Photographs from Tadmetla, Morpalli and Timapuram villages of Dantewada district which had been attacked by Koya commandoes and the infamous COBRA forces of the Chhattisgarh police force on the 11th and 16th of March, burning down 300 houses, killing five people and raping  three women in separate incidents.

Announcement Letter

DANTEWADA PADYATRA, SATYAGRAH AND JAN SUNWAI

For the People’s Right
to say No to displacement and Tribal Genocide

And to demand
the right to live with justice and peace

Raipur / Dantewada

1 December 2009

Dear Friends,

You are aware that the tribals of Dantewada district in Chhattisgarh State are continuously facing large-scale displacement from their homes, fields and forests a well as a genocide in the last five years. The first aggressive onslaught was by the state sponsored vigilante group called the Salwa Judum. In the last five months, the people of this region are victims of a war called the Operation Green Hunt. Paramilitary troops along with the state armed police deployed in very large numbers by the Central and the state governments are carrying out operations against the tribals in the name of curbing Maoists and reclaiming territories from them.

In order to build public opinion and to support the tribal people in their demand to stop this displacement and genocide and to reclaim their right to live with justice and peace, several community based and people’s organisations, union and human rights groups from Chhattisgarh and outside are planning a series of activities in Dantewada in Chhattisgarh.

This letter is being sent to you so that you can block the dates between 14 December 2009 and 7 January 2010 and come to Dantewada in support of tribal people. The list of events and dates are as follows:

1.  Padyatra: 14 December to 26 December 2009

A padyatra from Nendra village to Dantewada town via Lingagiri is being organised that will pass through more than 17 villages. This padyatra will be led by Himanshu Kumar of the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram and this group of approximately 40 persons will mainly consist of students, journalists and activists from all over the country. The main objective is to restore a sense of confidence amongst the tribals who are living in acute fear due to the onslaught of the security forces. The padyatris will also document the atrocities that the tribals have been subjected to including the situation of hunger, food insecurity, lack of health and educational facilities and other forms of deprivation faced due to the ongoing displacement and war in the region.

2.  Dantewada Satyagrah: 25 December 2009 to 5 January 2010

Tribal people from all over Dantewada and other regions of Chhattisgarh will launch a Satyagrah on 25 December 2009 which will have the upport of tribals from Jharkhand, Orissa, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, among other states. We are hoping that large groups of people from these states and from all National Networks, unions and organisations working on diverse people’s issues will respond to this call and join in the Satyagrah for some of these days. The objective of the satyagrah is to bring together concerned people from all over the country to demand in one voice an end to displacement of people and to the war that is underway in this region.

A Raipur assistance group set up for the Satyagrah will be headed by Shri Rajendra Sail of the PUCL to help people coming to join the Satyagrah from the North, East and West India as well as from other parts of Chhattigarh. Raipur is situated on the Mumbai-Kolkata route and is well connected by train from most parts of the country. Dantewada is situated 400 kms. from Raipur and direct buses are available between the two towns through the day and night that take about 12 hours each way

People coming from the South can take train or bus from Vishakhapatnam or bus from Hyderabad. The distance is 500 kms. from Hyderabad via Bhadrachalam and takes about 16 hours.

3.  Jan Sunwai: 6-7 January 2010 (the date may be advanced or postponed by a day)

The Satyagrah will culminate with a Jan Sunwai where tribal residents of this region will share their experiences of the Salwa Judum, Operation Green Hunt and their struggle for justice. This Jan Sunwai will be witnessed by a panel of ex-justices, senior activists from various people’s movements, ex-bureaucrats and policemen, journalists and intellectuals including those from among the tribals.

This letter is a request to you and your group/organisation to begin preparation for your participation in the series of events given above. A more detailed invitation shall be sent to you soon. For more details please contact at the phone numbers provided below.

We are:

Vanvasi Chetna Ashram, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (Chhattisgarh), Chhattisgarh Visthapan Virodhi Manch, Chhattigarh Mukti Morcha, Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha – Mazdoor Karyakarta Samiti, Nadi Ghati Morcha, Human Rights Law Network (Chhattisgarh), National Alliance of People’s Movements, Chhattisgarh Mahila Jagriti Sangathan, Chhattisgarh Bal Shramik Sangathan, Gram Sabha Parishad, Tribal Welfare Society, and others (endorsments by other organisations are awaited)

Contact Persons:

Himanshu Kumar: 09425260031

Rajendra Sail: 09826804519

Sudha Bhardwaj: 09926603877

Vijendra: 09406049737

Click here to read CPJC’s statement on the National Human Rights Commission’s recent report on Salwa Judum

As you may be aware, that the Election Commission is in the process of preparation for the State Assembly elections which are to take place towards the end of this year. A delegation on behalf of Campaign for Peace and Justice in Chhattisgarh(CPJC) met the Chief Election Commissioner Sh.N. Gopalaswami and Election Commissioner Sh. Navin Chandra along with some senior officials of the Election Commission of India on 9th September 2008 to raise concerns regarding the preparation of electoral rolls and other matters relating to the forth coming elections in Dantewada and Bijapur districts of South Chhattisgarh.

Following were the main issues raised by the delegation:

  • Regarding discrepancies of Electoral Rolls:According to recent media reports, Government of Chhattisgarh claims that more than 57,000 people are living in these camps and their names are getting included in the electoral rolls for the camps and media reports indicate that the Government has initiated a process of including their names in the electoral roles for the camps. As per reports we have received from local civil society members and fact findings done by CPJC members, majority of people who were living in these relief camps have gone back to their homes in their respective villages. According to our information the number of residents in camps is not more than 10,000.

    There are several other discrepancies existing in the preparation of Electoral rolls: many names in from the voter’s list have been dropped and in some cases names of children aged 13-16 have been included in the names. Moreover, names of several people who have fled to Andhra Pradesh and other neighbouring states have been added or maintained in the electoral rolls of Salwa Judum camps when they never lived there.

Government of Chhattisgarh has closed down most of Public Distribution System(PDS) shops in these villages. Therefore people have to come back to Salwa Judum camps to buy their ration.These details from camp ration shops have been shown to prove that 57,000 people are still living in these camps. This amounts to willfully misleading the Commission and the everyone else.

    This means that while many genuine voters would be deprived of their right to vote, the free and fair nature elections itself would be affected due to these discrepancies.

  • Voting rights of those who have been forced to flee Chhattisgarh:Estimates of people who have fled to these states range from 50,000 to 1,50,000. As we have stated earlier, names of several people who have fled to Andhra Pradesh and other neighbouring states have been added or maintained in the electoral rolls of Salwa Judum camps when they never lived there. We are afraid that this will inevitably result in fraud voting while the citizens themselves are deprived of their right to vote.

Sh.Manish Kunjam, CPI leader and former MLA from Sukama, Dantewada has also written to the CEC raising these and several other issues.

The Election Commission made it clear that they were not in a position to make any arrangements for those who have been forced to migrate to other states unless they are in designated government camps in these states. Considering that all the neighbouring states have failed to recognise the IDPs, provide them with basics and even to protect them from harassment at the hands of the forest department officials, let alone enumerate them or establish government relief camps, this essentially means that thousands of people would be deprived of their basic political right to vote.

Regarding electoral rolls CEC said that electoral rolls have not yet been finalised and that they will look into and correct any discrepancies if they are pointed out in the draft electoral rolls that were published earlier this year. CEC was also of the opinion that since photo identity cards are to be issues this year, the chances of fraud voting would be minimised.

However, most worrisome was the Commission’s response to the issue of inclusion of names of people who had returned to villages in the electoral rolls of Salwa Judum camps. We were told that if the villages and the camps are in the same constituency then it should be no problem if there names were included in the camp lists as they will be polling in the same constituency. The delegation raised our fears that people will inevitable be coerced if this happens, but we did not get a response from the Commission. The delegation also appealed to the Commission that they must recognise the tense situation in CG and make special arrangements. There are precedents like the Commission’s intervention Kashmir. However, the Commission was of the opinion that the situation was markedly different because in Kashmir they at least had access to areas which is not the case in CG with its ‘liberated zones’. Both these positions of the Commission are worrying because they seem to be blindly going along with the position taken by the Chhattisgarh government without making an independent assessment of the situation.

Members of the delegation:Sumit Chakravartty, Editor, Mainstream Weekly, Vijayan MJ, Pravin Mote and Sridevi Panikkar.

A copy of the Memorandum submitted by CPJC in PDF format may be accessed here.

Commission report painful; it says the self-defence group is armed and committing atrocities . The Hindu reports.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Chhattisgarh government to implement some of the recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission, which went into the activities of the Salwa Judum (self-defence group) set up by the State to tackle naxal menace.

Earlier, the NHRC submitted, in a sealed cover, a report to the court, which had asked it to probe the allegations that the Salwa Judum, which had been provided with arms, was committing atrocities on innocent people.

A Bench comprising Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justices P. Sathasivam and J.M. Panchal was hearing a petition filed by Nandini Sundar, Ramachandra Guha and E.A.S. Sarma. They challenged the setting up of the Salwa Judum which, they alleged, was indulging in killings and committing atrocities on tribals in the guise of countering the naxal movement.

The Chief Justice, who perused the NHRC report, told senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, appearing for Chhattisgarh, that the commission “has done a meticulous work. It has given a series of recommendations. It is very painful to read the report. It says there is arson and looting, people are armed and they [Salwa Judum] are committing serious offences. It says people who are subjected to serious problems are still afraid of coming out.”

The Chief Justice observed: “When somebody [Salwa judum] is given arms, he claims to be a pseudo police. Once he is given arms, he will commit an offence though he has no right to do any such act. Some remedial measures have been suggested in the report and the State may consider implementing them. Whatever is urgently required to be done, do it.”

Mr. Venugopal assured the court that the government would implement the recommendations “which are of immediate concern.”

The Bench asked the Registry to supply copies of the NHRC report to the parties and asked them to file their response, and posted the matter to October 23.

The petition said the Salwa Judum was launched to combat naxalites but in reality these activists conducted frequent raids on villages and attacked and killed suspected sympathisers of naxalites, torched their houses and looted livestock.

In defence of Salwa Judum, the Chhattisgarh government said: “It is not state-sponsored, but a people’s initiative to combat the menace of naxalites. The State is committed to resolving the problem of naxalism, and any peaceful movement which resists violent methods definitely gets support of States.”

Additional Solicitor-General Gopal Subramaniam appeared for the Centre and counsel Nithya Ramakrishnan, for the petitioners.

Ahead of the coming assembly polls, the Communist Party of India (CPI) has urged the Election Commission to depute its own team to make an assessment about the present situation in ‘Salwa Judum’ camps in Naxalite-infested areas of South Bastar, alleging that the inmates were being forcibly enrolled as voters of the polling centres to be set up at the relief camps.

“A large number of people, who were staying in the relief camp for the last three years, have already returned to their respective villages. Their names have been deleted from the electoral rolls of their native villages and have been added in the voters’ list of the relief camp area”, CPI leader and All India Adivasi Mahasabha President Manish Kunjam said in his letter to the Election Commission.

“Its not proper to deprive the people, who have returned to their respective villages, an opportunity to exercise their franchise in the polling stations close to their native villages”, he said and claimed that CPI had raised this issue with Dantewara and Bijapur district collectors, who have expressed their ‘inability’ to do anything to enlist them as voters in their villages.

Pointing out that those who became eligible to cast their votes for the first time have been enlisted as voters of relief camp areas,

Kunjam said in such a situation free and fair polls were not possible both in Dantewara and Bijapur districts, particularly in the relief camps, which are “controlled” ‘Salwa Judum’ activists.

Kunjam, a former CPI legislator, told The Indian Express that the Commission should depute its own team to look into the matter as such ‘manipulations’ in the preparations of electoral rolls clearly indicated towards the possibility of bogus voting and even rigging in the assembly polls.

Kunjam said he had also written a letter to the Election Commission, pointing out that the staff, engaged in the revision of electoral rolls, did not visit more than 50 out of the total 187 polling station areas falling in the Konta (ST) Assembly segment in South Bastar.

However, the state’s Joint Electoral Officer Gaurav Dwivedi told The Indian Express that the list of relief camp inmates, eligible to cast votes, were being prepared and tallied with the electoral rolls of their respective villages.

[Source:Indian Express, September 01, 2008. Available at http://www.indianexpress.com/story/355817.html as of September 02, 2008]

Human Rights Watch conducted research in Khammam and Warangal districts of Andhra Pradesh, and Bijapur, Dantewada, and Bastar districts of Chhattisgarh between November 2007 and February 2008. A report based on this was released by HRW in July 2008.

This report can be accessed and downloaded from the HRW website. We have also uploaded the report on this website and it can downloaded from the ‘Fact Finding reports on Salwa Judum’

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