Indian state attacking villages, homes, schools and organizing centers in Chhattisgarh

[Note:  The “Janatana Sarkars” are collective forms of political and economic organization of the adivasis (India’s indigenous peoples) who have organized themselves under the leadership of the Maoists. — Frontlines ed.]

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Preliminary Report on the Fact Finding In Bijapur District, Chhattisgarh

Democratic Students’ Union, University of Delhi
(Released in a Press Conference at Women’s Press Corps on 15 March 2013)

In the three weeks from mid-January till the first week of February, several villages in the Bijapur District of Chhattisgarh experienced the terror of the armed forces of the Indian state. The CRPF, Chhattisgarh state police, erstwhile SPO’s of the Salwa Judum along with various coercive arms of the state orchestrated a systematic targeting of villages, burnt down hundreds of homes, ostensibly in random, further, burnt down the schools built by the people, picked up villagers, young and old, and physically tortured them while their homes burned to the ground. The affected villages are Pidia, Tomnaka, Singham, Lingham, Komati, Tomudum, and Kondapadu, and in each of these between eight and thirty homes were burnt down by the armed forces. In the village of Dodi-Tumnar, a school with hostel facility for about a hundred children, both girls and boys, run by the Janatana Sarkar was looted and then burnt down by the invading forces in the last week of January. Two battalions of about 1000 CRPF personnel each, besides Koya commandos and SPO’s arrived at the village school at 9 am on that day. They systematically proceeded to destroy the school after firing into the air twice. Even as the students and the schoolmaster fled into the forest, the armed forces caught an old man on his way to the field and chopped off his hand with his own sickle. Following this, the forces looted the storeroom and the kitchen of the school, poisoned the water well, and destroyed the roof, walls, and furniture of the school before finally burning it to the ground. They then marched to the nearby village of Pidia. This village, that houses approximately 265 homes, witnessed first hand the ruthlessness with which the armed force burn down the homes and livelihood of those who stand up for their right to life and liberty. Close to thirty homes were burnt down in one part of this village alone. The charred remains of the homes, cattle sheds, storerooms, utensils can be seen littered with empty bottles of beer and other brands of alcohol. It is clear that this planned attack is part of the routine of military life that participates in wanton destruction and celebrates the impunity they enjoy.

The burial of slain villagers

The burial of slain villagers

By burning schools and homes, looting sources of livelihood, and physically torturing hundreds of adivasis, the state attempted to legitimize the violence in the name of ‘development’. This methodical burning of homes and schools reveals the carnival of violence practiced by the forces to intimidate, brutalize and squash the spirit of those living in these parts without any concern for consequences. The villagers were forced to remain in the forest for three days as the force camped in the village as well as the hills surrounding the village. A few young men were picked up by the armed force and brutally beaten. Most of the men were released while one still remains in jail. They looted the means of livelihood and sustenance in the village. Before leaving, they burnt the leftover rations and supplies of the villagers that they had looted. Traces of the violence faced by the village can be seen in the charred remains of homes, shelters, and broken utensils and fences. Here, it is the Janatana Sarkar to whom the villagers turn to in times like these. The Janatana Sarkar provided medicines and food to the affected villagers. It is now also helping them rebuild the burnt homes. Even as the bare frames of the homes are being rebuilt pillar by pillar and brick by brick, the spirit of resistance is visible for all to see. Continue reading

India: Protests of government’s June 28 massacre of adivasis continue to grow

[As a revolutionary democratic activist has noted, The 28 June Adivasi Massacre is the biggest ever single incident in which the largest number of adivaisis have been killed since 1947. The massacre is indicative of scale of atrocities that are presently going on in the tribal regions.” It is essential that international attention and protest is brought to this atrocity by the Indian government—but, unfortunately, many “progressives” and “leftists” continue to turn a blind eye to such realities.  Here we post (1) a report from an all-India fact finding team; (2) a report from investigators; and (3) statements from families of villagers killed.  We have heard that local and countrywide protests are underway, involving a wide spectrum of political forces. – Frontlines ed.]

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Report from Coordination of Democratic Rights Organisations

An all-India fact-finding team of rights activists belonging to the Coordination of Democratic Rights Organisations (CDRO) visited the area in Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh where 17 adivasis died as a result of firing by CRPF forces on the night of June 28, 2012. The team visited the villages of Sarkeguda, Kottaguda and Rajpenta and elicited information about the events. The following is a brief report of the team. A more detailed report will follow in due course. The team visited the villages of Sarkeguda, Kottaguda and Rajpenta on July 6 and 7 and elicited information about the events.

All three villages are small settlements located close to each other and in the jurisdiction of the Basaguda police station which is located about a km. away. There is a CRPF camp at about three km from the three villages. While Sarkeguda with 25 households and Rajpenta (12 households) are in Korsagudem panchayat, Kottaguda with 30 households is in Cheepurupatti panchayat. Most residents of the three villages belong to the Dorla Koya tribe.

About 60 adivasis of these three villages assembled from around 8 pm on June 28 in an open area between Sarkeguda and Kottaguda. Such meetings where decisions have to be taken collectively are usually held during the night since adivasis are busy with work most of the day. As the sowing season was upcoming, the meeting was held to discuss several issues related to farming including fixing the date for the traditional seed sowing festival known as bija pondum- (this was to have taken place a few weeks earlier but was delayed because the pujari who conducts the ritual had died), distribution of land for tilling, lending help to those families who were without cattle, deciding the amount of rent for using the new tractor they had brought and how to raise fish. Arrears of Rs 10,000 due to the adivasis since two years for tendu leaf collection were paid only recently and they also wanted to discuss what use to put it to. It was a fairly cloudy night and visibility was poor. All those in the gathering were adivasi residents of the three villages and unarmed.

While the meeting was going on, a large contingent of CRPF personnel and CoBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action, a specialised anti-naxalite guerilla unit of the CRPF) commandos numbering well over a hundred, cordoned off the area. According to the villagers, at about 10 pm there was gunfire without any warning. The first burst was from towards the west and it hit three adivasis who died instantly. This was quickly followed by firing from three other directions. Terrified villagers began screaming and running. Most ran towards their respective villages. Some tried to hide in a hay-storing enclosure. Those who were fleeing for their lives were also fired upon. The firing continued for about 30 minutes after which, as if to survey the dead, the CRPF forces fired two flare guns that lit up the area. The forces stayed on in the area.

It was clear to the fact-finding team that a peaceful gathering of adivasis, none of whom carried any firearms, was surrounded by the CRPF and without any warning fired upon indiscriminately. As a result of this firing, 16 adivasis died — 15 that night and Irpa Suresh (15) in Bijapur hospital the next day. Six of the dead were minors, including a 12 year old girl Kaka Saraswati, daughter of K Rama. She was hit while fleeing towards her house in Kottaguda. Of the other five minors, two — Kaka Rahul (16) and Madkam Ramvilas (16) — were studying in class 10 at a school in Basaguda. Both stayed at a hostel in Basaguda and had come home during the summer vacations.

It was plain slaughter that night near Sarkeguda.

According to the villagers, those who did not die from the bullet wounds were killed by the police with axes they picked up from the village itself. Several eyewitnesses from outside the village, including mediapersons who saw the bodies before they were cremated, referred to some of them as having been brutalised with deep hacking cuts on the chests and foreheads.

The 17th victim of this senseless butchery was Irpa Ramesh, husband of I Lachmi and father of three children. After the firing began, he ran and made it to the safety of his house and stepped out at dawn at about 5 am to survey the area. He was fired upon immediately and though he was hit, managed to get back inside his house. The CRPF men followed him in and clobbered him to death with a brick in front of his family members. According to Ramesh’s father Irpa Raju, the CRPF men also stole Rs 5,000 from their house. The same night the police also stole Rs 30,000 from Irpa Narayana’s house in Rajpenta as well as Rs 2,000 from the house of Madkam Nagesh. Continue reading