Between December 26th and 31st 2014, a PUDR fact-finding team visited 9 villages of Bijapur district, Chhattisgarh to ascertain reports of arrests, intimidation and harassment, including sexual abuse by security forces who are stationed there to fight the Maoists. Predominantly Adivasi villages, the residents of Basaguda, Kottaguda, Pusbaka, Lingagiri, Rajpeta, Timmapur, Kottagudem, Korsaguda and Sarkeguda, narrated the daily acts of violence and violations committed by armed personnel residing in security camps. Apart from documenting the continuance of ‘area domination’ by the security forces, the report draws particular attention to:
1. The large number of ‘permanent warrants’ issued against the populace, of which a significant number is declared as ‘absconders’. A rough estimate indicates that as many as 15-35,000 people live under the threat and fear of these warrants in Bijapur alone.
2. The lawless conduct of the armed personnel and Special Police Officers (SPOs) who routinely raid, beat, loot, detain and compel the Adivasi villagers to perform ‘begar’ (free labour) at the security camps. Instances of sexual torture were also noted.
3. The impossibility of lodging FIRs against the security forces as against the rising number of arrests of villagers who languish in jails.
4. The intensification of armed presence on account of increased road building activity by the army for securing supply lines to the camps. Roads are opened only after road opening exercises by the forces followed by routine interception of passengers at frequent check-posts and road barriers.
5. The further harassment faced by villagers during travel on account of armed personnel in civilian buses plying between Bijapur and Basaguda. In flagrant disregard of international covenants, the security forces deliberately regard passengers as ‘human shields’ against possible encounters.
6. The impact of camps on the living conditions of the Adivasi villagers which have been severely affected. The decrease in agricultural activity is a definite consequence of harassment as is the fall in family income and wages. Besides poor health facilities, the existing school system which utilized local village helpers is being intentionally replaced by ‘ashram schools’ which aim to wrench the Adivasi children from their homes and village environment.
7. The intensity of the present situation is comparable to and a continuance of the Salwa Judum activities—eviction and mass displacement of villagers between 2005 and 2009. The present brutality has only underlined the earlier misery of displacement and attempted rehabilitation which the villagers were compelled to undergo.
8. Despite recurrent incidences of bomb explosions and targeting of the roads by the Maoists, the villagers fear the security camps as it is the armed personnel who punish and brutalize them.
9. In tandem with periodic massacres, the daily harassment is part of the dual strategy of the State’s war in the region.
10. The intention behind the present military initiative is to cleanse the area for redoubled mining activity. The effort is directed towards eroding the Adivasi will in resisting the State and in compelling them to be receptive towards official overtures.
The fact-finding report can be accessed at: http://www.pudr.org/?q=content/war-and-lightness-being-adivasi-security-camps-and-villages-bijapur-chhattisgarh
Sharmila Purkayastha and Megha Bahl