Lalgarh – PCAPA report to SHRC, December 2009

May 9, 2010

The report on burgeoning oppression and repression in Lalgarh to the delegates of State Human Rights Commission

The people of Lalgarh and forest dwellers in West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia had come together under the banner of People’s Committee against Police Atrocity (PCPA) to abate the bestial state repression unleashed by Police & Military as well as Ruling Party CPI(M), building an enormous mass movement from Nov 2008. After that our committee exerted vigorously to stop the atrocities on Adivasi people perpetuated by the Police and tried to establish the democratic rights of the people. The committee had continued their movement within the constitutional framework and peaceful means as it had been vowed so. Till the date we are adherent to peaceful and democratic ways. Instead of that the state or central government have not paid any heed to our demands. Though the process of talking and discussion had been started, it came to an end by the unilateral decision of administration, and with the unprecedented development of joint force from 18th June 2009. The end of state terror has become a promise the moon. And time goes, the repression commenced by the Joint forces is burgeoning. The people of Janglemahal’ ( area encompassing the forest) are now experiencing the reprisal and vindictive attitude of state as they rumbled against the pro-longed state sponsored repression, and all the constitutional and democratic rights of people were trampled. The State Government abreast with central venturing the Joint operation to squelch all the democratic voice in the Janglemahal, blatantly flouting the constitutional laws. In these bleak hours, we are revealing the dread infringement of democratic, humanitarian and legitimate right endowed constitutionally to the Adivasi and indigenous forest dwellers of India for your kind attention.

The face of state terror—false encounter killing spree

It is proverbial in the forest living people that anyone who protests against the tyranny of Police or CPI(M) Cadres, he/she would be vulnerable and envisage the ire of CPI(M) and Joint Forces or Police. Even he/she may be persecuted to death. Many Adivasi people had been martyred in past for this cause. Whenever Adivasi people demanded for agricultural land, irrigation, increment of wage, development work or flared up against the venality in rationing system or Panchayet, then and there the CPI(M) led Left Front Government clamped down the rage using Police and CPI(M) goons. A number of villages were arsoned and gutted. We can still remember the tremulous incidents of Rajkharsoa, Gunduria, Golaguli where Police and CPI(M) ravaged everything.

After the beginning of new-wave movement led by PCPA from November 2008 many supporters and activists were the victim of the foregoing terror. From December 2008, CPI(M) regimented their assailant forces (Harmads) and started to invade many villages. Even in December 2008, CPI(M) built an armed ‘mass resistance committee’ with the help of the police. CPI(M) leaders overtly announced about that ‘militia’ committee. After contriving with police and administration they killed some of our committee member and activists. Not in one case police registered an F.I.R or took any action against the killers. This proves the nexus between the Police and CPI(M). Now we are coming to the point of ostensible killing by Police and Joint forces. We experienced all the examples of killing innocent people took part in peaceful movement, pierced by bullet or mortars, killing of harvesting peasant in field, lynching of committee supported in lock up and passed off as suicide etc. In most cases, Police targeted all the deceased as a Maoist, encountered in battle and trying to escape liabilities. The murders committed by the Police claiming ‘Maoist gunned down’ are total hoax, and that can be proved if any inquisitive comes to the villages, only would find innocent villagers succumbed. Government is unscrupulous towards the adivasi people and this is so because they are adivasi. We published the list of martyrs of state repression. These extra-judicial killing is dangerous. We appeal all of you to speak out against the blood thirsty extra judicial killings.

Arrest and Persecution?

Long before this movement against the state repression led by PCPA, Police established the macabre rule in ‘Janglemahal’, unleashing indiscriminate arrests. And till now they are repeating the injustice. Following the dictate of ruling party, submissive Police had been arresting the dissent in false cases, nabbing innocents to fill the ‘quota of criminals’, commencing arrest without warrant, not providing arrest memos at the time of arrest, ravaging houses without search memos, taking photos without consent, torturing the arrested, embroiling the acquitted or bailed persons with forged cases to put them behind the bar for long without judicial proceeding, beating common folks even women, infants, aged people at their caprice, despoiling the savings and money, mixing paddy with rice, pouring kerosene in paddy, demolishing home and utensils, arson, abusing, humiliating and raping women—all those demonical activities had become the daily act of Police. How they went beyond can be summarized with few examples: Raping Behula Mahato of Laljal village in Belpahari, to ‘determine’ the sex they forced women to strip off openly in front of people, searched school students (boys and girls both) taking their clothes off, whipped an aged woman to death in Tanshabansh in Lalgarh. Arrested people were physically tortured regularly. For example, pouring petrol and pushing sticks through the rectum/anal passage.

Whoever called to the police station or camps from anywhere, surely been arrested with the allegation of ‘subversive and anti state activities in forest.” Some were bestowed with 30 to 35 cases!!! To get bail in those cases, many of the adivasi people had become destitute. We cannot imagine these kinds of hideous repression in a ‘civilized’ society. These were the hard realities of ‘Janglemahal’. And still now the despair is not abated. After the deployment of Joint Force, the illegal, outrageous activities and violation of human rights has soared high. Crimes and tortures committed by Joint Force on PCPA supporters and activists have crossed beyond the limit. Though our movement is totally peaceful and democratic, Joint Force is committing heinous atrocities. Our supporters have not done anything violating CrPC or IPC. What our crime is we defied the perennial state terror. That is why we are ‘criminals’ and ‘terrorists’. Our supporters and activists has been arrested indiscriminately under forged cases, burdened with no. of false cases so they have to spend long years of captivity. Even women have not been exempted. Our spokes person Chatradhar Mahato and cashier Sukhshanti Baske were booked under the draconian UAPA, which is totally undemocratic, unethical. We are sending the list of imprisoned committee activists, supporters and innocent people – which may be an incomplete one because many names should be enlisted as they are the victims of state terror. We request you to think of those wretched of Jangalmahal, those poorest of poor if they are criminals or the activists of a justified movement. We call upon the delegates to raise their voice against the repressive state policies, illegal detention and torture. To fight against the state repression as well as to enshrine the basic democratic rights we shall escalate this movement of Jangalmahal.

Violation of human rights

You may come to know through print and electronic media about the brutal lathi-charge and firing on adivasi women, coming from different villages from the vicinity of Jhargram sub-division, at the office of sub-deputy magistrate, where they were remonstrating against police atrocities, on 11th Nov ’09. This kind of violation of human rights is recurring in Jangal Mahal day in and day out which have been shrouded to the outside world through disinformation campaign. Harvesting in this season hampered greatly because the atrocities of Joint force, even the streak amount of crop cannot be reaped, it remains in the field as it is. Joint forces fired and killed Aswini Mahato, a poor peasant, while he was reaping in field. Police detained the villagers who took wounded Aswini to the hospital. Joint force arsoned the whole village of Baksibandh, rampages innumerable number of homes, they seized schools. In the backward places of Jangal Mahal, students are now deprived of education.

Thousands are homeless

Thousands of villagers became homeless as Joint Force vandalized and arsoned a number of village. CPI(M) “Harmads” (goons) and Joint force are doing the rampage together. The victimized villagers took shelters in the relief camps or shivering in piercing cold under the open sky, leaving behind everything. They are deprived of subsistence food. The plight of the infants is gruesome. The eviction of people from their home and village took place mostly in Belpahari, Shalboni, Lalgarh, Jhargram and Midnapore Sadar areas.

The adverse effect on infants and adolescents

The infants and adolescents are affected mostly in Jangalmahal after the deployment of Joint Force. As the schools are converted into military camps, education is crippled. The Mid-Day meal has been stopped. Much acclaimed ‘literacy campaign’ is totally collapsed. Though students and teachers or sometimes PCPA arranged make shift structures to run the schools at their own initiative, those earnest effort were stifled frequently by the savage force. These outrageous atrocities etched fear and fright in those innocent minds. The senseless repression unleashed by government is impairing the whole new generation of Jangalmahal who are deemed as the vary future of India.

From the month of June, under the pressure of torrents of mass movement, government assured to release the schools from seizure. But all the assurances were futile. ‘Obeying’ the high court order, Joint Force evacuated only four schools. In Gohamidanga, the force left the school only after damaging the properties, dumping filths in the class rooms, littering liquor bottles everywhere. Jawans coerced the head master of the Gohamidanga, Mr. Soumen to write an announcement that the property had not been damaged. But Soumen Babu denied to do that. School students outpoured their grouse “Jawans ruined the chastity of our school”. Their resentment is sufficient to prove the predicament of Jangalmahal.

Barring the Joint force, the ruling party CPI(M) dictates overwhelmingly at their sweet will whether a school would run or not, or whether a dutiful teacher would be castigated or not. This type of subtle terror is palpable everywhere. In the month of June, six teachers were punished by CPI (M) as they kept the classes closed, admitting the strike called by PCPA. At first, they were imprisoned in a class room and then forced to stand under the scorching sun for four long hours. In Balarampur, Purulia district, CPI(M) enforced to stop the mid-day meal (and daily classes also) at Deuli primary school in Dnarda village. The reason they gave, school teachers are not docile to them! As a result of the two fold terror perpetrated by Joint Force and CPI(M), students are the victim of trauma, they are growing in the atmosphere of terror. We earnestly request the delegates to ponder over this situation and to speak against the state sponsored terrorism.

Rape and torture- a common weapon of ruling class

The administration poised the act of rape and torture to subvert the dignity of the movement. Many incidents of rape and abuse have taken place by Joint Force. Humiliation of school girls in the name of checking, abusive behavior to the village women have become the common act of Joint Force.

Access prohibited to journalists

To conceal the heinous act of Joint Force and CPI(M), administration hindered the free roaming of journalists. At the time of onslaught, arson and outrage of Joint Force and CPI(M) Harmads, journalists are not allowed to step within miles. Even incidents of beating and humiliation were commenced when some ardent journalists tried to get some exclusive news or photos. In this circumstances, the ruinous act of Joint Force and CPI(M) Harmads are almost unknown to the outside world.

Government shattered the economic base of Jangalmahal

The economy of Jangalmahal is mainly based on agriculture. But till the date, after sixty year of independence, owing to government’s total failure in irrigation and agriculture, people of Jangalmahal have no choice but to depend on forest heavily. They collect different products from forest for their own household or to sell in the local market. Today the indigenous system in this area has been totally collapsed in presence of Joint Force. They are invading the village before dawn and continuing their pernicious activities throughout the day. They are frequently pouncing on the farmers working in the fields, thrashing them, even firing bullets to kill. As a result, harvesting paddy is affected adversely in this year, leaving them to dry in the field. Harvesting potatoes is profitable in this particular time of year. But repression unleashed by Joint Force has deterred the farmers to go to the field. Acknowledging this crisis, we implored Home Secretary to postpone the joint operation at least for fifteen days, for the sake of harvesting and reaping. Hard of hearing to our request, government escalated terror. Not only harvesting, collecting of forest products are also affected. Any one, men or women, who went to forest to collect the fire wood or ‘saal’ leaves, would be soft target of Jawans, bashed up or arrested. Intimidated by repression, the villagers are scared to access the local market or go to their working places. The government policy is accountable for the precarious condition of Jangalmahal.

Effect on cultural rights

The social, cultural rituals, festivals like ‘melas’ and ‘Paravs’ of Jangalmahal were jeopardized in this regime of terror. The people of Jagalmahal were too shattered, morally and economically, to take part in the festivities this year. The people could not go to their relatives at other villages as police has been arresting outsiders, without any semblance of an excuse. The ‘adivasi’ of Jangalmahal could not organise their much awaited, historical ‘Hul’ festival in this grim situation.

In our adivasi villages, we regularly used to sing and dance, as our predecessors had done, collectively. We, adivasi people, live a life of mutual cooperation. Our peace and complacency is lacerated by CPI (Marxist) and Police, and after June 09’, by Joint Force. Thousands of people of Hundreds of villages are living a shattered life, deprived of peace and happiness. CPI (Marxist), Police and now, Joint Force pervade our entity as a nightmare, and our question is for whom the so-called ‘peace’ and ‘happiness’ had brought about paying off our ‘peace’ and ‘happiness’? Whose interest it has served, please think of that.

Our demands are justified

When the reign of terror by CPI (Marxist) and Police hit the roof, we started our movement against state terror and malicious arrests. We speak out against the CPI (Marxist) led despotism, police atrocities, the venality in Panchayet, Government offices and of CPI (Marxist) leaders. Addressing these points once we organised the mass questioning Government and demanding development in Jangalmahal, State and central retaliated jointly, with a fearful onslaught. Not in today, basic human rights of people has been trampled from long before in Junglemahal. Today it erupted in a demonical shape. We request all the present human rights activists to feel the grave situation in Junglemahal, to think how to restore human rights, constitutional rights, and social rights of adivasi people of Junglemahal.

We believe that the mother tongue should be used in educational and governmental purposes. We, the adivasi people had been demanding this for long. But the government is not agreeing to our demands. Hence our languages are losing their importance. Is it wrong to demand that Santali, Kurmi and other tribal languages be taught and be used in Government Jobs ? Please give it a thought. Will we be in the dark forever?

The conspiracy to oust us from our land, our waters and our forests

The forest is like mother to us. The vast forests and the adjacent areas are rich in natural and mineral resources. The springs and waterfalls in these forests provide us with water throughout the year. We consume various fruits and vegetables collected from these forests. We think that the government cannot take from us these forests that rightfully belong to us. These forests are an integral part of our livelihood. Our ancestors have gloriously sacrificed their lives to protect our claim over these forests. Although we have protected these forests and preserved the ecology like our mother, still our right to own these forests eludes us. It was the British who had alienated us from these forests. Even though 62 years have passed since 1947, our claim over these forests has not been re established. Although the forests are full of such rich resources, we are left with nothing. We earn our livelihood by selling wood collected or cut from the forests. But even then we are harassed and sometimes arrested by forest department officials. Ironically, these officials turn a blind eye to poachers who illegally cut down trees and hunt animals indiscriminately, thereby destroying the forest and the ecology it supports. Although, there is plenty of land and permanent supply of water, the harvest is not very fruitful due to lack of even basic irrigational facilities.

You all are aware how the tribals, the true children of the forest are being ousted from their home land under the cover of establishment of factories and dams since the British era. In 1907, Tata Iron and Steel Co was established at Jamshedpur ( previously known as Kalidihi ) and as a consequence thousands of tribals were driven out from these lands. We could not even locate many of our brothers and sisters who were driven away at that time. Although 62 years have passed since Indian independence, the eviction of tribals and indigenous people has attained a steady pace. We are vehemently opposing this.

The Bengal government has given 5000 Hectares of land at Shalboni to Jindal for setting up a Steel Producing Unit, which is a SEZ Project. We opposed this and the government declared a war on all of us in the forests. Let us make one thing very clear to all of you. We will give our blood, we will give our lives but we will not give up our land, our waters and our forests. We will protect them at any cost. We will not let the SEZ project to happen. It is not a mere slogan to us, it is our belief, our courage, our hope.

The road to democracy is blocked

We made a 23 clause demand after conferring at Dalilpur Chak. Till date, the government has not agreed to even one of them. Hence we decided to boycott the government. We have been opposing for the last 14 months and will continue to do so. The government called on the Coalition forces to silence our resistance and since the beginning of their offensive they have ordered 144. We have opposed this undemocratic 144 for the last 6 months by organising peaceful protest marches and conventions. We wanted peace but beatings, bullets and tear gas from the Coalition forces were frequent if not regular. Thousands of tribals and indigenous people have marched with us every time. They demand the withdrawal of 144 Dhara and the arrest of the guns and murderes funded by CPM. The government says that they are doing these to enforce law and order. Strangely, the 144 dhara does’nt apply to CPM leaders, who can convene meetings and marches to threaten us. Although these murders are out in the open armed with illegal fire arms, the police choose not to notice. The police are busy protecting the CPM leaders Sushanta Ghosh and Dipak Sarkar when they arrive here public meetings, where they openly threat and insult us. The fact that the CPM has organised a meeting and march , even when 144 Dhara was in place has reached every corner of Bengal and India through various media channels. Yet, the police who were present in the meeting to protect CPM leaders Sushanta and Dipak claim that they are not aware of any such thing.We, the poor tribals have no constitutional rights. But we will continue to fight until this state backed terrorism comes to an end.

The Development stunted by State Policies

Since independence, there has been no development in the forest regions. Till date, the poor tribals die of hunger, malnutrition, poverty and also from diseases like cholera, diaorreah etc. There is no infrastructure for health care, no hospitals and no doctors. We have been trying to bring these things out in the limelight since the beginning of our resistance. And the government says that it is our resistance that is obstructing the development in these areas. They say that because of the resistance, the government workers are unwilling to work in these areas. But the fact remains that we have not forced the closure of Lalgar Thana or any other government offices for that matter. We had even invited state government representatives for a discussion at Dalilpur. We have completely co operated with the state election commission, and have participated in talks with them whenever they have requested. The governments’ allegation that the development is being obstructed by our resistance is completely false. We oppose the corrupt policies of the state government and will continue to do so. Because of this corruption, we have not benefitted from the state policies. And the government is establishing its corrupt rule under various pretexts. The workers of our organization have arranged for healthcare, drinking water and irrigational facilities in various areas, but even these benevolent deeds draw fierce opposition from the government. Until these policies change, the development of these areas is impossible.

We want true development

Various state secretaries arrived here after the coalition forces took over. They themselves have declared that till date no development has taken place in these areas. Based on the reports formulated by the state secretaries, the government sanctioned various new projects for development. Again on October 27, the review meeting at Medinipur revealed that no such programs have been implemented. On 7th November, Chief Minister Budhdhadeb Bhattacherya revealed that although one or two projects have been initiated, they are still to pick up any noticeable pace. What we are asking is that, why no development has taken place in these areas during the 33 years of CPM rule, or during the congress rule before that?

Before the onset of the coalition forces offensive, we had taken the initiative to start various development measures. We have scarcity of drinking water in these areas. Most of the villages do not have tube wells, and most of the few tube wells are not in working condition. The government failed to repair those tube wells. We repaired the old ones on our own, and also set up a quite a few new ones. We repaired the wells and restored various ponds. We repaired the roads, set up irrigation facilities and also set up hospitals. But the coalition forces closed them down by force. In spite of these atrocities and state backed terrorism, thousands of people have joined hands to initiate various development measures. We have started 7 new hospitals (11 in total ) in November. We have plans to set up tube wells, hospitals and to repair the roads in various other places, but the government is not allowing us to do so. But even then, we have not lost our initiative. The corrupt government is setting up police camps in hospitals. They are arresting our friends who are bringing in medical supplies from Kolkata. They are even blocking the irrigational facilities. We request you to support our development programs that we have undertaken even amidst this atmosphere of terror and lawlessness. We demand that the government should immediately initiate the various development projects that they have declared. We are fighting for humanity.

Stand against State and CPM backed terrorists

We hope you will stand by the people of the forests who are being attacked mercilessly. We hope you will demand the freedom of Chatradhar Mahato and other friends and supporters of our organization who have been held captive illegally. We are appealing to all human rights activists and organizations to demand immediate withdrawal of the coalition forces, to stop this state backed terror and to support our 23 clause demand formulated at Dalilpur Chak. We believe it is a duty for every supporter of democracy to stand by us.

To defend ourselves from the CPM backed terrorists and murderers, we had to form the militia. Without it, we would not have been able to protect the lives of our friends and supporters and we would not have been able to continue our resistance.

The state and central government is conspiring to silence our voices. They have isolated us from the rest of the civilized world, and are restricting the entry of human rights activists and journalists in these parts. But in spite of these, many brave activists and journalists have been here and they are the witness to the mindless terror that rules this place. The government is trying to coax them into silence, by means of arrests, false allegations and propaganda. We believe that we will stand strong against all odds and we will make our voices heard. We believe that you will be by our side, fighting for these forests, these people and above all, fighting for humanity and democracy.

Thanking You
Lalmohan Tudu, Asit Mahato, Santosh Patra
On behalf of People’s Committee against Police Atrocities
09-12-2009