Skip to main content

Chhattisgarh encounter: Police behaviour 'retributive' despite promise by Congress govt

Counterview Desk
The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has called for judicial inquiry into the “encounter” of two anti-mining activists of the Nandaraj movement, claiming, neither of them was involved with the underground Maoist movement”, even as condemning “persecution” of human rights activist and top academic Bela Bhatia, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader and human rights defender Soni Sori, Dantewada sarpanches and 150-200 tribal villagers.
A statement signed by Degree Prasad Chouhan, president, and Shalini Gera, secretary, PUCL, Chhattisgarh, says, retributive behaviour of the Dantewada police continues despite promises of the Congress government of chief minister Bhupesh Baghel, and “little seems to have changed on the ground”.

Text:

Taking note of the Fact-Finding Report by human rights defenders (Bela Bhatia, Soni Sori, Madkam Hidme and Lingaram Kodopi), media reports and the demands by various political and social organizations, the Chhattisgarh PUCL demands that the state government immediately announces an independent probe by a retired Judge of the High Court into the deaths of Podiya Sori and Lachhu Mandavi in the so-called encounter on the night of 13th September 2019.
Furthermore, PUCL is appalled that the Dantewada police has lodged an FIR against the activists, sarpanches of Dantewada, as well as the 150-200 unnamed tribal villagers, who were merely registering the complaint of an extra-judicial killing and engaged in a peaceful protest against this injustice, and condemns this police action as retributive action meant to intimidate those speaking up for Adivasi rights.
It is well established that Podiya Sori and Lachu Mandavi were young and respected leaders from village Gumiyapal in Dantewada district who had been active in the popular movement against the plans of the mining giant Adani Group to start iron-ore mining operations in Nandaraj mountain in Kirandul, which is held sacred by the tribals in the region.
Recently, there had been widespread protests against the fraudulent No-Objection Certificate (NOC) obtained from the Gram Sabha of the affected village, and a magisterial inquiry had been instituted to investigate the matter. However, on September 13. 2019, both were killed by the security forces in their village and declared as Naxalite commanders, carrying rewards of Rs 5 lakh each for information leading to their capture.
However, villagers claim that neither was involved with the underground Maoist movement, and deny the police allegations that they were killed in a firefight with the security forces. As told to the Fact-Finding Team consisting of human rights defenders, social activists and media persons (Bela Bhatia, Soni Sori, Linga Kodopi and Hidme Madkam) the village folks clearly stated that on the night of 13th September 2019, the duo along with three other youth had congregated in the school premises for some light-hearted entertainment.
At around 9 pm that night, when Podiya had already left the school premises to sleep at a friend’s place, the security forces appeared, and rounded up the youth in the school and dragged Podiya from his friend’s house. The five, including Podiya and Lachhu, were slapped and beaten and forcibly taken away by the security forces. En route, two of the men managed to escape and return to their families. The next morning, the villagers learned that Podiya and Lachhu had been killed and shown as dreaded Naxalites, and the fifth youth, Ajay Telam, continued to be in police custody.
With this information, in the evening of September 16, advocate and researcher Bela Bhatia, and the AAP leader Soni Sori, along with two tribal women activists, Hidme Madkam and Pande Kunjami went to the Kirandul police station. Hundreds of villagers who had walked to the police station from their villages in a rally in protest against this injustice were also sitting peacefully in a demonstration in front of the police station.
Bhupesh Baghel, Chhattisgarh CM
The police complaint and the peaceful demonstration by adivasis villagers were to raise a voice against this extra-judicial killing of two young men, and to inquire about the whereabouts of the third. However, none of them were allowed to even enter the police station and the complaint itself was accepted only through the closed bars of the police station gate.
The next day too, when the team returned to follow up on their complaint, the sub-divisional police officer (SDOP) of Kirandul was loud and accusatory, insinuating that they had rounded up the villagers and the protest was “stage managed”.
It is ironic that while the complaint of these activists against the police was never registered as an FIR, they themselves were accused of violating the Model Code of Conduct and an FIR 62/2019 of PS Kirandul was registered against Bela Bhatia, Soni Sori, Sarpanch Nanda, Sarpanch’s husband Bhima and 150-200 other villagers u/s 188 of the IPC.
Chhattisgarh PUCL is dismayed by this retributive behaviour of the Dantewada police and the fact that despite the promises of the Baghel government, little seems to have changed on the ground. The false encounters continue and innocent Adivasis, standing up for their rights, continue to be labelled as Naxalites and killed in cold blood by security forces. Human rights activists peacefully asking for police accountability and transparency continue to be persecuted by draconian and illegal measures of the authorities.
Chhattisgarh PUCL loudly condemns these actions of the State Government and local police, and demands that an independent inquiry by a Retired Judge of the High Court be immediately ordered to probe the murders of Podiya Sori and Lachhu Mandavi of Gumiyapal village and the illegal detention of Ajay Telam (who has since been released); and that the police immediately send a closure report for FIR no. 62/2019 of Police Station Kirandul against Bela Bhatia, Soni Sori, and other villagers to the concerned magistrate and stop persecution of human rights activists.

Comments

TRENDING

Why do I lend my support to voices protesting world class renovation of Gandhi Ashram?

By Martin Macwan* One would not expect an activist working on Dalit rights to join such a protest. Dalits carry unhealed trauma that Gandhi caused to Dr BR Ambedkar and the Dalit cause of effective political representation by using violent means of his own definition in the event of the Poona Pact. This apart, Gandhi’s ideas in general, which changed often, on caste were orthodox. I have nothing to add to the subject after the sharpest critique offered by Dr Ambedkar.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Inaccurate gender-relevant data 'spoiling' government policy on Covid social impact

By Simi Mehta*  The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been different across vulnerable groups. They were hit by the pandemic at various stages, whether it was accessibility to medical treatment or financial support. The second wave witnessed human suffering at a level where one can never forget the traumatized faces of people due to the inaccessibility and unavailability of essential medical services such as hospitals beds and oxygen. The probability of the third wave has also been one of the major upcoming challenges.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Flamboyant 'demagogues' adjust politics, personality in shadow of democracy

Modi, Erdogan, Bolsonaro By Ajit Singh The terms dictators and demagogues are used interchangeably in various contexts, but there is a difference. The former rule over a totalitarian states where governments are able to exercise complete influence over every aspect of citizens’ life, whereas the latter are a "wannabe dictators" but due to the system of checks and balances they are are not fully capable to create police states.

Vindictive raids? Centre 'retaliates' after Delhi govt child rights body's clean chit to ex-babu

By Our Representative  Over 700 academics, advocates, activists, civil servants, writers, film makers, journalists, musicians and artists have condemned the raids by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on the offices and private home of top IAS bureaucrat-turned-human rights and peace activist Harsh Mander, stating, the aim is nothing but to “harass and intimidate” him.

Protests break out as school going children 'branded Naxalites, taken prisoners'

By Sheshu Babu* Conditions in all spheres of life is going from bad to worse. On September 13, Political Prisoners' Day was observed. On that day, Jatin Das, friend of Bhagat Singh and member of the Hindustan Republican Socialist Association, passed away after 63 days of hunger strike. He demanded 'political prisoners' status to those who have been jailed by the state.

Celebrating birthday amidst image of 'coerced, submissive' India ruled by a strong leader

Pushkar Raj*  As the weeks long birthday festivity of the leadership was being rejoiced India wide, the Covid was still raging in several parts of India. The carnival was in line with the post-Covid decisions and actions of the leadership demonstrating a pursuit of personal power and glory instead of national interest in times of disease and death.

Catholic women warn: Kerala Bishop turning Church into puppet in political games

Counterview Desk A group of Catholic women under the banner Concerned Catholic Women of India has said that they are deeply concerned over "a bishop’s controversial statement" which may threaten communal harmony in India. As many as 89 Catholic women from across India have urged the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India and its Kerala unit to take special steps to "foster peace and avoid strife."

No space for 2 lakh waste pickers in Delhi masterplan for next two decades: Study

By Our Representative  A new survey report prepared by the NGO Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group on the challenges faced by waste pickers in managing solid waste in Delhi, “Space for Waste - 2021”, has regretted that currently, there is no provision of workspace for waste workers, hence they carry out their work of segregation, repairing, and composting at different locations.