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"Breakdown" in discipline among security forces involved in anti-Maoist operations in Chhattisgarh: NCST report

By Our Representative
The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) believes that there is a “breakdown of discipline” among security forces deployed on anti-Maoist operations in south Chhattisgarh. It said this in a report prepared following its probe into allegations of mass sexual violence against adivasi women, assaults and looting by police and paramilitary force in the Bijapur and Sukma districts.
Focusing on events October 2015 in Bijapur and in January 2016 in Bijapur and Sukma during the security forces’ anti-Maoist operations, an NCST report said, investigations into charges of sexual assault, including rape, were “unsatisfactory”, and there was “no progress” in identifying those who attacked the women.
NCST’s chairperson Rameshwar Oraon, accompanied by two others, visited the two district headquarters between April 3 and 5. They could not visit the villages to make spot inquiry as the authorities said it was “unsafe.”
The commission found that in the three cases it investigated, the district police had set up “special teams” of two or three members of police personnel to investigate the violence. However, though six months have passed following complaints, no arrests have been made, nor have there been any charge sheets.
The team was told about how, last year in October, in Pegdapalli, Chinnagellur, Peddagellur, Burgicher, and Gundam villages of Bijapur, three women, including a teenager and a pregnant woman, were gangraped by members of security forces. It was also told about repetition of such assaults from January 11 to 14 during anti-Maoist operation.
In all these instances, the villagers complained that security forces had also beaten them up, ransacked their homes and looted money food, and other possessions.
The NCST report, running into 15 pages, said that there was a delay in conducting medical examinations of the victims, pointing out that the FIRs were delayed despite a 2013 Supreme Court ruling that an amendment to India’s anti-rape laws makes it mandatory for the police to file a case as soon as a complaint of sexual violence is brought to them, it was pointed out.
In Bijapur, the team met lawyers and women activists, who had helped guide adivasi women villagers through legal procedures, apart from local police officials and the state government’s chief secretary and home secretary in Raipur, the state capital.
The report says that the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act has not been applied in the FIRs, despite the fact that all the complainants are adivasis.
It believes, conditions for sexual violence were “created” because the security forces lived in villagers’ homes during operations and the absence of women officers in the deployed units. It asks the government to “issue orders that security forces must not, under any circumstances, live in the homes of villagers while on an operation.”

NGO report finds human rights violations

In a separate report, a team of activists from the Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS), which visited the rural areas of Bijapur, said that “there has been a history of rampant looting and violence in these villages.”
In one such instance last year, during a large search and combing operation, the security forces entered village Itaavar, and camped in the house of Sukku Kunjam. “They took fish and chickens and one quintal of rice stored at the house and started cooking”, the report said, adding, “On the November 23, they picked one of Sukku’s sisters and dragged her away.”
It added, “The other sister followed to save her, but she was taken away by the forces as well. The women were dragged into the surrounding forests – they were stripped and beaten. For two days, they were kept in the jungle and later dropped off at the neighbouring village of Dowal Nendra.”
Sukku Kunjam himself was taken to Korcholi, from where he tried to flee along with other men of the village. “However he was shot and killed. His body was wrapped and taken to Bijapur Thana, where he was falsely declared a Naxal”, the report said.
In a search and combing operation early this year, the report said, a young girl, Mangli Pottam, who was out grazing cattle with her sister and friend, was attacked.
“Mangli’s clothes were torn and they threatened to kill her. They also threatened to kill Tulsi, her friend. Mangli’s sister, Somli’s blouse was ripped off. She was dragged by the hair and flung to the ground. They hit her on the stomach with a rifle butt”, the report said.

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