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War On Tribals

The Siege of Chattisgarh

Asish Gupta & Chilaka Chandrashekhar

Reports from Nendra and Pedda Jojer in Bijapur, and Kunna in Sukma reveal a new and brutal wave of systematic violence being carried out by security forces in South Chhattisgarh. On the one hand Chhattisgarh police proudly announces the launch of new operations and tactics, boasting of better coordination among forces and improvement in training. On the other, there are the bold but lesser heard voices of people who inhabit the lands to which the police is "laying siege"—revealing the bitter truth of the war the State continues to wage on its people.

The Coordination of Democratic Rights Organization (CDRO), a nation-wide platform of rights organizations, together with Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) and CPDR (Tamil Nadu) conducted a fact-finding in these areas between the 15th and 17th of January. Here are some of the findings :
In a chilling repeat of the violence the fact-finding team saw in Peddagellur and around, forces in large numbers entered Bellam Nendra, in the Basaguda thana area on the 12th of January 2016. They stayed for two nights—looted homes, used up food and rations, beat up several women and sexually assaulted several others. A young woman was covered with a mosquito net and gang-raped, another mother and her young daughter were forced into their homes and simultaneously raped by 5 security personnel. They hurled abuses and issued threats of extreme violence. There were also two rounds of blind firing into the forests surrounding the village.

At the same time, further away in Sukma district, forces in large numbers entered Kunna and surrounding villages between the 12th and 14th of January. Fearing the inevitable and baseless violence inflicted upon them by paramilitary forces, most of the men of the village fled into the forest. Once again, in what seems to be a part of the ethos of combing operations, those who remained were beaten up brutally and women were sexually assaulted. 5 women and 22 men were rounded up and taken to a camp in the area. After the intervention of human rights activists, the 22 men arrested were released. The five women who were picked up were stripped and brutally sexually assaulted. Besides these 27 persons, two of the women who were also assaulted in the village are now in hospital for medical care. Lalu Sodhi, from the village Kormagondi was brutally beaten up by the forces on the 13th of January who succumbed to his injuries the next day on the 14th January. Joga Sodi, who too was brutally tortured, is unable to walk now.

During their visit to the area, the team also learned of an encounter that had occurred in Chinna Jojer, Gangalur thana, Bijapur through local newspapers. On visiting the area, they found that what was reported to be an 'encounter' in which four alleged Maoists were killed, was in fact a cold blooded murder of villagers, including a 13-year-old child.

Six young people from around Pedda Jojer were on their way to the market at Reddi early on 15th morning to purchase their daily needs, when they were fired at by paramilitary forces hiding in the forest. Majji Badram aged 20, Oyam Munna (24), Oyam Tulasi (13) of Pedda Jojer village accompanied by Madkam Pandu (20) from Akuwa Village and two other children aged 9 and 12 were among those who were fired at. Four of them were killed instantly, while two young girls managed to escape. The team also found that the bodies had bullet wounds behind the ears and forehead indicating that the group were shot at from close range. There was no panchnama conducted at the site of the crime, and the troops did not inform the families of the deceased. Instead, they had to make their way to the thana and demand the release of the bodies. District administration and police are yet to come out with any response to the incident.

The remarkable similarity in scale, magnitude and nature of these operations which have been conducted in places distanced not only by several kilometres but also in varied topographical locations marks the beginning of a new wave of State-sponsored violence. Rampant looting, blind firing, brutal beating, cold-blooded murder and sexual assault seem to have become a part of the fabric of routine combing and search operations, revealing the ways in which extreme forms of violence have been institutionalized by the State and its security forces.

Frontier
Vol. 48, No. 36, Mar 13 - 19, 2016