#India- Statue of rape accused adorns this Chhattisgarh village #Vaw #WTFnews


A statue of former Salwa Judum member-turned-constable Kartam Surya, an accused in several cases of murder, rape and arson, was installed in Dornapal, Chhattisgarh, recently. Photo: Suvojit Bagchi

A statue of former Salwa Judum member-turned-constable Kartam Surya, an accused in several cases of murder, rape and arson, was installed in Dornapal, Chhattisgarh, recently. Photo: Suvojit Bagchi

At the peak of his career, Surya was accused of several cases of murder, rape and arson, though no formal complaint was lodged. He was made an accused, legally, by one of the women of Shamsetti who now has withdrawn her statement. The villagers claim that he used to visit Shamsetti often, carrying firearms, and threaten the residents quite openly.

A short but sturdy woman, wearing a golden nose ring and a white scarf came out of her mud house and looked straight at this correspondent. “Why have you come here,” she asked in a tone that was anything but polite. “To figure out why rape victims are retracting their statements in court,” we, a reporter from the local press and this correspondent, explained.

She was also told that there are reasons to believe that her name is Mira (name changed) — one of the six women who have retracted their allegation of rape against the Sukma SPOs.

“I have changed my statement,” she nodded in agreement. Asked why she did so, the woman said in almost flawless Hindi that “nothing ever happened” to her. “Because, I am not Mira, I am Madbi [name changed] and I do not know anything about Mira,” the woman said while moving away from us. But her recent statement identifies her as Mira alias Madbi and moreover, the 2009 statement in Konta court has her photograph on it, which establishes her identity, she was told. “How many more times will you people come to ask the same questions! Go away,” her voice choked as she disappeared into the room.

Her husband, Lakshman Soni (name changed) and the father in-law remained unmoved. A middle- aged man, who identified himself as the uncle of Mr. Soni, tried to calm things down. “It was a 2006 case; we had no plans to revive it. The human rights activists asked us to record our statements. Once the statements were recorded in 2009, everyone disappeared leaving us to deal [with the SPOs],” said a relative of the family.

The father of Era, another rape victim, also acknowledged that his wife and daughter went to the court to retract statements.

The villagers, however, did not deny that the entire village and the victims in particular were under ‘severe pressure’ for registering statements against the SPOs. The village next to Shamsetti, Misma, belongs to Kartam Surya — the most dreaded SPO-turned-constable of the area — who was killed in early 2012. At the peak of his career, Surya was allegedly involved in murder, rape and arson, though no formal complaint was lodged. He was made an accused, legally, by one of the women of Shamsetti who now has withdrawn her statement. The villagers claim that he used to visit Shamsetti often, carrying firearms, and threaten the residents quite openly. “He convinced the girls to withdraw their statements but he got killed,” said a villager who helped the women file the complaints.

His task has been taken up by Kwashi Mangalram, the former SPO who is now with the education department. Mangalram, himself an accused in the Shamsetti rape case, lives in another village adjacent to Shamsetti and ‘takes a stroll every now and then’ in the neighbourhood. Mira told The Hindu that she was ‘picked up from Shamsetti’ by Kwasi Mangalram to testify in court and retract her allegation. Other villagers corroborated her and said that he took the witnesses to court. Mangalram denied the allegation.

However, what Mangalram did not deny was his access to senior police officials in the district. Recently, to mark Kartam Surya’s death anniversary, Surya’s statue was installed in the town of Dornapal in the presence of Sukma’s SP Abhishek Shandilya. Video footage available with The Hindu establishes Mr. Shandilya’s presence at the installation programme, with Mangalram standing next to him.

Undisputed leader, says Sukma SP

Mr. Shandilya told The Hindu on phone that he felt there was “nothing wrong” in installing the statue in Dornapal. “He was the undisputed leader of the area and do not forget that anybody can be made an accused and slapped with false cases. However, the statue was financed by Surya’s family, but I was present at the programme,” he said.

He also said that Shamsetti women’s allegations are ‘false and motivated.’ “Four months back, I held a meeting in Misma, where people from other villages participated. They told me in clear terms that the allegations are false. It seems so to me as well.” Mr. Shandilya denied that the former SPOs were ‘pressurising’ the Shamsetti women to retract their statements.

“At the peak of the [Salwa Judum] movement if they [women] could go to court and file complaints [against SPOs], what stops them from fighting the case now, when there is complete calm in the area,” he asks. According to Mr. Shandilya, the women were “telling the truth now” by retracting their statements.


Who killed this scribe? #Chhattisgarh #India

A week after the death of Nemichand Jain, the questions pile up casting a shadow over journalism in this conflict zone, says GEETA SESHU. Pix: Nemichand Jain (courtesy: Kamal Shukla)
Posted/Updated Wednesday, Feb 20 23:54:03, 2013

Mystery shrouds the death of Nemichand Jain, a journalist who was allegedly killed by Maoists on February 12, 2013, as they suspected him of being a police informer.

The killing again draws attention to the precarious nature of journalism practiced in rural areas, in conflict zones and in places where the media is unorganized.

Jain was stabbed to death at Leda village of Sukma district late Tuesday while he was returning from a local weekly market to his village Tongapal,” Lakhan Patel, a senior police official in Sukma, told a news agency.  While Patel also said he couldn’t confirm whether Maoists or local rivals were behind the killing, police produced pamphlets thrown around the site of the killing that stated the ‘journalist’ was killed for being a police informer.

Jain was well known in the area and had made a name in rural reporting for the last 20 years, said Anil Mishra, Tehelka correspondent from Chhattisgarh. Like a number of journalists here, he was also a distributor of newspapers in his area. “He was a source of information about local issues that he would feed to journalists of the newspapers he distributed,” said Kamal Shukla, journalist and blogger from Kanker district. Jain used to write out short reports and send them to these newspapers, so in the complex information-gathering processes of rural reporting, he did perform a journalistic role, Shukla felt.

According to Mishra, there is still a lot of confusion over the perpetuators of the crime. At first, journalists of the area thought that the pamphlet announcing the Maoist involvement was a fake one! “For one, its colour was not the usual red colour and it was written in a different style, “ concurs Ruchir Garg, correspondent for NaiDuniya.

They point out that the day after the killing, another pamphlet issued ostensibly by the Kate Kalyan area committee, a part of the Darba divisional committee of the Maoists, denied their hand in the killing.  Today, the Kanger Ghati area committee issued a pamphlet taking responsibility for the killing, terming Jain as a ‘mukhbari’ (a spy or informer).

The multiple pamphlets have aroused suspicion that the police have also have a hand in the killing, said senior journalist and President of the Chhattisgarh Union of Working Journalists, NRK Pillai.  Bemoaning the manner in which the safety of journalists was continuously compromised in areas of conflict, Pillai said that he was not at all sure of the authenticity of the pamphlets.

Another factor was that Maoists had never, thus far, killed any journalists in the bloody war in Chhattisgarh, Mishra said. “There was no warning, or threats and his family also said he used to give news of Maoist statements and campaigns too, “ Mishra said.

Garg added that usually, Maoists do issue threats to journalists, maybe even issue an ultimatum to journalists to leave the area. And even then, the Maoists launch an intense campaign against the journalist before taking any action, he added.

Mishra demanded that police investigate reports that Jain had exposed the tin smugglers in the area and had a fight with the sons of a prominent tin smuggler only a few days before his death.  The smuggling of tin and colombite, which villagers extract from rock in the area, is highly profitable and Jain had exposed this smuggling.

Shukla, however, is in no doubt that the Maoists had a hand in the killing of Nemichand Jain.  According to his information, a week before the killing, a local group of Maoists held a jansabha and had kept in custody an innocent person from his village but Nemichand was instrumental freeing this person, angering them.

Nemichand was more of a local social activist than a journalist, Shukla said, and tried to mediate between villagers and the administration to resolve local issues like water supply or get the newspapers he distributed to write on these local issues.The allegation that he was a police informer was also not true, as Nemichand was known to have taken up cudgels against the police, said Shukla, quoting the local villagers.

In his blog, Shukla said that independent journalists of Bastar had actually done a service to the Maoists by highlighting their struggle and the police repression in the ‘undeclared war’ that has led to so much violence and killing in the area. Maoists didn’t take action against journalists who worked for tendu-leaf, mining and timber contractors, corporate houses and the administration, he complained.

Shukla, who was beaten up in 2012 when he tried to report on the large-scale felling of trees by a relative of the state’s forest minister, felt that journalists must boycott press statements from Maoists till they acknowledge their hand in the killings and punish the perpetuators!

For long, journalists in Chhattisgarh have been speaking out on the perils of reporting from the conflict zone. If they highlight local issues, the police target them as Maoists, said Pillai, who, along with Anil Mishra and Yeshwant Yadav,  was at the receiving end of death threats in 2011, issued by the Adivasi Swabhimaan Manch, an organization allegedly sponsored by the police.

“In our areas, it is not uncommon for police to prey on weak journalists and lure them into providing information, “ says Pillai, adding that the arrangement may have gone sour. In fact, journalists are often targeted by the police for being ‘naxal’ informers, he added.

Earlier, journalists received innumerable threats from the Salwa Judum, the militia raised by local landlords with police support to fight the Maoists. In Bhopalapatnam, Afzal Khan and in Konta, Sanjay Reddy and Sheikh Anwar were the receiving of such police allegations. Sheikh Anwar, who was a senior and well-known journalist in the area, was still under arrest, Pillai said.

While journalists have demanded an inquiry into the killing and into the failure of the police to ensure the safety of journalists in the area, it is clear that incident has rattled the media in this already stressed and dangerous place. As Mishra put it, “Thus far, we thought there could be nothing worse than dealing with the police and their harassment, their threats and false cases. But if this news is true and the Maoists also start attacking us and killing us, where do we go and where can our journalism go?”

#Chhattisgarh: Abduction of Adivasi Women by A. P Police #Vaw #tribalrights

January 19, 2013

A four-member fact-finding team of the Human Rights Forum (HRF) to Nimmalagudem village on January 16, 2013 was told by tribal residents that two women of the village — Madvi Parvathi, (aged 21, wife of Madvi Bhaskar) and a minor Kovasi Somidi, (aged 15, daughter of Kovasi Idma and Kovasi Aite) were forcibly taken away by policemen from Andhra Pradesh at about 7 am on January 12, 2013 from the village itself. Their whereabouts are not known till date. According to Parvathi’s mother Punam Jogamma and her husband Bhaskar, Parvathi is also pregnant.

Nimmalagudem, with about 30 tribal households, is in Konta block of Sukma district, Chattisgarh. It is located only about 3 km from the Andhra Pradesh border. Residents, who are all farmers, said a huge police party from AP consisting of over 100 personnel, including the Greyhounds, came to the village at daybreak on January 12. On seeing the police from a distance, most men fled into the forest in the opposite direction. The policemen began abusing and beating up residents including several women and children. Among those beaten up were Sodi Devi, a 10 year-old girl and a 12-year old boy Madvi Venkatesh. The boy lost three teeth as a result.

The policemen then picked up a farmer Podium Chukkaiah and his minor son (aged about 11) P Bhimaiah as well as Parvathi, Somidi and another woman Madkam Saramma. Their hands were tied and they were taken to a spot about half a kilometre away from the village below a hillock where there were remnants of a camp set up earlier by the Maoists. Accusing the four as well as the entire village of providing food and help to the Maoists, they beat them with their hands and sticks. Bhimaiah was slapped repeatedly.

Several women including Parvathi’s mother Jogamma, her aunt Punam Somamma, Somidi’s mother Aite followed the policemen pleading with them to not harm their daughters. The policemen instead abused and also beat up the three women and even kicked them. Aite and Jogamma tried to give some water to Parvathi and Somidi but the policemen did not allow it.

Soon after, the police partially disrobed Parvathi and Somidi and forcibly took the two away with them. They let go of Saramma, Chukkaiah and Bhimaiah. Chukkaiah was bedridden for two days from the beatings and is now better. Over a week after they were abducted by the AP police, there is still no trace of Parvathi and Somidi.

The incident was reported in the Telugu media after the tribals went to Cherla, a mandal headquarters in Khammam district of AP, and narrated the events to local reporters. When contacted by reporters, police officials have kept denying knowledge of the whole thing.

On January 16, Nimmalagudem villagers again walked to Cherla and met the Bhadrachaslam sub-collector Narayana Bharat Gupta. They told him what had happened on January 12 and pleaded with to help them locate their daughters. They told him that every-time there was movement of Maoists in the area or any incident involving the Maoists, the Andhra police were targeting Nimmalagudem and harassing them. Gupta promised to take up the matter with higher officials. Two days have gone by and there is no word about the women.

Fax messages have been sent to the Chief Justice of the AP High Court as well as the Chattisgarh CJ seeking their intervention.
An appeal was made by HRF through the media to immediately set the two women free and handed over to their families.

Members of the HRF fact-finding team:
1. VS Krishna (HRF State general secretary)
2. SK Khadar Babu (HRF Khammam district president)
3. D Adinarayana (HRF Khammam district general secretary)
4. N Amar (HRF Nalgonda district vice-president)



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