Militarisation of Bastar

The rampant militarisation of Bastar and southern Odisha, which have a substantial Adivasi population, has been going on for quite some time without being opposed even by left political parties. It does hardly draw attention of the mainstream media. Unfortunately not many might turn up to raise their voice as for most it is ‘a solution, not a problem’.

Bastar is one of the most militarised regions in the country after Kashmir. The division has seen multiple uprisings as well as ‘encounters’ in the years gone. An activist associated with Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan and a resident of Bastar revealed the grim ground realities of Bastar today: “In the last 5 years, around 65 security camps have allegedly come up in the seven districts of Bastar division”. Whether it is Bastar or southern Odisha or Kashmir people are randomly taken from their homes and are beaten up. In India tribals are expendable. So they are terrorised and brutalised by the security forces with impunity.

On being asked about the effect on the day-to-day life of the tribal people, the dejected activist responded, “Adivasis are directly dependent on the forests for their livelihood. They are stopped, asked questions and harassed by the military personnel. This stops many from going to forests, affecting their income. Sexual violence among women has increased with the increase in the number of such camps.”

She went on about the consequences on the legal system and said, “Our areas are reserved for the scheduled communities and certain laws have been designed specifically for us. Forest Resource Rights Act, PESA act have been drawn for us, but they are often disregarded by the security officials.” Nobody bothers about these laws; they are decorations for the biggest showcase of democracy!

Nandini Sundar, a professor at Delhi University explained during a Press Meet on ‘corporate takeover of Natural Resources’, “in the region of Bastar, there is a security camp every 2-3km. The security camps there are surrounded by barbed wires just like concentration camps. Trees are felled and the camps are constructed at night and suddenly start being operational from a random day. When we asked the district collector and Information Bureau about the reason of setting these camps at night without any notice, they used the same old excuse of security.”

“Rowghat in north Bastar did not have an atmosphere of insurgency but 22 security camps came up in the region in the last 10 years.”

“A young child lost her life due to crossfire on 1st January. If the government send more jawans, more young lives will be lost. It is not like the tribals do not want developed roads and other amenities. But the issue is that their concerns are not taken into account.”

It seems the government has money to spend on camps but none to make schools or health centres. The only thing that is worked upon on a speedy process is the security camps while other amenities take years to be made.

For one thing it is not an isolated case for Bastar. Tribal areas of adjoining Odisha are equally vulnerable to large-scale military presence. The Adivasis of Koraput-Nabarangpur-Malkangiri districts of Odisha are badly affected by the Centre’s militarisation drive. “Wherever these security camps come up; cases of atrocities increase. Women are often molested and harassed. Adivasi people are taken into nearby jungles where unspeakable acts are done to them”. Whenever a camp is put up, the population in that area gets scared because they have a history of violence and the fact that most people are not that educated or aware of their rights.

[Contributed by Ayanabha Banerjee of the Mooknayak]

Back to Home Page

Vol 56, No. 30, Jan 21 - 27, 2024