In the Eye of the Storm

IN THE EYE OF THE STORM

Women in Jharkhand Facing Operation Greenhunt

A FACT FINDING REPORT BY WOMEN AGAINST SEXUAL VIOLENCE AND STATE REPRESSION (WSS)
MAY 2011

To get a copy of the report, click here

In recent times, the state of Jharkhand has been characterized by rapid corporatisation and state interventions like the Operation Greenhunt. In the drive to tap the great mineral wealth in the forests of Jharkhand, tribal people’s lands have come under the attack of companies and their agents. As a result in the last few years, the state has seen a strong upsurge of tribal and peoples resistance movements against this. Set up to curb all forms of peoples resistance, Operation Greenhunt has resulted in incidents of brutal violence against the people of Jharakhand. There have been several reports/ allegations of police and other security forces inflicting violence on villagers during their anti-Maoist operations in areas under Operation Greenhunt, including rape and sexual violence against women. Against this backdrop, a team of women visited the state in November 2010 to look into specific news reports of rapes and get an understanding of the overall situation of women in the Operation Green Hunt areas of Jharkhand, with a specific attention to sexual violence.

This report is a compilation of their findings.

BACKGROUND

Jharkhand, carved out of Bihar, became the 28th State of India on 15th November 2000. Jharkhand means land of forests and true to its name, the State is replete with natural resources and is home to 30 scheduled tribal groups like Mundas, Oraons, Hos, Santhals, and 9 most vulnerable tribes, or as the official term goes Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs). In fact, Jharkhand registers an Adivasi population of 26.3% and Dalit population of 11.8%.

In recent times the state of Jharkhand launched ‘Jharkhand Vision 2010’ and ‘Jharkhand Industrial Policy’. Since then the tribal people’s lands and forests have been under attack from companies and their agents, for land, forests and the great mineral wealth lying under these. As a result in the last few years, the state has seen a strong upsurge of tribal and peoples resistance movements against this. A study of land acquisition drive in five sample districts of Jharkhand reveals that the land acquisition drive has left more than 8.2 lakh persons displaced of which 85% are tribals. It is this population that is now, in addition to the struggles of life and livelihood, pitted against rapid corporatisation and state interventions like the Operation Greenhunt.

The Current Investigation

There have been several reports/ allegations of police and other security
forces inflicting brutal violence on villagers during their anti-Maoist operations in areas under Operation Greenhunt, including rape and sexual violence against women, which rarely, if at all, get reported. To give just one instance: an earlier investigation by WSS revealed the case of a 17-year old from Gajapati, Orissa, who was picked up during a combing operation in February 2010 and subjected to gang-rape and is languishing till date in jail. In a pilot visit to Jharkhand we were told of news reports of rape by security forces in Jharkhand in some areas where there was large deployment of security forces, which had not been sufficiently investigated.

At the same time in March 2010 there were news reports from Jharkhand of a young Maoist woman being raped by Maoists and then shot at when she filed a complaint. In May 2010 there were news reports of rape by Maoists of a surrendered female Maoist cadre, who was in police custody. While we are well aware that the state and the media tend to turn the story of many women who are arrested as a source of information of sexual violence against women within the cadre, we are keen to make sure that we do not dismiss it entirely but investigate and see for ourlelves the context in which this happens. We assume women are prone to violence in conflict situations by the state, police and army, but also in the various other situations that conflicts impose on their life, safety and mobility. And we assume that this can happen within organisations or mass movements. But given the atmosphere of conflict, intense repression, intimidation and misinformation, we felt that such news needed to be investigated.

It is against this background that a team of women visited Jharkhand from 12th to 16th November 2010. The objective was (i) to look into above mentioned specific news reports of rape; and (ii) to get an understanding of the overall situation of women in the Operation Green Hunt areas of Jharkhand, with specific attention to sexual violence.

The report of these investigations is available here and elaborates on the following Section I reports arrest of the three minor school girls in Khunti district, the action initiated by WSS by lodging a complaint with National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), and subsequent release of the girls in January 2011. Section II describes the facts and issues around violence on women during search / combing operations by security forces.
Section III reports the investigation into the news reports of the two incidents of alleged rape by Maoists. Section IV raises some concerns and issues relating to the situation of women in areas of conflict.

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