Press releases condemning the new wave of State terror being unleashed on the people of Chhattisgarh

March 9, 2016

Report on Chattisgarh Repression

The CDRO Organised a fact finding mission to Chattisgarh State during 14.01.2016 to 18.01.2016. The constituent bodies participated are

(1) Civil Liberties Committee (CLC), Telangana (2) Civil Liberties Committee (CLC), Andhra Pradesh (3) Peoples Union for democratic Rights (PUDR) (4) Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR), West Bengal (5) Peoples Democratic Forum (PDF) and (6) Women against Sexual harassment and State repression (WSS).

The fact finding committee divided into two teams and one team has visited Bellam Nendra Village near Basaguda, Sukma District., to investigate into gang rapes by Para Military Forces and the other team visited Pedda Zejjore Village near Bijapur District head Quarters.

Pedda Zejjore Encounter

It has been reported in the news papers that an encounter occurred at Pedda Zejjore on 15th January 2016, where four naxalites have been killed. However the facts of the said encounter are as follows:

On 15th January 2016, at around 7.30 morning some six young villagers, consisting of three young men and three girls were going from Pedda Zejjore to Reddy Village market to purchase consumables provisions. The three young men were aged between 21 and 24, while the three girls were aged between 9 and 13 years. As they were in young age and walking down through the forest area playing, singing and listening to radio songs. It was a child hood fun and frolic morning for them to go to Friday market at Reddy village 20 kms away from their village. However, as they were reached at thick forest track near Chinna Zejjore Village, the para military forces waylaid themselves behind thick cover of the trees and bushes fired at them indiscriminately without giving any cautions. The four youngsters including a girl were collapsed instantly. The forces went closer to the bodies and pierced the bullets into their bodies, from point blank range. The deed are 1. Majji Budram (21), 2. Oyam Munna (24), 4. Madkam Pandu (21) and 4 teenage girl Oyam Tulasi (13). The other two young girls aged 9 and 10 also received bullet wounds. One girl aged 9 has been injured with bullet on her ankle and the the other girl aged 10 injured on stomach and arm with bullets. Both injured girl children managed to run away from the scene and reached the village and informed their elders. Hearing the children and also gun shot sounds the villagers came to the site of the encounter only to the find that the bodies are removed and shifted to the Bijapur General Hospital by the police force. The point to note here is that the police force never bothered to inform the families and conduct the inquest on the bodies at the scene of offence.

The villagers went back to Pedda Zejjore Village to collect some more people and then went to Bijapur General Hospital. But post mortem was done to the bodies much before being identified who they are. Infact, the post mortem cannot be done to the bodies without proper identification of the bodies according to National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) guidelines. No press notifications were issued for identification of the bodies. The post mortem process was not carried out under video graph. The doctor and police authorities have brazenly violated all legal procedures. The villagers told the committee that the police demanded Rs. 4,000 per body to transport back to their village. Only when the villagers staged a protest, then the bodies were transported to the village by a state vehicle.

The fact finding team incidentally reached the village soon after the bodies were brought to the village. We have first seen the body of the Majji Budram (21) and found that two bullets were pierced on the two sides of the chest, one on the left shoulder and left arm. There was also a big bullet wound on the left side of the Jaw.

Budram was a farmer with ten acres of land. His widowed mother, younger brother and wife were innocently crying around the body. He was married just two months back.

We also observed the body of Oyam Munna (24) and found severe bullet wounds on his body. One bullet pierced through his forchead and the one behind his ear and two bullets on two sides of the chest indicating that he was shot dead from close range. Munna has only widowed mother.

We noticed severe bullet injuries on the body of Oyam Tulasi (13). We could see many villagers approaching her house from all directions. We noticed bullets piercing through her abdomen, chest and arm. Tulasi had widowed mother, three sisters and two brothers.

Madkam Pandu (21) was also a farmer was having three little children. The villagers told us that severe bullets pierced though his body from front side.

At each of the houses, we were told that the children were going to Reddy Village to get groceries and other provisions when the police personnel hiding in the forest had killed them. It is well established that they are innocent villagers working in the agricultural activities and not Maoists been claimed by the police. They were unarmed civilians.

Gang rapes

On January 12, 2016, a large contingent of security personnel entered Bellam Nendra Village near Basaguda, Bijapur District. The strategy of the forces is to enter the village open fire in the air and terrorise the villagers so that the male folk run away from the villages. The men have to leave the village or either face death or otherwise if caught, face false cases.

When the men leave the villages, the police forces enter the houses and assumes the position of their husbands for some time. In this village, the police forces looted the provisions, they just like cut the throats of goats and chickens and thrown away. About 16 women have been sexually harassed by the police forces between 12th and 14th January. One women was gang raped by the security personnel under the cover of mosquito net. In another incident a mother and daughter were gang raped by the police after dragging them together into one place in their house. On January 13, Lalu Sodi was severely beaten by the police with the result she was died on the next day. About 22 male and 7 women were taken to CRPF camp and tortured and women were stripped and sexually harassed in the camp.

There was a similar attack on Kunna Village, in Sukma District during 12 and 14 of January. The modus operandi of the forces is similar, terrorizing, loot and pillage of the village and sexually harassing the women. Seven women were brutally raped and two of whom had to be hospitalized with severe injuries.

The fact finding team met the DSP, Dhirendra Patil, Bijapur and explained how the Pedda Zejjore encounter was a false encounter. He only said routine police answer that “it has to be proved by Executive Majistrate”.

The team also presented the case of fake encounter to the District Collector Yashwanth Kumar only to hear him that ‘we will look into the matter’.

The fact finding team also brought about 25 woman victims from the village to present before the District Collector. The women were ready to describe their woes on camera to the collector But the collector was reluctant. After prolonged arguments the collector agreed to take video testimonies of the women in the presence of their layer. After four days of testimonies from the women, he was still reluctant order police to file FIR against the police force responsible for crime. This is in complete violation of Supreme Court guidelines that mandate immediate registration of FIR instance of prima facia proof of cognizable offences. The FIR was finally registered only after four days of consistent struggle by WSS activists.

The instance of state sponsored violence are occurring in Chattisgarh State as part of coordinated operations by several wings of state police and central forces. These combined operations are increasingly brutalizing the village communities and disrupting their livelihood, besides eliminating Maoists in the name of third phase of Operation Green Hunt (OGH). The women are increasingly raped and innocent children are killed in the third phase of Operation Green Hunt.

We Demand

* Operation Green Hunt (OGH) and its subsequent variations must stop at once.

* Murder cases under IPC and SC, STs Atrocities (prevention) Act must be booked against the police forces involved in the crime.

* Judicial enquiry must be conducted into the cases of encounter killings and sexual harassments.

* With draw CRPF, COBRA Campus immediately.

Coordination of Democratic Rights Organization (CDRO)

******

Press Release by WSS

FIR registered by women of Nendra village, Bijapur, against security forces for gang rape and loot.
Mob threatens rape survivors tells them to return to village and not lodge an FIR against forces

After four trying days of chasing and pressuring authorities, the determination and resolve of the women of Bellam- Lendra (Nendra) village, Block Usur, Thana Basaguda, has finally paid off. An FIR has been registered against police and security forces by the Bijapur thana for sexual violence including gang rape, dacoity, and for plundering and looting the village.

The FIR registered by the women was in reference to an incident of large-scale violence that was meted out by the police and security forces during a search and combing operation carried out between the 11th and 14th of January in their village. With the help of human rights groups, the aggrieved women from Nendra reached Bijapur on the 18th and immediately petitioned both the Collector and the police authorities to register their complaint. With blatant disregard for the law and in clear violation of Supreme Court orders, the police needlessly stalled the registration of an FIR until the 4th day of the women’s determined pressure.

In their statements recorded before the police and the SDM, the women identified some members of the forces by name, all of whom are surrendered militants. The women also testified to at least 13 gang rapes inflicted by the troops. Security forces consumed livestock, food rations and looted belongings, including money. They also tore up sheets and clothes and killed livestock that they did not eat – clearly reflecting an intention to make survival difficult for people. Threats of burning down houses with children inside were repeatedly made.

In a chance meeting, a three-member team of the National Commission of Women (NCW) present in Bijapur was able to meet with nine of the complainants and the WSS team accompanying them on the 22nd of January. On the 21st however, the administration and police made every effort to keep reports of this incident from reaching the NCW and attempted to prevent the women from meeting them. Finally, the team managed to file a complaint before the NCW carrying details of the incident.

On a troubling note however, while waiting to meet the NCW delegation, a mob of individuals identifying themselves as victims of Maoist violence appeared on the scene. They engaged in a discussion with some of the activists who were part of the team, hurling allegations at them of being “Maoist supporters” for taking up issues that pertained to violence by the forces but not violence by the Maoists. Some mob members questioned the women directly for registering an FIR against the forces and even threatened them, demanding that they leave Bijapur immediately. This altercation was extremely upsetting and intimidating for the 12 complainants, including 8 rape survivors.

The group, that included some ex-Salwa Judum members, seems to have the complete support of the police. They were ferried in what appeared to be police vehicles. Their sudden appearance on the seen, unrestricted by the police in anyway, indicates prior knowledge of the presence and objectives of the team. They followed the team from the meeting with the NCW to the thana (where some paper-work had to be completed for the medical examinations). They continued to blindly defend security forces despite the teams efforts to argue that as victims of violence, people should stand together rather than apart.

The required medical exams were completed on the 22nd, and the women have now returned to their village. In the next few days, another round of testimonies will have to be completed and the police insists on taking them, even though they have already been recorded once by the police and the SDM. Given that the women had already spent five days in Bijapur having left their homes and children, the police have said that they would travel to the village to record testimonies. However as has happened in the past, investigation conducted in the village is carried out by the police who go there accompanied by a convoy of security forces. Given that the accused are the security forces themselves, it is inconceivable that the survivors of violence will be able to participate in such a process free from fear and intimidation.

Investigations must be sensitive to the survivors and have to be carried out with care and empathy. Under Section 157 of CrPC, investigations in case of rape must take place at a place of the survivors choosing. Given recent developments, we are concerned for the safety of the women and demand that further investigation take place in an atmosphere of security and comfort for the women. They must be assured that they will be free from intimidation from any source – the police or private groups. In addition we demand that investigation in such cases, and in particular this case, be moved from the accused police to an independent investigating agency, in order to ensure fairness and transparency.

23rd January, 2016

****

Press Release

Condemning the new wave of State terror being unleashed on the people of Chhattisgarh

Bijapur. 18th January, 2016.

Reports from Nendra and Pedda Jojer in Bijapur, and Kunna in Sukma reveal a new and brutal wave of systematic violence being carried out by security forces in South Chhattisgarh. On the one hand Chhattisgarh police proudly announces the launch of new operations and tactics, boasting of better coordination among forces and improvement in training. On the other, we have the bold but lesser heard voices of people who inhabit the lands to which the police is “laying siege” – revealing the bitter truth of the war the State continues to wage on its people.

The Coordination of Democratic Rights Organization (CDRO), a nation-wide platform of rights organizations, together with Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) and CPDR (Tamil Nadu) conducted a fact-finding in these areas between the 15th and 17th of January. Here are some of our findings.

In a chilling repeat of the violence we saw in Peddagellur and around, forces in large numbers entered Bellam Nendra, in the Basaguda thana area on the 12th of January 2016. They stayed for two nights – looted homes, used up food and rations, beat up several women and sexually assaulted several others. A young woman was covered with a mosquito net and gang-raped, another mother and her young daughter were forced into their homes and simultaneously raped by 5 security personnel. They hurled abuses and issued threats of extreme violence. There were also two rounds of blind firing into the forests surrounding the village.

At the same time, further away in Sukma district, forces in large numbers entered Kunna and surrounding villages between the 12th and 14th of January. Fearing the inevitable and baseless violence inflicted upon them by paramilitary forces, most of the men of the village fled into the forest. Once again, in what seems to be a part of the ethos of combing operations, those who remained were beaten up brutally and women were sexually assaulted. 5 women and 22 men were rounded up and taken to a camp in the area. After the intervention of human rights activists, the 22 men arrested were released. The five women who were picked up were stripped and brutally sexually assaulted. Besides these 27 persons, two of the women who were also assaulted in the village are now in hospital for medical care. Lalu Sodhi, from the village Kormagondi was brutally beaten up by the forces on the 13th of January who succumbed to his injuries the next day on the 14th January. Joga Sodi, who too was brutally tortured, is unable to walk now.

During their visit to the area, the team also learned of an encounter that had occurred in Chinna Jojer, Gangalur thana, Bijapur through local newspapers. On visiting the area, we found that what was reported to be an ‘encounter’ in which four Maoists were killed, was in fact a cold-blooded murder of villagers, including a 13 year old child.

Six young people from around Pedda Jojer were on their way to the market at Reddi early on 15th morning to purchase their daily needs, when they were fired at by paramilitary forces hiding in the forest. Majji Badram aged 20, Oyam Munna (24), Oyam Tulasi (13) of Pedda Jojer village accompanied by Madkam Pandu (20) from Akuwa Village and two other children aged 9 and 12 were among those who were fired at. Four of them were killed instantly, while two young girls managed to escape. The team also found that the bodies had bullet wounds behind the ears and forehead indicating that the group were shot at from close range. There was no panchnama conducted at the site of the crime, and the troops did not inform the families of the deceased. Instead, they had to make their way to the thana and demand the release of the bodies. District administration and police are yet to come out with any response to the incident.

The remarkable similarity in scale, magnitude and nature of these operations which have been conducted in places distanced not only by several kilometers but also in varied topographical locations marks the beginning of a new wave of State-sponsored violence. Rampant looting, blind firing, brutal beating, cold-blooded murder and sexual assault seem to have become a part of the fabric of routine combing and search operations, revealing the ways in which extreme forms of violence have been institutionalized by the State and it’s security forces.

In light of this new wave of terror being unleashed by the State, we demand:

  • Stop ‘Operation Green Hunt’ at once.
  • Immediate action against the gross atrocities committed by the security forces of the State under Sections 294, 302, 323, 354 (B), 376, 395 of the Indian Penal Code, POCSO (2012) and the SC/ST Atrocities Act (1989).
  • Immediate provision of fair compensation to those affected by State violence.
  • Immediate withdrawal of all paramilitary troops from the Bastar region.

Contact:

Ashish Gupta, Chilaka Chandrashekhar
Convenors, CDRO

***************

PRESS STATEMENT
January 21, 2016 morning 9 a.m.

(Received from Shreya, On behalf of the team in Bijapur)

Rape, loot and plunder seem to define the grammar of combing operations carried out by security forces in South Chhattisgarh. In a chillingly similar repeat of what we saw in Peddagellur some months ago and in Sukma as recently as last week where seven women were brutally sexually assaulted, the people of Nendra village, Veerapur Panchayat, Basaguda thana were subjected to this cruel form of violence between the 11th and 14th of January, 2016. Several cases of rape, sexual assault, the loot of poultry and rations causing extensive loss, beating and constant verbal abuse were reported by people of the village.

Sixteen villagers including 8 rape survivors traveled to the district headquarters to lodge their complaint and file an FIR with the Collector and the Superintendent of Police on the 18th of January. It is now the third day since they have been here, giving testimony after testimony to the administration and negotiating with the Kotwali police that refuses to lodge an FIR in the absence of the SP.

Section 154 of the CrPC makes it mandatory for a police officer to file an FIR on receipt of any information of a cognizable offense such as rape, molestation, or disrobing. Further, no preliminary inquiry is permissible in such a case. By refusing to file an FIR, any public servant, is himself culpable under the IPC.

The team met with the Collector, who ordered testimonies to be noted and asked the villagers and human rights activists to trust him, saying that he would make sure that an FIR would be filed as soon as the SP returned from the field, and that latest by the morning of 20th of January, the women would be able to return to their village, having filed and FIR. Similarly, the TI Bijapur Kotwali and DSP also maintained that after the SP returned, it would be done.

Accordingly, detailed statements of the affected women were recorded by the police on the first day, and then again with the SDM. The statements clearly describe rape, sexual assault and looting. Despite this, the police have not lodged an FIR against their own functionaries who have committed such heinous crimes while on official search and combing operations.

As we wait for senior people in the authorities to respond, three children accompanying the women have fallen seriously ill. Others who have left children at home, fear for their safety given the possibility of further repression and attack by security forces. The women are not only exhausted form having to repeat their experiences of violence , but also bewildered at the apathy of the State. How can it be so difficult to lodge an FIR and so easy to blatantly disregard the law? As they recall the horrors of the Salwa Judum, when their homes were burnt, women raped and family members killed, they are determined that they will not allow their lives to be destroyed again and again. The state has to be accountable to its people.