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Key Bastar anti-mining, anti-displacement tribal stir leaders being arrested: FACAM

Counterview Desk

The civil rights network* Forum Against Corporatization and Militarization (FACAM), seeking the release of Chhattisgarh Adivasi leader Surju Tekam, arrested following a raid on his village residence, has demanded that there should be an “end to fake encounters and false arrests in the name of Maoist links”.
Stating that Tekam’s arrest is part of the state’s escalating move to suppress protests, FACAM alleged in a statement, “Since 1st January 2024, there have been 20+ fake encounters in Bastar, wanton killings of civilians including that of a 6-month-old infant, numerous arrests of key leaders of anti-mining anti-displacement Adivasi movements, all conducted under the pretext of countering Naxalism.”

Text:

FACAM is appalled at the arrest of Sarva Adivasi Samaj Vice President and Bastar Jan Sangharsh Samanvay Samiti Convenor, Surju Tekam, on 2nd April 2024 under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) and the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005 (PSA), all under the excuse of Tekam being an alleged “Maoist sympathizer.”
At 4 am, he was forcefully taken from his home in Kalwar village in Manpur-Mohla-Ambagarh district, Chhattisgarh. Per statements from witnesses and, upon the first round of investigation in his house, the police and paramilitary came up empty-handed. They then subsequently went inside and planted literature associated with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) along with a bag of explosives to build a fictitious argument that Tekam is a Maoist sympathizer and an “arms supplier.” He was beaten by the officers and abducted from his home subsequently.
On 3rd of April, Tekam was presented before NIA court in Bilaspur. Surju Tekam’s arrest comes as part of the Indian state’s escalation in Bastar as part the Surajkund Scheme which is being realized fully under the newly elected BJP government in Chhattisgarh. According to an official as stated by a TOI report, Tekam has been arrested because he leads all tribal protests and rallies under the influence of “Naxal commanders”.
Through his arrest and tagging of peaceful mass movement of Adivasis as those influenced by Maoists, the state wishes to silence the voices vocal against the ongoing genocide of Adivasi peasants and can expose the state’s narrative of “vishwas, vikas aur suraksha” in the region.
Since 1st January 2024, there have been 20+ fake encounters in Bastar, wanton killings of civilians including that of a 6-month-old infant, numerous arrests of key leaders of anti-mining anti-displacement Adivasi movements, all conducted under the pretext of countering Naxalism. Leading members of Morohnaar and Orcha Jan Andolan’s opposing mining in Amdai Ghati hills and paramilitary camps have been arrested in this time period.
After Surju’s arrest, on 3rd April 2024, in Narayanpur district, Rajmen Netam and one other were arrested while they were coming back from a mela under the allegation  being Maoists. Their families are yet to be informed. At the same time, alleged Maoists are often captured and then shot in staged “encounter killings.”
On 27th April 2024, 6 persons were shot dead in Chipurbhatti, Bijapur district, with the allegation that they were members of CPI (Maoist) but material lodged as part of evidence from the site contradict their capabilities to engage in exchange of fire with the police and the villagers have alleged that some of the persons killed are part of their communities. Photos of them being tied and captured prior to the killings have also been discovered.
Police claimed that Surju’s arrest has been done to ensure that he does not do Naxalite campaigning during Lok Sabha elections
The police have claimed that Surju’s arrest has been done to ensure that he does not do “Naxalite campaigning during the Lok Sabha elections.” In the past, as a community leader, Surju Tekam and many others leading the mass movements in Bastar against corporatization and militarization have questioned the merits of elections in Bastar for Adivasis when the Indian state is waging its war on people indiscriminately.
Tekam himself warned of the same prior to the BJP winning the Chhattisgarh state assembly in 2023 and was arrested for the same. To ensure that the local mass movements do not raise political dissent against Brahmanical Hindutva fascism, the BJP-RSS combine is hell bent on silencing the people and ensuring that its brutal war on people at the service of corporates has no witnesses, no voices left to question its loot.
Forum Against Corporatization and Militarization (FACAM) vehemently condemns the arrest of Adivasi leader Surju Tekam, continued arrests and harassment of activists of mass movements as well as the 20+ fake encounters in Bastar since 1st January 2024.
Our demands:
  1. Immediate release of Surju Tekam and all political prisoners.
  2. Judicial inquiry into the 20+ fake encounters of ordinary Adivasis since 1st January 2024.
  3. Judicial inquiry into the so-called encounter killings of alleged Maoists on 27th March, 2024.
  4. End to the war on people being waged in Bastar under the Surajkund Scheme.
  5. End to the escalation of genocidal tactics and curtailment of all nominal democratic rights since the coming of the BJP government in Chhattisgarh.
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*All India Students Association (AISA), All India Revolutionary Students Organization (AIRSO), All India Revolutionary Women's Organization (AIRWO), Bhim Army Student Federation (BASF), Bhagat Singh Ambedkar Students Organization (BASO), Bhagat Singh Chatra Ekta Manch (bsCEM), Collective, Common Teachers Forum (CTF), Democratic Students Union (DSU), Fraternity Movement, Nazariya Magazine, Progressive Lawyers Association (PLA), Mazdoor Adhikar Sangathan (MAS), Trade Union Centre of India (TUCI), Vishwavidyalaya Chhatra Federation (VCF)

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