- Worsening Situation in Bastar – Victim of sexual assault in Palnar attempts suicide, while Burkapal village is ordered to be emptied
Report of a Fact Finding team of the Bastar Bachao Sanyukt Sangharsh Samiti
September 18, 2017
The situation of the Adivasis in Bastar is continuously deteriorating. On the one hand, school going girls are forced to observe the festival of Rakshabandhan and suffer sexual harassment, and on the other, the Adivasi residents of Burkapal have been ordered to leave their own village. This is the conclusion at which the fact-finding team from the Bastar Bachao Sanyukt Sangharsh Samiti arrived, at the end of their 3 –day tour.
It should be noted that on 31.07.2017, the adivasi schoolgirls of the Palnar Girls Hostel in Dantewada were made to observe the non-adivasi tradition of Rakshabandhan — one week ahead of the actual festival – and coerced into tying rakhis on the wrists of the CRPF jawans. While the festivities were on, 17 schoolgirls were sexually harassed and inappropriately touched by the CRPF jawans there. The outraged girls complained to their parents, but attempts were made to scuttle the entire affair. Meanwhile, the AAP leader and member of Bastar Bachao Sanyukt Sangharsh Samiti, Soni Sori, became aware of this incident, and brought this shameful incident to the notice of the media and the general public. Under the glare of public outrage, an FIR was finally registered on 7th August, and only 2 jawans have been arrested till now. There are many other accused in this incident, against whom no actions have been taken.
Only 5 days earlier, the affected schoolgirls had contacted Soni Sori to inform her that they were being tormented by the hostel warden. Bastar Bachao Sanyukh Sangharsh Samiti decided to investigate the truth behind this incident. On 16th September, a fact finding team lead by the former Union Minister, Shri Arvind Netam, and comprising of Smt Soni Sori, Shri Lingaram Kodopi of Dantewada, PUCL state President Dr Lakhan Singh of Bilaspur, ex-CJM Shri Prabhakar Gwal of Saraipalli, well known Adivasi leader Shri Sukul Nag, CPI leader Shri Rama Sodhi, the AAP leaders Dr. Sanket Thakur amd Durga Jha, Bhanuprakash Chandra from Bilaspur and Pratibha Gwal, all visited Palnar.
In Palnar, a meeting was organized with the affected school girls, their parents, and sarpanches and janpad members from 11 village panchayats. In front of everyone, the school girls – while maintaining their anonymity – complained of how the hostel warden Draupadi Sinha was harassing them – from using abusive language to accusing them of illicit relationships with their elder brothers, and withholding food from them. One school girl, unable to bear the abuse any further, had even attempted to commit suicide in the hostel bathroom, but her friends spotted her and saved her, and informed her parents of the situation.
The audience was profoundly disturbed to hear the narratives of the victimized school girls. It was also noted that despite such a serious incident, no action has been taken by the government against the hostel warden.
The fact-finding team tried to contact the Collector of Dantewada on that that day itself, but the meeting could only happen on the 17th of September. The Bastar Bachao Sanyukt Sangharsh Samiti demaded strict action against the hostel warden, and the Collector, Shri Saurabh Kumar, assured the team that he would look into the matter and take appropriate action.
On 17 September, the team started off for Burkapal but were informed on the way that the Adivasi women had already reached Dornapal in order to meet them. These women informed the team members that it had become impossible to survive in Burkapal after the attack on CRPF jawans by the Maoists on 25th April. Thirty Seven (37) men of the village, who were the husbands of the women who met with the team, had been picked up on charges of being involved with this Naxal incident, and imprisoned in jail. The terror unleashed by the CRPF and police had forced most the village men to flee from the village. The womenfolk left behind in the village were persecuted by the security forces in myriad ways and threatened that they should leave the village, or else they would be killed.
More than a 100 men from Burkapal and its neighbouring villages have been put into jail up till now. No case has yet been filed against them yet.
In Dornapal, the members of Bastar Bachao Sanyukt Sangharsh Samiti met with approximately 35 women who had each been severely impacted. Each one of their faces spoke of unspeakable terror. They are now afraid of returning to their villages. But with their menfolk in jail, even if they flee, where can they go?
Youth from nearby also informed that in the past one week, 4 men from Burkapal were taken by the police via a helicopter. No one knows where they were taken, nor where they have been kept since.
The villagers from Palnar and Burkapal wish to testify before the Chief Minister and the Governor about their hellish lives. The visiting team of Arvind Netam, Soni Sori, Prabhakar Gwal, Dr. Sanket Thakur, Dr. Lakhan Singh, Rama Sodi, Sukul Nag, Bhanu Chandra, Durga Jha pledged to support the adivasis in their quest for justice.
According to Bhima of Burkapal, the 37 men arrested from his village have been put in jail under various charges, whereas 4 others from Burkapal, 7 from Tadmetla, 3 from Tonkpalli, 1 from Duler, 9 from Minpa, 18 from Karigundam, 2 from Kottapalli, 5 from for Gorgunda, and 5 from Pariya are languishing in the police station lock ups without any cases against them. Twenty five (25) fled to Andhra.
Bastar Bachao Sanyukt Sangharsh Samiti