Campaign for Peace & Justice in Chhattisgarh
c/o F-10/12, GF, Malviya Nagar, New Delhi
An team of research scholars and students from various Universities across the country and independent researchers visited Dantewada and Bijapur districts of Chhattisgarh from 6th to the 10th of June 2008. The initiative was taken by the Campaign for Peace and Justice in Chhattisgarh a campaign group formed by individuals and organisations who are deeply concerned about the gross violation of human rights going on in Chhattisgarh.
During the four days, we visited a number of villages and a few camps and documented the testimonies of victims who recounted horrid stories of violence they have witnessed and experienced since the start of the Salwa Judum in 2005. As a team, our observations of the area are frightening as cases of killings, sexual crimes, destructions of villages and food stocks and gross human rights violations on a large scale are rampant. We believe that contrary to the Chhattisgarh Government’s assertion of Salwa Judum being a peaceful, spontaneous and autonomous movement, it is in fact a part of well concerted, militarised strategy on the part of the officialdom.
The Adivasis have narrated gruesome incidents of violence against them. Raids by the Judum members resulting in the loss of lives and property in the villages are a regular phenomenon. Loot, arson and torture as a means to coerce people to go to the Salwa Judum camps. In some cases, arson has been used as means not only to coerce people to go to Salwa Judum camps but also to prevent them from returning to their villages. We documented numerous instances of girls and women being raped and subject to other forms of sexual violence by Salwa Judum and security forces.
The atrocities don’t however end at the borders of the camps and in fact several cases of torture and murder have been reported from these camps. Basics such as food, water and sanitation have been denied to those in the camps. Those who stayed back in villages or ran away from Salwa Judum camps live in constant fear of yet another raid by the Judum. Their mobility and access to basics such education, health and weekly markets are severely restricted .
Acts of intimidation and violence by the forces in the pretext of protecting villagers and justifying it by branding them to be Naxalites seems to be a thought out strategy. The level of militarisation and criminalisation in Dantewada and Bijapur is frightening. Constant surveillance has insecurity and has created a tense, war like atmosphere. Our grave concern is that arming civilians as a counter insurgent strategy will eventually create a criminilised society where jungle raj will be the rule of the day.
You may be aware that the NHRC, pursuant to the Supreme Court order on 31st March 2008 has constituted a fact finding team which after a preliminary visit in May, had organised a public hearing on 10th June 2008 in Dantewada. Several people from various villages from across Dantewada and Bijapur attended this hearing and deposed before the commission. Our observations are presented to the National Human Rights Commission that arrived in Dantewada on the 10th of June 2008.
Our fear that the people who have been courageous enough to voice their discontent and give testimonies to NHRC being harassed and threatened by the militarized network. A group of IDPs who had fled Chhattisgarh to Andhra Pradesh due to the violence unleashed by Salwa Judum and had come to depose before the NHRC were detained and harassed at the Konta Police station on there way back to AP. We fear that people from villages within Chhattisgarh may also be harassed and tortured by the Salwa Judum.
[These are preliminary observations by the team presented at a press conference in Raipur on 11th June. We are in the process of preparing a detailed report which will be circulated shortly. ]
Team members: Kamal Nayan Choubey – Ph.d Scholar, Univ. of Delhi
Ranjay Kumar – Univ. of Delhi
Vikas Kumar – Univ. of Delhi
Preeti Chauhan– Univ. of Delhi
Sanchita Bakshi – Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
Aditya Swarup – NALSAR Univ of Law, Hyderabad.
Contact details: Praveen Mote-09313879073; Sridevi Panikkar-09868099304