SUVOJIT BAGCHI, The Hindum Raipur, oct 24
While de-mining an area in south Bastar as a precautionary measure prior to the November poll, forewarned of possible violence, the local police “forced” Madvi Nanda – a farmer from village Burkapal in Sukma district – to dig out a land mine near his village. The land mine exploded while Mr Nanda was defusing it, allegedly without any safety gear, thus severely injuring him. The incident is in clear violation of all humanitarian laws that says, non-combatants can not be made to participate in a conflict.
Video footages of Mr Nanda shows that his face has burnt and eyes have almost melted. His head and half of left eye are bandaged and Mr Nanda is having problems talking to the journalists, who met him after he was transferred to a Jagdalpur hospital.
In the video Mr Nanda could be heard saying in Gondi that he was “forced” by the police to de-mine an area in Sukma district. When asked if he has de-mined any area before, Mr Nanda answered negatively and added, “Police asked me to dig it (land mine) out and (then only) to go home.” The Hindu accessed the video and got the conversation translated between Mr Nanda and the local video journalists. Elsewhere in the video, Mr Nanda also clearly said that he was “called from the village by the police to dig out the explosives.” He named one “Shukla” whose identity could not be confirmed.
Jagdalpur journalist, Naresh Mishra, who visited Mr Nanda in the hospital told The Hindu that the Gond tribal had no “protective body cover” when he was trying to dig out the landmine. “He was given only a metal detector and asked to pull out the landmine,” the journalist said. Mr Mishra also said that the police are not allowing journalists to talk to Mr Nanda any more. “So we could not find out if Mr Nanda is a surrendered naxalite or a villager who was asked to dig out the land mine,” Mr Mishra said. The security officials airlifted Mr Nanda from Burkapal – about 100 kilometer south of Jagdalpur – and dropped him at the hospital and disappeared, the locals said.
Any such coercive or forceful methods applied on civilians by security personnel stands in complete violation of the international humanitarian laws, under the Geneva Conventions IV of 1949 to which India is signatory in 1950 and thus “non-combatant immunity is regarded as on of the cornerstones of the humanitarian law of Armed Conflict,” in any country, wrote human rights scholar Judith Gail Gardam.
However, Geneva Convention also mentioned “protection of civilians in times of war” and since Maoist rebellion is not accepted even as conflict, so the police can easily get away with such violation of human rights albeit alleged.
Regarding Mr Nanda’s injury, the superintendent of police (SP) of Sukma district, Abhishek Shandilya said that the incident has nothing to do with de-mining of the area.
“Sound of the blast got some policemen out of Burkapal camp. They found that a man is lying on the ground in the nearby areas, within 500 kilometer of the camp,” Mr Shandilya said. However, it was unclear how a land mine or an explosive device planted inside the ground hit the face of the victim in stead of the lower half of his body. “I do not remember any injury in down waist,” Mr Mishra said.
The SP said that Mr Nanda was transferred to hospital by helicopter on the same day.
“A jawan was suffering of a snake bite and so we could transfer both of them to the Jagdalpur hospital,” Mr Shandilya said.