PUDR strongly condemns the burning of the effigies of activists and a journalist by the Chhatissgarh Auxiliary police force across Bastar in a widely publicised ‘offical protest on 24th October. This show of strength by state forces against civilians was the latest and most brazen example of the patronage extended by the government and its systematic fostering of a Police Raj in Bastar. All the public figures whose effigies were burnt- Manish Kunjam, Nandini Sundar, Himanhsu Kumar, Soni Sori, Bela Bhatia and Malini Subramaniam- are members of civil society who have faced violence and intimidation earlier as well for exposing and resisting the ongoing war against the adivasis in Bastar.
The vicious ‘protest’ comes in the immediate wake of the Status report of the Supreme Court monitored CBI investigation into Tarmetla massacre by the Government Forces in 2011. Tellingly, two of the effigies burnt were of the Petitioners – Sundar and Kunjam in the case. At the time of the massacre, DIG Kalluri blamed the Maoists. However, the CBI has held seven SPOs reponsible for the Tadmetla arson and 26 Salwa Judum members for physically assaulting Swami Agnivesh and his team who went to conduct a fact-finding into Tadmetla. As is well recognised both the Judum and the SPOs worked in collusion with the government. The Chattisgarh Police has summarily dismissed the CBI findings, offering a lameduck defense about the burning down of the village being accidentally caused by heat generated by crossfire during an operation against the Maoists! Despite the CBI having found prima facie evidence of their complicty in the massacre, arson and loot, rape and physical assaults, in an act of brutal assault on our own people, the Police are now claiming themselves to be nationalists who are being maligned, while all others resisting them are ‘anti nationals’. What stares us in the face in these recent shows of police strength, is not just the impunity allowed to the forces, but how RSS-BJP Governments at Centre and the State have unleashed an all out war against Bastar citizenry ,part of which is to squelch public spirited intiatives by groups and persons, who are the voice of those people on the ground whose voices do not reach us.
In the operations in the forest villages of Bastar its not the Maoists the security forces fight. They wage war on civilians, terrorising them as is well known, through fake surrenders, fake encounters, atrocities committed on Adivasi women, children and men. More than three thousand Adivasis, falsely accused under "naxal offence" languish in overcrowded and dingy jails. Detentions and arrests are means to ruin Adivasis though court battles and incarceration. In the process stifling Adivasi resistance to land and forest take over by public and private corporate interests, even as the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution remains in abeyance. On the other side, its a struggle to get FIRs registered, eg in the Nendra rape case, for investigations to be completed, for truthful and fair investigation to take place, and through it all there has been a relentless attack on social and political activists, lawyers, journalists and others.
So the effigy burning is not just the government and the forces’ contempt for the Constitutional Order- it was under threat for a long time - but also draws attention yet again to the dirty nature of the all out war the Indian State is waging against some of the most oppressed sections of its own people. Here we are witnessing a defense of the Police’s ‘right’ to commit all crimes and atrocities, versus those who bring out the abuse and violence against civilians showing the war against the Maoists in its true colours, and who affirm the Adivasis’ right to their resources, the forests, waters and land, and protest and resist their takeover. The riotous mob gathered at various places in Bastar, comprising police personnel and vigilantes nurtured by the Police themselves, showed their ‘nationalism’ to be one that not only allows massacre, rape, plunder, arson, terrorisation of fellow Indians, but also denies their rights to legal remedies and justice. Whereas loyalty towards people’s rights and causes is made a mark of the allegedly ‘anti-national’ character of the dissidence and the resistance. We urge all democratic forces to reject this idea of nationalism and speak up now against War against our Own People.
1. Action against all those participating in these protests.
2. Removal of DIG Kalluri.
3. A speedy conclusion of the pending inquiry into rapes and murders at Tarmetla