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Report by Human Rights Forum on March 2011 violence in villages of Dantewada, Chhattisgarh

15 April 2011

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Human Rights Forum

http://www.humanrightsforum.org/

Press Release

14 April 2011

A two-member fact-finding team of the Human Rights Forum (HRF) visited Tadmetla and Morpalli villages located in the jurisdiction of the Chintalnar police station in Konta block of Dantewada district, Chattisgarh on April 5 to enquire into reports of arson, rape and killings in the area in the second week of March. The team, consisting of HRF State general secretary VS Krishna and HRF Khammam district president SK Khadar Babu, spoke with residents of the two villages. While we could not visit Timmapuram, we managed to speak with residents of that village as they happened to be at Tadmetla.

Contrary to assertions by government functionaries, it was personnel of the Koya Commandos, Cobra (Combat Battalion for Resolute Action) and Special Police Officers (SPOs) who had raided three villages – Morpalli, Timmapuram and Tadmetla on March 11, 13 and 14 and March 16 respectively. The attackers killed three adviasi farmers, sexually assaulted three adivasi women of Morpalli and Tadmetla and set on fire over 290 houses—207 in Tadmetla, 33 in Morpalli and about 55 in Timmapuram.

Morpalli

Security forces and Koya Commandos, numbering well over 200 and dressed in uniform as well as in plainclothes descended on Morpalli on the morning of March 11. On seeing them from a distance, the adivasis fled into the forest. Madvi Imle, who was working her field, was unlucky. The security men caught and beat her, stole Rs 10,000 she had on her person and sexually assaulted her in front of her young daughters. The raiders also caught hold of Madvi Ganga, aged about 45, his son Bhim and daughter Bime. They were tied in the main village, abused and beaten up for “supporting the Maoists”.

All through this, the attackers set on fire houses. In all, 33 dwellings were razed that morning at Morpalli. (This village, incidentally, was earlier torched by the Salwa Judum in the summer of 2007). On their way back, these men shot dead Madvi Chula, aged about 35 on the outskirts on the village. He was shot dead while on a tree and his body left hanging there. They also stole several hens from the village.

Ganga and his children were taken to the Chintalnar police station where he and his son were beaten. Bime was separated from father and brother and sexually assaulted. The three have since been let off.

Reports of Starvation Deaths

The HRF team also tried to determine the veracity of media reports that six adivasis of Morpalli had died due to starvation following the attack by security forces on March 11. Morpalli villagers told us that three residents of the village, all aged above 60 died in the forest in the days following March 11. They said the three, two men and a woman, had fled upon seeing the forces entering the village. The three—Nupe Rajulu, Madvi Jogalu (men) and Madkam Bhime (woman) had died on the 14th, 15th and 16th of March respectively. The villagers said they died because unlike the young they had got lost and could not obtain water or food while hiding. They have since been cremated on the village outskirts. These deaths would not have taken place if not for the attack on Morpalli and the government has to bear responsibility.

We found that while there is no evidence of starvation in the village, there is impoverishment and destitution rendered acute due to the burning of their granaries by the security forces and Koya Commandos. At the moment there is clearly scarcity of food and relief is urgently required. The government, either by neglect or as part of a deliberate policy has all but abdicated its welfare function in these villages. The adivasis are therefore unable to access basic amenities through government schemes. Moreover, obtaining clean water is going to be a problem in the coming weeks since most it not all the few bores that are operational in the area will go dry soon. In fact, the area (particularly Tadmetla) has had an outbreak of gastro-enteritis due to consumption of unsafe water last year resulting in over 20 fatalities.

Timmapuram

According to accounts by several villagers of Timmapuram who spoke with us at Tadmetla, over 200 Koya Commandos as well as security personnel came to their village on the afternoon of March 13. They had with them two captives Badse Bhim and Mannu Yadav, both aged about 40 and residents of Phulanpad village who they had picked up enroute. The security forces questioned a few villagers about the presence of Maoists and then spent the night in the village. They were leaving the next morning when the Maoists attacked them. In the exchange of fire that ensued, three Koya Commandoes and one Maoist died.

The Koya Commandoes and security forces went back and stayed at Timmapur. Before leaving the next morning, they torched about 55 houses in the village and also hacked to death with an axe Badse Bhim who was in their custody. Manu Yadav was taken to Chintalnar police station and his body was found by his wife several days later near Chintalnar. The police have sought to pass this death as one of a “Maoist killed in encounter”. The villagers believe he was liquidated by the police in cold-blood.

Tadmetla

The security forces and the Koya Commandos attacked Tadmetla from several directions a little before dawn on March 16. They were more than 300 in number and went about systematically torching houses. Expectedly, the villagers ran for their lives but a few were apprehended by the forces. They were beaten, abused for “helping the Maoists” and threatened with death if they continued to do so. They rained blows on even children and the old. A total of 207 of the nearly 300 houses in the village were reduced to ashes in this arson by the security forces and Koya Commandoes.
Madvi Joge, who tried to flee was set upon by Koya Commandos, beaten and raped. The assailants took away Rs 8000 and jewellery she had on her person. The security forces picked up two adivasi farmers, Madvi Aitha and Madvi Handha and took them away with them. Their relatives saw them the next day at Dornapal but their whereabouts are not clear. We were told that they have been sent to judicial remand but this could not be confirmed.

Relief promised by the government has only reached Tadmetla and that too is far from sufficient. Rice, onions, potatoes, pulses and tea were given but in quantities that will have lasted only a few days. They were also given tarpaulins and sarees. The adivasis are sharing food and helping each other out but they are in need of more relief.

Significantly, villagers of both Morpalli and Tadmetla were able to identify and name many of the SPOs who took part in the attacks. Among the names given to us were Madkam Bhima of Junaguda, Sodi Dasru of Millampalli, Telam Nanda of Lakkapaar, Ramlal Barse of Budgal, Telam Kosab and Mukesh Aimla of Nagaram, Sodi Dasru and Karti Singa of Millampalli, Kiche Nanda of Dornapal and Katram Surya of Misma (these two are accused in several criminal cases including charges of rape and declared absconding by the police), Vanjam Deva of Sirpuguda, Madvi Chona of Timmapuram and a woman SPO Payake of the same village and Oyam Kapil of Gaganpalli. Some of these men were involved in preventing relief supplies being sent by the district administration from reaching Tadmetla and also Congress legislators during the last week of March.

In the face of these plain facts, the Chattisgarh government continues to maintain the bizarre fiction that it is the Maoists who had burnt the houses of adivasis in the three villages. Residents of Tadmetla narrated in detail all that had happened to the Chattisgarh Governor, Chief Minister and Home Minister when they visited the village on April 2, yet the government continues to lie shamelessly. The brazen manner in which the SPOs commit illegalities is evident in the manner in which several SPOs resorted to robbery and stealing food in Tadmetla even as the Governor and CM were talking with the people and distributing rations. The Chattisgarh government has been telling the Supreme Court that the Salwa Judum has been disbanded but this criminal vigilante force is still in full evidence in the form of SPOs and the Koya Commandos.

The HRF is of the opinion that the brutalities inflicted upon these three adviasi villages by a combination of security forces and vigilante groups like Koya Commandos and SPOs is part of a conscious counter-insurgency strategy of the government in its fight against the Maoists. In Chattisgarh, time and again this has meant that adivasis perceived of being the support base of the Maoists are being deliberately targeted and subjected to terrible violence. This is an unacceptable violation of the right to life and liberty. We demand that the government, both at the Centre and the various States, stop treating the law of the land and the Constitution with contempt. They must adopt a political approach to the Maoists in place of the policy of violent suppression that has been the State’s principal response.

We demand that personnel of the security forces, Koya Commandos and SPOs responsible for the crimes in the three villages of Morpalli, Timmapuram and Tadmetla be criminally prosecuted under sections relating to murder, rape, abduction, arson, robbery etc. The government must take immediate steps to reach adequate relief material to all three villages and desist from stopping the media and concerned citizens from visiting these areas. It must fully carry out its welfare responsibilities to the people of the area.

VS Krishna
- (HRF State general secretary)

SK Khadar Babu
- (HRF Khammam dist. President)