Skip to main content

Free adivasi woman rights leader, drop terror charges on activists: Chhattisgarh CM told

Counterview Desk 

Over 1,000 activists, academics, concerned citizens from more than 20 states in India and across the globe, in a letter to the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, have called for “immediate release” of adivasi rights leader and environmentalist Hidme Markam, even as insisting, state “excess” on adivasis in Bastar should end forthwith.
Outraged by “arbitrary” incarceration of Hidme for over 40 days, a petition to Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel said he should take “pro-active steps” to end the cycle of repression against adivasis in Chhattisgarh, claiming, the charges against Hidme and other adivasi activists are “false” and should be dropped and an independent inquiry be conducted into all instances of sexual and state violence.
On March 9, 2021, Hidme, working in the Nandraj Pahad anti-mining movement was allegedly abducted by the Dantewada Police, but was later shown as ‘arrested’, the letter says. At the time of her “abduction”, she was attending a programme commemorating the International Women’s Day in Sameli, Bastar.
The meeting was called remember and mourn the rapes and murders of adivasi women “at the hands of the state”, the letter points out, adding, but, ironically, that day became witness to another incident of state high-handedness: She has been in jail for over 40 days now.
The letter states, Hidme along with other adivasis, organized as the Nandraj Pahad Bachao Andolan, has been resisting the mining of a sacred indigenous hill by corporations like Adani Pvt Ltd. She has also been organizing against the Bailadila Mine Deposit project that would result in grave ecological damage in the region especially on the local forest, land and water bodies.
As a member of the Chhattisgarh Mahila Adhikar Manch, Hidme has been present in numerous public spaces and meetings in Chhattisgarh, asserting the rights of adivasi women, especially against displacement and state repression. Her arrest is just the latest in the chain of the State hounding adivasi women activists who are fighting for constitutional and human rights, the letter says.
The letter underlines, the violence of ill-thought and arbitrary ‘development’ projects have haunted the adivasi state of Chhattisgarh and Central-Eastern India for decades. The wide scale displacement and environmental devastation caused by these projects remain unaccounted, and they multiply constantly, to cater largely to corporate profits.
It continues, the local communities who have peacefully existed there for decades, not only depend on these forests and mountains for their sustenance, but also sustain them, have been violently crushed to build mines and industries. But they continue to resist, and democratically fight for their rights.
The letter asks the chief minister to ensure that all charges against Hidme, including those under the anti-terror Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), should be dropped, and bring about a halt to “clampdown” on environmental, adivasi and other human rights activists as well as adivasi villagers in Chhattisgarh, in particular women in the garb of ‘combating Naxalism’.

Text:

We the undersigned signatories, representing diverse mass movements, environmental groups, rights organizations, feminist collectives as well as academics, activists and other concerned citizens are aghast at the manner in which Hidme Markam, a noted young environmentalist and human rights defender from the Bastar region in Chhattisgarh and a leader of the Nandraj Pahad anti-mining movement has been picked up by the Dantewada police arbitrarily on 9th March and currently lodged in jail.
We call upon you, as the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh to immediately intervene to ensure that all false cases against Hidme, including UAPA charges, are dropped and that she be released forthwith. We are equally distraught that her open abduction by police happened at a program intended to celebrate International Women’s Day, in the presence of the Sub Divisional Magistrate at Sameli, Dantewada and in violation of all due process.
Reportedly, Hidme, along with Soni Sori, many other activists of Chhattisgarh Mahila Adhikar Manch and a few hundred villagers gathered there peacefully to remember two young women who had been sexually assaulted and lost their lives because of the brutality of the police and security forces – Kawasi Pande who allegedly committed “suicide” in police custody under the watch of the Dantewada SP after being physically and sexually assaulted by the police, and Nande, who was pushed to take her life after being gang-raped by members of the police and CRPF.
At the meeting, the shocking case of Bheeme Mandawi, who, was picked up by the DRGF in December 2020 along with another young woman from Jabeli, Keda Para, raped and shot, was also brought forward. It is for such brutal human rights violations and violence that Hidme would speak out. It was only upon questioning later that the police claimed to have ‘arrested’ Hidme, in multiple cases with serious charges, including UAPA.
Not only was the manner of the arrest illegal and highly objectionable, but the charges were obviously concocted and even the FIRs the police claimed to have against Hidme had discrepancies even in the name: they refer to Kawasi Hidme, while the person arrested in Hidme Markam! The charges are evidently also being constructed post-facto; as time passes, they suddenly seem to have found more cases against her.
First they identify her as the president of the KAMS, specifying her as an unarmed member of the women's group, and in direct contradiction, the FIRs talk about her as a 'vardidhari bandukdhari' (uniformed and armed) member. Despite the fact that neither the names or the stories match, Hidme Markam, a Human Rights Defender who has been working entirely in the public eye, even meeting with police and officials to raise cases of Human Rights violations, has been arrested.
Hidme is widely respected in the entire region of Dantewada, Sukma and Bijapur for her work as an environmental and anti-displacement activist. She has led, along with other adivasis, the Nandraj Pahad Bachao Andolan, resisting the mining of a sacred indigenous hill by corporations like Adani Pvt Ltd. She has also been organizing against the Bailadila Mine Deposit project that would result in grave ecological damage in the region especially on the local forest, land and water bodies.
A member of the Chhattisgarh Mahila Adhikar Manch, Hidme has been present in numerous public spaces and meetings in Chhattisgarh, asserting the rights of adivasi women, especially against displacement and state repression. As convenor of the Jail Bandi Rihai Committee (Committee for Release of Prisoners), she has been vocal in the demand for release of thousands of innocent adivasis implicated and incarcerated in false cases.
Her sudden ‘arrest’ in ‘old cases’ raises many questions including why the State is going after her now, when she was all the time present in public and in fact met many important authorities including the Governor, Chief Minister, Superintendent of Police, Collector etc. demanding the release of arrested adivasis, an end to construction of para military camps in the region and halt to mining.
Her abduction deemed as ‘arrest’, adds yet another shameful layer of harassment to what she has already been facing for speaking truth to power. How does the Govt. explain the arrest of an adivasi woman activist who has only been trying to draw the attention of the state and police authorities to violations of constitutional rights? 
Like many others, Hidme is clearly being targeted for her political work in defence of adivasi lands and lives and standing up against the might of the State and profit-making corporations. The State should know better that such scare-mongering tactics would neither dampen the spirit of the adivasis of the region nor the democratic minded citizens across the country who stand resolutely in solidarity with them. We express our severe condemnation at the manner in which the State is hounding young voices in the environmental and social justice movements.
In this particular case, we cannot but express our utter displeasure at the high-handedness of the Congress Government in the state which is not only turning back on its poll promise of releasing arbitrarily jailed adivasis, but is in fact unabashedly arresting more adivasi women activists who are fighting for constitutional and human rights. We call upon you to immediately:
  • Free Hidme Markam and drop all charges against her, including UAPA matters.
  • Stop clamp down on environmental, adivasi and other human rights activists as well as adivasi villagers in Chhattisgarh, in particular women in the garb of ‘combating Naxalism’.
  • Halt all potentially destructive projects that displace adivasis and jeopardizes the environment and dialogue with the adivasi communities.
  • Disband questionable schemes like Lon Varatu and unconstitutional entities like the District Reserve Guards Force (DRGF).
  • Institute an independent and high-level inquiry into the sexual violence and alleged “suicide” of Kawasi Pande, the rape and death of Nande, the rape and murder of Bheeme Mandawi and other young women who have been sexually assaulted by the police. Put an immediate end to the sexual violence being rampantly inflicted by the police and security forces on the women of Bastar.
---
Click here for signatories

Comments

TRENDING

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Don't agree on domestic subsidies, ensure food security at WTO meet: Farmer leaders

Counterview Desk  The Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (ICCFM), a top network of farmers’ organizations in India, in a letter to Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce and Industry, has asked him to “safeguard food security and sovereignty, even as ensuring peasants' rights" at the 13th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO MC 13), to take place from 26 to 29 February 2024 in Abu Dhabi.

Sharp 61-85% fall in Tech startup funding in India's top 'business-friendly' States

By Rajiv Shah Funding in Tech startups in top business-friendly Indian states has witnessed a major fall, a data intelligence platform for private market research has said in a series of reports it has released this month. Analysing Tech startup data of Telangana, Maharashtra, Delhi NCR, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, Tracxn Technologies Ltd , the Bengaluru-based research firm, finds that except for Kerala, funding witnessed a fall of anywhere between 61% and 85%.

Students, lawyers, professors detained in Delhi for demonstrating in support of farmers

By Our Representative  About 25 protestors, belonging to the civil rights network, Campaign Against State Repression (CASR), a coalition of over 40 organisations, were detained at Jantar Mantar for holding a demonstration in support of the farmers' stir on Friday. Those detained included students, lawyers and professors, including Prof Nandita Narain and Prof N Sachin. 

Maize, bajra, jute, banana cultivation banned off West Bengal border: Plea to NHRC

Counterview Desk  West Bengal-based human rights defender Kirity Roy, who is secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Manch, and is national convenor of the Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity, in a representation to the chairman, National Human Rights Commission, second within few days, has bought to light one more case of trespassing and destruction of a fertile banana plantation by BSF personnel along the Indo-Bangladesh border, stating, despite a written complaint to the police has taken "no initiative".

Solar energy funding dips 9% in 2023; 2024 'kicks off' with US$1 billion investment

By Lakshmitha Raj*  Solar energy tech companies have already secured slightly over US$1 billion in funding in 2024 (till Feb 7, 2024) after total funding into Solar Energy companies in India fell 9% to US$1.55B in 2023 from US$1.7B in 2022. A total of 39 $100M+ rounds have been closed till date, with Delhi leading the city-wise funding, followed by Gurugram and Mumbai.

India second best place to invest, next to UAE, yet there is 'lacks support' for IT services

By Sreevas Sahasranamam, Aileen Ionescu-Somers*  The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the best place in the world to start a new business, according to the latest annual Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) survey. The Arab nation is number one for the third year in a row thanks to a big push by the government into cutting-edge technology in its efforts to diversify away from oil.

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".

Mahanadi delta: Aggressive construction in flood plains, reduced fish stock, pollution

By Sudhansu R Das  Frequent natural calamities, unemployment, low farmers’ income, increase in crime rate and lack of quality human resources to strike a balance between growth and environment etc. continue to haunt the state. The state should delve into the root causes of poverty, unemployment and natural calamities.