Tag Archives: Chhattisgarh

WSS Statement On The Sukma Encounter On August 6th 2018.

Immediate and independent probe of the alleged encounter killing of 15 ‘Naxals’ in Sukma

The morning of August 6th 2018, preliminary news reports indicated that 15 ‘Naxals’ had been gunned down by the Chhattisgarh police in Sukma district. This encounter, the reports claimed, also included injuries to two others, a man and a woman, who were then arrested. This encounter happened near Nalkatong village in the Mika Tong forests near Gollapalli and Konta Block of South Sukma. It was conducted by two teams of District Reserve Guard (DRG), Special Task Force (STF), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the elite Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) at roughly 6:30 am and it continued for roughly an hour. As per the SP of Sukma, this combined force numbering 200 personnel encircled and cordoned off a Maoist camp which appeared to have 20-25 militia members. The militia members, it is claimed, belonged to the tri-junction of Gollapalli, Konta and Bhejji areas. Bastar range Inspector General of Police Vivekananda Sinha has claimed that the exchange of fire lasted two hours and the Maoists had initiated the firing forcing the security forces to retaliate. According to Chhattisgarh’s Special Director General of Police (Anti-Naxal operations) DM Awasthi, the recovery of a large cache of arms, explosives and bodies of 15 Naxals along with the arrest of two is evidence of the success of the “biggest anti-Naxal operation in the history of Chhattisgarh”. Meanwhile, the police claim that they faced no setbacks in this operation and all their personnel returned safely to the base camp in Konta.

A day after all these claims, in Kistaram hundreds of women protested against this police action by calling it a ‘fake encounter’. The women protesting police action claim that all those killed were villagers working in their fields and none of them are Naxals. Following a visit to the site by Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi, it was revealed that the police force, in order to show their efficiency in combating Naxals in the area, shot and killed villagers. The villagers, harassed by intrusive search and combing operations in the area, were encircled and killed in indiscriminate firing. It seems some of the people killed are villagers from Gompad, the very village where two years ago a woman was raped and killed by the police and then declared a ‘Naxal’. The claim that any of them were Naxals was strongly opposed by the people resulting in questions about police action in the area. None of the villagers were armed. AAP leader and member of WSS, Soni Sori has asked, “If they were really Maoists, how come none of them had a single automatic weapon in a group of 15? The 15 dead included two brother and seven teenagers.” Soni Sori, Lingaram Kodopi and Ramdev Baghel, representatives of Aam Aadmi Party in the area, have raised serious doubts about the veracity of police claims by speaking with the villagers and have demanded an independent probe. Most crucially, the villagers have claimed that out of the 15 killed, six were minors aged between 14 and 17 years. All those killed were working in their fields when they were killed. The police encircled them in their fields and shot indiscriminately.

As per reports from the ground, villagers from four villages belonging to Mehta Panchayat – Nalkatong, Gompad, Kindrampada and Velpocha – including children between the ages of 14-17 from Nalkatong village were killed by the combined police team. Two people arrested include Madkam Budri, a woman from Nalkatong village who was shot in the leg and Vanjam Hunga from Velpocha village; both are now declared ‘Naxals’. The police are claiming both of them were apprehended during the operation. But the villagers claim that besides these two villagers, three more young adivasis are in police custody. Meanwhile, the villagers are being repeatedly beaten up, including pregnant women, in an effort to keep them quiet. The people from all these villages are clearly stating that there were no Naxals present among them and have invited independent probes to see for itself. It is crucial to note that Gompad is the very same village where two years ago Madkam Hidme, a young adivasi woman, was raped and killed after being declared a Naxal by the police. At that time too the villagers had come together and condemned the police action.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, Raman Singh, has called it a “big, successful and clean operation”. Just days before this operation, the chief minister had claimed that “either they should surrender and join the mainstream, or our forces are ready and Naxals will no longer be spared”. Minister for Home Affairs, Rajnath Singh, has also congratulated the police forces for this operation. The police claim that further search and combing operations are underway. On the one hand, DM Awasthi has claimed that the two teams were sent to the area following intelligence reports and, on the other, the SP of Sukma Abhishek Meena has claimed that “it was sheer chance that our forces spotted a Maoist camp along their route of operation and targeted the cadres. In the gun-battle, our men killed 15 Maoists on the spot”. Even as more questions are being raised regarding the incident on August 6th, the CRPF is planning to set up 17 more police camps in Sukma, Bijapur and Balrampur with two companies of CRPF in each wherein each company will roughly have 110 personnel.

In light of the contradictions in the police narrative and, more importantly, the claims made by the people of Nalkatong and the adjoining villages, it is clear that an immediate and independent probe is needed to ascertain the events in the night and morning of 5th and 6th August 2018. The history of sexual violence and police excess in the area raises apprehensions of an orchestrated operation meant to project ‘success’ for the Chhattisgarh police and boost the morale of the forces in the area. The impact of such operations on the people of Chhattisgarh, especially the adivasis of Bastar region, needs to seen in light of increasing repression on people, the easy and convenient branding of adivasis as ‘Naxals’ and the policy of killing villagers during the monsoons in the days leading up to the Independence Day creating an environment of police terror in the region. WSS condemns the beating up of the villagers including pregnant women by the Chhattisgarh police and paramilitary, all efforts made to silence the people of Sukma, and demand an immediate end to such practices including setting up of camps, intrusive combing operations, harassment of villagers, and threats to the lives of people daring to protest police excess. WSS is alarmed by reports of seven minors being killed in this operation and demands that the police and CRPF immediately cease actions wherein people are shot in cold blood in the name of combating Naxalism. Civil Liberties Committee (CLC) has filed a PIL in the Supreme Court with a prayer to file 302 IPC against paramilitary forces who have killed villagers, asked for the constitution of a judicial enquiry, a review of the post-mortem, called for a stay of auxiliary promotions to the paramilitary personnel, and appealed for the establishment of a criminal investigation by the CBI or set up SIT to investigate the killings. WSS stands in solidarity and supports this petition by CLC. Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) calls on all democratic forces to take note of the appeal made by the villagers of the Mehta Panchayat in Sukma and probe the incident immediately and judiciously.

Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS)

Conveners: Ajita, Nisha, Rinchin and Shalini; Contact: againstsexualviolence@gmail.com

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Condemn the State Sponsored Massacre Scripted as ‘Encounter’ in Gadchiroli and Bijapur in Central India

Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) condemn the recent spate of genocidal violence unleashed by the Indian State on the adivasis of Central India in the form of ‘encounter’ killings in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra and Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh. The alleged ‘encounter’, a term used in the subcontinent to describe the extra-judicial killing of citizens by the armed forces and police, in Gadchiroli district took place in the Maharashtra-Chhattisgarh border in the Rela-Kasnasur forest in the intervening night of 22nd-23rd April 2018. With more bodies being fished out of the Indravati River, the death toll of this alleged encounter has reached 39, nineteen of whom were women, all of whom killed by the Commando-60 (C-60) Squad of the Maharashtra Police and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). This was quickly followed by another encounter in the neighbouring state of Chhattisgarh on the 27th of April 2018 where eight more were killed in an operation led by the notorious Greyhound force of the Telangana Anti-Naxal Unit along with Chhattisgarh Police and the CRPF. This alleged encounter took place near the Ipenta village in Bijapur district with six women among those declared dead. These extra-judicial killings have resulted in the death of 47 persons, several of whom are unidentified, and with fears of more persons, including minors, missing from the districts of Gadchiroli and Bijapur. Reports coming out of area reveal heartbreaking accounts of how villagers including children gathered for a marriage function were rounded up and killed without provocation by the security forces. Continue reading

Delhi Press Conference of Suneeta Pottam and Munni Pottam on Extra-Judicial Killings in Chhattisgarh: Press Release And Video

PRESS RELEASE

Two teenaged adivasi girls from Bastar take on the state in their fight against extra-judicial killings. A Public Interest Litigation challenging the spate of encounters in Bijapur was filed last year before the Chhattisgarh High Court in Bilaspur by two young women from Korcholi with extra-ordinary grit and determination –Suneeta Pottam (19 years old).and Munni Pottam (18 years old). A national women’s organization, the WSS (wssnet.org) is the third petitioner in this case. Faced with a dozen affidavits of the villagers whose family members were killed, the High Court of Bilaspur held that the questions of extra judicial executions and government policies which are responsible for these are similar in spirit to the issues raised by the Salwa Judum petition (Nandini Sundar and Ors vs. State of Chhattisgarh), currently being heard by the Supreme Court. Following which, the young Petitioners filed a Transfer Petition in the Supreme Court last year seeking the transfer of their PIL to the Supreme Court. Suneeta and Munni Pottam are in Delhi to attend the hearing of their transfer petition on Wednesday, 10 January 2018.

At the press conference these young women spoke about these cases of encounters along with the details of the very recent physical and sexual assault of the the women of the villages where Suneeta and Munni live. They also spoke about the harrassment and threats that they have been receiving by the Bastar police (as recent as few weeks back) as result of filing this petition, who have threatened them that if they keep raising these issues which show the police in a bad light, they would be arrested for Naxalite offences and thrown into jail. Shaken but not defeated, these young women have come to Delhi to put their continuous harassment on record before the apex court at the coming hearing. Continue reading

WSS Statement on the Assault on Adivasi Schoolgirls By CRPF Cadre During Imposed Raksha Bandhan Function

ASSAULT ON ADIVASI SCHOOLGIRLS BY CRPF AT IMPOSED RAKSHA BANDHAN FUNCTION

Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression strongly condemns the molestation of school girls in the name of “Raksha Bandhan” by CRPF men and the deplorable act of the Collector and Superintendent in trying to suppress the matter.

On Monday, 31 July 2017, many officers and about 100 CRPF men went to a girlsschool in Palnar in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh to observe the festival of Rakhi by getting the girls to tie rakhis to the male members of the CRPF armed forces. It was clearly a PR exercise to show the CRPF men as the protectorsof the tribal girls studying in the school. Once there, 5 to 6 CRPF men used the opportunity to follow 3 young school girls while they were in line to use the bathroom. Three of these men entered the toilet when a girl ws already inside and stayed there for about 15 minutes. All this while, the men who were outside sexually assaulted the girls who were just outside the bathroom, squeezing their breasts and threatening them.

In the evening, the girls complained to the warden, Draupadi Sinha, who took the matter to the district Collector and the Superintendent of Police. However, instead of taking cognizance of the matter, both of them threatened the girls and tried to silence them. Later the warden and a police woman stood guard outside the school gates and stopped any Human Rights activist from entering the school to talk to the girls. It is only when the girls came back home from the hostel during break that Soni Sori, human rights activist, was able to meet the girls and talk to them. When Soni Sori went to the school to investigate the incident which has been further brought to light by the social activist, Himanshu Kumar in a facebook post, she was threatened and told to turn back.

This is another reminder of the horrific ordeals that the tribal women and girls are subjected to at the hands of the CRPF, para-military and the police in Chhattisgarh at the behest of the State. WSS in the past two years has, through various fact finding reports from the ground, highlighted cases of the mass rapes and sexual assault s of women under the pretext of fighting Maoist insurgents. The ex-IG of Bastar, Mr SRP Kalluri, oversaw indescribable acts against the tribal villagers as has been amply documented and reported by WSS. Mr Kalluri has refused to appear before the National Human Rights Commission despite a summons being issued. He had been invited instead to hoist a flag in Jawaharlal Nehru University on the occasion of the Indian Independence Day on August 15, and only political pressure on his repeatedly gracing education institutions instead of fulfilling his obligation to attend the NHRC summons seems to have led to a cancellation of the event.

Patriarchal customs like Raksha Bandhan evoke men as protectors of women while ignoring the patriarchal roots of violence against women. Despite the attempts to legitimize it by calling it a “celebration” of sibling bond, this only serves the interest of a patriarchal state in proscribing womens freedom and their legitimate demand for equal rights. In this case, the fake exercise of making the tribal girls tie rakhi to CRPF men to project them as the protector of their virtueand broadcasting it through state-controlled media served only as an opportunity for the repetition of the historic pattern of army men sexually assaulting adivasi women. These empty gestures are masterminded by the state to improve the image of CRPF and para-military in the region who are under severe criticism for their human rights violations and especially sexual violence in Chhattisgarh.

While it is a larger feminist struggle to fight against patriarchal customs like Raksha Bandhan which sees women as weak and designates brothers/men as their protector, the use of such regressive customs as a public relations opportunity by the state to justify the brutality wrought by CRPF, para-military, and the police on the tribal women reminds us once again of the depravity of the state that would stoop to such unimaginable levels.

WSS is glad that a case has been booked under Section 354 IPC and POCSO Act cand hope that after a speedy investigation the culprits will be appropriately punished as per criminal law. We repeat that criminal punishment for cases of sexual violence by the armed forces can not be substituted by internal army investigation and punishment.

‘Gavahi’ – A WSS Book on Sexual Violence in South Chhattisgarh

 

This book is a comprehensive compilation of the incidents of sexual violence in South Chhattisgarh, drawing on independent investigations or joint fact findings by WSS.

Pre-order your copy by writing to booksbywss@gmail.com

Title – Gavahi
Language – Hindi
Cost – Rs100/- + Rs40/- postal charges if required.
Bulk orders accepted. Postal charges will be confirmed according to the quantity ordered.

WSS Statement on Recent Blasts in Sukma

WSS Statement on Recent Blasts in Sukma 
 
14.3.2017
 

WSS condemns the IED blast in Sukma on 11.3.2017 in which 12 CRPF personnel lost their lives and several others, including members of a road-construction crew, were injured. We express our condolences to the families of the deceased.

We are concerned that this incident will further fuel the cycle of pointless violence in which the entire Adivasi community is made to pay the price for the violent acts of others. Our experience shows that such attacks are followed by violent reprisals against the community in surrounding villages, through random arrests, forced “surrenders” and illegal detentions. Such responses, and the rhetoric of “revenge for the blood of martyrs” that is used to justify them, only deepens the alienation and exclusion of Adivasi villagers.

We hope that the state government will continue with efforts to restore the rule of law and regain public confidence, signaled by the shake-up in the police and administration in Bastar. But this is only a first step – the situation on the ground continues largely unchanged. We have a long way to go in combating the mindset that labels all Adivasis and human rights defenders and journalists questioning state violence as “Maoist supporters”, thereby legitimizing the harassment and violation to which they are subjected.

We reiterate our stand that militarization is not the answer to the present situation. The lives of combatants on both sides, and uncounted adivasi villagers continue to be lost in this war. Nothing can justify the bloodshed and loss of human lives and the destruction of the land and forests where this war is being fought.

WSS (Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression) is a non funded, nationwide network of women from diverse political and social movements comprising of women’s organizations, mass organizations, civil liberty organizations, student and youth organizations, mass movements and individuals. For more information, please see wssnet.org

‘Bearing Witness’ – A WSS Book on Sexual Violence in South Chhattisgarh

wss-book-release_16thfebThis book is a comprehensive compilation of the incidents of sexual violence in South Chhattisgarh, drawing on independent investigations or joint fact findings by WSS.

Pre-order your copy by writing to booksbywss@gmail.com

Title – Bearing Witness
Language – English
No. of pages – 128
Cost – Rs100/- + Rs40/- postal charges if required.
Bulk orders accepted. Postal charges will be confirmed according to the quantity ordered.