Report from Fact Findings Conducted on 18th and 19th April 2013

Report
from Fact Findings Conducted on 18th and 19th April 2013

A team
consisting of lawyers, human rights, civil liberties and democratic rights
activists went for a fact finding mission to the village panchayats of Edanar
in Kanker District and Khadkagaon in Narayanpur District.  The goal of the
mission was to investigate and document the police atrocities that came to
light through the voices of the Edanar villagers before the National Human
Rights Commission 12th April, 2013 in Raipur,
and examine the associated legal issues, and the overall context in which the
violence occurred.  
On 18th
April this team visited two villages of the Edanar Panchayat- Edanar and
Malmeta.   A public meeting was held in Edana in which over fifty
villagers attended and in which they voiced their grievances.
 Subsequently the team conducted individual visits to  the homes of
more than 15 affected persons of Malmeta
Village to speak with
victims’ family members, and to understand the social and economic impact the
atrocities may be having on their households.  
On
 19th April, with the help of a local Sarpanch, the team travelled to Anjrel Village
falling within the Khadkagaon Panchayat, of the Narayanpur District which is a
five kilometre climb from the foothills of the Mahadevgiri Mountain.
Here the team engaged with over 40 villagers and recorded their stories about
police atrocities in their locality.  
The
methodology of the team was to speak to the directly affected villagers of the
three aforementioned villages to document their qualitative accounts, first in
large groups to get an overall picture of the abuses, and then in individual
home visits.  Where possible, the team engaged Sarpanches and other
Panchayat representatives. In several cases of severely traumatized victims the
team engaged in one-on-one discussions.  We also met with one local
Antagarh lawyer, who is handling the cases of several of the victims.  For
background details of the locality, the team resorted to news reports found
online written within the past three years.
Team
members included: Shishir Dikshit (Lawyer, Janhit Legal Center), Lakhan Singh
(Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan), Somdutt Upadhayay (Lawyer, Bilaspur Social
Forum), Tathagata Sengupta (People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Chhattisgarh),
Samantha Agarwal (Sanhati), Pinki Verma (Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha-Mazdoor
Karyakarta Samiti), Keshav Sori (Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan).
The
following report has been jointly prepared by the members of the fact finding
team.
The case
of Edanar

The case
of Edanar first came to the notice of  members of this team in an
interaction  by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on April 12th,
2013 at the Circuit House, Raipur
with statewide representatives of voluntary organisations. About 30 members of
the Edanar panchayat, which is in the Kanker District of North Bastar, had
pooled together some cash and rented a vehicle to come to Raipur the previous
night and submit a detailed representation to the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled
Tribes Commission regarding the various instances of repression they are
facing.  On the following day two representatives from Edanar Panchayat –
Pyarilal Tandia and Nandlal Potai – attended the Raipur camp of the National
Human Rights Commission and made verbal representations to the NHRC Panel
chaired by the (Retd CJI) Justice KG Balakrishnan.  They also submitted a
detailed letter to the Commission, outlining various instances where the
policemen of Police Station Tadoki , and personnel of the CRPF and BSF have,
without a warrant, picked up villagers from their fields, homes, and have
beaten them, arrested them or both, and branded them as Naxalites, although
villagers claim they have no affiliation with Naxalites (See Annexure 1 for
Copy of the Representation Made by Edanar Villagers
).  Members of this
team thereafter decided to conduct an independent fact finding investigation in
respect of  the cases that were mentioned by the Edanar representatives at
the hearing.  
Incident
of 23
rd January, 2013

During
the early hours of January 23rd, 2013 two villagers, Phaguram (age 45) and
Koluram (age 32), were asleep in their fields in Gudrapada, near Edanar Village,
when they heard a noise.  They shone their torches and found a band of
over 100 CRPF personnel and police surrounding them.  Immediately the
police picked them up and started beating them, after which the police took the
injured villagers to the nearby Malmeta
Village.  There the
police broke into the home of Ujiyar (age 35), who was threshing rice and
looted Rs 10,000 from the home.  Then they proceeded to the home of
Jailal, who was also threshing rice. By this time it was around 5 or 6 am. The
police forces attacked him, and made him come with them to the village school
compound where there were over 50 other security personnel who seemed to have
stayed the night there. There three police beat him mercilessly with sticks, on
his legs, thighs, waist, back, all the while accusing him of aiding Naxalites.
 He was limping for a month after the incident.  Another man, Dannuram,
was beaten up badly, and yet another man, Mangalram claims to have been robbed
of his chickens and hens.  A man by the name of Roop Singh (age 32), also
from Malmeta, was arrested without the police having shown a warrant, nor was
his family otherwise informed in what connection he was being arrested.
 He is still in jail today, and according to his neighbors, his family is
facing an acute economic crisis due to the arrest. The only able bodied persons
at his home are his father (55 yrs), his mother, Ramabai, and his wife. He has
a brother who is physically challenged, and who, therefore, cannot work. He
also has three daughters and one son, all in the range of 4 to 6 years.
 The family is also in dire need of legal aid.
23rd
November, 2012 Incident
The team
was told that sometime in 2006/07, the security personnel looted Rs. 4,000 from
Jahnuram Sodi of  Malmeta
Village while he was at
the local market. He went to file an FIR, but was instead himself arrested,
after being shown a “stai” (standing) warrant allegedly for being a Naxalite.
He has been released and arrested twice since then, the last arrest being in
Nov 2012. He is still in jail.  The incident suggests that if someone from
Edanar attempts to be proactive about injustices caused to them by going to the
police, he or she can be subject to repeated harassment and imprisonment.
 It also points to the futility as well as near impossibility of trying to
file an FIR.
22
October 2012 Incident
Seven
villagers- Premlal Nureti, Gannuram Nureti, Jainuram, Garwaram, Shobiram, and
Shamrath- were picked up from Malmeta
Village and subsequently
jailed.  They continue to be in jail to this day without being granted
bail.  Members of this team spoke to the families of the villagers.
 Summaries of those conversations are provided below.
The case
of Gannuram Nureti

Gannuram
(age ~35) was picked up from inside his house, around 6 am, in front of
his wife, Ramai. She was lighting the chulha and washing utensils at the time.
Suddenly three police officers and several Special Police Officers came inside
the house, while the rest of the 80-90 strong security force stood outside.
They brutalized Gannuram, beating him on his waist, legs, back and chest with
sticks. They accused him of helping the Naxalites, and arrested him without
showing any  warrant for the arrest of informing the family in what
connection he was being arrested.  Gannuram and his wife have four
children, in the range of three to eleven years. Their main source of
livelihood is their land measuring around 4-5 acres, and the forest for the
lean season. Ramai is now the only adult in the family and is struggling to
manage the household entirely by herself. She has to simultaneously tend to the
field work, though she is helped by the villagers who farm her land and give
some of the produce back to her.  Gannuram is in the Kanker Jail, which is
a considerable  distance from the village and it is very costly for the
family to travel to the jail for visits. Their family has no ration card, no
job card, and very little steady income. The household is suffering from acute
economic crisis. Both Ramai and the children seem to be malnourished, and could
succumb to serious illnesses any day.
The case
of Premlal Nureti

Premlal
was at home along with his family. Five officers came in at around six in the
morning. They woke up the village primary school teachers who generally sleep
in this house. Then without showing any warrant they started searching. Here
they did not beat anyone, but looted utensils and clothes. The local T.I. was
also present during the search operation. Although the police got no
implicating items from the house, they took away Premlal, claiming that they
had a stai warrant for his arrest, and accusing him of being a Naxalite. The
SPOs were the ones who came inside the house, while the CRPF waited outside,
which, according to locals is the standard practice for such operations.
 Some people from this village who used to be close to the Naxalites, had
been expelled from the village because of some malpractices on their part.
These people fled to the city and turned into police informers and SPOs. They
are the ones that generally lead this kind of combing operation. Premlal, on
the other hand, had no connections with Naxalites.
When we
asked Chamru Ram, brother-in-law of Premlal, why, if Premlal and the other six
villagers were not Naxalites, were they being targeted by the police.  He
stated that the violence they face may have to do with the fact that this
entire area is opposed to the proposed Raoghat iron ore and Keshkal mines.
 
Incident of 3rd August
2012

Vijay Dhanelia (age 40) of Edanar Village
had gone to the forest near Jampara in the morning hours for neem daatun.
The security personnel fired at him from inside the forests without any
provocation or warning. One bullet hit his forehead. The police took the corpse
with them, and returned the corpse to Tadoki village after the post mortem. But
the post mortem report was not shown to the villagers. Villagers claim that
Vijay had no connections with the Naxalites, but the police claim that he was
killed because he was a Naxalite.  
On the same day, teenagers
Harendra Kumar (age 18), Manesh Goud (age 19), Rahul Kalar (age 16), and one
young man Bisambhar Sahu (age 32) were picked up by police when they were chit
chatting on the road by nearby village, Sarandi.  They have been in jail
without being granted bail, ever since. These are only few instances of what is
widespread in the village. We documented at least 10 other cases of individuals
being jailed without any valid grounds, and then being released because of lack
of evidence. But the incarcerations can go up to as long as 3 years, for
instance in the cases of Deoram Nureti (s/o Kachheriram, Age 22), Bhanwar Singh
(s/o Deolal, Age 40) and Sobhrai Dharru (s/o Gandoram, Age 23).
There were at least a dozen
similar instances narrated to the team, dating back to 2004; however prior to
2012, the exact dates of incidents are not known to the people as they have no
written record keeping system of these atrocities, and FIRs are practically
never lodged. There is one exception, however, which has a noticeable impact on
the group’s collective memory.  The case dates back to 22nd November
2010, when Ankalu Ram (age 50) was passing through Bhanupratappur and heading
towards Kanker to help his sister with the harvest.  He was on his way
when Ravindra (a.k.a. Indradev) Bhuria, a police informer, caught him at
Bhanupratappur, and accused him of being a Naxalite and of killing his father.
Ravindra was drunk. He snatched the Rs. 200 that Ankalu was carrying, and
stabbed him in his stomach. The police took Ankalu to a hospital in Kanker. The
hospital refused to admit Ankalu, after which the police handed him over to his
sister. His sister took him to the government hospital in Raipur. Ravindra has since been arrested and
remains in jail-this is perhaps one of the only cases where the village has
seen any “justice” for the crimes committed on them. And it is not difficult to
imagine why, as the crime was committed in broad daylight with a number of
witnesses, and the assailant was a plain clothed civilian informally working
for the police (thus making him an easy scapegoat).  However, the state
has yet to provide any compensation to Ankalu, who is now unable to work because
of his handicap.  
Although the above sequence of
events seem to suggest the pattern of one major incident every month or every
other month, villagers say that the security forces visit the Panchayat at
least twice every month.  They always come from Tadoki (8 km from Edanar),
where there is both a police station and BSF camp combined, along with a CRPF
camp.  Combing operations, it seems are almost always conducted by the
CRPF in large numbers, but typically the police and SPOs the members of which
are characteristically plain clothed, are the ones who physically carry out
human rights abuses.  Operations are never announced, and warrants are
never shown for searches or arrests.  Forces usually approach the village
from the jungle and leave via the main road.  
The Case
of Anjrel

In the
course of the discussions the team had at Edanar Panchayat, the case of a small
mountain village, Anjrel, in the Khadkagaon Panchayat, was repeatedly brought
to our attention.  We were informed that it is a well known fact in this
region that the police are intimidating families into leaving Anjrel.  We
also heard that men are fearful to stay there so are relocating to the plains,
sometimes with their families and sometimes on their own.  When we came to
know this, this team visited the village
of Anjrel with the help
of a local Sarpanch to confirm these allegations.   
In
Anjrel, this team met with a group of 40 villagers. For the past 3-4 years SPOs
have been coming frequently to this village, usually at night. At times they
are accompanied by armed forces consisting of CRPF and police personnel from
both the Narayanpur, and Raoghat camps.  The security forces often conduct
combing operations and raids, while SPOs beat and harass people. Usually the
SPOs threaten the villagers that they “should leave this village and settle in
Narayanpur”. It was told to this team found that in the past four years (since
2009) 17 families have left this village out of fear of the SPOs who come and
terrorize, loot, beat, and molest the locals of this village. When the
villagers were visiting the nearest market in Narayanpur for foodstuffs and
metal items they were often harassed and attacked by SPOs in civil clothes, so
now Anjrel villagers only visit the markets in Baisgaon, Kolar and Tadoki in
Kanker District, where they are not harassed as much.  
We were
also informed that the SPOS also try to recruit locals to join their squads,
and sometimes locals are joining out of fear of the alternative; allegedly
several men from this village (Suraj, Rajesh, Sanku, Aitu and some others) have
moved to Narayanpur and become SPOs. Now they work with the police as informers
and also as instruments for the police in striking terror with the villagers.
Interestingly,
the extent of repression happening in Anjrel, does not seem to be matched by
that of neighboring villages, although the villagers categorically state that
they are not Naxalites. “If we were Naxalites, we would have lived in the
forests. Why would we do agriculture here?”
August
2012 Incident
This
happened last monsoon (~August 2012). Budhram Nureti (age 25) was sitting by
the fire, at his home in the evening around 7 PM. The drunk police informers
(SPOs) came with an axe. They hit him on his head with the axe, and started
beating him with sticks. Budhram’s skull was fractured, and a stream of blood
covered his face. He ran to Ankaluram’s (s/o Rainuram, ~45 years) house nearby,
for protection. Ankaluram tried to protect Budhram but he was also hit on his
head with a burning stick, one which the goons had collected from the fire
burning at his place. After this the SPOs fled, the villagers took both Budhram
and Ankalu to the Government hospital at Narayanpur. All villagers then went to
the Narayanpur police station to file a complaint. But the police did not
register a case. They wrote an unofficial record of the incident, and sent the
people back promising that they will look into the case and call them back. But
the villagers were never called after that. Budhram has now left the village
out of fear. He works in Khadkagaon doing daily wage and sends money home to
support his parents.
October
2012 Incident

Sometime
in October 2012, three women from Anjrel – Ranai (45), Sanku (~40) and Shanti
(~35) had gone to the Narayanpur market for their weekly groceries. They were
returning to Anjrel by walking, around 3 in the afternoon. They didn’t know
that they were being followed by three SPOs from the market. Near Mahka
village, where there was no one else on the road, 3 people riding on motorbikes
stopped them, and started beating Ranai with their fists and legs. The beatings
went on for around 10 minutes, after which the attackers went back, leaving
Ranai in acute pain with a bleeding nose. The villagers didn’t try to file any
police complaint this time.
March
2011 Incident
In March
2011, Chain Singh Kumeti (age) was imprisoned at the Jagdalpur prison,
on charges of being a Naxalite. A police force of 300 policemen were conducting
a combing operation in the forests around Anjrel. At around 4 pm, Chain Singh
along with two others – Saudev Dugga and Dhaniram Dugga – were picked up from
their homes by SPOs, who then proceeded to beat the men with sticks. All three
of them were kept in the police station for three days. The SPOs continued
beating them in the police station, in front of the police, with sticks and
boots. After three days, Edanar villagers came and sat at the police station.,
asking for their release.  Two people were released by the police after
this, but Chain Singh was jailed and remains in jail today.
***
It is
clear that the various cases that were brought to our attention in Edanar
Panchayat and Anjrel Village do not exist in isolation, but are a part of a
long history of unchecked and undocumented violence that has been transpiring
in North Bastar at the hands of the state police, CRPF, BSF, and the Special
Police Officers who continue to operate in this area, despite the Supreme Court
Order requiring them to disband.  This team also feels that the events
must be looked at in the context of the Central government and Chhattisgarh State to militarize the entire area to
facilitate the process of mining.
   
              
Militarization
for the Sake of Mining

In 2011 a
plan was mooted by top authorities of SAIL, and subsequently approved by the
Home Ministry to deal with the growing militant opposition to the cutting of
trees in Rowghat Hills.  The proposal would involve the deployment of
around 7,000 full time paramilitary and police personnel (2 battalions of CRPF
consisting of 1,135 personnel each, 2 battalions of BSF consisting of roughly
1,400 personnel each and 2 police forces consisting of 1,000 personnel each) in
a small geographic area near the Raoghat Hills in Anthagad Block.  If one
considers the entire population of Antagarh Block of 64,820 as per 2001 census
data,  this amounts to a ratio of one soldier per nine civilians.  In
actuality the soldier to civilian ratio will be even higher, as Antagarh Block
is presumably a much larger representative area, than what will be covered by
armed forces underneath this plan.
The
police atrocities in the Khadkagaon panchayat till date may further be
connected to the state government’s motivation to squash any opposition to the
transferring of of a large amount of private and common property land to BSP
and other mining companies. Particularly the village of Anjrel, which this team
visited on April 19th, seems to fit this profile, as it is at a strategic
location for Steel Authority of India Limited/Bhilai Steel Plant’s 14 MTA
2,028.797 ha mining operation at Raoghat Hills.  As per official project
documents prepared by BSP, “Anjrel” is actually the name of one of the six
sub-blocks of Block F of Roaghat and is among the three which are to be mined
in Phase-I, along with Block-A and Tarhur. North of Anjrel Village, the company
plans to establish an explosive magazine on 2.235 ha of land, which will
require the complete displacement of Anjrel village and all surrounding
wildlife, as per the project’s technical documents.  Anjrel will also be
the location of a crushing plant, and a conveyor gallery. Interestingly when we
spoke to villagers they were completely unaware of BSP’s project which has
received its final clearances in 2009 from Ministry of Environment and Forests.
 Neither have they been informed that they will be displaced, nor have
they been notified about land acquisition by the tehsildar, nor has their gram
sabha been consulted about the project.  The only experience the villagers
have had with company was in 2012, when, they claim, BSP came and conducted a
survey of the nearby forest.  Even in this instance, the company did not
meet or communicate anything about the project to Khadkagaon villagers.  
It is
suspect that Anjrel locals say that while there are five villages in Khadkagaon
Panchayat, Paralbhat, Supgaon, Kairabhat, Khadkagaon, and Anjrel, and dozens
more villages in and around this mountain, yet Anjrel has been the focal point
of all of the police violence.  As mentioned above, Special Police
Officers (SPOs) and Narayanpur police visit this village frequently and
terrorize the people with the line that they should “leave this village and
move to Narayanpur”.  This we suspect may have to do with the fact that
only Anjrel out of the five villages in this panchayat, will be mined in the
first Phase, while Khadkagaon is the name of another one of BSP’s sub-blocks in
Block F but it will be mined in Phase-II.  It could be that, for reasons
unknown to us, the company prefers not to reveal officially that there are any
villages within their mining lease area; it is more convenient for them that
the state uses extralegal means to instill terror in, and thus dislocate, these
villagers.
  
The use
of SPOs to do the dirty work of CRPF/BSF 
On July
5th, 2011 in Nandini Sundar & Ors. Versus State of Chattisgarh Writ Petition (Civil) No(s) 250
of 2007 the Supreme Court of India stated:
75. We order that: (i) The State
of Chattisgarh immediately cease and desist from using SPOs in any manner or
form in any activities, directly or indirectly, aimed at controlling,
countering, mitigating or otherwise eliminating Maoist/Naxalite activities in
the State of Chattisgarh;
A key
feature of the operations that have been occurring both in Edenar and Anjrel is
the use of SPOs as a means to “unofficially’ physically harass, propagandize,
threaten and loot villages, while CRPF and security personnel conduct
“sanctioned” combing operations.  This in lieu of the aforementioned
Supreme Court order is not only illegal, but it is also unethical since the Special
Police Officers are members of the village community.  By co-opting them
into this unofficial police force, the State is creating deep conflicts and
fissures in the local community for which it remains entirely unaccountable.
This team has been told that there are instances where the SPOs were even
entrusted with the task of beating people in police remand, in front of the
police. It seems the arrests also happen in a purely unconstitutional manner.
No arrest warrant and no search warrant is ever shown. The police can
effectively walk into any house and conduct searches, pick up anyone they
chose, without having to show any reason whatsoever, keep people in police
custody for however long they want to, etc.
The use
of SPOs to do the dirty work of CRPF/BSF

On July
5th, 2011 in Nandini Sundar & Ors. Versus State of Chattisgarh Writ Petition (Civil) No(s) 250
of 2007 the Supreme Court of India stated:
75. We order that: (i) The State
of Chattisgarh immediately cease and desist from using SPOs in any manner or
form in any activities, directly or indirectly, aimed at controlling,
countering, mitigating or otherwise eliminating Maoist/Naxalite activities in
the State of Chattisgarh;

A key
feature of the operations that have been occurring both in Edenar and Anjrel is
the use of SPOs as a means to “unofficially’ physically harass, propagandize,
threaten and loot villages, while CRPF and security personnel conduct
“sanctioned” combing operations.  This in lieu of the aforementioned
Supreme Court order is not only illegal, but it is also unethical since the
Special Police Officers are members of the village community.  By
co-opting them into this unofficial police force, the State is creating deep
conflicts and fissures in the local community for which it remains entirely
unaccountable. This team has been told that there are instances where the SPOs
were even entrusted with the task of beating people in police remand, in front
of the police. It seems the arrests also happen in a purely unconstitutional
manner. No arrest warrant and no search warrant is ever shown. The police can
effectively walk into any house and conduct searches, pick up anyone they
chose, without having to show any reason whatsoever, keep people in police
custody for however long they want to, etcwives, young children and ailing
parents in dire economic circumstances. Often the wife of the victim is the
only able bodied earning member of the family and has to look after both the
household and the work outside of the household. Added to this are the costs
for medical treatments of people injured by such violence, travel costs for
visiting jails and lawyers, and costs for the legal actions. The local markets
are getting affected since the people are now scared of visiting them as these
have become the standard public spaces from where they are picked up by the
police or are attacked by the SPOs.
The
people in these areas, as is the case throughout the rest of Bastar, are
largely dependent on the forests and other natural resources. Not only their
livelihoods, but in fact every aspect of their lives such as the corporeal,
communal, cultural and spiritual is tied to the forests and has been so for
thousands of years.  Yet the villagers are now afraid to move around in
the forests for their livelihoods and family activities, such as mahua picking,
tendu picking, grazing of animals, etc., because of the combing operations that
regularly go on in the forests. There are many accounts of the forces opening
fire on someone without any provocation or warning, injuring or killing the
person.  One illustrative case of this is that of a villager named Vijay  (change
name)
of Edanar
Village who in the early
morning hours of 3rd August, 2013 had gone to the forest near Jampara for
collecting neem daatun. Shortly thereafter, the forces fired at him from inside
the forests without any provocation or warning. One bullet hit his forehead.
The police took the corpse with them, and returned the corpse to Tadoki village
after a post mortem. The post mortem report, however, was not shown to the
villagers. According to Edanar villagers, Vijay had no connections with the
Naxalites, but the police claim that he was killed because he was a Naxalite.
 Villagers from Edanar including the three young daughters and widow of
Vijay have been traumatized by this incident, and feel a general unease about
entering the forest area to fulfil their daily needs because of fear of the
police and paramilitary forces.
Unique
impact the repression has on women

On April
18th the female members of this team visited the home of the deceased Vijay
(change name)
and spoke with his 14-year-old daughter. When asked about the
incident in which her father was killed, she looked ashamed..she shared, “the
police came and told me ‘We killed your father’”.  Her mother (Vijay’s
wife), we were told, was away from the home, and generally comes very
infrequently to this home, which may be because she is traumatized after the
killing of her husband. Her absence means that her three daughters, who are all
under the age of 15 are living practically alone, with their bedridden
grandmother.  Two of them are not attending school, and the youngest of
age six looks underweight and sickly.  It is also important to note that
state did not offer any material or financial compensation to this family.
 It is only because of the communal structure of the village, that some
others from Edanar are farming the 2-3 acres of land this family possesses
while providing some of the produce to the family, that is allowing them to
survive.  The 14-year-old girl to whom we spoke, seems to be severely
disturbed and depressed, and the female neighbor approached us and told us that
Vijay’s (change name) wife worries a lot about how her family will
survive.  The mental health of both the widow and the victim’s daughter
should be examined in the context of a larger and collective impact that the
police violence and their associated events are having on the mental health of
local women and girls.  One must also understand that the self esteem of a
young girl would be shaken due to her inability to attend school, and the
associated cementing of societal inequalities that comes with young girls not
having the opportunity for education because they are forced to fill the gap
created by the departure of an adult figure from the household.
In cases
of jailing or killing of men, often the wife of the victim is the only able
bodied earning member of the family and has to look after both the household
and the work outside of the household. Anjrel village is very illustrative of
this trend and is also unique in that several men are actually not living in
this village due to the fear of harassment from the police.  
All of
these cases should be looked at in the broader context of state repression
which dehumanizes the surviving women who are forced to suddenly shoulder all
of the burden of raising the family.  It is a fundamental rights of the
kin of the deceased, to receive fair compensation from the state, for the
unlawful killings of their relatives by the state, in addition to criminal
prosecution of the persons accused of the murder. It seems very rarely is any
compensation paid to surviving widows.
In the
past, in various instances such as during the course of the September 5th and
6th combing operations, the police and security forces have used torture and
molestation of women as not only a tool against anyone sympathetic or “aiding”
Maoists but also as a tool of degrading the community.  It is known from
various wars throughout history (Bosnia,
Kosovo, Congo), the systematic targeting of
a woman’s body during times of war is also a mechanism of attacking a
community’s honor and ability to carry on their progeny. In this case, it is an
attack on the adivasi peoples fundamental right to self-determination (as promised
in The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples). On the
other hand it seems that a woman’s body is also being used as a weapon of the
propaganda war being waged by the state against the Maoists, as seen following
the December 12th, 2012 incident where the police fired on tribal children
attending a Maoist camp and killed a teenager, Chainu Mandawi, and arrested
nine others. Two of those arrested were girls, who according to the police were
“Local Guerilla Squad member(s)”. Subsequently the police and news media hailed
the operation as a huge success and news reports cried that the girls were
being raped at the alleged Maoist military camps, implying that the police had
liberated the sexually tortured minors.  It is altogether a different
issue of whether or not the children were forcibly being “abducted” by Maoists
for military training, which also must be investigated.  However it is
keen to note that when questioned by a reporter from The Hindu the villagers
openly stated that many children of the area had been regularly attending the
Maoist camps, yet they also stated that it was the first time that most of the
arrested youth had attended the camps and categorically denied the media
allegations that the young girls were repeatedly raped by Maoists. The question
arises, why, if the villagers were openly admitting that children were being
trained by Maoists, would they conceal the systematic rape of the same young
girls?  This suggests that the media and police are intentionally fabricating
stories of rape, which amounts to a tactic to not only dehumanize the local
populous using the body of girls and women as a weapon but also to justify the
wanton killing of minors by the state.  
Issues
with getting fair legal aid and justice
The legal
stipulations and principles for natural justice are being blatantly violated,
not just by the police administration but by the courts as well. On the one
hand there are en masse judicial warrants with the local police station, which
the police can literally use to pick up anyone at any point of time. No
warrants nor justifications are shown when people are picked up. No documents
are given to the family members after that. Post mortem reports are not handed
over to the family members. Old closed cases are reopened and new suspects’
names are added, and then they are picked up. These could be cases where even
the main accused have been acquitted. The FIRs list the names of some suspects
and then “hundreds of others”, which essentially makes things completely open
ended. There are long delays in the sharing of documents related to such old
cases between different courts, which leads to further delays in the court
proceedings.
Even the
judiciary has failed to perform its role of upholding law. There have been no
judicial actions against the police for keeping the arrested in police remand
for more than 24 hours. The investigating officer doesn’t show up during court
hearings, leading to delays in the entire judicial process. Even after
witnesses have turned hostile, and it is clear that the case is completely
fabricated, the judgment is not pronounced because of the absence of the
Investigating Officer, and no judicial action is taken against him for such
unconstitutional behaviour. There are long delays in the sharing of records
between various courts, and all this means prolonged incarceration of the
people.
Other
Legal Issues:
Violation
of Tribal Rights
The
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to which India is a
signatory, is being violated. Article 7 states that indigenous peoples have the
right to not be exposed to violence. Article 30 states that military activities
will not take place on indigenous lands without indigenous peoples’ free, prior
and informed consent, unless it is necessary for the well-being of all of
society and it takes place through consultations with indigenous peoples’
representatives. Both of these articles are being severely violated with the
deployment of paramilitary combat forces in Schedule 5 areas.  
Encroachment
on democratic space, and inability of people to speak openly, etc without fear
of being harassed
The
Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act bars the media from carrying reports
of any kind of ‘unlawful activities’ in the state.  Thus, it is no
surprise that there is hardly any fair media coverage in the area. When the
above mentioned October 23rd, 2012 incident in Edanar was covered by the
mainstream media it was reported categorically that “seven Maoists had been
arrested”, and moreover three of them were “hardcore”. The only source cited
for this information is DSP Rahul Bhagat. This points to a larger problem of
mainstream news playing a unconditionally supportive role to an unaccountable
police force, without engaging in any excercises of ground truthing or
presenting both sides of the story. It seems there is also a noticeable dearth
of information in the media about what happens to these cases once they are
brought before the judiciary. The operation of 3rd August at Edanar village was
described by one of the media outlets as “A Naxalite was on Thursday killed in
an exchange of fire with security personnel after a joint team of BSF”.
 According to villagers there was no exchange of fire involved whatsoever,
and Mr. Dhanelia was killed
without the slightest of reason or provocation. The report also says that
“several weapons including guns, tiffin bombs, detonators and wires were
recovered from the encounter site”. Very rarely are proper forensic tests done
for these so-called “recovered weapons”, leaving no way to tell if they were
really recovered from the site, or planted by the police.  Yet, despite
the victim having at least 2-3 alibis and 40 other villagers willing to vouch
for him, the media, administration and civil society at large is led to
unquestioningly believe the police version of the story.  
Concluding
remarks
As is
clear from the above account, the culture of governance in Kanker and
Narayanpur districts seem to be that of extreme police repression and impunity.
This, together with unrestrained flouting of laws and constitutional provisions
and protections, seem to be the key machinery at work to displace people from
their villages. While on the one hand this push to drive people out of their
villages and forests seems to be in order to effectively counter the Naxalite
movement (through strategic hamletting, as was tried through the Salwa Judum
camps), on the other hand it is evident that the mining interests in the region
are a key reason behind such state policies. The presence and intervention of
armed forces and armed civilians in the form of SPOs has led to the destruction
of the lives and livelihoods of a staggering number of families and a complete
disintegration of the village community. The most disturbing feature of the
entire process is the blatant disregard for any kind of legality and
constitutionality by the armed forces, the police, and the corporations. There
is no control over the police regarding who they can abduct and why, the
victims have no recourse to proper judicial processes, the corporations
together with the relevant administrative bodies regularly flout the basic laws
supposed to regulate mining processes, gram sabhas are either not allowed or
are totally disregarded, and all forms of freedom of expression are gagged
through draconian laws and money power.
The role
played by mainstream media in bringing out the “facts” is extremely
problematic. Almost in every case, the media has no real contact with the
ground realities, and is happy to parrot the police versions. Also by branding
every single person killed or arrested as “naxalite”, regardless of whether it
is true or not, the media serves to dehumanize the person. We forget that this
person would still have a family who might be dependent on him/her. Even
naxalites are entitled to proper judicial processes in a democracy. But somehow
by leaving the story at the sheer “encounter” or the arrest, and not pursuing
it any further, the media perpetuates the public opinion that judicial fairness
is irrelevant in such cases. Going beyond the murder of a people and their
aspirations, it is in fact the act of murder of a democracy that is playing
itself out in Bastar, through the trio of police, corporations and media.
Our
demands:
1.
Immediate and proper judicial process for those already incarcerated
2.
Immediate withdrawal of security forces from Kanker and Narayanpur districts
3.
Independent judicial enquiry into the encounters
4.
Setting up of an independent enquiry commission to look into the larger culture
of violence, impunity and lawlessness by the state agencies
4.
Disbanding of SPOs
5.
Registering cases against the police officials responsible for fake encounters
6.
Compensation for the families of the victims of unlawful police activity
7. Immediate
halt to all mining operations in the area and suspension of all mining and
prospecting leases till proper processes have been followed, including
environmental clearance, gram sabhas
8.
Immediate scrapping of all leases that have been obtained flouting the relevant
laws

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Thu Sep 4 , 2014
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