Caught in an Irresponsible War: Cases Slapped Against Scholars, Activists After Bastar Report
SPECIFIC INSTANCES OF ATROCITIES AND REPRESSION
Marjum fake encounter:
In first week of May, 2016 one police personnel died and one got injured in a cross firing between Police/Paramilitary forces and the Maoists near Marjum village in Dantewada district. After a few days, on 7thMay, 2016, the villagers of Junglepara went to Bheemapara to celebrate Beej Pandum, a traditional festival of the villagers. The village has two paras: Junglepara and Bheemapara (para is a local term for hamlets, elsewhere known as mohalla or tola). Singing, dancing and hunting which are parts of the festivalbegan at around 9 am in the morning. At around 12 noon, they were informed by the villagers of the neighboring village Chitrapal that there was a firing in the forest and two boys were shot. Two boys aged around 17-18 years, namely Markam Mangloo and Podiyam Vijja, who went to bathe in the nearby stream, were found missing from the group of the Junglepara villagers. According to the villagers, the patrolling force found them alone, shot them there and declared them Maoists. The newspapers were informed by the policethat both the boys were Maoists and they were killed in an encounter.
As soon as we reached Dantewada, we got to know that there was a press conference called on 12th May, 2016 evening by ex MLAs of CPI Nanda Sori and Manish Kunjam. Their sources told them that the killed boys were innocent tribals. They brought the villagers to Dantewada and in the press conference, villagers accused the police of the fake encounter. Villagers said that both the boys had no connection with Maoists at all. Ms. Balmati, the Sarpanch of the village and the Anganwadi helper Aaiti were also present along with the family members, relatives and other villagers in the press conference who also confirmed that the police was making false allegations. The deceased boys and their families were well known to them and these were nothing else but the murders of innocent tribal boys. They also said that later that day, two more boys namely, Dewa and Podiyam were arrested from their houses in the village.
Markam Mangloo’s father Santu passed away earlier. His mother Gangi is left alone without husband and son. Another deceased boy was Podiyam Vijja, son of Podiyam Godha (father) and Sukdi (mother). Both father and mother were shattered with the death of their son. They were all sitting quiet and just answering the questions the press asked monosyllabically in a dull voice. Their language was Koya so Com. Manish Kunjam and others were helping in the translation. Marjum is located in deep dense forest. It was evident from the fact that no media person could succeed in reaching the village after the incident.
It is impossible to expect these villagers to fight for justice in the courts, when they find it difficult to even express themselves even in Hindi. When one of the media persons asked villagers regarding the police accusation that Rs. 7550was found with Mangloo, his mother Gangi, the anganwadi helper Aaiti and all others replied in rage, “That was the money he collected after selling imli (tamarind) and the wages he received after digging the dabri. He was so worried of losing that money to the Police or thieves that he kept it all the time with him and did not even give it to his mother.” They said, “Police had beaten us several times earlier. They even don’t leave the elderly people. We are beaten up from both sides. Naxalites say that we should not talk to the Police and if we talk they accuse us of being police informers and then they punish us. On the other hand, police people say that we help Naxalites by providing them ration and other things, so they also beat us often. Whenever they come to the village they take away all chickens and goats. We have no proper access to ration or any other thing. Our ration shop is also 15 km away in Katekalian village. In such circumstances, we live somehow.”
The villagers also informed us about a very serious thing in the end. They said that after killing the two boys, the force came to our village, picked up two boys, beat up many people and while leaving they sprinkled some liquid in our stored rice and foodgrain. It had a very bad intolerable smell. We thought it was poison so we threw that rice away.” There was no way of checking their allegation but if that was true then it is a very serious crime against them. It is shocking that not only are they surviving on their own and with very meager support from the government,but that another branch of the government should actually try and kill them deserves an enquiry and strict punishment.
The press conference was almost over when some villagers said that Mangloo was engaged to a girl Paike of the same village who was arrested earlier this year in February for being a Naxalite by the Police. She was also innocent. Mangloo was expecting her release soon and collecting money for his married life. The amount of Rs. 7550was also part of the preparation of his dream which died with him. Adivasi Mahasabha President Manish Kunjam informed the press that he had earlier also met the police and administration with regard to Paike’s arrest, on the grounds that she was engaged to be married. He raised the point that Naxalites do not marry so how could Paike and Mangloobe Naxalites when they were engaged and planning to marry.
CPI and Adivasi Mahasabha announced a protest demonstration for the fair enquiry of the incident on 19thMay, 2016.We got to know about the successful demonstration later through newspaper reports.
The effect of staged surrenders, mass arrests and civic action programs on villages – Maoist beatings, revival of Salwa Judum style division of villages
Kumakoleng: We visited Kumakoleng, thana Leda, Tongpal block, Kumakoleng panachayat, where we had heard that the Maoists had beaten up villagers. This is a village dominated by the OBC caste of Dhakads (60 out of 110 households). Kallars, Rauts, Dhurwas and Gonds make up the rest. Here too, the village had got no NREGA work for the last five years; this year they got 20-25 days of work. Before the elections, they said, the government blindly distributed ration cards, after the elections, many of these were taken away. The agricultural wage rate is Rs. 100 for men, and Rs. 60 for women.
When we visited, we found that the village was largely deserted, after the Maoists had beaten up villagers on 17 April. 8 villagers had to be hospitalized, including two women. People were scared to return to the village for fear of being beaten by the Maoists. The sequence of events that we could piece together is as follows:
The Maoists came to this area between 2004 and 2007/8. In 2008, they held a janadalat in which they asked the villagers to support them. The villagers refused because they did not want a Salwa Judum type of situation in their village. The Maoists then beat up the village leaders, Gotti Ram Karma, Domu Markam from Markamiras, Jagdev Thakur and Dunu from Kumakoleng. Later, the Maoists also killed Beni, a Dhakad from Kumakoleng, and in 2010, they killed Somaru of Nama, both on charges of being an informer. (In Nama, people particularly resented the killing of Somaru – saying they did not think he was guilty as charged).
But several people also joined the dalams (armed wing of the Maoists) and sanghams (unarmed village level volunteers) were formed. There was a firing in Chintalnar near Kachiras, in which one of the dalam leaders, Sonadhar left his diary (Sonadhar was later killed by the police in Odisha). The diary contained the names of many villagers who had contributed food etc. to the Maoists. The police put pressure on these villagers, threatening to arrest them. In January, 2016 a Maoist called Shankar surrendered, and was used to identify sangham members. Therefore, in March 2016, approximately 50 people from Kumakoleng panchayat ‘surrendered’ to the police; some of them were also later brought around to identify others. The Maoists then put pressure on the villagers for surrendering. On 15 April, 2016 the police held a camp in Kumakoleng and distributed sarees, vessels etc. This was attended by the Additional SP among others. At this shivir, some of the villagers, especially the Dhakad women,(the Dhakads have traditionally not been so close to the Maoists) asked the police to set up a CRPF camp in their village. On 17 April,2016, the Maoists came looking for two people who had surrendered, SukhmanYadav and Bhagirath, and beat up a large number of people in Kumakoleng, including those who had asked for a police camp. On 18th the police came and took 8 people to Maharani hospital in Jagdalpur. Only 35 out of 110 households are still left in the village. The rest of them left for other villages to live with their relatives. The fear of the Maoists was very palpable.
The following day, we met one of the Dhakad women, Ramvati, who had been taken to hospital and was living in rented accommodation in Tongpal. According to Ramvati, apart from her, three other women had been hit that day, Devaki, Lachandei and Chero. Devaki also had to be hospitalized. Ramvati’s elder son, Tulsiram Nag, is one of those who had surrendered. She described how one of the dalam members had dragged her out from her shop and hit her on the soles of her feet, and with an axe near her eye.
According to Ramvati, not everyone in the village supported the idea of having a camp.
In neighbouring Nama village, Soutnar panchayat, all the villagers have resolved to keep the Maoists out and have been patrolling the villages with bows and arrows and axes for the last three months. They have not given their initiative any formal name like a gram suraksha dal and laughingly called themselves the ‘tangiya gang’. At night the youth sleep together in clusters for safety.
In the Soutnar case too, tension with the Maoists was created after the surrender of a former Maoist, Shankar, who then accompanied the police when they held a camp in the village and identified villagers. Earlier villagers were scared to go to Tongpal because they were treated as Maoists by the police and feared arrest. Under pressure from the Maoists for surrendering, the villagers asked for a CRPF camp. As mentioned before, they were also put off by the beating and killing of a villager Somaru in 2010 on charges of being an informant, when the villagers felt he was innocent. A couple of villagers also complained that they were beaten when they did not give food to the squads.
We sat in an empty mining office, which was built in 2008. There is tin and colombite in nearby hills but mining has not started. The villagers said that illegal tin mining, which used to be rampant among immigrant traders in this area stopped about ten years ago, because the rivers used for smelting dried up.
In the meeting with 50 odd villagers including women, we were asked by the villagers what they should do. Responding to their question, we told them that in your condition, you are the best judge, but we must say that we want your safety, peace and development. Beating and killing the villagers by Naxals is definitely wrong and it should be stopped immediately but having CRPF camps around the village is not a long-term solution either. Ideally, the best option for the villagers would be neither the Naxalites nor police/CAPF camps, but their own open resistance to any interference in their affairs. Whatever happens, the villagers must stay united.
In Koleng village, a year ago, the villagers said that Maoists had killed Janpad member Pandu Ram Nag and left a note with his body threatening others for being informers. They complained to the police, and his wife is now sarpanch. More recently, the police held a camp and distributed sarees, blankets, lungis, vessels, sports equipment like a bat and ball for the school. When their supplies ran out, the police gave Rs. 50 to individuals, The police also distributed mobile phones. Villagers told us that the elders had decided they would be better off with a police camp.
To summarise, under the pressure of Maoist coercion and police arrests, the villagers are trying to make difficult choices about who to side with and which will be a safer option for them. These are contingent, unstable and unhappy choices to have to make. A peaceful, democratic solution needs to be found in the long-term interests of the welfare of the villagers.