Challenging State Impunity
A PIL on Extra-Judicial Killings in Bijapur, Chhattisgarh
Even as the Bastar police celebrate their “success” in having killed over a hundred alleged Naxalites this year, a Public Interest Litigation challenging the spate of encounters in Bijapur has been filed before the Chhattisgarh High Court in Bilaspur. The petitioners are two young women from Korcholi with extra-ordinary grit and determination –Suneeta Pottam (19 years old).and Munni Pottam (18 years old), who have been supported in this effort by a national women’s organization, the WSS (wssnet.org) as the third petitioner.
(The Petitioners, Suneeta Pottam and Munni Pottam, with a copy of their petition, in their lawyer’s office) Continue reading
PRESS STATEMENT 21st February 2016
Human Rights Defenders under Police Attack in Chhattisgarh
- Soni Sori, local adivasi leader and the Aam Aadmi Party coordinator for Bastar Division, was attacked by three goons on her way home on the 20th of February in Geedam at 11 pm. Soni Sori has communicated that the attackers threw a chemical substance on her face and threatened her saying “stop complaining against the IG, stop raising the issue of Mardum. If you don’t behave yourself, we will do this to your daughter as well.” She was also warned against attempting to file an FIR against the IG of police again.
- The attack on Soni Sori is part of a larger campaign of State violence in Bastar; Under the guise of anti-Naxal operations, the security forces are indulging in rape and plunder. Teams of women activists have documented three cases of mass sexual violence in the past three months, where security forces have entered villages in Sukma and Bijapur- stripping women, conducting gangrapes, looting their food supplies, and destroying their homes and granaries. The number of “encounters” is increasing, people are “disappearing” from villages, only to show up in the list of “surrendered” or “arrested” Naxalites several days later as press clippings and testimonies recount. The local police and administration are talking in one voice of “clearing” the area within one year.
Three years ago, a young woman was brutally gang raped and murdered on a Delhi bus. The incident sparked unprecedented outrage – it brought thousands onto the streets, it ‘shocked the collective conscience of the nation’ and even led to an amendment of existing rape laws. It marked an important moment in India’s history, making for a shift in the discourse that surrounds sexual violence. Despite the rabid calls for capital punishment, the multitude of voices that were heard then, allowed for an expanded dialogue on rape – issues of rape within marriage and family, the need to repeal laws such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and include a special subsection on rapes committed by security forces, and the move away from seeing rape as the fault of the victim – informed and changed the nature of public discourse on sexual violence.
But while laws can be amended within the year, and courts fast-tracked, the everyday lives of most women continue to be informed by violence. Particularly those women who are economically and socially marginalized. As Kalpana Sharma reminds us, it should not take an anniversary or 16 days of activism to be reminded of something that happens everyday. Continue reading
As the history books told us how the victorious king’s armies plundered after the occupation – Will the state continue to do the same under the garb of naxal operations and road-development work?
As an all-India fact-finding team of women, we were visiting Bastar to look at the status of women in conflict areas. When our team reached Jagdalpur and Bijapur, we were informed by the local journalists that there has been talk of rape and encounter killings in the Sarkeguda area but they have not been able to access the areas to get accurate information as the security forces had stopped them.
On Friday, October 30, our team informed the District Collector before setting out so that there would not be any problem in accessing the area. It was market day in Basaguda. We met many people from the villages where the recent incidents had occurred. Not in ones and twos, but in tens and twenties, the women shared their experiences of sexual violence including – molestation and rape physical beating, verbal abuse and threats, destruction and looting of property near Basaguda, Bijapur by the security forces and police who had come in 3 – 4 batches when they patrolled the villages starting from October 19/ 20 till October 24, 2015. The affected villages are – Chinnagelur, Peddagelur, Gundam and Burgicheru.