Tribal leaders in Bastar claim that security forces killed 10 innocent people and raped children

Bastar, March 6, Human rights defender and tribal leaders Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi released a statement on the murder of 10 innocent people by security forces in Bastar, Chhattisgarh. They spoke about how the truth was shoved under the carpet about the continuing onslaught of violence against the indigenous Adivasi population of Bastar, especially after the incident of February 7 in village Tadiballa, Tehsil Bhairamgarh, Bijapur situated in the hills of Abujhmad.

“It is notable that the government and the Home Minister are presenting this as a great victory of the security forces, but if one asks just a few questions and conducts even a small inquiry, a chilling reality emerges. We, the residents of many villages of Bastar, have gathered at Bhairamgarh today, on March 5, to expose the lies of the government, to tell our story to the world, and to seek justice,” they said in their statement.

Security forces gunned down at least 10 alleged Maoists during an encounter in Bijapur and claimed that 11 weapons were found by them.

The activists claimed that none of the ten people killed that day by the security forces were Naxalites, and no encounter took place on that day. “Most of the villagers who died that day were our children, who had gathered that day to participate in village sports. The security forces came and started firing indiscriminately on the crowd of villagers without any warning, as a result of which people panicked and there was utter chaos. Those hit with bullets were brutalized further by the security forces. Two girls were raped, of whom a young girl of 12 years was not only raped, but her nose and private parts were mutilated.  All the dead were subjected to brutal torture, despite the security forces clearly knowing that they were only villagers. The force personnel also burned all the clothes, vessels, containers etc present at the incident site,” the activists said.

“We want to know why the security forces behave so badly each and every time they visit our village on routine patrol. From where do they get these orders? Every day, without any reason or any evidence, Adivasis are being rounded up, taken to a camp or police station where they are being detained for days on end and beaten up.  Their family members are denied any information about their whereabouts, at the end of which they are either let go or arrested in a false Naxalite case. Under whose orders do the security forces consider women’s bodies as their own property to assault and violate at their will? Even pregnant women, young girls and mothers with children at their breasts are not spared. When we file complaints, they come up with casteist defences – that Adivasi women have a foul smell, and none of these men would even touch them. What kind of orders are these which call for brutal extermination of hundreds of innocent Adivasi civilians?” they said in their statement.

The Adivasi population in Bastar continuously lives in the shadow of death and destruction. “Our houses are looted and burned, and our carefully earned money, clothes, cash, crops, sheep and cattle, chicken, and all our wealth is like an eyesore for the government. What kind of militarization is this, supposedly for the protection of Bastar’s population, but something which only arouses utmost fear in us? What we have lost, what torture we have borne, what misery the government has bestowed on us is immeasurable, but today it is the duty of the government to answer our questions and give us justice,” they said while making the following demands from the government-

1. As per our description of the event, a counter-FIR should be lodged into the incident under sections 302, 307, 376(2)(c), 201 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 5(b) of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, which should be investigated in an unbiased and transparent manner

2. To get to the bottom of this matter, a Commission of Inquiry should be instituted, presided by a retired High Court Judge.

3. The family members of the deceased should be given copies of the FIR and the Post Mortem.

4. The Magisterial Inquiry should be conducted as per the guidelines of the NHRC and in a manner making it possible for the family members of the deceased to give their testimonies fearlessly.

Two Adivasi women were also shot at by CRPF officers on February 2 in in the forest of Rengaiguda village, around 450 kms from Raipur, under Polampalli police station limits, when a joint team of security forces was returning after an area domination operation.

While a woman named Podiyam Sukki died of the gunshot wounds, another woman Kalmi Dewe was wounded and is currently being treated at a hospital. The police have been calling them Maoists but villagers have rejected these claims and said that they were not involved in any skirmish. The officers were also seen changing the women’s clothes and dressing them up in Naxal uniforms.

Source: Sabrang India

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