#India – Salwa Judum’s record: 99 allegations of rape, not a single FIR


by  , First Post

When the Supreme Court in 2011 banned the Salwa Judum, a state-sponsored tribal militia propped up to counter Maoists in Chhattisgarh, it ordered the state government to investigate and register FIRs against all alleged criminal activities of the Salwa Judum.

In addition to allegations of murder (500 cases) and arson (103 cases), 99 affidavits were submitted to the Supreme Court accusing the tribal militia of rape. Women have been victimised by the Salwa Judum says the lawyer. AFP Women have been victimised by the Salwa Judum says the lawyer. AFP Two years after the judgment, the state is yet to register its first FIR against the Salwa Judum for sexual violence. “Where ever there is a war, women are the most vulnerable. In the Salwa Judum case itself there are affidavits in the Supreme Court regarding some 99 rapes and the court has to decide what to do about them. I personally had taken up the cases of six women that had not been registered by the Superintendent of Police. They had filed a private complaint and given their statements before the Magistrate. But ultimately they had to take back those statements under pressure and were not able to pursue them,” says Sudha Bharadwaj, Bilaspur-based advocate and General Secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) in Chhattisgarh. Expressing her disappointment to instances of the system’s unresponsiveness to injustices against tribals, Bharadwaj says, “When people have tried to raise issues in court, they have often been victimised. Cases of human rights violations have been pending before the Supreme Court, the High Court, the National Human Rights Commisssion (NHRC) years. Even in the recent Sarkeguda Judicial Enquiry, people have given their affidavits but nothing has happened so far. Unfortunately our institutions are failing people.” On 25 May, Mahendra Karma, the architect of Salwa Judum, was among the 28 people who were gunned down in a brutal attack by Maoists who opened fire on a convoy of Congress leaders while they were returning from a political rally. A recent statement issued by the PUCL condemning the cold blooded attack on unarmed political workers of the Congress party and as “unacceptable” and “reprehensible” draws attention to the ongoing cycle of violence in the state. “Under no circumstances can acts of brutality be justified, even if they be in response to equally heinous and brutal acts unleashed by the security forces, as we are seeing presently in Chhattisgarh, as recently as the killing of eight innocent tribal villagers in Edasmeta village of South Bastar on 17 May and 18 May, 2013, or in response to the brutalities committed by the vigilante Salwa Judum founded by the deceased Mahendra Karma,” reads the PUCL statement. Speaking about the apprehensions of tribals about fresh military operations by the government following last week’s attack, Bharadwaj says, “The Chhattisgarh PUCL has condemned the attack by Maoists in no uncertain terms. However, our great concern is that the only response we find from both the State and the Central government is of stepping up militarisation. While we totally appreciate the concerns on the law and order front, the basic democratic issues of the people of this region have to be kept in mind, they have to be addressed. Otherwise, it will be impossible to de-escalate this violence, to reduce the alienation of the tribal people.” A big concern that has now is the danger of displacement due to further militarisation of the region, says Bharadwaj. “In the course of the hearing of the Salwa Judum case, the NHRC had recommended that all internally-displaced persons should be rehabilitated in their villages. We seriously fear that with increased militarisation there might be more people fleeing. This should not be the case. Counter-insurgency operations should not become ground-clearing operations,” says Bharadwaj. Humanitarian medical agencies such as the MSF and Red Cross which are already operating in Bastar should be given free access to the region to provide medical care in order not to risk “criminalising an entire population”  she adds. “That will lead to serious collateral damage. A lot of innocent adivasis will get killed.” Urging for better sense to prevail, Bharadwaj refers to the government’s own reports that have argued at looking at left-wing extremism as more than a crisis of law and order. “The recommendations of the Expert Group of the Planning Commission on Left Wing Extremism, the Report of the Ministry of Rural Development, the NC Saxena Report on implementation of forest rights, and the recent letter of the Union Minister for Tribal Affairs Kishore Chandra Deo all speak very strongly about the importance of implementing PESA and the Forest Rights Act in its true spirit, about empowering the Gram Sabhas, about the need for taking people in confidence before mining or industrialization, and how these are the underlying issues which are feeding Naxalism. If they are not addressed, and people continue to be displaced or criminalised, it will result in further spiraling of violence,” says Bharadwaj.

 

Soni Sori acquitted in crucial case, lawyer optimistic of speedy Essar trial #goodnews #vaw


SUVOJIT BAGCHI, The Hindu, feb 14

A file photo of a protest by the All India Students
Association in New Delhi seeking the release of
tribal activist Soni Sori. Photo: V.V.Krishnan
A file photo of a protest by the All India Students Association in New Delhi seeking the release of tribal activist Soni Sori. Photo: V.V.Krishnan

Soni Sori, the tribal accused of acting as a courier between Essar Steel and the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist), has been acquitted in a crucial case filed in 2010 by the Dantewada district police against 19 individuals for allegedly opening fire and using explosives to blow vehicles of Essar. Ms Sori was one of the key accused in the case.

“But the additional sessions court of Anita Dehariya could not find enough evidence to substantiate the allegations and hence Ms. Sori was acquitted yesterday [Tuesday],” said Ms. Sori’s lawyer K.K. Dubey. Ms. Sori was arrested in 2011 by the Chhattisgarh police for allegedly arranging transfer of money from the privately-owned Essar Group to the members of the banned CPI (Maoist). Altogether, six cases were registered against her and she has been acquitted in four cases so far.

Hole in prosecution case

The witnesses presented before the court could not relate Ms. Sori to the case (sessions trial number 5/11) of firing and burning vehicles using diesel and explosives. “None of the witnesses presented by the police could connect Soni to the incident and that left a gaping hole in the prosecution,” said Mr. Dubey. Incidentally, Ms. Sori was acquitted in another case about a week back. In that case, (sessions trial number 4/11) the allegation was of firing on police near Essar Beneficiation Plant in Kirandul. “There also, witnesses could not confirm if Soni was related to firing on the police,” Mr. Dubey said. . Last year, Ms. Sori was acquitted in two more cases related to firing in Kuakonda police station and burning of a block office. “However, the more critical allegations against Ms. Sori acting as a courier between Essar and the CPI (Maoist) and the attack on Congress leader Avdesh Singh Gautam are continuing,” said Mr. Dubey.

Iconic figure

Ms. Sori — a tribal woman with three children — has emerged as an iconic figure symbolising the State’s attitude toward tribals since her arrest in October, 2011. Ms. Sori’s letter to her lawyer claiming that she was sexually assaulted in police custody under the direct supervision of a police officer, Ankit Garg, became a global rallying point on tribal atrocities. While Mr. Garg and the police continuously denied all the allegations, hundreds of intellectuals, academics, and civil society activists signed petitions, demanding justice for Ms. Sori — a ‘Stand Up For Soni Sori’ campaign was launched across the country. In major cities like London or New York, activists took to the streets, building up the case internationally for Ms. Sori and her 24-year-old activist-journalist relative, Lingaram Kodopi.

Interestingly, while Mr. Kodopi and Ms. Sori both are languishing in jail, like the other 2,000 tribal undertrials of south Chhattisgarh, for allegedly working with the Maoists, two of their co-accused got bail soon after the arrest.

D.V.C.S. Verma, the general manager at an Essar steel plant, and B.K. Lala, one of Essar’s contractors, were arrested in the same case allegedly for paying protection money to the Maoists, which according to police, Mr. Kodopi and Ms. Sori were carrying to the rebels. In fact, Mr. Lala was caught with Mr. Kodopi in the same Palnar market where allegedly Ms. Sori was also present.

While both Mr. Verma and Mr. Lala have been out on bail for a year, Ms. Sori and Mr. Kodopi are both behind bars in Bastar’s jails. Activists associated with the case feel that this is another ‘glaring example’ of injustice to the tribals. Ms. Sori’s lawyer, however, sounds optimistic: “Her acquittal in the all the minor cases may give her a speedy trial in the Essar case now.”

 

PRESS RELEASE- Statement of Protest and Demand for withdrawal of Gallantry award to SRP Kalluri


KALLURI

  25th January 2013

We, the undersigned, are appalled at the conferment of the President’s Police Medal for Meritorious Service to SRP Kalluri, IGP of Chhattisgarh.  Mr Kalluri raped a tribal woman, Ledha Bai, when he was the SP of Sarguja District, ordered her gang-rape by his juniors, and then terrorized her and her lawyer when she decided to file a complaint against him.  Coming on the heels of the award of the President’s Gallantry medal to Ankit Garg, who had sexually assaulted another tribal woman in his custody, Soni Sori, it appears that sexual violence against women by the police is well tolerated, and even decorated, by the government. Is it any wonder then, that we are witnessing a spiraling increase in crimes against women?

Ledha Bai is a tribal woman who was married to Ramesh Nagesia, a member of the CPI(Maoists).  Under advice from the police, she convinced her husband to surrender himself to the police. But, the police team, lead by the then-SP of Sarguja, Mr. SRP Kalluri, went to the pre-assigned meeting place and shot the unarmed Ramesh Nagesia dead, in front of his wife Ledha.  Ledha was allowed to live, but with the caveat that she would not tell anyone about this episode.  However, a few days later, Ledha, her 2 year old child and her parents were rounded up and taken to the police station. There, Ledha was stripped and raped by Mr. Kalluri, and green chillies were inserted into her vagina in front of her parents and daughter.  Under orders from Mr Kalluri, SPO Dhiraj Jaiswal and others gangraped her in police custody for about 10 days.  All this has been documented by several fact-finding teams and was also corroborated by Ledha’s statement in front of a magistrate.

When Ledha tried to lodge a complaint against Mr. Kalluri, she and her father were intimidated to the extent that they had to withdraw the complaint, and instead, false charges were filed against the lawyer who had helped her file the complaint.

Mr. Kalluri is well-known for the reign of terror he let loose in Sarguja district as its SP, under the pretext of fighting Maoists.  Extra-judicial killings were frequent, such as the one of Narayan Khairwar, and anyone who raised a voice against this was victimized.  Even a Rozgar Yatra led by the eminent economist Jean Dreze was subjected to a  lathi-charge, on account of being constituted of suspected Maoists.

Later on, Mr. Kalluri was transferred to Dantewada as Senior Superintendent of Police.  His authoritarian rule continued there, and activists and ordinary tribals were subjected to endless harassment under his orders.  Himanshu Kumar, a well-known Gandhian activist opposing Salwa Judum, had his ashram demolished and was forced to flee from Dantewada.  Mr. Kalluri held a press conference announcing the well-respected international organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and Doctors without Borders, were helping Maoists.  In another press conference, he announced that Lingaram Kodopi, a 20 year old journalism student in NOIDA who had addressed public meetings in Delhi talking about the reign of terror in Dantewada under Salwa Judum and Operation Green Hunt, was in fact a spokesperson for the CPI(Maoist) and had masterminded a Naxalite attack in Dantewada while sitting in Delhi.  Linga’s aunt, Soni Sodi, another outspoken tribal woman, was harassed by having multiple false cases lodged against her, and her husband arrested in another false case.  Any tribal activist, other than those working for the ruling party, were arrested and thrown into jail.  Consequently, CPI was forced to write a letter of protest to the Prime Minister, complaining of the witch hunt of their party workers under Mr. Kalluri’s reign, more than a dozen of whom were arrested and many of whom still continue to languish in jail. Kartam Joga, an elected Janpad member of the CPI, who had filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court against Salwa Judum, was similarly picked up on spurious charges and has just been released after 29 months in prison.

In March 2011, SPOs torched three villages in Dantewada district. As Swami Agnivesh was attempting to deliver relief to these villages, police sealed off these areas and attacked the convoy along with Swami ji and accompanying journalists.  The uproar created in the wake of this incident forced the Chhattisgarh government to transfer Mr. Kalluri out of this area.

In view of these crimes committed by Mr. Kalluri, we are unable to understand what constitutes meritorious service in the eyes of our government.  We demand that the medal be immediately withdrawn.

Signed by –

Shabnam Hashmi, Social Activist

Sudha Bharadwaj, Advocate

Shalini Gera, Activist

Nandini Sundar, Academic

Himanshu Kumar, Gandhian activist

Indira Chakravarti

Bela Bhatia, Academic

Kalpana Mehta

Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Feminist and human rights activist, Mumbai

Vrinda Grover, Advocate

Ram Punyani, Scientist and Activist

Mansi Sharma, Activist

Naish Hasan, Activist, Lucknow

Sheba George, Activist, Gujarat

Mahtab Alam, Activist and Journalist

Manisha Sethi, Activist-Academician

Sanghamitra Misra, Activist-Academician

Syed Zafar Mehdi, Journalist

Dr. John Dayal, All India Christian Council & Member, National Integration Council, GoI

Ahmed Sohaib, Activist-Academician

Aslam Khan, Activist, Delhi

Kavita Srivastava, PUCL

Navaid Hamid, member, Member, National Integration Council, GoI

S R Darapuri, former DGP Police

Annie Raja, National Federation of Indian Women

Zakia Soman, Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan

Zulaikha Zabeen, Journalist, Raipur

Sucheta De, AISA

Asad Zaidi, Three Essays Collective

Vinay Bhatt, Activist

Shaheen Nazar, Senior Journalist

Harsh Dobhal, Human Rights Law Network (HRLN)

Kavita Krishnan, All India Progressive Women Association (AIPWA)

Reena Philipm, Activist, Kerala

Reny Ayline, NCHRO

Purva Bhardwaj, Activist and Researcher

Prof. Apoorvanand, Delhi University

Kumar Sundaram, CNDP

Lateef Mohd Khan, CLMC, Hyderabad

Jay N Jayram, Researcher and Journalist

Seema Mustafa, Senior Journalist

Dilip Simeon, Academician

Aijaz Zaka Syed, Writer and Columnist

Prakash K Ray, Researcher

Irshadul Haque, Editor, Naukarshahi.in

Iftikhar Gilani, Senior Journalist

Seela Mahapatra & Madhuresh Kumar, NAPM

Prasad Chako

Utkarsh Sinha

Jawed Naqvi, Senior Journalist

Vineet Tiwari, Gen Sec, M P PWA

Meera Ahmed, University of Delhi
References:

1. Fact finding report on Ledha’s custodial rape http://www.hrsolidarity.net/mainfile.php/2006vol16no02/2491/
2. Affidavit filed by Swami Agnivesh in Supreme Court http://www.swamiagnivesh.com/SwamiAgniveshaffidavit.doc.pdf
3. Account of attack on Jean Dreze and Rozgar Yatra http://www.frontlineonnet.com/fl2213/stories/20050701006013300.htm
4. Letter from CPI to the PM http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2010-07-17/news/28409499_1_cpi-general-secretary-maoists-s-r-p-kalluri

Chhattisgarh Court acquits all 10 accused in #Dantewada massacre #goodnews


Kartam Joga, nine other tribals, were in prison since 2010 in charges of being involved in the Naxal ambush in which 76 CRPF jawans were killed in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh

January 8, 2013

File photo of the coffins of the 76 CRPF jawans in Jagdalpur. Photo: Shailendra Pandey

Ten tribal men, accused of killing 76 CRPF troops in Chhattisgarh three years back, have been acquitted for want of evidence. Kartam Joga, the petitioner against Salwa Judum in the Supreme Court, and zila panchayat member of CPI from Konta, has been acquitted by the Dantewada district court along with nine other accused. After Kartam Joga’s release, CPI took out a victory parade at their Sukma district headquarters under the leadership of Manish Kunjam.

Both CPI and Joga’s relatives have been saying all along that the police action was retaliation. TEHELKA had inquired into the matter after Joga’s arrest (Is CPI the next target in Bastar, Tehelka Vol 7, Issue 40, October 2010). The police had produced 43 witnesses in court. But ADJ Anita Dehriya found no substance in the police theory that the accused had killed the CRPF  jawans and looted their weapons. In Tadmetla case, the police had filed chargesheet against 92 people, 82 of the accused are yet to be arrested.

Along with Kartam Joga, Poyam Ganga, Podiyam Hidma, Kawari Budra, Duro Joga, Barse Lakhma, Madkam Ganga, Rajesh Nayak, and Madwi Dula have been in jail since September 2010. During the last two and a half years, the prosecution has not been able to prove a single charge. Joga’s lawyer Ashok Jain told TEHELKA that besides Tadmetla, the police have also filed cases against the accused of being involved in other cases of  naxal violence.  Joga had already been acquitted of other charges earlier.

Joga had filed a case against Salwa Judum in the Supreme Court. It is believed such cases were filed against them in retaliation. Meanwhile, CPI leader Manish Kunjam has hailed the courts decision as victory of jus

 

#India- Over 1 lakh children malnourished in Bastar #RIP #Indiashining


 

Raipur, Dec 12 – The Chhattisgarh Government today admitted that over 1 lakh children are suffering from malnutrition in the tribal-dominated Bastar region.

In a written reply to a question of Kuldeep Singh Juneja (Congress) in the Legislative Assembly, Women and Child Development Minister Lata Usendi said 1,15,093 children are suffering from malnutrition in Bastar division comprising seven districts as of December 2012.

Of these, 31,034 children are severely malnourished, while 84,059 fall in the category of average malnutrition, she said.

The highest number of malnourished kids are in Bastar district (35,034), followed by Kanker (27,482), Kondagaon (17,308), Dantewada (10,871), Bijapur (10,083), Sukma (8,811) and Narayanpur (5,504), Usendi said.

The Minister, however, denied any death due to malnutrition from 2008 till now in the Naxal-affected region in Central Chhattisgarh. PTI

 

Scarred by violence, but winners in life #Chhattisgarh


Scarred by violence, but winners in life: Youth from Maoists-infested areas beat odds to ace AIEEE

Tags: All India Engineering Entrance Examination | AIEEE | Tribal students | Maoist areas | Chhattisgarh
tribal students
Some students are victims of the Maoist conflict, having lost at least one parent to the violence.

Raipur, June 12, 2012

Two years ago, Sonu Khais from a Naxal-infested village of Bastar in Chhattisgarh could not imagine appearing for an all-India examination. Engineering wasn’t even an option on his mind.

“My father was a sweeper in a school that was damaged by Naxals. My aim was to become a compounder in any clinic,” said Sonu, who is one of the 149 tribal students, mostly from Bastar, who have cleared the All India Engineering Entrance Examination (AIEEE) 2012 in their first attempt.

Like Sonu, there is Ramsu Potai, a tribal student from Narayanpur, who until two years ago didn’t even know what the pre-engineering test (PET) meant. Similarly, Chendre Pulhe from Maoist-hit Dantewada district, to whom the idea of facing any all-India competitive test had never occurred, qualified the engineering test.

Many of these successful students were victims of the Maoist conflict, having lost either one or both their parents during the violence. But life in an environment of terror and the lack of good educational and career opportunities proved to be no handicap.

Two years ago, these students were brought to the state capital by officials of ‘Prayas‘ — a residential school managed by the state’s SC/ST welfare department of the state government since July, 2010.

The students quickly started doing well. They secured more than 90 per cent marks in their 10th board with distinction in physics, mathematics, chemistry and other science subjects.

“We didn’t score well in language papers that affected our overall percentage. Since our world was small and limited to our village, we could not think of appearing in AIEEE,” said Prakash Baghel from Sukma, about 450 km south of Raipur.

“This is the result of the efforts and zeal of the tribal students, who proved their mettle and emerged successful. The results indicate that tribal students only need proper guidance, encouragement and a better environment,” said R P Mandal, principal secretary, SC/ST welfare department.

“It was incredible that all the tribal students succeeded in their first attempt facing such a difficult exam. There is an obvious relationship between personal factors, behavioural patterns and environment condition that play an important role in performance accomplishments,” said Anirudh Sinha, a counsellor and an educationist.

Shankar Markam from Bastar, Ravi Kashyap from Manpur in Rajnandgaon, and Paldev Mukka from Bijapur felt inspired and motivated by the action taken by the state, which spent Rs.1,000 for each student every month on food and Rs.30,000 for providing various other amenities during their stay and coaching in the residential school.

“The sole aim of Prayas is to get tribal students from the Maoist-affected regions and motivate them for the All India level competitive exams,” Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh said, giving all the credit to the students who succeeded.

Encouraged by these results, the department has planned a similar programme for girls from the left-wing extremist areas of Chhattisgarh.

Indiatoday

The unending struggle of Bastar adivasis


Javed Iqbal | Friday, May 4, 2012, DNA

Conflict and displacement in Bastar leads to deprivation and forest loss in neighbouring Khammam

Around 43 families from the villages of Millampalli, Simalpenta, Raygudem, Darba and Singaram in Dantewada district, lost their makeshift homes for the second time in three months in the Mothe Reserve Forest of Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh on March 26, when the forest department, mandated to protect the forests, evicted them using force.

A large number of families are internally displaced persons who’ve escaped the Salwa Judum-Maoist conflict of Dantewada and have lived in Khammam as informal labour.

Most originated from Millampalli, that was burnt down by the Salwa Judum in 2006 and Maoists have killed at least three people — Sodi Dola, Komaram Muthaiya and Madkam Jogaiya in the past 10 years. Another resident of Millampalli, Dusaru Sodi, used to be a member of the Maoist Sangam but would eventually become a special police officer who witnesses from Tadmentla and Morpalli alleged was present during the burnings of the villages or Tadmetla, Morpalli and Timmapuram in March 2011 by security forces. His name again reappeared in testimonies by rape victims, submitted to the National Commission of Women and the Supreme Court by anthropologist Nandini Sundar.

Madvi Samaiya and Madvi Muthaiya from the village of Raygudem were also killed by the Maoists. In Simalpenta, the Sarpanch’s brother Kurra Anda was killed by the Maoists in 2006.In Singaram, an alleged encounter that took place on January 9, 2009, where 19 adivasis were killed by security forces as alleged Maoists.

In Khammam, most of the IDPs/migrants have worked as informal labour during the mircchi cutting season, earning around Rs100/day and live off their savings in the summer season when there is no work, and little access to water to a majority of the settlements. The Muria from Chhattisgarh, or the Gotti Koya as they are known in Andhra along with Koyas from Chhattisgarh, have been in a struggle to appropriate the reserve forest land of Khammam for podu cultivation, often leading the forest department to evict them, aware that the entire forest cover is turning into a ‘honeycomb,’ as described by the DFO Shafiullah, who pointed out to satellite imagery of a pockmarked forest in Khammam, back in 2010.

The influx of migrants and displaced persons has even led to conflicts with local adivasi Koya tribes over land and resources, sometimes leading to deadly clashes, like an incident in Mamallivaye in Aswapuram Mandal where the local Koya burned down the homes of the Gotti Koya, or in Kamantome settlement in 2009 where one man would be killed as a Maoist by the police after an erroneous tip-off from the neighbouring village of migrants who had settled before the civil war.

Recently, the forest survey of India, forest and environment ministry, published a controversial report that almost exonerated mining and land acquisition, and yet claimed that over 367 sq km of forest has been lost since 2009, pushing Khammam district to one of the worst affected districts where 182 sq km of forest cover have been lost.

In a recorded conversation between an activist and home minister P Chidambaram during the first months of Operation Green Hunt in late 2009, when repeated combing operations in Dantewada/Bijapur led to further influx of IDPs into Andhra Pradesh, the activist Himanshu Kumar had urged P Chidambaram to look into the plight of the IDPs and the migrants, yet his claims were refuted by the home minister as an exaggeration.

Yet there have been many recent reports of IDPs from the previously independently estimated 203 settlements who have returned to their villages owing to a decline in the frequency of combing operations and violent actions in their villages in Chhattisgarh and further difficulty to settle in AP. After the villages of Nendra, Lingagiri and Basaguda block were rehabilitated with the help of NGOs and activists using Supreme Court orders, many others have simply moved back to their villages on their own accord, including those of Kistaram, Uskowaya, Kanaiguda, Mullempanda, Gompad and Gaganpalli, to mention a few. Both Gompad, and Gaganpalli have faced a large number of killings — nine people were killed in Gompad on October 1, 2009 by security forces, and in the village of Gaganpalli, from where one of the leaders of the Salwa Judum originates, 10 people were killed in 2006 during the burning of the village by the Salwa Judum.

Read more here

 

 

Naxals are the govt in a village India just discovered


automatic rifles, satellite phones and Swedish Carl Gustav rocket launchers made their very first foray into the dense Abujhmad jungle, straddling the two states of Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh.  Abujhmad, or ‘unknown hill’ — 6,000 sq km of thick forest — has not been surveyed since the British.https://i0.wp.com/www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2012/4/22_04_12-metro1_mumbai.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As part of the operation, security forces had zoomed in on a map of the area with the help of Google Earth, on to a couple of structures they identified as a ‘naxal camp’. A plan was prepared to go in and take out the naxalites. The mission had a second aim — the stronghold had to be psychologically breached, since it is as much home to the naxals as it is a zone ‘liberated’ of all government control.

Primed for a fierce fight, weapons ready, the troops marched 70 km to the ‘naxal camp’.

What they found instead was a village with 15 to 20 thatched huts. The cluster of buildings the forces saw for the first time on Google Earth were homes of Muria tribals, now startled at the sight of armed men in uniform.

“Nobody knew there was a village called Bodiguda,” S Elango, CRPF DIG (operations) exclaimed, of a village that had been discovered for the first time since Independence.

The nameless, faceless tribals — who have never seen or heard of electricity or water taps, schools or dispensaries, men or machines — have grown up believing the naxals are the government. The rebels bring them rice and medicines and take care of their daily needs. They’ve never seen transport or ration through PDS; what they are familiar with is the Red army.

The closest to civilisation is a larger village — or town — called Behramgarh, 29 km away, which also has a police station but the tribals of Bodiguda
seldom venture there.

The grand strategy — to control the naxal spread — is to clear, hold and develop. Last month’s security operation that took weeks of planning ended with a one-hour exchange of fire in the jungles. Two injured jawans, no naxal arrests, and yes, the discovery of Bodiguda.

Early this week, home minister P Chidambaram, speaking of the Red threat to chief ministers, said they did not have the upper hand because “there are not enough men, weapons and vehicles, not enough roads, and not enough… civil administration.” He could well have added another line — and some states don’t know of villages where our own live.

Postscript: nobody knows how many Bodigudas lie nestled in the unknown hill.

“Operation Haka ” in Chhattisgarh, India


Chasing shadows in Abujmard

AMAN SETHI

GROUND ZERO: Apart from reports of civilian deaths and property damage, the outcomes of ‘Operation Hakka' are still unclear. A burnt house. Photo: Aman Sethi
The Hindu—GROUND ZERO: Apart from reports of civilian deaths and property damage, the outcomes of ‘Operation Hakka’ are still unclear. A burnt house. Photo: Aman Sethi

‘Operation Haka’ has been dramatically projected as the storming of a ‘red citadel’. The reality could be more complex.

Between March 10 and March 17 this year, troopers of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the CRPF’s special Combat Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA), and the Chhattisgarh Police’s Special Task Force entered Abujmard: a 6,000 sq.km expanse of uncharted forest described, by some, as a liberated territory controlled by guerilla forces of the Communist Party of India (Maoist).

Security forces have arrested 13 villagers suspected of belonging to the banned organisation. Narayanpur’s Superintendent of Police, Mayank Srivastav toldThe Hindu that teams in Narayanpur engaged in “at least 12 to 13” exchanges of fire with the Maoists. A nine page Maoist communiqué sent to this correspondent accuses the security forces of burning homes, looting villages and killing at least one villager in the course of the raids. In a visit to Toke, a village targeted by security forces, villagers corroborated at least some of the Maoist claims.

“Operation Haka” (described as a hunt for wild animals in the local Mariya dialect) is the first coordinated, multi-State push into Abujmard and can be read as a new phase in the attritional battle between security forces and the Maoists.

In 2009, Central and State forces conducted a series of joint operations, described as “Operation Green Hunt” by the press, along the borders of Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district and Andhra Pradesh. The raids proved controversial after eyewitness accounts published in The Hindu claimed at least 21 presumably innocent villagers, including a 12-year-old girl and a 65-year-old grandmother, were killed in two separate raids.

In the aftermath of “Operation Haka,” like in 2009, sections of the media have amplified stories to reflect an official narrative of storming a “red citadel.” But the following account, based on interviews with senior sources in the police and central paramilitary forces, reveals a far more complicated reality.

One evening last week, children sang the Gayatri Mantra, a devotional hymn chanted by Hindus, before sitting down to a meal of rice, potatoes and soya nuggets cooked at the government residential school at Toke, one of three ‘Maoist’ villages in Naryanpur targeted in the course of “Operation Haka.”

Dusu Dhurva, the school cook, said the children had picked up the hymn from two state government teachers who taught for at least two weeks in a month, and ferried government rations for the village school. The Maoists also held meetings in Toke, Mr. Dhurva said, suggesting that Abujmard could be understood as comprising zones of overlapping influence of Maoists and the State rather than hermetically sealed compartments controlled by either entity.

On the afternoon of March 16, Mr. Dhurva climbed a hill and watched as security forces appeared on the outskirts of the Toke accompanied by Udhav Ram, a middle-aged cow herder who they had caught en route. “I was returning from a wedding with my son when the force emerged from behind a forest ridge,” said Mr. Ram in an interview, “They threw me to the ground, kicked me savagely, tied my hands behind my back and marched me in the direction of Toke.” Mr. Ram said he protested his innocence, and was eventually released.

Mr. Ram said the forces moved in several batches. He and his escorts entered Toke at about 2:30 p.m. that day and were confronted by the sight of a house allegedly set alight by preceding teams of troopers. It was Keye Dhurva’s house.

“We were in the fields on the day of the operation,” said Keye Dhurva’s son, Sannu Dhurva, “When I came home at about 5 p.m., the house was burnt.” Mr. Sannu said the family lost two trunks worth of clothes, all their kitchen utensils, about a quintal of grain and Rs.16,000 that was the entirety of the family’s savings.

“We were in the house when the force came,” said Aite Gota, another Toke resident, “I told my husband to run away into the forest, but he said ‘No, I’m going to sit in the ghotul [an open structure where villagers gather].” Ms Gota said she saw security forces surround her husband, throw him to the ground and beat him over the head. When the beatings stopped, Ms Gota said, her husband – Dunga Gota – was dead. Apart from her testimony, this correspondent was unable to independently verify Mr. Gota’s death as his body had been buried, and Ms Gota said she did not have a photograph of her husband. Villagers pointed to a freshly dug grave by way of evidence.

Residents said the forces stormed the village, kicking down doors, catching chickens and piglets and seizing utensils. They camped briefly near a stream west of Toke, before leaving for Jatwar at about 6 pm. En route, resident Vatte Dhurva said, they burnt a grain store he had built on his farmlands outside Toke. “They burnt about 10 kandi of Kosara [a coarse cereal], 25 kg of paddy and 20 kg of rice,” Vette Dhurva said. One kandi is about 30 kg.

Naryanpur SP Mayank Srivastav categorically denied the villagers’ allegations,

“Nobody was beaten up, this is the truth,” he said in his office, “We treated every villager we met with love. We tried to help them and we helped them.” Mr. Srivastav said he would act upon any complaint registered by villagers, adding that the absence of a body suggested that the death of Mr. Gota could be a case of Maoist propaganda. The forces also came under fire on the outskirts of Toke, he added.

Mr. Srivastav said his forces raided Toke, Hikonar and Jatwar on the basis of prior information. “We recovered some documents from Toke…the maximum recoveries were in Hikonar where we recovered two trunks of documents and plastic explosive with boosters and detonators,” Mr. Srivastav said, noting that the discovery of plastic explosive was relatively rare. Forces encountered the maximum resistance at Jatwar village where the guerillas fired on helicopter attempting to airdrop supplies for troops camped at the village.

This correspondent couldn’t reach Jatwar and Hikonar, but the Maoist report claims the guerilla attacked the forces between Hikonar and Jatwar and injured two CoBRA commandoes; a helicopter was dispatched to evacuate the injured but the Maoists were allegedly “at its back like honeybees.” The report also claimed that forces burnt a home in Jatwar and damaged houses and property in villages across Bijapur and Gadchiroli but the allegations could not be independently verified.

In Abujmard, as elsewhere in Chhattisgarh, the ripple effects of State and Maoist intervention in adivasi villages has made it difficult to distinguish between guerillas and villagers, “camps” and “villages,” Maoist propaganda centres from government ashrams and ‘Maoist rations’ from the subsidised rice distributed by the state government.

Apart from reports of civilian deaths and property damage, the outcomes of “Operation Hakka” are still unclear. Senior officers acquainted with the operation freely admit that the weeklong exercise is unlikely to significantly change the situation on the ground.

“Towards the end it became an exercise in endurance,” said a senior officer speaking on background. “All exchanges of fire were over long distances…the two officers injured were struck by lucky hits from well over 400 yards. Why would the Maoists attack us directly?”

The nature of the recoveries — one 303 rifle, a 12 bore, five country made shotguns, Maoist literature, samples of plastic explosive and a portable printer — belie the existence of a so-called ‘Red Citadel’ that can be stormed by military action.

“The operation has busted the myth of a single Maoist stronghold if anyone still believed it,” explained a source, “The Maoists are not fighting a positional war in which they try to hold and defend territory.” Instead, the guerillas in Chhattisgarh are organised into a series of 12 fighting companies that camp as discrete units, coalesce to attack when they have the upper hand and fade away into the rolling hills when confronted by a superior force. One option, officers believe, is to expand the imprint of the force by setting up camps across Abujmard. The move could be accompanied by expanding informer networks to allow for intelligence-based strikes.

“Those inclined to view Operation Hakka as a strike at the heart of the Maoist stronghold would do well to remember Mao’s dictum of guerrilla warfare reproduced in a document titled ‘Strategies and Tactics of the Indian Revolution’, “When the enemy advances, we retreat; when the enemy camps, we harass; when the enemy tires, we attack; when the enemy retreats, we pursue.”

aman.sethi@thehindu.co.in

Related articles

My name is NOT red


By Deepak Tiwari Story Dated: Saturday, March 31, 2012, The week

 

Case #1: Ulihatu, Jharkhand
Schoolgirls Juliana Purti, Jasmani and Magdali Mundu were picked up by the Jharkhand Police on October 30, 2010. The girls had stayed over at Juliana’s relative’s house after watching a hockey match. The police nabbed the relative on suspicion of being a Naxal sympathiser. The girls spent three months in jail for being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Juliana now studies in class 9 at Saint Mary’s School, Muruhu, 30km from Ranchi. She refuses to talk about the nightmare in jail and smiles rarely. She stays near the school, sharing a room with seven others. Her teachers showed her school records to the police to convince them that the girl was indeed a teenager. The police accused them of forging records.
Incidentally, Juliana comes from the same village as Birsa Munda, the legendary tribal who fought the British.
Case #2: Ganjam, Orissa
Auphira Badmajhi, a BSc. student of Khallikote Government College, was jailed under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, and sections of the Indian Penal Code. His only fault was that he was at home on vacation when the paramilitary raided his village. Auphira thought his English speaking skills would help the security forces interact better with the villagers. But it made the forces suspicious of him. He spent 10 months in jail, despite his college certifying that he had 90 per cent attendance and was a meritorious student.
Case #3: Ranchi, Jharkhand
Jeetan Marandi spent three years in jail for being the namesake of a wanted Naxal. Through his Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikash Andolan, Jeetan highlighted human rights issues and fought forcible land acquisition in Jharkhand. He was jailed because his namesake was accused in a Naxal attack which killed 20 people, including Anup Marandi, son of former Jharkhand chief minister Babulal Marandi, in October 2007.
On appeal, the courts absolved Jeetan of all charges. He was to be released on December 15, 2011, when the government filed fresh cases against him.

These lives have been caught in the crossfire between the Maoists and the state. Certain sections of the government and bureaucracy conveniently tag them as collateral damage and scoff at the idea of compensating them for their suffering. But what does the law have to say about it? In the Naxal belt, the laws are many and their interpretation varied (see list on page 43).
The central laws and state-specific laws were framed to give the police adequate powers to maintain internal security and deal effectively with insurgents. The problem lies in the interpretation. For example, the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005 (CSPSA) allows the police to arrest people committing “an unlawful act by words spoken or written or by signs or by visible representation or otherwise”.
The interpretation of “unlawful” has led to the arrest and imprisonment, without trial, and, in many cases, without any charges, of hundreds of innocent villagers, social and human rights activists, teachers and journalists in the poorly connected and poorly developed Naxal belt. Rajendra Kumar Sail, former president, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Chhattisgarh, equated these laws with the colonial Rowlatt Act. He said they work on the principle of “no dalil, no vakil, no appeal [No plea, no lawyer, no appeal].”
On March 29, a Delhi trial court absolved high-profile Naxal leader Kobad Ghandy of terror charges. The judgment came after a protracted legal battle. Despite being a popular doctor and having innumerable well-wishers in India and abroad, Binayak Sen had to spend two years in jail. The fate of the nameless faces can only be imagined.
An example is Junash Pradhan, 45, chairperson, Daringbadi block panchayat samiti, Kandhamal, Orissa, who was arrested on January 9. He was charged with involvement in a landmine blast, but actually his crime was speaking out for innocent tribals who were arrested for being Maoist supporters.
Said Narendra Mohanty, convener, Banvasi Surakshya Parishad: “Junash had organised a protest against the local police on May 5, 2011, to protest the killing of innocent tribals. It seems he was arrested and tortured to prevent him from contesting in the panchayat elections.”
Mohanty himself stands accused in another landmine blast case in Kandhamal. He has left the district, and came to Bhubaneswar secretly to meet THE WEEK. He said the case was foisted on him as his organisation helped tribals fight exploitation.
In an appeal before the National Human Rights Commission, Mohanty said Junash had no criminal links or involvement with banned organisations. “Since 2008, he has been a government nominee on a sub-division level forest rights committee,” he said. “He has never owned a gun, yet the police framed him in a landmine blast case.”
The police maintain that Junash is a hardcore Naxal involved in the landmine blast that killed three policemen near Kotagarh on January 5. He is charged under sections 120(b), 121, 121(a), 307, 302, 324, 326, 124(a) and 34 of the Indian Penal Code, sections 3 and 4 of the Explosive Substances Act, 1908, sections 25 and 27 of the Arms Act, 1959, and sections 16, 20 and 38 of the UAPA. The court may or may not find merit in these charges, but until then it is going to be a long wait for Junash.
Orissa Director General of Police Manmohan Praharaj said that while the UAPA was a strong law, there were checks to prevent its misuse. However, activists say most cases registered under such acts do not stand in court.
Village women Beko Bhime and Kunjam Ramwati of Mudbedi in south Bastar were charged under CSPSA and spent 15 months in jail before being acquitted. Madvi Joga, Mukka Hunga, Suknath, Muchaki Joga, Makdam Lakma, Uika Bhima and Banjam Bhima were arrested in 2008 for allegedly maintaining contact with Naxals and possessing Maoist literature and detonators. They were released on February 12, as the police could not establish their case.
Acquittals hardly compensate for the time they spent in jail. Most victims do not seek compensation for fear of being harassed again. But the tide is turning. Orissa High Court lawyer Pratima Das, 28, was accused of being a Naxal sympathiser and was jailed from August 13, 2008, to November 17, 2010, when the trial court acquitted her. She has moved court seeking ∃20 lakh as compensation for unjust imprisonment and the failure of the state to protect her life, liberty and livelihood.
The access to justice is also an issue in the Naxal belt. Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said there was a need to probe the reports about private companies paying protection money to the Maoists. Essar Steel was one such company mentioned in Chhattisgarh and arrests were made in this case. Essar General Manager D.V.C.S. Varma, an accused in the case, has been granted bail.
Vijay Sori, 38, master trainer of Rahul Gandhi Youth Brigade in Chhattisgarh and Dantewada district president of Kisan Congress, spent nearly two years in Bastar Jail, waiting for his bail plea to be heard in the Supreme Court. He was arrested along with 32 others on trumped up charges of murder of a local contractor on July 8, 2010. Many accused in the case were released for lack of evidence.
In an undated letter addressed to his wife and smuggled out of prison, Vijay had written that a high-profile legal team made all the difference. In the Essar case the executives had paid off the Naxals and were in the wrong, but they got bail. Innocents like Vijay languished in jail because their defence was poor.
Another arrest that has got media attention was that of Soni Sori (not related to Vijay Sori). A teacher and a panchayat member, she was accused in the Essar case and was charged under CSPSA. It was alleged that she had passed on the protection money to the Naxals. Recently, it was reported that she was tortured in custody by stuffing stones in her vagina and anus. Her family, too, was hounded to break her.
Kopa Kunjam’s case is another litany of abuse. A social activist, he had worked for Unicef and various agencies in Bastar through the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram in Dantewada. He was a district resource person of Mitanin, a rural health programme designed by Binayak Sen.
He vehemently opposed Salwa Judum, the state sponsored militia, and helped victims of Salwa Judum violence in more than 60 villages. He was picked up on December 10, 2010, with a young Human Rights Law Network lawyer, Alban Topo. Kunjam was sent to jail, while Topo was freed. He was charged with the abduction and murder of a Salwa Judum worker in Dantewada.
“When [social activist] Medha Patkar came to meet me in jail, the jailer told her that I did not want to meet her. He made me sign me some paper,” said Kunjam. “I was brutally beaten and suffered serious injuries on my chest, back and leg.” The Supreme Court granted him bail after 22 months in jail. In Dantewada jail, Kunjam organised a hunger strike of inmates demanding that cases of undertrials be heard within six months and parole be given to undertrials to attend funerals in their families. The Vanvasi Chetna Ashram was demolished last year by the police, as it was a base for social activists and journalists covering Bastar.
The police are also allegedly targeting journalists, activists and lawyers who work in the locality. The cops’ ire is that these people pass on information to the media at large, leading to negative publicity.
Amarnath Pandey, a PUCL member and practising advocate in Ambikapur, Chhattisgarh, filed lawsuits in an encounter killing and a custodial rape case. Within months he was implicated in a case and charged with sedition. “These cases were forged to threaten me for acting against the state,” he said. “I fight for ordinary people who are [tagged as being] Maoists.”
Sources said the police in the Naxal belt now file the names of activists in Naxal violence cases in remote areas. As nobody knows about it, the ‘accused’ are later declared absconders. “Later when they want to pressure these people, the FIRs come out of the cold storage,” said Sail. “Branding someone as a Naxal and then discrediting them using the available draconian acts have become a common police tactic.” He said the conviction rate of cases under these laws was less than 1 per cent.
Advocate Sudha Vyas of the Bilaspur High Court said more than 1,000 people were rotting in Chhattisgarh jails on charges of being Naxals or Naxal sympathisers. Ram Niwas, additional director-general, Naxal operations, Chhattisgarh, said CSPSA was specifically made to counter Naxals. “It is used only where we are sure that a person is directly involved in Naxal activity,” he said. “We are the worst hit by Naxal violence and we are here to protect both ordinary people and the security forces.” Official figures about victims are obviously much lower than what the activists quote.
Claims and counter-claims aside, the ordinary citizen is caught between the police hammer and the Maoist anvil. Shivdayal Tomar, a contractor, said nobody wanted to work in south Bastar region. “It is impossible to live in a rural area without giving and taking support from people around,” he said. “If a Naxal demands food, the villager cannot refuse. If he gives food, the police jail him for being a Naxal sympathiser.”
An example is the case of Puranchand Meher, a tailor from Indagaon on the Chhattisgarh-Orissa border, who was arrested under UAPA clauses meant for those who “disrupt the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India”. Meher’s crime was that he stitched 20 trousers and five shirts from 35m of olive colour cloth given to him by a customer. A tailor from Raipur and two cloth merchants from Bilaspur have spent months in jail under CSPCA for selling camouflage cloth to a person whom the police claim is an active Maoist. How would a tailor know who is a Naxal and who is not?
Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason to the arrests, activists said. Prominent human rights activist Sashibhushan Pathak said there were instances in Jharkhand where the paramilitary arrested only salwar-kameez wearing women from a village, while ignoring the sari clad.
In Jharkhand, Father Stan Swamy said, “Between January 2010 and January 2011, 341 people were arrested under UAPA on trumped up charges.” He alleged that there were 6,000 innocent tribals in Jharkhand jails branded as Naxal sympathisers. “If you speak against forced displacement of tribals or against police atrocities, you will be branded a Naxal,” he said.
Gladson Dungdung, the young general secretary of Jharkhand Human Rights Movement, was branded a Naxal for opposing Operation Green Hunt. But he was subsequently nominated to the Planning Commission as a member from the social sector!
Inspector General R.K. Mallick, spokesman, Jharkhand Police, said the special laws were never used to target anyone. “We realise, in a democracy, there is a space for an alternative viewpoint and we try our best not to interfere in that,” he said. “We know people who are declared sympathisers of Naxals, but we have not touched them.” He, however, said the police would not spare anyone who provided arms, communication equipment or logistical support to the Naxals.
Reports from Andhra Pradesh show that the misuse of laws is not restricted to the northern reaches of the Naxal belt. Pittala Srisailam, 35, editor of online television Musi TV and co-convener of Telangana Journalists Forum, was arrested on December 4 and was tortured for 30 hours. Only on December 5 did the state accept that he was in custody. He was charged under the Andhra Pradesh Public Security Act, 1992, for being a Naxal courier.
Even worse is the case of Sripathi Tirupathi Goud, 35, a toddy tapper. He and his fellow tappers were out collecting toddy from a palm grove when Naxals approached them and asked for money. They refused. The police came to know about this and questioned them about the Naxals and the conversation. Soon after this, 18 trucks were burnt at a sand quarry nearby. The police nabbed Goud and his friends and tortured them, accusing them of arson at the behest of the Naxals. Goud was sent to jail three times and it took seven years for the case to end because of lack of evidence.
with Lalita Iyer

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