to make a name and money for himself and his followers. In 2005, several people also told me that Karma got involved in the Judum so as to save himself from CBI prosecution in the malik makbuja scam, in which timber had been illegally felled on a large scale. For at least a century before mining became the main attraction, Bastar’s forest wealth has been a source of huge profit for both the state and private traders.

Before 1947, felling teak or fruit-bearing trees on private land was prohibited except when shade or falling leaves upset standing crops. After Independence, peasants were given the right (malik makbuja) to cut trees on their own land, after taking government permission.

Contractors used this to persuade peasants with little understanding of market prices to sell them teak trees – which cost lakhs – at ridiculously low rates. The contractors also removed timber from government forests, which was then passed off as coming from private lands. Several hundred truckloads of timber were thus taken away. In response, the government enacted the MP Protection of Scheduled Tribes (Interest in Trees) Act, 1956, under which the sale of trees from adivasi lands has to be sanctioned and supervised by the Collector, to ensure the adivasis are not cheated.

However, the administration proved an unreliable protector, colluding with timber merchants to subvert the law.

Agents, usually immigrants, contacted villagers, tempted them to sell trees and offered to pursue the complex paperwork involved in return for a commission. But their profits went beyond any reasonable commission, helped by the widespread illiteracy in the area.

In 1997, while researching the malik makbuja scam, I interviewed a man called Mundru in Kukanar. The agent kept Mundru’s bank passbook and merrily withdrew whatever he wanted from the account. Of the Rs 2,72,000 deposited in his account for sale of trees, Mundru got merely Rs 16,000. Timber merchants bought not just trees but, where they could, the land itself, in order to fell trees. Rich adivasi politicians from both the Congress and BJP, like Mahendra Karma and Rajaram Todem, were legally able to buy land from other adivasis. Again, land records and timber transport permits were fudged with the help of forest and revenue staff, to enable theft from government forests.


The Burning Forest
Image: Scroll.in

Excerpted with permission from The Burning Forest: India’s War in Bastar, Nandini Sundar, Juggernaut Books.


(This article was first published on Scroll.in.)

A New Book Goes Into the Most Militarised Area in the Country (And It Isn’t Kashmir)

How the Indian state allowed mining interests to deprive the people of Bastar of their land.

Mining in Bastar
Image: Scroll.in

Mining and militarism have a deeply intimate history. In 2003, when India liberalised its mining policy, the de facto Maoist control over the region was seen as constituting a major obstacle to rapid industrialisation and land acquisition. Industry associations like the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) explicitly supported the government’s offensive against the Maoists and called for the involvement of the private sector in this effort:

The growing Maoist insurgency over large swathes of the mineral- rich countryside could soon hurt some industrial investment plans. Just when India needs to ramp up its industrial machine to lock in growth and when foreign companies are joining the party – Naxalites are clashing with mining and steel companies essential to India’s long-term success.Human rights activists argue that it is not a coincidence that Salwa Judum began just when the state government had signed a memorandum of understanding for a steel plant with the Tatas in June 2005.

Around the same time, Essar was acquiring land for another steel plant in Dhurli and Bhansi villages, and both the Tatas and Essar were given captive iron ore mines on the Bailadilla hills. “Public hearings” were held in Lohandiguda, Dhurli and Bhansi in order to fulfil the official requirement under PESA of eliciting villagers’ “consent”:

The villagers under the leadership of Dantewada Adivasi Mahasabha and Sangharsh Samiti Dhurli, said that on 9th September the police forced them to sign No objection letters. Two constables were posted in each house. No outsider was allowed at the meeting place. People were not allowed to leave their homes or to talk to each other. According to villagers, at 9 am they were forced into vehicles, and taken to the meeting location. Supporters of the opposition leader (Mahendra Karma) also helped the police in this process. The villagers related that they were taken into a room in twos, and pistols were placed at their temples to make them sign where told. They were told to not step out of the village afterwards.

Those villagers who refused to sign were arrested, and Section 144 (prohibitory orders on assembly) was imposed on the area.

In North Bastar, 22 paramilitary camps fortify the prospective Raoghat mines. Villagers near the mine told us that some 10 years ago, when the project was being proposed, the police took away all their bows and arrows, leaving them vulnerable to attacks by wild animals. Since then they have arrested several village leaders protesting against the mines and railway line. Even the prosaic words of the Rapid Environmental Impact Assessment report on the Raoghat mines reveal how incalculable the loss to both people and nature would be if the mines and the railway line linking Dalli Rajhara to Jagdalpur came up. The country would lose:

26 plant species that are included in the red list of rare and endangered species of vascular plants of India; high average growing stock and ultimately, the presence of 22 mammalian species of which 15 are in either Endangered or Vulnerable list of IUCN appendices or WPA schedules; large number of insects including a few rare ones (identification in progress), 28 species of Butterflies and 102 species of bird from 38 families.

The site proposed for the mining waste dumps, the report warned, would destroy the drainage of the entire valley; and indeed the entire culture of the people would likely become extinct.
Important as mining and resource extraction are, they are not the whole story. Land acquisition has been taking place across the country, and while the police often work as corporate agents, firing on villagers protesting against land acquisition, they have not resorted to Salwa Judum–style grouping elsewhere. Instead, what we see is the coming together of several interests – the security establishment in Delhi, local politicians, the police, the mining industry, the Hindu chauvinist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and unemployed youth.

The Indian state may have let its sovereignty slide in the abandoned adivasi homelands of India, untouched for years by basic services like education or health.

Elsewhere in Uttar Pradesh or Bihar, the police coexist with and are often subservient to the armed power of local big men. However, Maoist control over vast areas is untenable for the state. A casual glance at the topography through which the Salwa Judum moved and the burned villages it left in its wake will show that there is no one-to-one correlation between the villages attacked and the mining areas. Instead, major Maoist strongholds were targeted for the first attacks, and others that fell en route were burnt almost randomly.
The RSS has always seen the left as its primary enemy. A report by an RSS think tank talks of the history of conflict between the Maoists and Sangh organisations such as the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, Vidya Bharati and ideologically similar groups like the Gayatri Parivar, and proudly confirms the RSS hand in Salwa Judum:

The participation of Gayatri Parivar, Sangha Parivar and the Divya Seva Sangh [sic] situated in Gumargunda village of Dantewada is incredible...This movement [Salwa Judum] started fifteen years ago through the peaceful People Awakening Programme. The overall objective of the movement is to form a village security committee. This movement stays completely away from any publicity or propaganda. This is their main strength.

For Congress politician Mahendra Karma, the alleged leader of the Judum, the campaign was a chance to make a name and money for himself and his followers. In 2005, several people also told me that Karma got involved in the Judum so as to save himself from CBI prosecution in the malik makbuja scam, in which timber had been illegally felled on a large scale. For at least a century before mining became the main attraction, Bastar’s forest wealth has been a source of huge profit for both the state and private traders.

Before 1947, felling teak or fruit-bearing trees on private land was prohibited except when shade or falling leaves upset standing crops. After Independence, peasants were given the right (malik makbuja) to cut trees on their own land, after taking government permission.

Contractors used this to persuade peasants with little understanding of market prices to sell them teak trees – which cost lakhs – at ridiculously low rates. The contractors also removed timber from government forests, which was then passed off as coming from private lands. Several hundred truckloads of timber were thus taken away. In response, the government enacted the MP Protection of Scheduled Tribes (Interest in Trees) Act, 1956, under which the sale of trees from adivasi lands has to be sanctioned and supervised by the Collector, to ensure the adivasis are not cheated.

However, the administration proved an unreliable protector, colluding with timber merchants to subvert the law.

Agents, usually immigrants, contacted villagers, tempted them to sell trees and offered to pursue the complex paperwork involved in return for a commission. But their profits went beyond any reasonable commission, helped by the widespread illiteracy in the area.

In 1997, while researching the malik makbuja scam, I interviewed a man called Mundru in Kukanar. The agent kept Mundru’s bank passbook and merrily withdrew whatever he wanted from the account. Of the Rs 2,72,000 deposited in his account for sale of trees, Mundru got merely Rs 16,000. Timber merchants bought not just trees but, where they could, the land itself, in order to fell trees. Rich adivasi politicians from both the Congress and BJP, like Mahendra Karma and Rajaram Todem, were legally able to buy land from other adivasis. Again, land records and timber transport permits were fudged with the help of forest and revenue staff, to enable theft from government forests.


The Burning Forest
Image: Scroll.in

Excerpted with permission from The Burning Forest: India’s War in Bastar, Nandini Sundar, Juggernaut Books.


(This article was first published on Scroll.in.)

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Sabrang

Hindutva Persecutions of Christians in Bastar

07 Aug 2016
Bastar today is witness to the most cynical mockery of constitutional values and civil liberties. Under cover of a war to ‘save Bastar from Maoism,’ or ‘make Bastar safe for democracy’, the Constitution is in fact being trampled to ‘make Bastar safe for corporations’ and ‘purify Bastar for the RSS.’ Every day, every week, there are horrific atrocities being unleashed on Bastar’s people – and the incidents outlined in this report should be seen, not as isolated aberrations but as the tip of the iceberg. Democracy is being hollowed out in Bastar.
The All India People’s Forum (AIPF) team divided into two groups daily to cover greater ground. Even so, there was much that we could not investigate given the paucity of time; the sheer volume of incidents calling for investigation; and difficulties of arranging suitable transport.
Several local intelligence men closely watched the team in Jagdalpur. Before we left Jagdalpur, one of them too our drivers aside, attempting to interrogate and intimidate them. The team was stopped, searched, photographed, and questioned interminably at police and CRPF check posts and camps, over and over again. On more than one occasion we were told that the number of our vehicle had been passed on to CRPF camps and police check posts in advance, and they had been asked to wait for us and question us. For instance, we were asked why it took us all day to reach Sukma from Jagdalpur and why we visited villages en route – the police at the check post at Sukma tried to intimidate our driver into revealing which villages we had visited and the names of villagers to whom we had spoken.
It was clear from the tenor of the questions that anyone wishing to speak to villagers is seen as ‘suspect’ and discouraged by the police, security forces and administration. We wish to put on record our concern about the safety of those who spoke to us, especially given the fact that villagers who have spoken to other fact-finding teams have faced harassment and threats. We have changed names in some of the instances, to protect the identity of the individuals.
Raiot is extracting the chilling testimonies of persecuted Christians in Bastar from AIPF report BASTAR-WHERE THE CONSTITUTION STANDS SUSPENDED

Laboratory for the ‘Hindu Nation’

11Chhattisgarh-Churchchurch11

The AIPF team heard testimonies of several Christians in the Bastar district that spoke of systematic attempts to persecute Christian minorities; foment communal division and violence in adivasi villages; bend pro-adivasi laws to communal ends; and allow Hindutva groups to dictate to the police and administration. In this sense, communal fascist outfits already hold sway in parts of Bastar and Chhattisgarh.

The team also spoke to Son Singh Jhali, a lawyer who is handling many legal cases pertaining to persecuted Christians.

At several villages in Bastar district – including Karmari, Bade Thegli, Sirisguda and Belar – resolutions adopted under Section 129 (C) of Chhattisgarh Gram Panchayat Act have been wrongly invoked in violation of the spirit of the law to restrict non-Hindus from residing in the village, practicing and propagating their religion, or building places of worship, even though the Bilaspur High Court has quashed such gram sabha resolutions in the case of both Karmari and Sirisguda. (see Annexure 1)

Section 129 (C) of the Chhattisgarh Gram Panchayat Act, in keeping with the model of self-governance mandated by the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 1996 (PESA), that “the Gram Sabha shall have the power to safeguard and preserve the traditions and customs of the people, their cultural identity and community resources and customary mode of dispute resolution.” Instigated by the Bajrang Dal and VHP, this provision is being used to equate adivasi customs and culture with the Hindu religion and prohibit non-Hindu practices. Section 55 of the same Act has provisions to prevent land alienation in Scheduled Areas, stipulating that prior permission of the panchayat is needed to build new houses, change the design of houses and so on. This too is being misused to withhold permission for construction of churches, community bhawans and so on. The Bilaspur High Court on 16th October 2015 struck down such interpretations, ordering that “the impugned resolution shall not come in (sic) exercise of fundamental right to preach and propagate of (sic) religion and their faith” (W.P.(C.)No.1759 of 2014 CG Christian Forum and others Vs. State of CG and others). (See Annexure 2)

It is pertinent to quote, here, from the relevant Section (2.11.4) on the spirit of PESA in the Report of the Expert Group of the Planning Commission on ‘Development Challenges in Extremist Affected Areas’:
“Section 4 (a) of PESA mandates that State legislation on the Panchayats… ‘shall be in consonance with the customary law, social and religious practices and traditional management practices of community resources’. However, it is obvious that the Provisions of the Constitution and individual and community rights provided in other relevant laws of the Centre and states are relevant and their spirit and purpose should have primacy. Justice related issue of criminal, social and welfare spheres would be binding on traditional and customary bodies and also on GS (gram sabha) in SA (Scheduled Areas). Human rights and Constitutional values are sacrosanct and nothing that the traditional and customary bodies do or practice shall be against these rights and values.”

It is evident from the testimonies that the role of the police and administration is extremely lax. On some occasions the police have openly sided with the Bajrang Dal, refusing to protect the Christians. On one occasion the police and administration even failed to turn up having convened a gathering of Hindus and Christians, and possibly informed the Bajrang Dal that they would not turn up, thus setting the scene for organized mob violence against the Christians. On the occasions where the district administration and police have intervened, it has not been to enforce the rule of law and uphold the Constitution and arrest the Bajrang Dal mischief makers; rather the ineffectual mode of ‘dispute resolution’ has been adopted.

Testimonies

Pastor Pitaram
Pastor Pilaram Kawde

Pastor Pilaram Kawde
village Bhadhisgaon,
Tokapal Panchayat, Bastar district

I laid the foundation for a prayer hall on my own land for which I have the papers. The panchayat orally refused to issue the No Objection Certificate for construction. I asked them to give me the order in writing. When they failed to do so for several days, I resumed construction.
I was then given a written notice citing Sections 55 (1) and (2) Chhattisgarh Gram Panchayat Act 1993 saying
I cannot be allowed to construct a place of worship for Christians because “People of big-big castes and religions live in this village, and every Dussehra even the Roopshila Devi Ma joins the celebrations,” and that the panchayat has the right to demolish the prayer hall. The Hindu villagers and panchayat leaders have threatened to evict me from the village.

On 25 May 2016, an elderly Christian lady Saradi Bai died, but Hindu villagers provoked by the Bajrang Dal stopped us from burying her. They said we could not be allowed to carry out Christian burial rituals, bury her in a casket or place a cross in her grave. Eventually, after negotiations conducted by the police, she was buried in a casket but without the cross. But the Hindu villagers warned that no Christian burial would be allowed in future. Accordingly, the 200 Christians of the village gave applications to the SDM, Tehsildar, police and Sarpanch asking that burial grounds be allotted separately for Christians, since they were being prevented from using the common burial grounds. The Sarpanch refused to accept the application, while the SDM and others are yet to respond. Saradi Bai’s husband Sukhdev Netam passed away on 6.6.2016, and Hindu villagers prevented Christians from carrying out his last rites and burying him, threatening to kill them if they tried to bury him. Eventually after police arrived, he was buried. But again, the villagers and Sarpanch warned that in future, they will call Bajrang Dal if there is any attempt by Christians in the village to use the burial grounds. They declared that they did not recognize the authority of police, tehsildar, SDM or anyone else.

Similarly, Christians in other villages also have been prevented from burying their dead. On 10 April 2016, villagers of Dhuragaon village, tehsil Lohandiguda complained against being prevented from burying an old woman, and gave a representation demanding allocation of separate burial grounds for Christians. (see Annexure 4)

Son Singh Jhali
lawyer

At Ara village, Bariyo Chowki, Jeypore thana, District Balrampur, on Sunday, 5 June 2016, a Bajrang Dal mob of 25 people led by Chhotu Jaiswal, Sonu Gupta, Bipin Gupta, Chhotu Gupta and others attacked the church during Sunday prayers. They vandalized the church; and beat up the pastor, his wife and three others. They made a video of the thrashing and made it go ‘viral’ (the AIPF team was shown the video). They dragged off the Pastor, his wife and three others (Jagat Das, Mahendra Kumar Shandilya, Rajesh Agariya) to the Bario Chowki where they were kept till night. The Pastor and his wife were illegally detailed for two and a half days (from 5 June till the evening of 7 June). On the first day, before the Pastor was produced before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, he was taken the police prosecutor, who sent police diary back to the police station, telling the police to change the sections under which the ‘chalaan’ was filed. On 7 June, the Pastor’s wife was released without filing any case against her. No FIR was registered against the assailants – instead a case under Section 295 A, Anti Conversion Act Section 4, as well as Section 502, 504 and 505 IPC has been registered against the Pastor who, till June 8, was yet to get bail.

There are several cases of ‘rioting’ etc against Christian pastors. In fact, any complaints against those who attack Christians are immediately followed by ‘counter-complaints.’

Pastor John Masih (alias Chunnu)

Karmari vllage, Bastar block, Bastar district
Pastor John
Pastor John Masih

After securing NOC from the panchayat, we were constructing a community hall for Christians on our ancestral land. On 26 June 2015, I was summoned to a gram panchayat meeting to explain the construction. I told them I had the NOC and that I wanted to construct a community bhawan because Christians do not have a hall for social gatherings like marriages and so on. The panchayat leaders told me I was not allowed to construct the building. If the Governor and other authorities upheld my right to construct, they said they would call the Bajrang Dal to get me beaten up. I went ahead and constructed the building.

They (Bajrang Dal) held a rally against Christians in July, pressurizing villagers to participate. That day my child was ill so my wife and I had taken him to the hospital in Jagdalpur. The Hindu villagers gheraoed the police station, and called the SDM who stopped the construction. In August 2015 I showed the Collector all the documents, and the Collector issued a letter of permission for the construction.

On 8 September I resumed the construction work. On 9 September the gram sabha held a meeting in the name of drought relief, then mobilized villagers to the chowk. Some of them came on my land and told me to stop construction. I agreed to stop and talk to them. One Shailesh (alias Chhotu), son of Sabar Singh, lifted a shovel and threatened to kill me. I ran away to save my life. But two women – Ludri and Phulo Baghel – who were working on the construction, were badly beaten with bamboo sticks, and kicked and punched. They surrounded us and did not let us go out of the village. I called my wife who was away at Bastar and she informed the police. The local police were reluctant to come but did come eventually to our house. We also called an ambulance to take the women to the hospital. The TI tore up our FIR and wrote an FIR of their own naming just four of the assailants and protecting 8 others. Even those named surrendered in Court later and got bail – the police did not arrest them.

I have not been able to proceed with the construction. I told the SDM and Collector, but they did not back up their permission letter with force to protect us while we construct. The
Chowki in-charge, one Sonwani, even said he cannot send his men to protect us because ‘one community’ (the Christian population) is increasing too much.

On 28 May 2016 we spent the whole day in Court but the defence did not cross question us. After my wife spoke up about the wasted day, the Judge scolded the defence lawyers for wasting time and making the women spend all day in Court doing nothing.

Karmari was one of the gram panchayats that had passed a resolution under Section 129 (C) of the Chhattisgarh Gram Panchayat Act: “To stop forced conversion by outside religious campaigners and to prevent them from using derogatory language against Hindu deities and customs, Karmari gram sabha bans religious activities such as prayers, meetings and propaganda of all non-Hindu religions.” The Bilaspur High Court had deemed this resolution to be unconstitutional. (see Annexure 2)

Pastor Munne Lal Pal 
ex-President, United Church Union and Kabristan (Graveyard) Committee, Jagdalpur

In January 2012, construction was on to build a boundary wall for the Karkapal graveyard that has been in possession of Christians for more than a century. The wall had been sanctioned by the city Mayor. On 8 January, when the wall construction was nearly complete, I got a call to go to the Collectorate. I went there with two others with Pastors Jogendra Nayak and Rajesh Habil, and I was told that I was accused of encroachment of 16- 17 dismil of land. I said that I would show him our documents once our Secretary returned from Raipur, and if the measurement of the land proved that we have encroached on any land, we would certainly vacate the encroached part of the land. The Collector agreed that I could show him the documents a couple of days later. We then went home. After 15 minutes the patwari called me to the graveyard. There, I found the Mayor etc along with Bajrang Dal leaders Man Singh Parmar and Kailash Rathi and VHP leader Yogendra Kaushik. They had the JCB machine ready to demolish the wall. We pleaded that the encroachment should be proved first, and the demolition should not be done before measurement and verification of the documents, if the encroachment is proved, we ourselves will break down the wall.

But Bajrang Dal leaders began breaking down the wall, raising slogans. As soon as they touched the wall, some 100 more Bajrang Dal men who had been waiting close by, came up to break down the wall. They kicked and danced on the graves, raising Jai Shri Ram slogans. The JCB machine was also used, and three graves were also flattened. The authorities present did nothing to stop the attackers.
The police did not file our complaint till some 60 Pastors and hundreds of Christians gathered at the Bodhghat Police Station. It was past midnight by the time the FIR was registered. The attackers were released on bail from the police station itself the next day. On 10th January there was a rally and sit-in in Jagdalpur in which 10000 Christians participated.

After that, the police booked 5 criminal cases (2 non-bailable and 3 bailable) booked against 12 of us for leading the rally and sit-in.

In Court, the men we accused were all acquitted. One of the Christian eyewitnesses was intimidated into changing his statement. The police Investigative Officer did not depose at all in Court.

Sanauram Gotta
village Tumasnar, district Kanker
​​​​​​​

In 2006, Christians (7 in all) of my village were beaten up by the Hindu villagers. In March 2016, the Hindu villagers made a ‘Sitlamandir’ and demanded Rs 500 as ‘chanda’ from each villager. We said that you have been boycotting our marriages and other social functions, so we won’t give you ‘chanda’. We said, if we give you chanda, give it to us in writing that you will attend our social functions, you will call us to your functions. These discussions happened over 2 meetings in 2 days.

When my grandmother died, the Hindu villagers refused to attend the funeral. They did not attend several marriages.

Next, they demanded Rs 1000 as ‘chanda’. We said we are willing as long as you give us an assurance in writing. Instigated by Anil Kumar Kemro, ration leader and son of a BJP leader, Hindu villagers declared a social boycott, claiming we have insulted their gods and goddesses. The tehsildar called me saying that there is a written complaint against you, I told him about Kemro. There are now 100 Christians in the village and we are under threat of violence.

Baman Kowasi
village Parapur/Chhichoripara, block Lohandiguda, Bastar district

On 15 May, 2016, Bajrang Dal members who live in our village Manku, Sannu, Muda and Saibo beat up my sister Kumli Kowasi (age 18), accusing her of doing ‘jadu tona’ (witchcraft). My father Muda is no more, my mother Maso and my sister and I and our little brother are now in hiding. My sister was grinding rice at 5.30 pm in the back of the house when they came and beat her up. They kicked her in the stomach, pulled her hair and hit her on the head. She fell unconscious and they left her for dead. She had to be hospitalized for two weeks. We have been told by the ‘munshi’ (police) to remain in hiding for our own safety, so for the past month we have not been able to return home. We are living in the Church in another village (name of village withheld).

Kumli Kowasi
(from Parapur, now in hiding in another village)
Komli
Kumli Kowasi
​​​​​​​
AIPF team members met Kumli in the village where she is hiding. This young woman is very terrified. The team learned from her that the ‘munshi’ at the police station took money from her family and also advised them to stay away from their home. She said that she was beaten up for being Christian, and that those who beat her up are relatives of hers. The Bajrang Dal is instigating even family members to turn violent against their own kin for converting to Christianity.

Pastor Sivo Mandavi
village Sirisguda, block Tokapal, district Bastar
​​​​​​​

Our rations were stopped for 2 and a half months and ration cards were not ratified because we did not pay ‘chanda’ for ‘Devgudi’ (a Hindu festival). We complained to Food Inspector and
were called to collect our rations on 16 June 2014. We went (women, children and all family members) with bags, expecting to get 2 and a half months worth of rations. That day, there was the Monday Bazaar. The Food authorities came and sat at the ration shop at 2.30 pm and asked the ration dealer why they were not giving us rations. The ration dealer and sarpanch, secretary and other villagers were gathered at the panchayat bhawan – they had gathered there in preparation for violence. The panchayat secretary refused to go to meet the food authorities. We went back and forth. Eventually the ‘Sir’ and ‘Madam’ from the food authority themselves went to the panchayat bhawan and told the panchayat secretary they were supposed to go hous to house to ratify the ration cards. The secretary said, ‘Do what you like, I am willing to resign.’ When the villagers said, “We won’t give them rations because they did not pay ‘chanda’ for ‘devgudi’,” the food inspectors explained that “Government rations cannot be stopped because of a village matter like a festival.” Then the villagers erupted and picked up chairs to attack the food inspectors who ran away. Then they began beating up the Christians, injuring 8 men including myself and two women. I was beaten with sticks, fists and kicks. We somehow escaped and called the ambulance, but the villagers blocked the road and did not allow the ambulance to leave the village. After we called the Bastar DIG, the police came and took us to the health centre at Lohandiguda where were admitted for a week, and one Aytu, who had a broken arm, was referred to Maharani Hospital at Jagdalpur.

On 17 May 2014, the gram sabha passed a resolution that non-Hindus cannot live in the village and so on. We got to know this through the papers, since we were in hospital. The police did not come to us to register an FIR, we were able to register an FIR only when we ourselves recovered enough to go to the police station and were assisted by Pastor Bhupendra Khora. There is a case against 12 Christians also, registered by the Bajrang Dal. The High Court meanwhile held the gram sabha resolution to be unconstitutional.

Pastor abhimalik
Pastor Abhimalik
Pastor Abhimalik
village Mudhota, thana Bhanpuri, district Bastar
​​​​​​​

On 19 October 2014, some 30-35 Bajrang Dal people entered the church, beat up Christians including women and children, and told them to become Hindu or else prepare to be killed.

The victims called me for help, and I went with them to Jagdalpur and we gave a representation to the TI. The TI went to the village, and assured that he would hold a meeting and organize a compromise on October 25.

The promised meeting was convened on October 25th, the TI and the SDM were about to reach, and about 400 Hindus including Bajrang Dal people and 70-75 Christians were waiting. The police did not arrive at 2.30. And the Bajrang Dal people must have got a call telling them that the police did not plan to come. They then attacked the Christians, chased them into the jungle or the corn fields, several
were badly injured and dispersed. We called a
Sanjivani ambulance to get the injured villagers,
but the 400 people stopped the ambulance from
entering the village. After half an hour when we
enquired about the delay, we called the ambulance
driver who said he had not been allowed to enter
the village. Then we contacted the Control Room
Raipur who then called the Bastar police to go
clear the road and allow 12 injured people to be
brought to hospital. It was a Saturday and there
was no treatment done because the hospital dean
was threatened and under pressure. On Monday
the injured were released without any treatment,
just bandages. We had to get the injured treated
in a private hospital in Jagdalpur.
​​​​​​​
2 of our Christian people were sent to jail, and 5 Bajrang Dal people were also jailed. We went to Bastar Chowki to free the arrested people. Our representation was not accepted there till 5 pm, after which the tehsildar said Section 151 cases fall under the SDM’s jurisdiction. The SDM deliberately took leave. As a result the arrested Christians were in jail for three days before they got bail.

After the case started, the Bajrang Dal people filed yet another FIR against us, declaring some of the victims as absconders. We were alerted by a lawyer and we got anticipatory bail.

Christians were told they cannot use the water from the bore well, this is reserved for Hindus. On November 3, 2014, a meeting was called at the Collector’s office, attended by Bajrang Dal and Christian leaders. The Bajrang Dal demanded that the Christians do ‘ghar wapsi’ (reconvert to Hinduism). The Collector tried to reason with them but they claimed that ghar wapsi had the sanction of Section 129 C of the Gram Panchayat Act.

An 8-member fact-finding team of All India People’s Forum visited four districts Chhattisgarh (Bastar, Dantewada, Sukma, Bijapur) between 8-11 June 2016. The AIPF team comprised former Madhya Pradesh MLA Dr Sunilam of Samajwadi Samagam, former Jharkhand MLA and CPIML Central Committee member Vinod Singh, Kavita Krishnan, Secretary of All India Progressive Women’s Association, Brijendra Tiwari of AICCTU, Amlan Bhatacharya, State Secretary of PUCL West Bengal, Advocate Aradhana Bhargava of Chhindwara, Advocate Ajoy Dutta of Kolkata and Amlendu Choudhury. The AIPF team is also grateful for the participation of Bastar-based researcher and activist Bela Bhatia and Dantewada-based activist Soni Sori who accompanied the team.

Courtesy: raiot.in
 

Hindutva Persecutions of Christians in Bastar

Bastar today is witness to the most cynical mockery of constitutional values and civil liberties. Under cover of a war to ‘save Bastar from Maoism,’ or ‘make Bastar safe for democracy’, the Constitution is in fact being trampled to ‘make Bastar safe for corporations’ and ‘purify Bastar for the RSS.’ Every day, every week, there are horrific atrocities being unleashed on Bastar’s people – and the incidents outlined in this report should be seen, not as isolated aberrations but as the tip of the iceberg. Democracy is being hollowed out in Bastar.
The All India People’s Forum (AIPF) team divided into two groups daily to cover greater ground. Even so, there was much that we could not investigate given the paucity of time; the sheer volume of incidents calling for investigation; and difficulties of arranging suitable transport.
Several local intelligence men closely watched the team in Jagdalpur. Before we left Jagdalpur, one of them too our drivers aside, attempting to interrogate and intimidate them. The team was stopped, searched, photographed, and questioned interminably at police and CRPF check posts and camps, over and over again. On more than one occasion we were told that the number of our vehicle had been passed on to CRPF camps and police check posts in advance, and they had been asked to wait for us and question us. For instance, we were asked why it took us all day to reach Sukma from Jagdalpur and why we visited villages en route – the police at the check post at Sukma tried to intimidate our driver into revealing which villages we had visited and the names of villagers to whom we had spoken.
It was clear from the tenor of the questions that anyone wishing to speak to villagers is seen as ‘suspect’ and discouraged by the police, security forces and administration. We wish to put on record our concern about the safety of those who spoke to us, especially given the fact that villagers who have spoken to other fact-finding teams have faced harassment and threats. We have changed names in some of the instances, to protect the identity of the individuals.
Raiot is extracting the chilling testimonies of persecuted Christians in Bastar from AIPF report BASTAR-WHERE THE CONSTITUTION STANDS SUSPENDED

Laboratory for the ‘Hindu Nation’

11Chhattisgarh-Churchchurch11

The AIPF team heard testimonies of several Christians in the Bastar district that spoke of systematic attempts to persecute Christian minorities; foment communal division and violence in adivasi villages; bend pro-adivasi laws to communal ends; and allow Hindutva groups to dictate to the police and administration. In this sense, communal fascist outfits already hold sway in parts of Bastar and Chhattisgarh.

The team also spoke to Son Singh Jhali, a lawyer who is handling many legal cases pertaining to persecuted Christians.

At several villages in Bastar district – including Karmari, Bade Thegli, Sirisguda and Belar – resolutions adopted under Section 129 (C) of Chhattisgarh Gram Panchayat Act have been wrongly invoked in violation of the spirit of the law to restrict non-Hindus from residing in the village, practicing and propagating their religion, or building places of worship, even though the Bilaspur High Court has quashed such gram sabha resolutions in the case of both Karmari and Sirisguda. (see Annexure 1)

Section 129 (C) of the Chhattisgarh Gram Panchayat Act, in keeping with the model of self-governance mandated by the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 1996 (PESA), that “the Gram Sabha shall have the power to safeguard and preserve the traditions and customs of the people, their cultural identity and community resources and customary mode of dispute resolution.” Instigated by the Bajrang Dal and VHP, this provision is being used to equate adivasi customs and culture with the Hindu religion and prohibit non-Hindu practices. Section 55 of the same Act has provisions to prevent land alienation in Scheduled Areas, stipulating that prior permission of the panchayat is needed to build new houses, change the design of houses and so on. This too is being misused to withhold permission for construction of churches, community bhawans and so on. The Bilaspur High Court on 16th October 2015 struck down such interpretations, ordering that “the impugned resolution shall not come in (sic) exercise of fundamental right to preach and propagate of (sic) religion and their faith” (W.P.(C.)No.1759 of 2014 CG Christian Forum and others Vs. State of CG and others). (See Annexure 2)

It is pertinent to quote, here, from the relevant Section (2.11.4) on the spirit of PESA in the Report of the Expert Group of the Planning Commission on ‘Development Challenges in Extremist Affected Areas’:
“Section 4 (a) of PESA mandates that State legislation on the Panchayats… ‘shall be in consonance with the customary law, social and religious practices and traditional management practices of community resources’. However, it is obvious that the Provisions of the Constitution and individual and community rights provided in other relevant laws of the Centre and states are relevant and their spirit and purpose should have primacy. Justice related issue of criminal, social and welfare spheres would be binding on traditional and customary bodies and also on GS (gram sabha) in SA (Scheduled Areas). Human rights and Constitutional values are sacrosanct and nothing that the traditional and customary bodies do or practice shall be against these rights and values.”

It is evident from the testimonies that the role of the police and administration is extremely lax. On some occasions the police have openly sided with the Bajrang Dal, refusing to protect the Christians. On one occasion the police and administration even failed to turn up having convened a gathering of Hindus and Christians, and possibly informed the Bajrang Dal that they would not turn up, thus setting the scene for organized mob violence against the Christians. On the occasions where the district administration and police have intervened, it has not been to enforce the rule of law and uphold the Constitution and arrest the Bajrang Dal mischief makers; rather the ineffectual mode of ‘dispute resolution’ has been adopted.

Testimonies

Pastor Pitaram
Pastor Pilaram Kawde

Pastor Pilaram Kawde
village Bhadhisgaon,
Tokapal Panchayat, Bastar district

I laid the foundation for a prayer hall on my own land for which I have the papers. The panchayat orally refused to issue the No Objection Certificate for construction. I asked them to give me the order in writing. When they failed to do so for several days, I resumed construction.
I was then given a written notice citing Sections 55 (1) and (2) Chhattisgarh Gram Panchayat Act 1993 saying
I cannot be allowed to construct a place of worship for Christians because “People of big-big castes and religions live in this village, and every Dussehra even the Roopshila Devi Ma joins the celebrations,” and that the panchayat has the right to demolish the prayer hall. The Hindu villagers and panchayat leaders have threatened to evict me from the village.

On 25 May 2016, an elderly Christian lady Saradi Bai died, but Hindu villagers provoked by the Bajrang Dal stopped us from burying her. They said we could not be allowed to carry out Christian burial rituals, bury her in a casket or place a cross in her grave. Eventually, after negotiations conducted by the police, she was buried in a casket but without the cross. But the Hindu villagers warned that no Christian burial would be allowed in future. Accordingly, the 200 Christians of the village gave applications to the SDM, Tehsildar, police and Sarpanch asking that burial grounds be allotted separately for Christians, since they were being prevented from using the common burial grounds. The Sarpanch refused to accept the application, while the SDM and others are yet to respond. Saradi Bai’s husband Sukhdev Netam passed away on 6.6.2016, and Hindu villagers prevented Christians from carrying out his last rites and burying him, threatening to kill them if they tried to bury him. Eventually after police arrived, he was buried. But again, the villagers and Sarpanch warned that in future, they will call Bajrang Dal if there is any attempt by Christians in the village to use the burial grounds. They declared that they did not recognize the authority of police, tehsildar, SDM or anyone else.

Similarly, Christians in other villages also have been prevented from burying their dead. On 10 April 2016, villagers of Dhuragaon village, tehsil Lohandiguda complained against being prevented from burying an old woman, and gave a representation demanding allocation of separate burial grounds for Christians. (see Annexure 4)

Son Singh Jhali
lawyer

At Ara village, Bariyo Chowki, Jeypore thana, District Balrampur, on Sunday, 5 June 2016, a Bajrang Dal mob of 25 people led by Chhotu Jaiswal, Sonu Gupta, Bipin Gupta, Chhotu Gupta and others attacked the church during Sunday prayers. They vandalized the church; and beat up the pastor, his wife and three others. They made a video of the thrashing and made it go ‘viral’ (the AIPF team was shown the video). They dragged off the Pastor, his wife and three others (Jagat Das, Mahendra Kumar Shandilya, Rajesh Agariya) to the Bario Chowki where they were kept till night. The Pastor and his wife were illegally detailed for two and a half days (from 5 June till the evening of 7 June). On the first day, before the Pastor was produced before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, he was taken the police prosecutor, who sent police diary back to the police station, telling the police to change the sections under which the ‘chalaan’ was filed. On 7 June, the Pastor’s wife was released without filing any case against her. No FIR was registered against the assailants – instead a case under Section 295 A, Anti Conversion Act Section 4, as well as Section 502, 504 and 505 IPC has been registered against the Pastor who, till June 8, was yet to get bail.

There are several cases of ‘rioting’ etc against Christian pastors. In fact, any complaints against those who attack Christians are immediately followed by ‘counter-complaints.’

Pastor John Masih (alias Chunnu)

Karmari vllage, Bastar block, Bastar district
Pastor John
Pastor John Masih

After securing NOC from the panchayat, we were constructing a community hall for Christians on our ancestral land. On 26 June 2015, I was summoned to a gram panchayat meeting to explain the construction. I told them I had the NOC and that I wanted to construct a community bhawan because Christians do not have a hall for social gatherings like marriages and so on. The panchayat leaders told me I was not allowed to construct the building. If the Governor and other authorities upheld my right to construct, they said they would call the Bajrang Dal to get me beaten up. I went ahead and constructed the building.

They (Bajrang Dal) held a rally against Christians in July, pressurizing villagers to participate. That day my child was ill so my wife and I had taken him to the hospital in Jagdalpur. The Hindu villagers gheraoed the police station, and called the SDM who stopped the construction. In August 2015 I showed the Collector all the documents, and the Collector issued a letter of permission for the construction.

On 8 September I resumed the construction work. On 9 September the gram sabha held a meeting in the name of drought relief, then mobilized villagers to the chowk. Some of them came on my land and told me to stop construction. I agreed to stop and talk to them. One Shailesh (alias Chhotu), son of Sabar Singh, lifted a shovel and threatened to kill me. I ran away to save my life. But two women – Ludri and Phulo Baghel – who were working on the construction, were badly beaten with bamboo sticks, and kicked and punched. They surrounded us and did not let us go out of the village. I called my wife who was away at Bastar and she informed the police. The local police were reluctant to come but did come eventually to our house. We also called an ambulance to take the women to the hospital. The TI tore up our FIR and wrote an FIR of their own naming just four of the assailants and protecting 8 others. Even those named surrendered in Court later and got bail – the police did not arrest them.

I have not been able to proceed with the construction. I told the SDM and Collector, but they did not back up their permission letter with force to protect us while we construct. The
Chowki in-charge, one Sonwani, even said he cannot send his men to protect us because ‘one community’ (the Christian population) is increasing too much.

On 28 May 2016 we spent the whole day in Court but the defence did not cross question us. After my wife spoke up about the wasted day, the Judge scolded the defence lawyers for wasting time and making the women spend all day in Court doing nothing.

Karmari was one of the gram panchayats that had passed a resolution under Section 129 (C) of the Chhattisgarh Gram Panchayat Act: “To stop forced conversion by outside religious campaigners and to prevent them from using derogatory language against Hindu deities and customs, Karmari gram sabha bans religious activities such as prayers, meetings and propaganda of all non-Hindu religions.” The Bilaspur High Court had deemed this resolution to be unconstitutional. (see Annexure 2)

Pastor Munne Lal Pal 
ex-President, United Church Union and Kabristan (Graveyard) Committee, Jagdalpur

In January 2012, construction was on to build a boundary wall for the Karkapal graveyard that has been in possession of Christians for more than a century. The wall had been sanctioned by the city Mayor. On 8 January, when the wall construction was nearly complete, I got a call to go to the Collectorate. I went there with two others with Pastors Jogendra Nayak and Rajesh Habil, and I was told that I was accused of encroachment of 16- 17 dismil of land. I said that I would show him our documents once our Secretary returned from Raipur, and if the measurement of the land proved that we have encroached on any land, we would certainly vacate the encroached part of the land. The Collector agreed that I could show him the documents a couple of days later. We then went home. After 15 minutes the patwari called me to the graveyard. There, I found the Mayor etc along with Bajrang Dal leaders Man Singh Parmar and Kailash Rathi and VHP leader Yogendra Kaushik. They had the JCB machine ready to demolish the wall. We pleaded that the encroachment should be proved first, and the demolition should not be done before measurement and verification of the documents, if the encroachment is proved, we ourselves will break down the wall.

But Bajrang Dal leaders began breaking down the wall, raising slogans. As soon as they touched the wall, some 100 more Bajrang Dal men who had been waiting close by, came up to break down the wall. They kicked and danced on the graves, raising Jai Shri Ram slogans. The JCB machine was also used, and three graves were also flattened. The authorities present did nothing to stop the attackers.
The police did not file our complaint till some 60 Pastors and hundreds of Christians gathered at the Bodhghat Police Station. It was past midnight by the time the FIR was registered. The attackers were released on bail from the police station itself the next day. On 10th January there was a rally and sit-in in Jagdalpur in which 10000 Christians participated.

After that, the police booked 5 criminal cases (2 non-bailable and 3 bailable) booked against 12 of us for leading the rally and sit-in.

In Court, the men we accused were all acquitted. One of the Christian eyewitnesses was intimidated into changing his statement. The police Investigative Officer did not depose at all in Court.

Sanauram Gotta
village Tumasnar, district Kanker
​​​​​​​

In 2006, Christians (7 in all) of my village were beaten up by the Hindu villagers. In March 2016, the Hindu villagers made a ‘Sitlamandir’ and demanded Rs 500 as ‘chanda’ from each villager. We said that you have been boycotting our marriages and other social functions, so we won’t give you ‘chanda’. We said, if we give you chanda, give it to us in writing that you will attend our social functions, you will call us to your functions. These discussions happened over 2 meetings in 2 days.

When my grandmother died, the Hindu villagers refused to attend the funeral. They did not attend several marriages.

Next, they demanded Rs 1000 as ‘chanda’. We said we are willing as long as you give us an assurance in writing. Instigated by Anil Kumar Kemro, ration leader and son of a BJP leader, Hindu villagers declared a social boycott, claiming we have insulted their gods and goddesses. The tehsildar called me saying that there is a written complaint against you, I told him about Kemro. There are now 100 Christians in the village and we are under threat of violence.

Baman Kowasi
village Parapur/Chhichoripara, block Lohandiguda, Bastar district

On 15 May, 2016, Bajrang Dal members who live in our village Manku, Sannu, Muda and Saibo beat up my sister Kumli Kowasi (age 18), accusing her of doing ‘jadu tona’ (witchcraft). My father Muda is no more, my mother Maso and my sister and I and our little brother are now in hiding. My sister was grinding rice at 5.30 pm in the back of the house when they came and beat her up. They kicked her in the stomach, pulled her hair and hit her on the head. She fell unconscious and they left her for dead. She had to be hospitalized for two weeks. We have been told by the ‘munshi’ (police) to remain in hiding for our own safety, so for the past month we have not been able to return home. We are living in the Church in another village (name of village withheld).

Kumli Kowasi
(from Parapur, now in hiding in another village)
Komli
Kumli Kowasi
​​​​​​​
AIPF team members met Kumli in the village where she is hiding. This young woman is very terrified. The team learned from her that the ‘munshi’ at the police station took money from her family and also advised them to stay away from their home. She said that she was beaten up for being Christian, and that those who beat her up are relatives of hers. The Bajrang Dal is instigating even family members to turn violent against their own kin for converting to Christianity.

Pastor Sivo Mandavi
village Sirisguda, block Tokapal, district Bastar
​​​​​​​

Our rations were stopped for 2 and a half months and ration cards were not ratified because we did not pay ‘chanda’ for ‘Devgudi’ (a Hindu festival). We complained to Food Inspector and
were called to collect our rations on 16 June 2014. We went (women, children and all family members) with bags, expecting to get 2 and a half months worth of rations. That day, there was the Monday Bazaar. The Food authorities came and sat at the ration shop at 2.30 pm and asked the ration dealer why they were not giving us rations. The ration dealer and sarpanch, secretary and other villagers were gathered at the panchayat bhawan – they had gathered there in preparation for violence. The panchayat secretary refused to go to meet the food authorities. We went back and forth. Eventually the ‘Sir’ and ‘Madam’ from the food authority themselves went to the panchayat bhawan and told the panchayat secretary they were supposed to go hous to house to ratify the ration cards. The secretary said, ‘Do what you like, I am willing to resign.’ When the villagers said, “We won’t give them rations because they did not pay ‘chanda’ for ‘devgudi’,” the food inspectors explained that “Government rations cannot be stopped because of a village matter like a festival.” Then the villagers erupted and picked up chairs to attack the food inspectors who ran away. Then they began beating up the Christians, injuring 8 men including myself and two women. I was beaten with sticks, fists and kicks. We somehow escaped and called the ambulance, but the villagers blocked the road and did not allow the ambulance to leave the village. After we called the Bastar DIG, the police came and took us to the health centre at Lohandiguda where were admitted for a week, and one Aytu, who had a broken arm, was referred to Maharani Hospital at Jagdalpur.

On 17 May 2014, the gram sabha passed a resolution that non-Hindus cannot live in the village and so on. We got to know this through the papers, since we were in hospital. The police did not come to us to register an FIR, we were able to register an FIR only when we ourselves recovered enough to go to the police station and were assisted by Pastor Bhupendra Khora. There is a case against 12 Christians also, registered by the Bajrang Dal. The High Court meanwhile held the gram sabha resolution to be unconstitutional.

Pastor abhimalik
Pastor Abhimalik
Pastor Abhimalik
village Mudhota, thana Bhanpuri, district Bastar
​​​​​​​

On 19 October 2014, some 30-35 Bajrang Dal people entered the church, beat up Christians including women and children, and told them to become Hindu or else prepare to be killed.

The victims called me for help, and I went with them to Jagdalpur and we gave a representation to the TI. The TI went to the village, and assured that he would hold a meeting and organize a compromise on October 25.

The promised meeting was convened on October 25th, the TI and the SDM were about to reach, and about 400 Hindus including Bajrang Dal people and 70-75 Christians were waiting. The police did not arrive at 2.30. And the Bajrang Dal people must have got a call telling them that the police did not plan to come. They then attacked the Christians, chased them into the jungle or the corn fields, several
were badly injured and dispersed. We called a
Sanjivani ambulance to get the injured villagers,
but the 400 people stopped the ambulance from
entering the village. After half an hour when we
enquired about the delay, we called the ambulance
driver who said he had not been allowed to enter
the village. Then we contacted the Control Room
Raipur who then called the Bastar police to go
clear the road and allow 12 injured people to be
brought to hospital. It was a Saturday and there
was no treatment done because the hospital dean
was threatened and under pressure. On Monday
the injured were released without any treatment,
just bandages. We had to get the injured treated
in a private hospital in Jagdalpur.
​​​​​​​
2 of our Christian people were sent to jail, and 5 Bajrang Dal people were also jailed. We went to Bastar Chowki to free the arrested people. Our representation was not accepted there till 5 pm, after which the tehsildar said Section 151 cases fall under the SDM’s jurisdiction. The SDM deliberately took leave. As a result the arrested Christians were in jail for three days before they got bail.

After the case started, the Bajrang Dal people filed yet another FIR against us, declaring some of the victims as absconders. We were alerted by a lawyer and we got anticipatory bail.

Christians were told they cannot use the water from the bore well, this is reserved for Hindus. On November 3, 2014, a meeting was called at the Collector’s office, attended by Bajrang Dal and Christian leaders. The Bajrang Dal demanded that the Christians do ‘ghar wapsi’ (reconvert to Hinduism). The Collector tried to reason with them but they claimed that ghar wapsi had the sanction of Section 129 C of the Gram Panchayat Act.

An 8-member fact-finding team of All India People’s Forum visited four districts Chhattisgarh (Bastar, Dantewada, Sukma, Bijapur) between 8-11 June 2016. The AIPF team comprised former Madhya Pradesh MLA Dr Sunilam of Samajwadi Samagam, former Jharkhand MLA and CPIML Central Committee member Vinod Singh, Kavita Krishnan, Secretary of All India Progressive Women’s Association, Brijendra Tiwari of AICCTU, Amlan Bhatacharya, State Secretary of PUCL West Bengal, Advocate Aradhana Bhargava of Chhindwara, Advocate Ajoy Dutta of Kolkata and Amlendu Choudhury. The AIPF team is also grateful for the participation of Bastar-based researcher and activist Bela Bhatia and Dantewada-based activist Soni Sori who accompanied the team.

Courtesy: raiot.in
 

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Sabrang

Bastar Speaks Up: Stop War on Adivasis

19 Jul 2016

 

Stop War on Adivasis, says the banner at Devraj Hall in Mumbai, as people from different walks of life, the elderly, students from colleges and professionals gather to listen to the voices from Bastar.

Chhattisgarh is in turmoil, with tribals being thrown into jail with false charges or worse, being killed in fake encounters. But even as the state continues to try and suppress and criminalize all voices from Bastar, there are many who continue to risk their lives daily to ensure that amid the Acche Dins, the voices of the people of Bastar are heard, somewhere, somehow.

Mainstream media has always been silent and largely ignores the atrocities committed by the state in Bastar, even as news sources fervently reported the Prime Minister’s visit to Chhattisgarh, only to sign MoUs in the state, without the people’s consent. Consent, it seems, has been long forgotten by the state.

Take the example of Raigarh, for instance, 26000 acres of fertile land was given to corporates, without consent of the people. Those who try to protest and raise their voices against such land grabs are quickly met with consequences such as harassments, threats and false arrests under the guise of them being Maoists.

Justice Prabhakar Gwal, Ex-CJM of Sukma district was also present at the event, one of the few judges that support the people’s struggle against the systematic oppression by the state, has himself been subject to threats, harassment and violence by the state and its’ agents, like many other government officials who try to help the people of Bastar.

Linga Kodopi, Journalist and Activist from Bastar, spoke of his journey of becoming a journalist and activist in response to what he had been witnessing. Kodopi was actively involved in the people’s struggle in Bastar and was arrested and tortured by the police, spent many days locked up in filthy conditions and faced repeated torture from police officials.

Kodopi started following incidents of state oppression in Bastar and would immediately go to affected districts to investigate in-depth, and became a strong voice against the injustices of the state in Bastar. Kodopi shared first hand experiences from the ground, separating facts from fiction as he recounted the incidents surrounding the ‘encounter’ of Makdam Hidme, police brutality towards her and those who tried to protect her and the malice with which she was murdered. He also talked about Salwa Judum, its’ spread across 5 camps in Bastar and Dantewada, who played a major role in many atrocities reported across the state, including the attack on Soni Sori and threatening members of JagLAG (Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group)

    “ …From mid 2015, the Police has been rounding up hundreds and detaining young Adivasi men in special security camps for days. Some have been beaten and released, others officially arrested and many are still missing. Mass detentions were followed by ‘mass surrenders’, as police claimed they surrendered voluntarily. Local accounts suggest otherwise. Surrenders were followed by encounters, and as the death toll continued to rise, people were confronted with mass rapes by uniformed personnel..”
    —Bastar Solidarity Network, Mumbai

Tales from Bastar are too many to recount, and the number people whose lives have been destroyed and turned upside-down because of the cruelty of security forces and the state of Chattisgarh are even more. Stories of children being killed, of the elderly being abused, of the women being raped and mutilated continue to turn up in the warzone that Bastar has become. Activists from Bastar call to the civil society to raise their collective voices; it is time to speak up for Bastar!

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Courtesy: IndiaResist.com

 

Bastar Speaks Up: Stop War on Adivasis

 

Stop War on Adivasis, says the banner at Devraj Hall in Mumbai, as people from different walks of life, the elderly, students from colleges and professionals gather to listen to the voices from Bastar.

Chhattisgarh is in turmoil, with tribals being thrown into jail with false charges or worse, being killed in fake encounters. But even as the state continues to try and suppress and criminalize all voices from Bastar, there are many who continue to risk their lives daily to ensure that amid the Acche Dins, the voices of the people of Bastar are heard, somewhere, somehow.

Mainstream media has always been silent and largely ignores the atrocities committed by the state in Bastar, even as news sources fervently reported the Prime Minister’s visit to Chhattisgarh, only to sign MoUs in the state, without the people’s consent. Consent, it seems, has been long forgotten by the state.

Take the example of Raigarh, for instance, 26000 acres of fertile land was given to corporates, without consent of the people. Those who try to protest and raise their voices against such land grabs are quickly met with consequences such as harassments, threats and false arrests under the guise of them being Maoists.

Justice Prabhakar Gwal, Ex-CJM of Sukma district was also present at the event, one of the few judges that support the people’s struggle against the systematic oppression by the state, has himself been subject to threats, harassment and violence by the state and its’ agents, like many other government officials who try to help the people of Bastar.

Linga Kodopi, Journalist and Activist from Bastar, spoke of his journey of becoming a journalist and activist in response to what he had been witnessing. Kodopi was actively involved in the people’s struggle in Bastar and was arrested and tortured by the police, spent many days locked up in filthy conditions and faced repeated torture from police officials.

Kodopi started following incidents of state oppression in Bastar and would immediately go to affected districts to investigate in-depth, and became a strong voice against the injustices of the state in Bastar. Kodopi shared first hand experiences from the ground, separating facts from fiction as he recounted the incidents surrounding the ‘encounter’ of Makdam Hidme, police brutality towards her and those who tried to protect her and the malice with which she was murdered. He also talked about Salwa Judum, its’ spread across 5 camps in Bastar and Dantewada, who played a major role in many atrocities reported across the state, including the attack on Soni Sori and threatening members of JagLAG (Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group)

    “ …From mid 2015, the Police has been rounding up hundreds and detaining young Adivasi men in special security camps for days. Some have been beaten and released, others officially arrested and many are still missing. Mass detentions were followed by ‘mass surrenders’, as police claimed they surrendered voluntarily. Local accounts suggest otherwise. Surrenders were followed by encounters, and as the death toll continued to rise, people were confronted with mass rapes by uniformed personnel..”
    —Bastar Solidarity Network, Mumbai

Tales from Bastar are too many to recount, and the number people whose lives have been destroyed and turned upside-down because of the cruelty of security forces and the state of Chattisgarh are even more. Stories of children being killed, of the elderly being abused, of the women being raped and mutilated continue to turn up in the warzone that Bastar has become. Activists from Bastar call to the civil society to raise their collective voices; it is time to speak up for Bastar!

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Courtesy: IndiaResist.com

 

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Appeal to Political Parties, Visit Bastar, Initiate a Dialogue, Restore Fundamental Rights

11 Jul 2016

A fact finding report by academicians and activists also strongly recommends that the Central government must appoint a high level inquiry into all encounters, arrests, surrenders and other allegations of atrocities by police in south Chhattisgarh since 2005


An all-party delegation should visit Bastar, especially some of the interior villages, and initiate conversation with a wide range of stakeholders to suggest measures for conflict resolution. The parties should demand that the Centre and state government initiate a dialogue with all political parties and the Naxalites, and come up with a comprehensive plan that recognizes the rights and development needs of the people.  The ruling Bharatiya Jnaata Party (BJP) must allow opposition political parties to operate freely without arresting and intimidating their members. These are the additional recommendations of fact finding report by Sanjay Parate, Vineet Tiwari, Archana Prasad and Nandini Sundar who visited the region between May 12-16, 2016.

The rise of a new form of Salwa Judum, Jan Jagran Abhiyan distributing goodies to villagers on the one hand and committing atrocities on the other while Maoists continue to target ordinary Adivasis has accelerated the impossible situation in Bastar said a visiting team that released its fact-finding report on May 18. One day after an intreim report of the team had been released in Chhattisgarh on May 18, Home Minister, Ram Sewak Paikra was quoted by The Times of India as saying that the three Delhi professors "anti-nationals" after they visited Maoist-hit Bastar, triggering a police probe into allegation that they asked villagers to support the rebels. Communist Party of India (Marxist) functionary Sanjay Parate had accompanied the trio. 

Besides this, the complete report also recommends that, apart from the judicial probe into all encounters, government should ensure a prosecution of all these cases and compensation should be paid regardless of who the perpetrators are. The camps should be removed; the forest rights, and land rights of the people should be recognized. No projects should be implemented, including mining, without the full knowledge and consent of the gram sabha; there should be a full accounting with on the ground verification of all works done under government schemes. In particular NREGA should be implemented, and all pending dues must be immediately paid; the harassment of political activists, scholars, journalists, lawyers and others fighting for adivasi rights must be stopped and their freedom of movement and security ensured.
And to the Maoists, the report said that they, the Maoists must allow all development works to take place; they should allow political activity such as standing for elections; they should stop beating people, and killing so-called informers. The report can be read here.

The text of the report can be read here

Caught in an Irresponsible War

Report of a fact-finding team which visited Bastar division, from 12-16 May, 2016.

Sanjay Parate, Vineet Tiwari, Archana Prasad and Nandini Sundar
 
Bastar division, comprising seven districts, in the state of Chhattisgarh, is one of the most militarized zones in India, owing to the conflict between the State and the CPI (Maoist). This conflict which has been going on since the late 1980s, reached its current peak with the state’s sponsorship of a vigilante movement called Salwa Judum in 2005. This resulted in widespread displacement of villagers into camps and neighbouring states, and the creation of a local counter insurgency force out of young, often minor, civilians. These Special Police Officers (SPOs) became the first line of defense against the ‘Maoists’ and a civil war type situation was created in Bastar. The understanding that the ‘Maoist problem’ is largely a ‘law and order’ and ‘internal security’ problem has been refuted by a committee of the Planning Commission in 2008 which outlined the material and political contexts under which Naxalism has been expanding its influence. The report clearly pointed towards the development challenges in the region and also cautioned against a purely militaristic approach towards Naxalism. It also clearly pointed out that if adivasi rights were not respected than the alienation between the adivasis and the rest of society was bound to grow.

Subsequently, the Salwa Judum was pronounced as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2011, which ordered that local civilian youth under any name (SPOs or otherwise) should not be used to combat insurgency, that all crimes committed by the state and Maoists should be prosecuted and that the victims of conflict should be compensated. Rather than following the Supreme Court’s directions, the Chhattisgarh government merely renamed the SPOs, and called them Armed Auxiliary Forces. It has recently recruited more surrendered Maoists and other civilians under the name of District Reserve Group. No-one has been prosecuted or compensated for crimes committed by the Salwa Judum vigilantes, SPOs and security forces. Above all, the government has intensified its military offensive, with Police, BSF and CRPF camps opened up in the most interior parts of Bastar Division, along with the liberal distribution of money to bribe villagers into becoming informants, along with coerced surrenders. This in turn has led to a kind of Maoist implosion. The Maoists have started targeting the local population, accusing them of collaborating with the police. This has escalated the conflict and placed the villagers in a position where they face repression from both sides.

In this situation a group comprising of Sanjay Parate, Secretary State CPI-M, Vineet Tiwari, Joshi-Adhikari Institute of Social Studies and CPI, New Delhi, Archana Prasad, Jawaharlal Nehru University and member AIDWA, and Nandini Sundar, Delhi University visited Bastar Division from 12 to 16 May 2016. The visit covered Bijapur, Sukma, Bastar and Kanker districts.  The focus of the visit was on the situation of ordinary villagers who are living through the conflict between the state and Maoists. In all four districts, we visited villages chosen randomly, but with a focus on the most interior villages. In both Bijapur and Bastar for instance, we visited villages located in or at the boundaries of National Parks to try and assess the role of the revenue and forest departments. Our conclusions on incomes etc. are based on rough estimates, and proper surveys need to be carried out. In all we visited eleven villages.

The level of Maoist presence and scale of state repression varies somewhat across the districts. The worst affected at the moment appear to be Sukma district, portions of Bijapur district and the Darbha and Tongpal areas of Bastar and Sukma district, but fake encounters, rapes and arrests by police and security forces, beatings(by both police and Maoists), IED blasts and killing of informers (by Maoists) are a serious problem everywhere.
The findings of the study team should be seen in this context.

The Material Context and Outcome of the Conflict
The historical underdevelopment and exploitation of Bastar has laid the foundation of the growing conflict. During its visit the study team tried to ascertain whether the villagers were receiving the benefits of the schemes run by the state in the normal course of governance, leave alone those created under the Integrated Action Plan for Left Wing Extremist (LWE) affected areas. We collected information about the main livelihood strategies, namely agriculture, collection of tendupatta, Public Distribution System and the work generated through the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA), as well as by the forest department.  Almost all the blocks visited revealed one common feature: the villages near the camps of the security forces or where these camps were located had better facilities than the ones which were in the remote areas. This is largely because the government is using development as an instrument to get villagers to cooperate with security agencies.

MNREGA
This is a drought year and there is mass migration to Andhra Pradesh and even further afield for work. The only way people are surviving is through this migration. For instance, if they go to AP for 2 or 3 months they get Rs. 8-9,000, which is often their only source of cash income apart from tendupatta work which lasts about 10-15 days a year.

However, there is no sign that the administration has responded by providing rural employment as required under MNREGA. For example in Somanpalli village (the panchayat headquarters near the road) all villagers have ration cards, get about 45 days of MNREGS work (at Rs. 160 per day) and 15 days tendupatta work. While the official rate is Rs. 150 per saikda or 100 bundles of 50 leaves each, the traders give Rs. 50 extra, such that the villagers are getting Rs 200 for 100 bundles. They also sell about 50 percent of their paddy production and get a profit of Rs 2500 per acre. The average size of land is three acres. Overall the family makes about Rs. 1300-1500 per month. In another remote village, Tadmendri in neighbouring Sagmeta panchayat (at a distance of 14 Km on the forest road), the villagers have not got any MNREGA work and had not even heard of it. They also have to walk 14 km for their rations and were not able to produce anything from their land this year because of the drought. The households of this village barely make about Rs. 1000 per month.

There are other villages in the Koleng panchayat in the Kanger National Park where villagers have not received wages for MNREGA work for several years. The Bhadrimahu villagers informed us that they completed work for making a road 6-7 years back under MNREGA but have not been paid for it yet. Therefore when the contractor contacted them to do MNREGA work recently, they refused to work for him. In Koleng, they have not been paid since February 2016, ie. 3-4 months.

In Kanker district, the villagers of HP had been given MNREGA work for three month to work on leveling the fields of three households. They had been paid only for two fields so far, although the work on the third field was also finished in March, i.e. three months earlier.

A look at the MNREGA website yields the following data about the amount of work generated for villagers in 2015-16 for selected panchayats visited by the study team:
 
Panchayat                        Person days of work generated, 2015-2016                  Number of Active Workers, 2015-16                Average number of days of work per person
Koleng                               1579                                                                                  371                                                                       4.12
Soutnar                              4305                                                                                  603                                                                       7.13
Sagmeta                            10810                                                                                318                                                                       33.99
Tongpal                               2539                                                                                 235                                                                       10.80

The lack of work in MNREGA is accompanied by machine driven construction of roads in the entire area.

In one case from Sukma district, we heard that the CRPF had organized the villagers to do MNREGA work (apart from free work cleaning up the CRPF camp), along with forcing the sarpanch to attend a mass fake surrender ceremony. The Maoists then detained the villagers, including the Sarpanch, for 12 days as punishment for cooperating with the district administration, and beat up some of the villagers.
In the Kanger national forest we found that the forest department, which used to provide employment in bamboo coupe cutting had stopped that work. The villagers had no work. In the Indrawati National Park area, villager said the forest department had stopped coming to their village.

Land Titles and Government Jobs
Although Chhattisgarh states that it has addressed 100% of the claims made under the forest rights act coming to a total of 8.5 lakh claims, with 3.47 lakh claims accepted and 5.07 lakh claims rejected,[1] we found that many people continue without land titles. For instance, in Tadmendri, only 10-15 households out of 38 households in the village had pattas. Other villages on the roadside like Ambeli and Gattapalli – which incidentally had actively participated in the Salwa Judum – had received pattas. There were many educated youth in the area who had not got any employment and were at home cultivating.
In Soutnar panchayat, one of the causes for resentment with the Maoists was that the police was giving surrendered Maoists jobs as part of the District Reserve Group but when they applied for jobs with the Bastar battalion, they had to wait for years and didn’t get jobs. Across the district, unemployment is a big problem.

Schools
Since the schools were earlier used as police camps, schools buildings were destroyed by Maoists in several villages between 2006 and 2010. In Soutnar, the school was destroyed as late as 2013, even after the CRPF had started building their own extensive barracks.

During the Salwa Judum the administration moved all schools to camps and has not restored them even when people have gone back. One such ashram school that we saw is Mukabeli whose ashram school is now housed in Pharsegarh opposite the security camp, more than 20 km away from the actual village. This is effectively a violation of the Right to Education Act of 2009 (RTE). Across the district, the government is building 500-1000 seater portacabin schools and ashrams next to security camps, rather than restoring primary schools to the villages.
One of the contentions made by the State is that the Maoists have been at the forefront in stalling the development of the region by asking the villagers to not cooperate with the government. While this may be a partial truth – as mentioned above, we heard of Maoists threatening villagers in some cases - the study team also found that in areas where there are no Maoists, there is no evidence of the developmental state and Chhattisgarh continues to be at the lower end of the Human Development Index of the country.
 
The Physical Transformation of the Area-Occupation by Camps
As soon as one enters Kanker it is clear that the conflict zone has arrived. In fact, even the guesthouse overlooking the Keskal pass has been taken over by the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) consisting of the CRPF, the BSF, the ITBP etc. The whole division is heavily militarized with CAPF camps every 5 km, and in the villages around Raoghat in Kanker district, every 2 km. These are being set up in complete violation of the 5th Schedule, Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act, 1996 (PESA) and the Scheduled Tribes and other Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 (FRA), under which the consent of the gram sabha has to be taken and the villagers claims settled. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs Annual Report, 2015-16, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has given general approval under Sec 2 of the Forest Conservation Act of 1980, to divert 1-5 ha in LWE affected areas, for developmental purposes. However, under this head it has also smuggled in “police establishments like police stations/ outposts/ border outposts/ watch towers in sensitive area” as well as two lane roads. It is not clear that this blanket permission is entitled to ride over the requirements of PESA and FRA. Just as irrigation facilities, schools, dispensaries etc. must be built in consultation with the villagers, so should police outposts.

What the villagers across the district reported was that camps come up at night, and people’s land is taken over, without their rights being settled. In HP village in Kanker district, three people lost marhan[2] land they had been cultivating for several years, and to which they should have been given title under FRA. They are unable to say anything to the camp authorities. There is visible and massive destruction to the environment, with trees along the roads also being cleared for security purposes.

In the Raoghat area, where the camps are very frequent, the villagers reported that the Maoists had ceased visiting the villages about 2-4 years ago. They said that earlier the security forces used to pick up chickens and steal money from the villagers but that has also ceased. In some places, we also got the impression that the villagers were scared to report rapes or other abuse by the security forces to avoid further trouble. There has been no visible developmental benefit of having camps in terms of land pattas, irrigation facilities etc. As one villager said: “Earlier the Naxalites stopped road building. Now that they have gone, the government pays us no attention.”

The expansion of the camps has also exacerbated the tensions between villagers and Maoists, as we discovered in Soutnar and Koleng villages of Bastar district, with a chain of police arrests leading to Maoist retaliation on those surrendering which in turn leads to villagers demanding camps, which in turn invites more Maoist retaliation. All of this has heightened the insecurity of the villagers, caused divisions within the villages and created the potential for a new Salwa Judum type of displacement and division.
As we note below, the camps have also led to greater insecurity for women.
 
Specific Instances of Atrocities and Repression
Marjum fake encounter:

In first week of May, 2016 one police personnel died and one got injured in a cross firing between Police/Paramilitary forces and the Maoists near Marjum village in Dantewada district. After a few days, on 7thMay, 2016, the villagers of Junglepara went to Bheemapara to celebrate Beej Pandum, a traditional festival of the villagers. The village has two paras: Junglepara and Bheemapara (para is a local term for hamlets, elsewhere known as mohalla or tola). Singing, dancing and hunting which are parts of the festivalbegan at around 9 am in the morning. At around 12 noon, they were informed by the villagers of the neighboring village Chitrapal that there was a firing in the forest and two boys were shot. Two boys aged around 17-18 years, namely Markam Mangloo and Podiyam  Vijja, who went to bathe in the nearby stream, were found missing from the group of the Junglepara villagers. According to the villagers, the patrolling force found them alone, shot them there and declared them Maoists. The newspapers were informed by the policethat both the boys were Maoists and they were killed in an encounter.
As soon as we reached Dantewada, we got to know that there was a press conference called on 12th May, 2016 evening by ex MLAs of CPI Nanda Sori and Manish Kunjam.[3] Their sources told them that the killed boys were innocent tribals. They brought the villagers to Dantewada and in the press conference, villagers accused the police of the fake encounter. Villagers said that both the boys had no connection with Maoists at all. Ms. Balmati, the Sarpanch of the village and the Anganwadi helper Aaiti were also present along with the family members, relatives and other villagers in the press conference who also confirmed that the police was making false allegations. The deceased boys and their families were well known to them and these were nothing else but the murders of innocent tribal boys.  They also said that later that day, two more boys namely, Dewa and Podiyam were arrested from their houses in the village.
Markam Mangloo’s father Santu passed away earlier. His mother Gangi is left alone without husband and son. Another deceased boy was Podiyam Vijja, son of Podiyam Godha (father) and Sukdi (mother). Both father and mother were shattered with the death of their son.  They were all sitting quiet and just answering the questions the press asked monosyllabically in a dull voice. Their language was Koya so Com. Manish Kunjam and others were helping in the translation. Marjum is located in deep dense forest. It was evident from the fact that no media person could succeed in reaching the village after the incident.

It is impossible to expect these villagers to fight for justice in the courts, when they find it difficult to even express themselves even in Hindi. When one of the media persons asked villagers regarding the police accusation that Rs. 7550was found with Mangloo, his mother Gangi, the anganwadi helper Aaiti and all others replied in rage, “That was the money he collected after selling imli (tamarind) and the wages he received after digging the dabri. He was so worried of losing that money to the Police or thieves that he kept it all the time with him and did not even give it to his mother.” They said, “Police had beaten us several times earlier. They even don’t leave the elderly people. We are beaten up from both sides. Naxalites say that we should not talk to the Police and if we talk they accuse us of being police informers and then they punish us. On the other hand, police people say that we help Naxalites by providing them ration and other things, so they also beat us often. Whenever they come to the village they take away all chickens and goats. We have no proper access to ration or any other thing. Our ration shop is also 15 km away in Katekalian village. In such circumstances, we live somehow.”

The villagers also informed us about a very serious thing in the end. They said that after killing the two boys, the force came to our village, picked up two boys, beat up many people and while leaving they sprinkled some liquid in our stored rice and foodgrain. It had a very bad intolerable smell. We thought it was poison so we threw that rice away.” There was no way of checking their allegation but if that was true then it is a very serious crime against them. It is shocking that not only are they surviving on their own and with very meager support from the government,but that another branch of the government should actually try and kill them deserves an enquiry and strict punishment.

The press conference was almost over when some villagers said that Mangloo was engaged to a girl Paike of the same village who was arrested earlier this year in February for being a Naxalite by the Police. She was also innocent. Mangloo was expecting her release soon and collecting money for his married life. The amount of Rs. 7550was also part of the preparation of his dream which died with him. Adivasi Mahasabha President Manish Kunjam informed the press that he had earlier also met the police and administration with regard to Paike’s arrest, on the grounds that she was engaged to be married. He raised the point that Naxalites do not marry so how could Paike and Mangloobe Naxalites when they were engaged and planning to marry.

CPI and Adivasi Mahasabha announced a protest demonstration for the fair enquiry of the incident on 19thMay, 2016.We got to know about the successful demonstration later through newspaper reports. [4]
 
The effect of staged surrenders, mass arrests and civic action programs on villages – Maoist beatings, revival of Salwa Judum style division of villages
Kumakoleng: We visited Kumakoleng, thana Leda, Tongpal block, Kumakoleng panachayat, where we had heard that the Maoists had beaten up villagers. This is a village dominated by the OBC caste of Dhakads (60 out of 110 households). Kallars, Rauts, Dhurwas and Gonds make up the rest. Here too, the village had got no NREGA work for the last five years; this year they got 20-25 days of work. Before the elections, they said, the government blindly distributed ration cards, after the elections, many of these were taken away. The agricultural wage rate is Rs. 100 for men, and Rs. 60 for women.

When we visited, we found that the village was largely deserted, after the Maoists had beaten up villagers on 17 April. 8 villagers had to be hospitalized, including two women. People were scared to return to the village for fear of being beaten by the Maoists. The sequence of events that we could piece together is as follows:

The Maoists came to this area between 2004 and 2007/8. In 2008, they held a janadalat in which they asked the villagers to support them. The villagers refused because they did not want a Salwa Judum type of situation in their village. The Maoists then beat up the village leaders, Gotti Ram Karma, Domu Markam from Markamiras, Jagdev Thakur and Dunu from Kumakoleng. Later, the Maoists also killed Beni, a Dhakad from Kumakoleng, and in 2010, they killed Somaru of Nama, both on charges of being an informer. (In Nama, people particularly resented the killing of Somaru – saying they did not think he was guilty as charged).

But several people also joined the dalams (armed wing of the Maoists) and sanghams (unarmed village level volunteers) were formed. There was a firing in Chintalnar near Kachiras, in which one of the dalam leaders, Sonadhar left his diary (Sonadhar was later killed by the police in Odisha). The diary contained the names of many villagers who had contributed food etc. to the Maoists. The police put pressure on these villagers, threatening to arrest them. In January, 2016 a Maoist called Shankar surrendered, and was used to identify sangham members. Therefore, in March 2016, approximately 50 people from Kumakoleng panchayat ‘surrendered’ to the police; some of them were also later brought around to identify others. The Maoists then put pressure on the villagers for surrendering. On 15 April, 2016 the police held a camp in Kumakoleng and distributed sarees, vessels etc. This was attended by the Additional SP among others.  At this shivir, some of the villagers, especially the Dhakad women,(the Dhakads have traditionally not been so close to the Maoists) asked the police to set up a CRPF camp in their village.  On 17 April,2016, the Maoists came looking for two people who had surrendered, SukhmanYadav and Bhagirath, and beat up a large number of people in Kumakoleng, including those who had asked for a police camp.  On 18th the police came and took 8 people to Maharani hospital in Jagdalpur. Only 35 out of 110 households are still left in the village.  The rest of them left for other villages to live with their relatives. The fear of the Maoists was very palpable.

The following day, we met one of the Dhakad women, Ramvati, who had been taken to hospital and was living in rented accommodation in Tongpal. According to Ramvati, apart from her, three other women had been hit that day, Devaki, Lachandei and Chero. Devaki also had to be hospitalized. Ramvati’s elder son, Tulsiram Nag, is one of those who had surrendered. She described how one of the dalam members had dragged her out from her shop and hit her on the soles of her feet, and with an axe near her eye.

According to Ramvati, not everyone in the village supported the idea of having a camp.

In neighbouring Nama village, Soutnar panchayat, all the villagers have resolved to keep the Maoists out and have been patrolling the villages with bows and arrows and axes for the last three months. They have not given their initiative any formal name like a gram suraksha dal and laughingly called themselves the ‘tangiya gang’. At night the youth sleep together in clusters for safety.

In the Soutnar case too, tension with the Maoists was created after the surrender of a former Maoist, Shankar, who then accompanied the police when they held a camp in the village and identified villagers. Earlier villagers were scared to go to Tongpal because they were treated as Maoists by the police and feared arrest.  Under pressure from the Maoists for surrendering, the villagers asked for a CRPF camp. As mentioned before, they were also put off by the beating and killing of a villager Somaru in 2010 on charges of being an informant, when the villagers felt he was innocent. A couple of villagers also complained that they were beaten when they did not give food to the squads.

We sat in an empty mining office, which was built in 2008. There is tin and colombite in nearby hills but mining has not started. The villagers said that illegal tin mining, which used to be rampant among immigrant traders in this area stopped about ten years ago, because the rivers used for smelting dried up.

In the meeting with 50 odd villagers including women, we were asked by the villagers what they should do. Responding to their question, we told them that in your condition, you are the best judge, but we must say that we want your safety, peace and development. Beating and killing the villagers by Naxals is definitely wrong and it should be stopped immediately but having CRPF camps around the village is not a long-term solution either. Ideally, the best option for the villagers would be neither the Naxalites nor police/CAPF camps, but their own open resistance to any interference in their affairs. Whatever happens, the villagers must stay united.
In Koleng village, a year ago, the villagers said that Maoists had killed Janpad member Pandu Ram Nag and left a note with his body threatening others for being informers. They complained to the police, and his wife is now sarpanch. More recently, the police held a camp and distributed sarees, blankets, lungis, vessels, sports equipment like a bat and ball for the school. When their supplies ran out, the police gave Rs. 50 to individuals,

The police also distributed mobile phones. Villagers told us that the elders had decided they would be better off with a police camp.
 
To summarise, under the pressure of Maoist coercion and police arrests, the villagers are trying to make difficult choices about who to side with and which will be a safer option for them. These are contingent, unstable and unhappy choices to have to make. A peaceful, democratic solution needs to be found in the long-term interests of the welfare of the villagers.
Arrests

Across the four districts, villagers complained of people being arrested in large numbers. The villagers have no understanding of the legal system, are forced to pay high fees to lawyers, and their lives are ruined. The law is being used as an instrument of torture rather than of justice or peace keeping.

Indrawati National Park area
In January 2016, three people were arrested from Sagmeta panchayat for ‘Naxali offences’: Tuggewadde, Munna Vedenja and Chinna Vedenja.
In 2016, the police shot three boys who were bathing in a nearby stream, namely Sukhram from Dokke village, Sukku from Bade Alweda village and Soma of Gundapur village. The deceased were taken to Maharashtra by chopper and then sent to Bijapur. Later, villagers were called by the police in Bedre and handed over the bodies for last rites.

Many villagers from this area went to a Salwa Judum camp in 2005. Tadmendri was one of the first villages which the Judum attacked. We got to know that first Judum people came and asked the villagers the names of the people associated with the sangham and dalam. When villagers refused, they were beaten up by the Judum people. Some of them got severe wounds. Later, there was a cross firing between the Judum and dalam people. When Police camp started coming up in the area, dalam people burnt the school fearing the police force would make the school its shelter. Since then, there has been no school in the village for last 10 years. Children go to Pharsegarh village which is 9 kms away from the village. There was an all out attack on the Maoists at that time and many people were killed.

In Mukabelli, during the Judum, one villager had two wives and both were shot by the police. One of them was pregnant too. One six-year-old boy was also shot. Most of the villagers went to the camp under police pressure. The Maoist also shot suspected informers, like the Patel of a nearby village, in 2008 or 2009.
We also heard that the Maoists helped people with medicines, and financial aid for students and in other ways.

Kanger National Park area: Arrests used to lure villagers to attend Jan JagranAbhiyans
In Darbha, police arrested 5 villagers from Bhadrimahu when they went to the haat or bazar on 26 August 2015. Three others were picked up from their homes. On 29 September, 2015, the entire village of Bhadrimahu was told to come to Darbha if they wanted to get the men released. So everyone from the village went, but instead of releasing the men, the police distributed sarees and other goods to the villagers. Instead, journalist

Santosh Yadav who came to report on the arrests was arrested.
A similar pattern was observed in the Chintalnar-Chintagufa area from Jan-March 2016 where the relatives of arrested persons were used to provide numbers to the police Jan JagranAbhiyans.
Arrests in Antagarh, Kanker district

Two men Pinashi Darro and Ramu Darro of Badarangi village have been picked up by the Police on the pretext of being a Naxal. Pinashi has now been in jail for the last one year. The villagers allege that a tiffin bomb was planted behind his house to prove that he is a naxal. When the police came to arrest Pinashi, they also beat up his elder brother Soma, and kept him in camp for a day. The Tadoki police demanded a bribe to let him off. Soma borrowed Rs. 20,000 from other villagers to pay this, but died of his beatings before he could return it. Ramu was picked up 3 months ago. His wife died and he has three small children, two of them girls, who have been left helpless. The villagers claim that he has nothing to do with Naxalites.

In Sadrangi village, one Jagjivan Darro was arrested on 30 March 2016 for the murder of a constable Jai Singh in 2008. The warrant came only in 2014, one of many in which the police arbitrarily fits in whatever names they want on existing crimes. In 2015, the BSF showed Jagjivan as surrendered in a big show in front of the SP. During the surrender period he was with the police for 15 days. However, since they had not done any paper work on his case – and his name was still implicated in the police records – he was arrested in 2016. JagjivanDarro is married and has three children. The eldest is in the 6th class, and the youngest is 4 years old. This indicates that he is hardly likely to be a Naxalite.
 
Rape and Sexual Violence
Alleged Rape in Indrawati National Park

A rape case was alleged of a young woman, Phullo, of Chuchkunta village, while she was working on an irrigation pond. The villagers said she was not a Naxalite, but has been raped and then arrested as one. She was raped by SPOs and men from the district force on 17-18 January 2016. The Pharsegarh camp forces patrol the area frequently. We asked the Camp-in-charge charge of Pharsegarh, Shivanand Tiwari, who said that she was from Platoon 2 of the local area Dalam, and denied any rape. He claimed that her father was kept along with her till she was taken to jail. She is now in Jagdalpur jail.

Rape and Sexual Exploitation by BSF SPO in a Village in Antagarh
A visit to Etebalka resulted in the revelation of a case of a young girl being exploited by an SPO, Budu Ram, s/o Phagu Ram, attached to the nearby BSF camp. He regularly visited her house and raped the girl 2-3 times. When the girl protested, the SPO threatened her and said that “the reward for being a police informer and SPO is that he is free to do all these things”. The girl was married off to another person by her family in June 2015 without any knowledge of this incident. Her in-laws discovered she was pregnant and she was sent home with a demand that the husband’s family should be compensated. The SPO already has two wives. A Panchayat was called to settle the matter. It decided that the SPO should pay Rs 51000 to the girl’s family, but only Rs. 25000 has been so far paid. The girl wrote a complaint to the district collector for which she has not got any response. There is no action by the BSF against the SPO.

The existence of such camps and the authority it gives jawans and SPOs/sahayakarakashak/DRG leads to sexual exploitation, and makes all women in the vicinity vulnerable. We also heard allegations of rapes, at least one of which resulted in death, in the vicinity of other BSF camps but the families were unwilling to talk.

Maoist Violence
In villages in both the Kanger Park area and in Antagarh, we heard stories of both police and Maoist killings in the past. For instance, in village Sarandi, in Antagarh, three men have been killed by the police in the past ten years. Four men have been killed by the Maoists, including MeghnathDhuruGond who was sarpanch for 15 years and was killed by the Maoists with an axe in 2011. For the past five years, however, the Maoists had not been coming to this area. However, as mentioned above, Maoist beatings and killings of so-called informers have gone up in parallel with state repression and co-optation of villagers.

Harassment of Study Team by State Police and Administration
At Pharsegarh on May 13, the Camp-in-charge, Mr. Shivanand Tiwari, invited us for a ‘friendly’ chat over tea, and then took our phone numbers and insisted on photographing us. One of us, Nandini Sundar, gave her name as Richa Keshav, since she had been harassed considerably in the past due to her Supreme Court case against Salwa Judum, and giving her real name would have meant that the team would have been detained and unable to proceed with the fact-finding. This is the only place where she gave this name. The details of all the team members were then relayed to all the police stations across Bastar, as if we were suspicious characters who must be trailed. We were then stopped at other points and questioned.

As soon as we left Bastar on 17 May 2016, a fabricated complaint was filed in the name of villagers from Kumakoleng and Nama alleging that the study team had gone to Kumakoleng and Nama villages and threatened the villagers that if they did not cooperate with the Maoists than their villages would be burnt and they would be killed. The complaint also alleged that the study team had gone to instigate the villagers against the government.

It is telling that they initially used the name Richa Keshav, when this was a name known only to the police. This unverified complaint was posted by the Bastar District Collector, Amit Kataria, on his personal facebook page and canards were spread in the social and electronic media about the ‘Maoist’ orientation of the study team. The entire episode was even linked to the fact that one of the Professors was from JNU and that it is natural that teachers and students from this premier university would be ‘anti-national’ and Maoist. Zee news went to town with a biased and defamatory story. A demonstration of ‘villagers’ was organized by the police outside Darbha thana, followed on May 23 by a letter to the President again in the name of these so-called villagers asking that the members of the research team be arrested and sacked from their jobs.On May 27, members of what used to be the Samajik Ekta Manch, a vigilante group but has which has now acquired several new names,organized a protest with pictures of Archana Prasad and Nandini Sundar, in Jagdalpur, accusing them of being Maoist and elitist.

​The Indian Express and Naidunia interviewed villagers, exposing how the police are fabricating the complaints. When the Indian Express reporter (29 May 2016) showed the villagers a copy of the complaint they clearly stated that none of the people were from Nama village. They also thought that the signatures could be of people who had surrendered to the police and got jobs as SPOs. Hence the so-called villagers are actually the people who have already surrendered or SPOs, and are all in the control of the police. They also started clearly to the reporters that no-one had told them to support the Maoists. 

The Press Release of the study team with its preliminary findings made its position clear that both the Maoists and the State were responsible for the existing situation. But the intimidation and witch hunting has continued.

All local people who accompanied the team are being harassed beyond measure. Manju Kawasi, a member of the CPI, who went with the team was visited by the police at midnight and asked to appear before the Sukma and Kukanar police. Mangla a villager we picked up to guide us to Nama has been continuously called for questioning. The car driver hired from Raipur has been repeatedly summoned to Jagdalpur. The police has also contacted all others whom we met and visited in the course of our visit, including old friends who had nothing to do with the fact-finding. The Superintendent of Police of Bastar has written to the Vice Chancellors of JNU and Delhi University sending them the complaints for “further pursuance”. However, no letter has been sent to us, suggesting that the purpose is not to carry out any genuine enquiry, but instead to carry out a media vilification campaign. RTIs have been filed in both JNU and DU asking if we took leave to go to Bastar. (As a matter of principle, we always do).

The story of this study team is, however, not unique. Lawyers and journalists in Chhattisgarh have been harassed by the administration on the grounds that they are ‘Maoist sympathisers and supporters’. Three journalists continue to be in jail on the same charges; one has now been released. It is increasingly clear that the state of adivasis in Bastar is very bad and the impact of the State-Maoist conflict is leading to the disruption of their daily lives. Their constant harassment and oppression has been a subject of much concern and any one who has tried to expose this has faced the ire of the State police. That Chhattisgarh is an intolerant police state is becoming more and more evident and the recent attacks on the study team are meant to ensure that no independent study groups visit the areas and voice the concerns of the adivasis of the State.

The general secretaries of CPI and CPI (M) have written to the Chief Minister and Home Minister protesting against the harassment of members of other political parties in a democracy. However, it is clear that the BJP is not interested in normal democratic processes.
 
Recommendations
To Political Parties

An all-party delegation should visit Bastar, especially some of the interior villages, and initiate conversation with a wide range of stakeholders to suggest measures for conflict resolution.

The parties should demand that the Centre and state government initiate a dialogue with all political parties and the Naxalites, and come up with a comprehensive plan that recognizes the rights and development needs of the people. 
The BJP must allow opposition political parties to operate freely without arresting and intimidating their members.

To the Central and State Government
There should be a high level judicial enquiry on all the encounters, arrests, surrenders and rapes and other atrocities by police, security forces and Naxalites since 2005.
There should be prosecution of all these cases and compensation should be paid regardless of perpetrator.
The camps should be removed.
The forest rights, and land rights of the people should be recognized. No projects should be implemented, including mining, without the full knowledge and consent of the gram sabha.
There should be a full accounting with on the ground verification of all works done under government schemes. In particular NREGA should be implemented, and all pending dues must be immediately paid.
The harassment of political activists, scholars, journalists, lawyers and others fighting for adivasi rights must be stopped and their freedom of movement and security ensured.

To the Maoists
The Maoists must allow all development works to take place.
They should allow political activity such as standing for elections.
They should stop beating people, and killing so-called informers. 
 
 

[1] Ministry of Home Affairs, Annual Report 2015-16, pg. 28
[2] non-patta less fertile land
[3] http://epaper.patrika.com/c/10263865
[4]http://naiduniaepaper.jagran.com/Article_detail.aspx?id=56001&boxid=17262&ed_date=2016-5-20&ed_code=43&ed_page=13; http://epaper.patrika.com/c/10472897
 

Appeal to Political Parties, Visit Bastar, Initiate a Dialogue, Restore Fundamental Rights

A fact finding report by academicians and activists also strongly recommends that the Central government must appoint a high level inquiry into all encounters, arrests, surrenders and other allegations of atrocities by police in south Chhattisgarh since 2005


An all-party delegation should visit Bastar, especially some of the interior villages, and initiate conversation with a wide range of stakeholders to suggest measures for conflict resolution. The parties should demand that the Centre and state government initiate a dialogue with all political parties and the Naxalites, and come up with a comprehensive plan that recognizes the rights and development needs of the people.  The ruling Bharatiya Jnaata Party (BJP) must allow opposition political parties to operate freely without arresting and intimidating their members. These are the additional recommendations of fact finding report by Sanjay Parate, Vineet Tiwari, Archana Prasad and Nandini Sundar who visited the region between May 12-16, 2016.

The rise of a new form of Salwa Judum, Jan Jagran Abhiyan distributing goodies to villagers on the one hand and committing atrocities on the other while Maoists continue to target ordinary Adivasis has accelerated the impossible situation in Bastar said a visiting team that released its fact-finding report on May 18. One day after an intreim report of the team had been released in Chhattisgarh on May 18, Home Minister, Ram Sewak Paikra was quoted by The Times of India as saying that the three Delhi professors "anti-nationals" after they visited Maoist-hit Bastar, triggering a police probe into allegation that they asked villagers to support the rebels. Communist Party of India (Marxist) functionary Sanjay Parate had accompanied the trio. 

Besides this, the complete report also recommends that, apart from the judicial probe into all encounters, government should ensure a prosecution of all these cases and compensation should be paid regardless of who the perpetrators are. The camps should be removed; the forest rights, and land rights of the people should be recognized. No projects should be implemented, including mining, without the full knowledge and consent of the gram sabha; there should be a full accounting with on the ground verification of all works done under government schemes. In particular NREGA should be implemented, and all pending dues must be immediately paid; the harassment of political activists, scholars, journalists, lawyers and others fighting for adivasi rights must be stopped and their freedom of movement and security ensured.
And to the Maoists, the report said that they, the Maoists must allow all development works to take place; they should allow political activity such as standing for elections; they should stop beating people, and killing so-called informers. The report can be read here.

The text of the report can be read here

Caught in an Irresponsible War

Report of a fact-finding team which visited Bastar division, from 12-16 May, 2016.

Sanjay Parate, Vineet Tiwari, Archana Prasad and Nandini Sundar
 
Bastar division, comprising seven districts, in the state of Chhattisgarh, is one of the most militarized zones in India, owing to the conflict between the State and the CPI (Maoist). This conflict which has been going on since the late 1980s, reached its current peak with the state’s sponsorship of a vigilante movement called Salwa Judum in 2005. This resulted in widespread displacement of villagers into camps and neighbouring states, and the creation of a local counter insurgency force out of young, often minor, civilians. These Special Police Officers (SPOs) became the first line of defense against the ‘Maoists’ and a civil war type situation was created in Bastar. The understanding that the ‘Maoist problem’ is largely a ‘law and order’ and ‘internal security’ problem has been refuted by a committee of the Planning Commission in 2008 which outlined the material and political contexts under which Naxalism has been expanding its influence. The report clearly pointed towards the development challenges in the region and also cautioned against a purely militaristic approach towards Naxalism. It also clearly pointed out that if adivasi rights were not respected than the alienation between the adivasis and the rest of society was bound to grow.

Subsequently, the Salwa Judum was pronounced as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2011, which ordered that local civilian youth under any name (SPOs or otherwise) should not be used to combat insurgency, that all crimes committed by the state and Maoists should be prosecuted and that the victims of conflict should be compensated. Rather than following the Supreme Court’s directions, the Chhattisgarh government merely renamed the SPOs, and called them Armed Auxiliary Forces. It has recently recruited more surrendered Maoists and other civilians under the name of District Reserve Group. No-one has been prosecuted or compensated for crimes committed by the Salwa Judum vigilantes, SPOs and security forces. Above all, the government has intensified its military offensive, with Police, BSF and CRPF camps opened up in the most interior parts of Bastar Division, along with the liberal distribution of money to bribe villagers into becoming informants, along with coerced surrenders. This in turn has led to a kind of Maoist implosion. The Maoists have started targeting the local population, accusing them of collaborating with the police. This has escalated the conflict and placed the villagers in a position where they face repression from both sides.

In this situation a group comprising of Sanjay Parate, Secretary State CPI-M, Vineet Tiwari, Joshi-Adhikari Institute of Social Studies and CPI, New Delhi, Archana Prasad, Jawaharlal Nehru University and member AIDWA, and Nandini Sundar, Delhi University visited Bastar Division from 12 to 16 May 2016. The visit covered Bijapur, Sukma, Bastar and Kanker districts.  The focus of the visit was on the situation of ordinary villagers who are living through the conflict between the state and Maoists. In all four districts, we visited villages chosen randomly, but with a focus on the most interior villages. In both Bijapur and Bastar for instance, we visited villages located in or at the boundaries of National Parks to try and assess the role of the revenue and forest departments. Our conclusions on incomes etc. are based on rough estimates, and proper surveys need to be carried out. In all we visited eleven villages.

The level of Maoist presence and scale of state repression varies somewhat across the districts. The worst affected at the moment appear to be Sukma district, portions of Bijapur district and the Darbha and Tongpal areas of Bastar and Sukma district, but fake encounters, rapes and arrests by police and security forces, beatings(by both police and Maoists), IED blasts and killing of informers (by Maoists) are a serious problem everywhere.
The findings of the study team should be seen in this context.

The Material Context and Outcome of the Conflict
The historical underdevelopment and exploitation of Bastar has laid the foundation of the growing conflict. During its visit the study team tried to ascertain whether the villagers were receiving the benefits of the schemes run by the state in the normal course of governance, leave alone those created under the Integrated Action Plan for Left Wing Extremist (LWE) affected areas. We collected information about the main livelihood strategies, namely agriculture, collection of tendupatta, Public Distribution System and the work generated through the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA), as well as by the forest department.  Almost all the blocks visited revealed one common feature: the villages near the camps of the security forces or where these camps were located had better facilities than the ones which were in the remote areas. This is largely because the government is using development as an instrument to get villagers to cooperate with security agencies.

MNREGA
This is a drought year and there is mass migration to Andhra Pradesh and even further afield for work. The only way people are surviving is through this migration. For instance, if they go to AP for 2 or 3 months they get Rs. 8-9,000, which is often their only source of cash income apart from tendupatta work which lasts about 10-15 days a year.

However, there is no sign that the administration has responded by providing rural employment as required under MNREGA. For example in Somanpalli village (the panchayat headquarters near the road) all villagers have ration cards, get about 45 days of MNREGS work (at Rs. 160 per day) and 15 days tendupatta work. While the official rate is Rs. 150 per saikda or 100 bundles of 50 leaves each, the traders give Rs. 50 extra, such that the villagers are getting Rs 200 for 100 bundles. They also sell about 50 percent of their paddy production and get a profit of Rs 2500 per acre. The average size of land is three acres. Overall the family makes about Rs. 1300-1500 per month. In another remote village, Tadmendri in neighbouring Sagmeta panchayat (at a distance of 14 Km on the forest road), the villagers have not got any MNREGA work and had not even heard of it. They also have to walk 14 km for their rations and were not able to produce anything from their land this year because of the drought. The households of this village barely make about Rs. 1000 per month.

There are other villages in the Koleng panchayat in the Kanger National Park where villagers have not received wages for MNREGA work for several years. The Bhadrimahu villagers informed us that they completed work for making a road 6-7 years back under MNREGA but have not been paid for it yet. Therefore when the contractor contacted them to do MNREGA work recently, they refused to work for him. In Koleng, they have not been paid since February 2016, ie. 3-4 months.

In Kanker district, the villagers of HP had been given MNREGA work for three month to work on leveling the fields of three households. They had been paid only for two fields so far, although the work on the third field was also finished in March, i.e. three months earlier.

A look at the MNREGA website yields the following data about the amount of work generated for villagers in 2015-16 for selected panchayats visited by the study team:
 
Panchayat                        Person days of work generated, 2015-2016                  Number of Active Workers, 2015-16                Average number of days of work per person
Koleng                               1579                                                                                  371                                                                       4.12
Soutnar                              4305                                                                                  603                                                                       7.13
Sagmeta                            10810                                                                                318                                                                       33.99
Tongpal                               2539                                                                                 235                                                                       10.80

The lack of work in MNREGA is accompanied by machine driven construction of roads in the entire area.

In one case from Sukma district, we heard that the CRPF had organized the villagers to do MNREGA work (apart from free work cleaning up the CRPF camp), along with forcing the sarpanch to attend a mass fake surrender ceremony. The Maoists then detained the villagers, including the Sarpanch, for 12 days as punishment for cooperating with the district administration, and beat up some of the villagers.
In the Kanger national forest we found that the forest department, which used to provide employment in bamboo coupe cutting had stopped that work. The villagers had no work. In the Indrawati National Park area, villager said the forest department had stopped coming to their village.

Land Titles and Government Jobs
Although Chhattisgarh states that it has addressed 100% of the claims made under the forest rights act coming to a total of 8.5 lakh claims, with 3.47 lakh claims accepted and 5.07 lakh claims rejected,[1] we found that many people continue without land titles. For instance, in Tadmendri, only 10-15 households out of 38 households in the village had pattas. Other villages on the roadside like Ambeli and Gattapalli – which incidentally had actively participated in the Salwa Judum – had received pattas. There were many educated youth in the area who had not got any employment and were at home cultivating.
In Soutnar panchayat, one of the causes for resentment with the Maoists was that the police was giving surrendered Maoists jobs as part of the District Reserve Group but when they applied for jobs with the Bastar battalion, they had to wait for years and didn’t get jobs. Across the district, unemployment is a big problem.

Schools
Since the schools were earlier used as police camps, schools buildings were destroyed by Maoists in several villages between 2006 and 2010. In Soutnar, the school was destroyed as late as 2013, even after the CRPF had started building their own extensive barracks.

During the Salwa Judum the administration moved all schools to camps and has not restored them even when people have gone back. One such ashram school that we saw is Mukabeli whose ashram school is now housed in Pharsegarh opposite the security camp, more than 20 km away from the actual village. This is effectively a violation of the Right to Education Act of 2009 (RTE). Across the district, the government is building 500-1000 seater portacabin schools and ashrams next to security camps, rather than restoring primary schools to the villages.
One of the contentions made by the State is that the Maoists have been at the forefront in stalling the development of the region by asking the villagers to not cooperate with the government. While this may be a partial truth – as mentioned above, we heard of Maoists threatening villagers in some cases - the study team also found that in areas where there are no Maoists, there is no evidence of the developmental state and Chhattisgarh continues to be at the lower end of the Human Development Index of the country.
 
The Physical Transformation of the Area-Occupation by Camps
As soon as one enters Kanker it is clear that the conflict zone has arrived. In fact, even the guesthouse overlooking the Keskal pass has been taken over by the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) consisting of the CRPF, the BSF, the ITBP etc. The whole division is heavily militarized with CAPF camps every 5 km, and in the villages around Raoghat in Kanker district, every 2 km. These are being set up in complete violation of the 5th Schedule, Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act, 1996 (PESA) and the Scheduled Tribes and other Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 (FRA), under which the consent of the gram sabha has to be taken and the villagers claims settled. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs Annual Report, 2015-16, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has given general approval under Sec 2 of the Forest Conservation Act of 1980, to divert 1-5 ha in LWE affected areas, for developmental purposes. However, under this head it has also smuggled in “police establishments like police stations/ outposts/ border outposts/ watch towers in sensitive area” as well as two lane roads. It is not clear that this blanket permission is entitled to ride over the requirements of PESA and FRA. Just as irrigation facilities, schools, dispensaries etc. must be built in consultation with the villagers, so should police outposts.

What the villagers across the district reported was that camps come up at night, and people’s land is taken over, without their rights being settled. In HP village in Kanker district, three people lost marhan[2] land they had been cultivating for several years, and to which they should have been given title under FRA. They are unable to say anything to the camp authorities. There is visible and massive destruction to the environment, with trees along the roads also being cleared for security purposes.

In the Raoghat area, where the camps are very frequent, the villagers reported that the Maoists had ceased visiting the villages about 2-4 years ago. They said that earlier the security forces used to pick up chickens and steal money from the villagers but that has also ceased. In some places, we also got the impression that the villagers were scared to report rapes or other abuse by the security forces to avoid further trouble. There has been no visible developmental benefit of having camps in terms of land pattas, irrigation facilities etc. As one villager said: “Earlier the Naxalites stopped road building. Now that they have gone, the government pays us no attention.”

The expansion of the camps has also exacerbated the tensions between villagers and Maoists, as we discovered in Soutnar and Koleng villages of Bastar district, with a chain of police arrests leading to Maoist retaliation on those surrendering which in turn leads to villagers demanding camps, which in turn invites more Maoist retaliation. All of this has heightened the insecurity of the villagers, caused divisions within the villages and created the potential for a new Salwa Judum type of displacement and division.
As we note below, the camps have also led to greater insecurity for women.
 
Specific Instances of Atrocities and Repression
Marjum fake encounter:

In first week of May, 2016 one police personnel died and one got injured in a cross firing between Police/Paramilitary forces and the Maoists near Marjum village in Dantewada district. After a few days, on 7thMay, 2016, the villagers of Junglepara went to Bheemapara to celebrate Beej Pandum, a traditional festival of the villagers. The village has two paras: Junglepara and Bheemapara (para is a local term for hamlets, elsewhere known as mohalla or tola). Singing, dancing and hunting which are parts of the festivalbegan at around 9 am in the morning. At around 12 noon, they were informed by the villagers of the neighboring village Chitrapal that there was a firing in the forest and two boys were shot. Two boys aged around 17-18 years, namely Markam Mangloo and Podiyam  Vijja, who went to bathe in the nearby stream, were found missing from the group of the Junglepara villagers. According to the villagers, the patrolling force found them alone, shot them there and declared them Maoists. The newspapers were informed by the policethat both the boys were Maoists and they were killed in an encounter.
As soon as we reached Dantewada, we got to know that there was a press conference called on 12th May, 2016 evening by ex MLAs of CPI Nanda Sori and Manish Kunjam.[3] Their sources told them that the killed boys were innocent tribals. They brought the villagers to Dantewada and in the press conference, villagers accused the police of the fake encounter. Villagers said that both the boys had no connection with Maoists at all. Ms. Balmati, the Sarpanch of the village and the Anganwadi helper Aaiti were also present along with the family members, relatives and other villagers in the press conference who also confirmed that the police was making false allegations. The deceased boys and their families were well known to them and these were nothing else but the murders of innocent tribal boys.  They also said that later that day, two more boys namely, Dewa and Podiyam were arrested from their houses in the village.
Markam Mangloo’s father Santu passed away earlier. His mother Gangi is left alone without husband and son. Another deceased boy was Podiyam Vijja, son of Podiyam Godha (father) and Sukdi (mother). Both father and mother were shattered with the death of their son.  They were all sitting quiet and just answering the questions the press asked monosyllabically in a dull voice. Their language was Koya so Com. Manish Kunjam and others were helping in the translation. Marjum is located in deep dense forest. It was evident from the fact that no media person could succeed in reaching the village after the incident.

It is impossible to expect these villagers to fight for justice in the courts, when they find it difficult to even express themselves even in Hindi. When one of the media persons asked villagers regarding the police accusation that Rs. 7550was found with Mangloo, his mother Gangi, the anganwadi helper Aaiti and all others replied in rage, “That was the money he collected after selling imli (tamarind) and the wages he received after digging the dabri. He was so worried of losing that money to the Police or thieves that he kept it all the time with him and did not even give it to his mother.” They said, “Police had beaten us several times earlier. They even don’t leave the elderly people. We are beaten up from both sides. Naxalites say that we should not talk to the Police and if we talk they accuse us of being police informers and then they punish us. On the other hand, police people say that we help Naxalites by providing them ration and other things, so they also beat us often. Whenever they come to the village they take away all chickens and goats. We have no proper access to ration or any other thing. Our ration shop is also 15 km away in Katekalian village. In such circumstances, we live somehow.”

The villagers also informed us about a very serious thing in the end. They said that after killing the two boys, the force came to our village, picked up two boys, beat up many people and while leaving they sprinkled some liquid in our stored rice and foodgrain. It had a very bad intolerable smell. We thought it was poison so we threw that rice away.” There was no way of checking their allegation but if that was true then it is a very serious crime against them. It is shocking that not only are they surviving on their own and with very meager support from the government,but that another branch of the government should actually try and kill them deserves an enquiry and strict punishment.

The press conference was almost over when some villagers said that Mangloo was engaged to a girl Paike of the same village who was arrested earlier this year in February for being a Naxalite by the Police. She was also innocent. Mangloo was expecting her release soon and collecting money for his married life. The amount of Rs. 7550was also part of the preparation of his dream which died with him. Adivasi Mahasabha President Manish Kunjam informed the press that he had earlier also met the police and administration with regard to Paike’s arrest, on the grounds that she was engaged to be married. He raised the point that Naxalites do not marry so how could Paike and Mangloobe Naxalites when they were engaged and planning to marry.

CPI and Adivasi Mahasabha announced a protest demonstration for the fair enquiry of the incident on 19thMay, 2016.We got to know about the successful demonstration later through newspaper reports. [4]
 
The effect of staged surrenders, mass arrests and civic action programs on villages – Maoist beatings, revival of Salwa Judum style division of villages
Kumakoleng: We visited Kumakoleng, thana Leda, Tongpal block, Kumakoleng panachayat, where we had heard that the Maoists had beaten up villagers. This is a village dominated by the OBC caste of Dhakads (60 out of 110 households). Kallars, Rauts, Dhurwas and Gonds make up the rest. Here too, the village had got no NREGA work for the last five years; this year they got 20-25 days of work. Before the elections, they said, the government blindly distributed ration cards, after the elections, many of these were taken away. The agricultural wage rate is Rs. 100 for men, and Rs. 60 for women.

When we visited, we found that the village was largely deserted, after the Maoists had beaten up villagers on 17 April. 8 villagers had to be hospitalized, including two women. People were scared to return to the village for fear of being beaten by the Maoists. The sequence of events that we could piece together is as follows:

The Maoists came to this area between 2004 and 2007/8. In 2008, they held a janadalat in which they asked the villagers to support them. The villagers refused because they did not want a Salwa Judum type of situation in their village. The Maoists then beat up the village leaders, Gotti Ram Karma, Domu Markam from Markamiras, Jagdev Thakur and Dunu from Kumakoleng. Later, the Maoists also killed Beni, a Dhakad from Kumakoleng, and in 2010, they killed Somaru of Nama, both on charges of being an informer. (In Nama, people particularly resented the killing of Somaru – saying they did not think he was guilty as charged).

But several people also joined the dalams (armed wing of the Maoists) and sanghams (unarmed village level volunteers) were formed. There was a firing in Chintalnar near Kachiras, in which one of the dalam leaders, Sonadhar left his diary (Sonadhar was later killed by the police in Odisha). The diary contained the names of many villagers who had contributed food etc. to the Maoists. The police put pressure on these villagers, threatening to arrest them. In January, 2016 a Maoist called Shankar surrendered, and was used to identify sangham members. Therefore, in March 2016, approximately 50 people from Kumakoleng panchayat ‘surrendered’ to the police; some of them were also later brought around to identify others. The Maoists then put pressure on the villagers for surrendering. On 15 April, 2016 the police held a camp in Kumakoleng and distributed sarees, vessels etc. This was attended by the Additional SP among others.  At this shivir, some of the villagers, especially the Dhakad women,(the Dhakads have traditionally not been so close to the Maoists) asked the police to set up a CRPF camp in their village.  On 17 April,2016, the Maoists came looking for two people who had surrendered, SukhmanYadav and Bhagirath, and beat up a large number of people in Kumakoleng, including those who had asked for a police camp.  On 18th the police came and took 8 people to Maharani hospital in Jagdalpur. Only 35 out of 110 households are still left in the village.  The rest of them left for other villages to live with their relatives. The fear of the Maoists was very palpable.

The following day, we met one of the Dhakad women, Ramvati, who had been taken to hospital and was living in rented accommodation in Tongpal. According to Ramvati, apart from her, three other women had been hit that day, Devaki, Lachandei and Chero. Devaki also had to be hospitalized. Ramvati’s elder son, Tulsiram Nag, is one of those who had surrendered. She described how one of the dalam members had dragged her out from her shop and hit her on the soles of her feet, and with an axe near her eye.

According to Ramvati, not everyone in the village supported the idea of having a camp.

In neighbouring Nama village, Soutnar panchayat, all the villagers have resolved to keep the Maoists out and have been patrolling the villages with bows and arrows and axes for the last three months. They have not given their initiative any formal name like a gram suraksha dal and laughingly called themselves the ‘tangiya gang’. At night the youth sleep together in clusters for safety.

In the Soutnar case too, tension with the Maoists was created after the surrender of a former Maoist, Shankar, who then accompanied the police when they held a camp in the village and identified villagers. Earlier villagers were scared to go to Tongpal because they were treated as Maoists by the police and feared arrest.  Under pressure from the Maoists for surrendering, the villagers asked for a CRPF camp. As mentioned before, they were also put off by the beating and killing of a villager Somaru in 2010 on charges of being an informant, when the villagers felt he was innocent. A couple of villagers also complained that they were beaten when they did not give food to the squads.

We sat in an empty mining office, which was built in 2008. There is tin and colombite in nearby hills but mining has not started. The villagers said that illegal tin mining, which used to be rampant among immigrant traders in this area stopped about ten years ago, because the rivers used for smelting dried up.

In the meeting with 50 odd villagers including women, we were asked by the villagers what they should do. Responding to their question, we told them that in your condition, you are the best judge, but we must say that we want your safety, peace and development. Beating and killing the villagers by Naxals is definitely wrong and it should be stopped immediately but having CRPF camps around the village is not a long-term solution either. Ideally, the best option for the villagers would be neither the Naxalites nor police/CAPF camps, but their own open resistance to any interference in their affairs. Whatever happens, the villagers must stay united.
In Koleng village, a year ago, the villagers said that Maoists had killed Janpad member Pandu Ram Nag and left a note with his body threatening others for being informers. They complained to the police, and his wife is now sarpanch. More recently, the police held a camp and distributed sarees, blankets, lungis, vessels, sports equipment like a bat and ball for the school. When their supplies ran out, the police gave Rs. 50 to individuals,

The police also distributed mobile phones. Villagers told us that the elders had decided they would be better off with a police camp.
 
To summarise, under the pressure of Maoist coercion and police arrests, the villagers are trying to make difficult choices about who to side with and which will be a safer option for them. These are contingent, unstable and unhappy choices to have to make. A peaceful, democratic solution needs to be found in the long-term interests of the welfare of the villagers.
Arrests

Across the four districts, villagers complained of people being arrested in large numbers. The villagers have no understanding of the legal system, are forced to pay high fees to lawyers, and their lives are ruined. The law is being used as an instrument of torture rather than of justice or peace keeping.

Indrawati National Park area
In January 2016, three people were arrested from Sagmeta panchayat for ‘Naxali offences’: Tuggewadde, Munna Vedenja and Chinna Vedenja.
In 2016, the police shot three boys who were bathing in a nearby stream, namely Sukhram from Dokke village, Sukku from Bade Alweda village and Soma of Gundapur village. The deceased were taken to Maharashtra by chopper and then sent to Bijapur. Later, villagers were called by the police in Bedre and handed over the bodies for last rites.

Many villagers from this area went to a Salwa Judum camp in 2005. Tadmendri was one of the first villages which the Judum attacked. We got to know that first Judum people came and asked the villagers the names of the people associated with the sangham and dalam. When villagers refused, they were beaten up by the Judum people. Some of them got severe wounds. Later, there was a cross firing between the Judum and dalam people. When Police camp started coming up in the area, dalam people burnt the school fearing the police force would make the school its shelter. Since then, there has been no school in the village for last 10 years. Children go to Pharsegarh village which is 9 kms away from the village. There was an all out attack on the Maoists at that time and many people were killed.

In Mukabelli, during the Judum, one villager had two wives and both were shot by the police. One of them was pregnant too. One six-year-old boy was also shot. Most of the villagers went to the camp under police pressure. The Maoist also shot suspected informers, like the Patel of a nearby village, in 2008 or 2009.
We also heard that the Maoists helped people with medicines, and financial aid for students and in other ways.

Kanger National Park area: Arrests used to lure villagers to attend Jan JagranAbhiyans
In Darbha, police arrested 5 villagers from Bhadrimahu when they went to the haat or bazar on 26 August 2015. Three others were picked up from their homes. On 29 September, 2015, the entire village of Bhadrimahu was told to come to Darbha if they wanted to get the men released. So everyone from the village went, but instead of releasing the men, the police distributed sarees and other goods to the villagers. Instead, journalist

Santosh Yadav who came to report on the arrests was arrested.
A similar pattern was observed in the Chintalnar-Chintagufa area from Jan-March 2016 where the relatives of arrested persons were used to provide numbers to the police Jan JagranAbhiyans.
Arrests in Antagarh, Kanker district

Two men Pinashi Darro and Ramu Darro of Badarangi village have been picked up by the Police on the pretext of being a Naxal. Pinashi has now been in jail for the last one year. The villagers allege that a tiffin bomb was planted behind his house to prove that he is a naxal. When the police came to arrest Pinashi, they also beat up his elder brother Soma, and kept him in camp for a day. The Tadoki police demanded a bribe to let him off. Soma borrowed Rs. 20,000 from other villagers to pay this, but died of his beatings before he could return it. Ramu was picked up 3 months ago. His wife died and he has three small children, two of them girls, who have been left helpless. The villagers claim that he has nothing to do with Naxalites.

In Sadrangi village, one Jagjivan Darro was arrested on 30 March 2016 for the murder of a constable Jai Singh in 2008. The warrant came only in 2014, one of many in which the police arbitrarily fits in whatever names they want on existing crimes. In 2015, the BSF showed Jagjivan as surrendered in a big show in front of the SP. During the surrender period he was with the police for 15 days. However, since they had not done any paper work on his case – and his name was still implicated in the police records – he was arrested in 2016. JagjivanDarro is married and has three children. The eldest is in the 6th class, and the youngest is 4 years old. This indicates that he is hardly likely to be a Naxalite.
 
Rape and Sexual Violence
Alleged Rape in Indrawati National Park

A rape case was alleged of a young woman, Phullo, of Chuchkunta village, while she was working on an irrigation pond. The villagers said she was not a Naxalite, but has been raped and then arrested as one. She was raped by SPOs and men from the district force on 17-18 January 2016. The Pharsegarh camp forces patrol the area frequently. We asked the Camp-in-charge charge of Pharsegarh, Shivanand Tiwari, who said that she was from Platoon 2 of the local area Dalam, and denied any rape. He claimed that her father was kept along with her till she was taken to jail. She is now in Jagdalpur jail.

Rape and Sexual Exploitation by BSF SPO in a Village in Antagarh
A visit to Etebalka resulted in the revelation of a case of a young girl being exploited by an SPO, Budu Ram, s/o Phagu Ram, attached to the nearby BSF camp. He regularly visited her house and raped the girl 2-3 times. When the girl protested, the SPO threatened her and said that “the reward for being a police informer and SPO is that he is free to do all these things”. The girl was married off to another person by her family in June 2015 without any knowledge of this incident. Her in-laws discovered she was pregnant and she was sent home with a demand that the husband’s family should be compensated. The SPO already has two wives. A Panchayat was called to settle the matter. It decided that the SPO should pay Rs 51000 to the girl’s family, but only Rs. 25000 has been so far paid. The girl wrote a complaint to the district collector for which she has not got any response. There is no action by the BSF against the SPO.

The existence of such camps and the authority it gives jawans and SPOs/sahayakarakashak/DRG leads to sexual exploitation, and makes all women in the vicinity vulnerable. We also heard allegations of rapes, at least one of which resulted in death, in the vicinity of other BSF camps but the families were unwilling to talk.

Maoist Violence
In villages in both the Kanger Park area and in Antagarh, we heard stories of both police and Maoist killings in the past. For instance, in village Sarandi, in Antagarh, three men have been killed by the police in the past ten years. Four men have been killed by the Maoists, including MeghnathDhuruGond who was sarpanch for 15 years and was killed by the Maoists with an axe in 2011. For the past five years, however, the Maoists had not been coming to this area. However, as mentioned above, Maoist beatings and killings of so-called informers have gone up in parallel with state repression and co-optation of villagers.

Harassment of Study Team by State Police and Administration
At Pharsegarh on May 13, the Camp-in-charge, Mr. Shivanand Tiwari, invited us for a ‘friendly’ chat over tea, and then took our phone numbers and insisted on photographing us. One of us, Nandini Sundar, gave her name as Richa Keshav, since she had been harassed considerably in the past due to her Supreme Court case against Salwa Judum, and giving her real name would have meant that the team would have been detained and unable to proceed with the fact-finding. This is the only place where she gave this name. The details of all the team members were then relayed to all the police stations across Bastar, as if we were suspicious characters who must be trailed. We were then stopped at other points and questioned.

As soon as we left Bastar on 17 May 2016, a fabricated complaint was filed in the name of villagers from Kumakoleng and Nama alleging that the study team had gone to Kumakoleng and Nama villages and threatened the villagers that if they did not cooperate with the Maoists than their villages would be burnt and they would be killed. The complaint also alleged that the study team had gone to instigate the villagers against the government.

It is telling that they initially used the name Richa Keshav, when this was a name known only to the police. This unverified complaint was posted by the Bastar District Collector, Amit Kataria, on his personal facebook page and canards were spread in the social and electronic media about the ‘Maoist’ orientation of the study team. The entire episode was even linked to the fact that one of the Professors was from JNU and that it is natural that teachers and students from this premier university would be ‘anti-national’ and Maoist. Zee news went to town with a biased and defamatory story. A demonstration of ‘villagers’ was organized by the police outside Darbha thana, followed on May 23 by a letter to the President again in the name of these so-called villagers asking that the members of the research team be arrested and sacked from their jobs.On May 27, members of what used to be the Samajik Ekta Manch, a vigilante group but has which has now acquired several new names,organized a protest with pictures of Archana Prasad and Nandini Sundar, in Jagdalpur, accusing them of being Maoist and elitist.

​The Indian Express and Naidunia interviewed villagers, exposing how the police are fabricating the complaints. When the Indian Express reporter (29 May 2016) showed the villagers a copy of the complaint they clearly stated that none of the people were from Nama village. They also thought that the signatures could be of people who had surrendered to the police and got jobs as SPOs. Hence the so-called villagers are actually the people who have already surrendered or SPOs, and are all in the control of the police. They also started clearly to the reporters that no-one had told them to support the Maoists. 

The Press Release of the study team with its preliminary findings made its position clear that both the Maoists and the State were responsible for the existing situation. But the intimidation and witch hunting has continued.

All local people who accompanied the team are being harassed beyond measure. Manju Kawasi, a member of the CPI, who went with the team was visited by the police at midnight and asked to appear before the Sukma and Kukanar police. Mangla a villager we picked up to guide us to Nama has been continuously called for questioning. The car driver hired from Raipur has been repeatedly summoned to Jagdalpur. The police has also contacted all others whom we met and visited in the course of our visit, including old friends who had nothing to do with the fact-finding. The Superintendent of Police of Bastar has written to the Vice Chancellors of JNU and Delhi University sending them the complaints for “further pursuance”. However, no letter has been sent to us, suggesting that the purpose is not to carry out any genuine enquiry, but instead to carry out a media vilification campaign. RTIs have been filed in both JNU and DU asking if we took leave to go to Bastar. (As a matter of principle, we always do).

The story of this study team is, however, not unique. Lawyers and journalists in Chhattisgarh have been harassed by the administration on the grounds that they are ‘Maoist sympathisers and supporters’. Three journalists continue to be in jail on the same charges; one has now been released. It is increasingly clear that the state of adivasis in Bastar is very bad and the impact of the State-Maoist conflict is leading to the disruption of their daily lives. Their constant harassment and oppression has been a subject of much concern and any one who has tried to expose this has faced the ire of the State police. That Chhattisgarh is an intolerant police state is becoming more and more evident and the recent attacks on the study team are meant to ensure that no independent study groups visit the areas and voice the concerns of the adivasis of the State.

The general secretaries of CPI and CPI (M) have written to the Chief Minister and Home Minister protesting against the harassment of members of other political parties in a democracy. However, it is clear that the BJP is not interested in normal democratic processes.
 
Recommendations
To Political Parties

An all-party delegation should visit Bastar, especially some of the interior villages, and initiate conversation with a wide range of stakeholders to suggest measures for conflict resolution.

The parties should demand that the Centre and state government initiate a dialogue with all political parties and the Naxalites, and come up with a comprehensive plan that recognizes the rights and development needs of the people. 
The BJP must allow opposition political parties to operate freely without arresting and intimidating their members.

To the Central and State Government
There should be a high level judicial enquiry on all the encounters, arrests, surrenders and rapes and other atrocities by police, security forces and Naxalites since 2005.
There should be prosecution of all these cases and compensation should be paid regardless of perpetrator.
The camps should be removed.
The forest rights, and land rights of the people should be recognized. No projects should be implemented, including mining, without the full knowledge and consent of the gram sabha.
There should be a full accounting with on the ground verification of all works done under government schemes. In particular NREGA should be implemented, and all pending dues must be immediately paid.
The harassment of political activists, scholars, journalists, lawyers and others fighting for adivasi rights must be stopped and their freedom of movement and security ensured.

To the Maoists
The Maoists must allow all development works to take place.
They should allow political activity such as standing for elections.
They should stop beating people, and killing so-called informers. 
 
 

[1] Ministry of Home Affairs, Annual Report 2015-16, pg. 28
[2] non-patta less fertile land
[3] http://epaper.patrika.com/c/10263865
[4]http://naiduniaepaper.jagran.com/Article_detail.aspx?id=56001&boxid=17262&ed_date=2016-5-20&ed_code=43&ed_page=13; http://epaper.patrika.com/c/10472897
 

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