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Mission 2016 in Chhattisgarh: 23 encounter deaths, 50 arrests in January, Supreme Court asked to intervene

Soni Sori in Delhi for treatment after acid attack
By Our Representative
In an open letter to the Chief Justice of India for “immediate intervention” into the physical attacks and eviction drives against women activists by “police and vigilante groups” in Chhattisgarh, the People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) has said that the state machinery in Chhattisgarh “has failed the adivasis entirely.”
One of India’s top human rights groups, PUDR said, the recent attack on tribal activist Aam Aadmi leader Soni Sori by unidentified men, who threw some black substance on her face, was the latest in a series. Sori, along with activist Linga Kodopi, recently did “a detailed fact-finding into a fake encounter in Nahadi village in Dantewada district”, and the cops targeted her for murder of a trader.
“This attack comes close on the heels of the eviction drives against lawyers Shalini Gera and Isha Khandelwal of Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group (JagLag) and journalist Malini Subramanium”, it said, adding, “All three have been given notice to find alternate accommodation.”
Previously, there were “defamation campaign” when two journalists, Someru Nag and Santosh Yadav, were arrested for “aiding” Maoists, PUDR noted. It was a “flagrant disregard for the rule of law”, as evident from the fact that Nag was “kept in illegal detention for three days before being shown as arrested in July 2015 and Yadav was harassed and even stripped and threatened with torture, well before he was arrested in September 2015”, it added.
Pointing out that that there is now news "of a similar eviction drive against Bela Bhatia, an independent scholar and activist”, PUDR said, “It is obvious that these attacks are part of a wider campaign launched by the police along with state-sponsored vigilante groups such as the Samajik Ekta Manch and Naxal Peedit Sangharsh Samiti.” 
AAP protest in Delhi against attack on Soni Sori

Insisting that “such harassment is not new and these incidents fall in line within the longer history of intimidation that have been carried out against inconvenient individuals who have spoken against the state”, PUDR recalled how “Soni Sori has personally experienced this brutal history, and the apex court had intervened in her matter and granted her permanent bail in February 2014.”  
Pointing out how in the last six months "the war strategies" in the region have escalated, and even the air force has been roped in for ‘strafing’, a technique of aerial bombing, PUDR said, "As area domination exercises, the security forces have raided villages and arrested people.”
PUDR warned, “The coming months have been dubbed as Mission 2016 and intensified operations are expected in Bijapur, Sukhma and Darbha districts. Already, the statistics are staggering as the police has reported 23 encounter deaths and 50 arrests for the month of January alone.”
PUDR said, “The fallout of this ‘mission’ is not easy to assess as the affected villages are remote and the residents are brutalized and intimidated. A WSS (Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression) team which visited Bastar in November 2015, highlighted repeated acts of gang rapes, looting and other acts of physical violence in five villages in Bijapur district between 24 and 19, 2015.”
“A recent team of WSS and CDRO (Coordination of Democratic Rights Organization) members have documented similar incidence of sexual violence and physical attacks in Sukma and Bijapur districts and instances of fake encounter and shooting of minors in Bijapur district, between January 11 and 16, 2016”, it said.
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Read full statement HERE

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