Chattisgarh Governor Must Fulfill his Constitutional Obligation to Protect Rights of Adivasis
New Delhi, July 10 : Since the killing of 17 Adivasis on June 28th in Rajpenta, Kottaguda and Sarkeguda many revealing facts have come to public knowledge. The news contradicting the versions of CRPF, State government and Home Ministry, Union Government has come from journalists, social activists, villagers and even the team of State Congress Party and and Union Minister Mr. K C Deo. Home Minister, Mr. P Chidamabram on his part atleast had the gumption to say that, “If a young boy or girl or a woman, who was not involved with the CPI-Maoists, has been killed, I’m deeply sorry,”. This doesn’t absolve him since CRPF falls directly under the Home Ministry and indeed innocents have been killed. What does he propose to do now ?.
Mr. Raman Singh, the CM of Chattisgarh has constantly failed to protect the adivasis of the regions and has continued to protect the security forces, encounters, forced detention, imprisonments, attack on social activists and many other terror tactics of the security forces, Salwa Judum and the crimes of corporations like Jindals, Tata and Essar, who have helped the government in order to protect their investment and continued to displace adivasis and attack activists, latest being firing on Ramesh Agarwal in Raigarh. He must resign rather than continuing to preside over the genocide of adivasis.
A Magisterial enquiry headed by Mr. Kuruvanshi, the SDM instituted by the Chattisgarh Government is nothing but a sham as shown in his interaction with a three member J P Rao, Kopa Kunjam and Nandini Sundar fact finding team, which went and met the villagers and officials. The SDM has no plans to visit the village, and if the villagers wished, they could come and see him in his office on July 9. This shows the seriousness of the enquiry commission.
The fact finding team reported that the three villages merge into each other and have been carved up in an arbitrary fashion between different panchayats (Korsaguda and Chipurbhatti panchayats). The field where the firing took place is an open area surrounded by houses, some of which are in Kottaguda and some of which fall in Rajpenta. The villagers had returned only in 2009 after Salwa Judum had burnt their village in 2005, and are still struggling to put their cattle together and rebuild all houses properly. The meeting on the 28th night was held to discuss how to help those without cattle and single women headed households, and also to plan the holding of the bija pondum (seed sowing festival). The three villages share a common earth shrine – which means they celebrate all their festivals together.
The villagers told the fact finding team that there were no Maoists present, and that the police were most likely injured in cross-firing. The absence of any Maoist leaders is supported by the fact that had there been a squad in the village, there would have been sentries posted in the direction of Basaguda thana. CRPF on its part even when they knew they were in the middle of a village, yet did not use night flares or observe even the most basic precautions when firing. In all 17 persons have been killed, of which 7 are minors; 9 have been injured, and at least 5 women have been beaten / assaulted. One cow has died and one bull has been injured, and there are bullet marks on the houses.
The words of condemnation are not enough for such cold blooded murder by state of its own citizens in the most brazen way. It is high time that Governor of Chattisgarh stepped in and fulfilled his constitutional obligations and protect the lives and rights of Adivasis and the State. We also feel that Supreme Court must take suo moto action based on the facts available in public domain and summon state and central governments.
It also needs to be noted that the no amount of pumping in money in ‘Left Wing Extremism’ affected districts will build the confidence of the adivasis and others in those regions. However, punishing the guilty security officials and agencies involved in fake encounters, illegal detention, arrests, rape, torture will surely build confidence and lead to peace. The recent killings has surely dented the faith of adivasis who were returning to their villages after attacks of Salwa Judum in 2005, which led to cleansing of nearly 600 villages.
We demand that the guilty officials be tried in the court of law, and the policy of awarding forces and pumping money in name of development be scrapped, because that is fuelling a series of fake encounters and illegal arrests of human rights activists (Seema Azad, Binayak Sen, Arun Ferreira, Kopa Kunjam, Soni Sori & ors.), adivasis and those from other marginal sections of the society. In a civilized society and the world’s biggest democracy we can’t let this continue !
Medha Patkar, Prashant Bhushan, Prafulla Samantara, Sandeep Pandey, Dr. Sunilam, P Chennaiah, Suniti S R, Gabriele Districh, Sister Celia, Ramakrishnan Raju, Anand Mazgaonkar, Suhas Kolhekar, Vimal Bhai, Rajendra Ravi, Mukta Srivastava, Madhuresh Kumar