Chhattisgarh Killings

Any probe into the killing of 20 persons, most of them Adivasis (Indigenous people), by paramilitary forces in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh on the night of 28 June must be prompt, impartial and thorough.
Two investigations - by a local judicial officer and the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) - have been ordered into the late night paramilitary shootings at Kotteguda village in Bastar region of the state which is partly controlled by the banned Maoists fighting a seven-year-long armed insurgency.
Reports by a number of media persons who visited the village independently between 29 June and 1 July contradicted earlier claims by the authorities that they had killed 20 Maoist insurgents during a joint operation by the CRPF and the state police. The reports said a majority of the victims, including 17 men, two teenaged boys and a girl were local Adivasi villagers and suggested that the rest were either Maoists or part of an armed "people's militia" controlled by the Maoists who fired at the security forces.
An 11-member team from the opposition Congress Party corroborated the reports, and further claimed that the operation was based on incorrect intelligence inputs about substantial Maoist presence in the area and that some of those deaths amounted to extra-judicial executions or unlawful killings of Adivasi villagers. Following this, the CRPF has defended its night-time operation saying it was difficult to ascertain who were firing at them in the darkness.
The reports also quoted the media persons as having seen knife and axe marks on some of the dead bodies awaiting last rites and said four minor girls were also allegedly molested by the CRPF personnel after the operation. Six CRPF personnel and two teenaged boys injured during the attack were being treated at hospitals in nearby towns.
While some villagers also told the media persons that that their gathering was to mark the beginning of the annual sowing season, a few others said the Maoists used such meetings to settle local land disputes. A local Maoist leader said at least 15 villagers needed to be treated for bullet injuries but could not go out for fear of attacks by the CRPF personnel who had detained dozens of local youths for interrogation.
Authorities must ensure a prompt, thorough, impartial and independent investigation into the killings and the allegations of molestation of the girls and must act on its findings to take action against anyone responsible for human rights violations.
Amnesty International reminds the Indian authorities that they are obliged to protect the right to life in accordance with India's obligations under international law. This includes the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which India is a party, as elaborated by standards such as the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials and the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials. These standards provide that in law enforcement operations, intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.
The authorities should also ensure prompt medical care for all the injured and award full reparations for any individuals the investigation finds have been victims of human rights violations, as well as their families.

Amnesty International, London

Right to Food & Work Campaign

As the continuation of the State level Campaign on 'Right To Food & Work', coordinated by the Jesuits run Udayani Social Action Forum, Kolkata, a rally and dharna was organized at Kalna Town in Burdwan District on 4th July 2012.
Around 400 Self Help Group women and around 100 Farmers club men from around 53 villages from Kalna block I & II gathered at two different spots at 11 am braving rain and the heat! Some activists from Kolkata and Nadia joined the gathering to encourage and support women and men demanding their rights to life!
The rallies started at two different places (Kalna I from the Bus Stand and Kalna II from Kalo Dokan More) and merged at Thetul Tola more (close to Christo Seva Ashram) and walked towards Sub-Divisional Controller of Food and Supply through the crowded markets and Police Station shouting slogans!
They shouted 'Tala Kholo Khabar dao' -Open the door give us food- 'Churi Bandhu Koro' - stop stealing- 'Kevu Khabe Kevu Khabe na Ta Hobe Na'- some eat and some don't that shouldn't be and many more such slogans in full vigor and conviction. The pale and malnourished women carrying empty plates and posters in the hand was a sight for the town and administration. Many agreed saying, 'this is a just fight for survival and I support fully'. Some passer by joined the catchy slogans voluntarily!
The posters had demands like, open the ration shop for 51/2 days, give the 100 days work days! Stop stewing food, no BPL and APL, give food to all equally. Give bills for the ration given! And so on... The police though were informed well in advance, neglected, to be present at the start of the venue but when they saw the crowd shouting slogans, they suddenly got organized and sent a team of personnel! The neglect of the economically weak and socially low class and caste by the administration is not news anymore!
Once the protest march reached the venue of the Sub-Divisional controller, the activists encouraged them and enlightened them of their basic rights with food and how Govt and Administration is indifferent and waste food grains while people die of starvation and hunger! Since neither the controller nor any other officials came out to listen to people, the women decided to force enter the office and 'gherao' the officers.
The small office could not contain all women, hence, a delegation went in with local demands, while rest squatted in the office premise and outside demanding immediate actions! A Two hour 'gherao' yielded the desired results as the officials gave out the allotment list and the price of each item, and promised to receive complains and applications for new Ration cards on Wednesday of every week. They also promised to work diligently hereafter! The women now sure of a little more of their 'Rights' with regard to Food programs said 'we shall come back in bigger number if the promises are not kept'!

Jothi SJ
Right To Food & Work Campaign, West Bengal

Vol. 45, No. 3, July 29-August 4, 2012