The Adivasis live and die with the Nature. They believe in the super natural God, therefore; they worship the Nature in every occasion. The Adivasis’ economy is totally based on the Agriculture and Forest, which also depends merely on rainfall. Therefore, the villagers get together and pray to their Super Natural God before and after the harvesting. The Adivasi communities also have their own democracy, which is totally based on ‘consent’, which they practice in every village in every occasion. On 28 June, 2012, the Adivasis of Kottaguda, Sarkeguda and Rajpenta village in Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh had gathered at Kottaguda village to plan for the performance of the traditional festival “Beej Pandum (seed Festival) so that they would celebrate the festival and start sowing the seeds on their lands as the Monsoon has reached to the region.
Unfortunately, 17 of them were attending this kind of meeting for the last time in their life. The Cobra battalion of the CRPF and the Chhattisgarh police, who were deployed in the region in the name of elimination of the Maoists, surrounded the villagers and fired on them without giving any signal to the villagers. Consequently, 16 of them got bullets in their chests, heads and other parts of the body, and died in the spot and 1 was brutally killed in the next morning. The Security Forces claimed of killing 18 dreaded Maoists and celebrated it as one of the grand successes in anti-Naxal Operations. Similarly, P. Chidambaram, the Union Home Minister had also claimed that the Security Forces had shot top Naxal leaders in Chhattisgarh, and when the encounter was questioned he attempted to cover up it.
However, when the breaking news of encounter appeared in the television screens and the print media, the story seems to be totally untrue. The question immediately came into one’s mind was, how could 18 top Maoists have a meeting in a village, which is situated merely at a distance of 3 km from the CRPF camp? The truth of Bijapur encounter was finally revealed. A brave Journalist Aman Sethi, who has been tirelessly reporting on the state sponsored crime against the Adivasis of Chhattisgarh; this time also exposed the lies of the top cops, the Chhattisgarh government and Home Minister P. Chidambaram. According to his report, the security forces fired at a peaceful gathering of villagers, killing 20 of them, including five children aged 12-15, and sexually assaulted at least four girls during the encounter. The conclusion of the story was no Maoists were present in the village that day. The villagers had gathered to discuss the upcoming seed festival, when the security forces fired on them, which led to death of 20 villagers including 5 children.
The report of a three member Fact-Finding team comprising of Mr. J P Rao, Mr. Kopa Kunjam and Dr. Nandini Sundar, who visited Kottaguda, Sarkeguda and Lingagiri villages on 3rd and 4th July 2012 revealed the further shocking facts. According to the report, these villages were attack by the Salwa Judum Militia in 2005. They had killed 2 people and almost all the houses in all three villages were burnt. Consequently, the villagers had migrated to Andhra Pradesh and returned to their villages only in 2009. They were again attacked by the Security Forces this time, which led to death of 17 villagers including 7 minors. Apart from that, 9 have been injured, and at least 5 women have been beaten, assaulted and molested.
When the truth was unearthed, the Union Home Minister and Architect of the ‘Operation Green Hunt’ P. Chidambaram said ‘deeply sorry’ for killing of innocent civilians. The pertinent question here would be, is saying merely ‘sorry’ enough for brutal killing of 17 innocent Adivasis? Secondly, why are the political parties keeping quit in this matter especially the opposition party the BJP? Would they have behaved in the similar manner if 17 innocent non-Adivasis would have been killed in the cold-blooded murder? Will the BJP keep quit if the similar incident takes place in the Congress rule state? Who is responsible for massacre of innocent Adivasis? Is it not P. Chidambaram, who has been deploying the Security Forces in the Adivasis regions since, 2009 in the name of eliminating the Maoists?
The CRPF DG Vijay Kumar shamelessly justified the criminal acts of the Security Forces saying that it was impossible for the forces to know who they were firing at that night. He further says that the entire area is a “very hazy world”, in which it is impossible to identify who is a Naxal and who is not. The can be raised are why did the Security Forces fire on the villagers if they didn’t know whom they were firing on? Who had given them order to fire on the innocent villagers? And can the Security Forces fire on anybody merely on the basis of suspicion? The SDM Kuruvanshi, who has been appointed to investigate, questions the villagers that why they were meeting at night? He also doesn’t want to visit villagers but has summoned the villagers to his office, which clearly indicates that the state is determined not only to deny justice to the Adivasis but also continue the state sponsored crime against them.
The Teheka’s editor Shoma Chaudhary raised a most important question is her column ‘editor cut’ that Why is life in Bastar so cheap? A simple answer to this question is, since the Indian state seems to believe that all the Adivasis living in the forest regions across the country are Maoists/Naxals, who are biggest threat to the ‘investment climate’. The India’s Economist Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh is always worried about the investment climate rather than its constitutional duty to protect the rights of its citizens. In fact, the Indian State is determined to grab the resources of the Adivasi regions at any cost, which will pave the way to India becoming the super power. Therefore, the Security Forces have been deployed in the forests to kill the Adivasis, who oppose to surrender their land, forest, water and other natural resources to the Indian state in the name of growth and development.
However, when we raise the question on fake encounter, the counter question comes back to us is why we keep quite when the Maoists kill the Security Forces? The answer for this question can be found in another question i.e. why does the Indian State send the security forces to the forest, where it didn’t reach in last 60 years? Is it for the protection of the villagers or to facilitate the mineral loot? If the Indian state sends the Security Forces to provide security to the people, then why do the security forces kill the innocent villagers, torture them and rape the women instead of protecting them? For whose security, the Security Forces are deployed in the Forests? Is it not true that the Security Forces are deployed in the forest to protect the corporate interest rather than protecting the people?
Whatever may be the intellectual arguments, but the fact is that the hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in anti-Naxal operations across the country since 2009 but no major investigation was done till the date. Therefore; the Corporate Home Minister P. Chidambaram must leave his office, precisly because he is responsible for the brutal killing of all the innocent villagers including 17 innocent Adivasis of Kottaguda, Sarkeguda and Rajpenta villages of Chhattisgarh. The questions should be asked to Mr. P. Chidambaram that is it enough to say sorry after taking away the precious lives of 17 innocent people? Will he go for the CBI probe in all the cases of fake encounters took place in anti-Naxal operations across the country? And will he punish the top cops for killing the innocent civilians or let them enjoy the impunity? Remember, the buck stops at your door Mr. Chidambaram.
Gladson Dungdung is a Human Rights Activist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org