A joint statement by Bastar Solidarity Network-Delhi Chapter along with Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS)

Yet again, we are confronted with state impunity in Bastar, which is reaching new levels of absurdity. Instead of addressing issues of violence by its own units, Mr. SRP Kalluri, Inspector General (Bastar Range) has booked Prof Nandini Sundar of Delhi University, Prof Archana Prasad of Jawaharlal Nehru University, Vineet Tiwari of Joshi Adhikari Institute of Social Studies, Sanjay Parate, State Secretary, Chhattisgarh CPI (M), Mangla (from Nama village), Manju Kawasi (Garhidas village) and others, along with some Maoist activists, for the murder of an adivasi villager – Shamnath Baghel, from Sukma district. News reports state that Baghel was involved in anti-Maoist protests in the region, and was killed on Friday night. It should be noted that Ms. Nandini Sundar is the lead petitioner in the celebrated Salwa Judum case (WPC 250 of 2007, pending before the Supreme Court), in which the apex court had held government policies of arming vigilante groups to be unconstitutional.

This latest attack in the series of atrocious maneuver by the police to stifle the people’s struggle comes close on the heels of an incident of effigy burning of Sundar and others who have been reporting on state atrocities in the region, by police personnel. Local activists and journalists like Manish Kunjam and Prabhat Singh have also been victims of threats by the police establishment and local vigilante groups in the last few months. We also remember the hounding out of journalists and lawyers earlier this year from the area. It is becoming impossible to draw any distinction between police personnel and vigilante groups today, especially after the effigy burning incident.

The situation in Chhattisgarh is deteriorating at a fast pace. A CBI inquiry has found that 323 SPOs/policemen and 95 CRPF/COBRA personnel under the command of IG Kalluri, who was the then SSP, Dantewada, were directly responsible for an alleged case of violence on adivasis in Tadmelta, Morpalli and Timmapura villages in 2011 while the police claimed that it was the Maoists who set fire to the 160 houses. The alleged cases of encounters like these and various other forms of violent oppression of the adivasis, journalists, lawyers and rights activists have seen an escalation in the past one year. The recent so-called encounter in Malkangiri has been decried by various civil rights groups in the country as a fake encounter.

Even more alarming are the reports emerging from Raigarh where the adivasis are fighting to save their lands from the coal mining corporates like Jindal Steel and Power and SECL (South Eastern Coalfields Limited), the current custodian of coal mines in this area. The police seem to be deploying the same tactics that they used to hound out lawyers and activists from Jagdalpur earlier this year. They have termed activists who are standing in support of the adivasis in Raigarh and surrounding villages as “outsiders” and have even threatened a WSS member and activist, Rinchin, of burning her alive if she remains in the area for her support to the villagers of Tamnar discrict in their legitimate demands to save their lands.

The screenplay seems to be clear. The police, in collusion with the mining giants and corporates, are trying to clear the entire Chhattisgarh and serve it to the corporates on a platter. In all of this, IG Kalluri has played a vital role displaying a sickening impunity and toxic machismo. There are no doubts anymore that this is exactly what Mission 2016 was conceived to be. While we have over a hundred cases of encounter of local adivasis, just in this year, which have hardly made to mainstream news, there is also an aggressive push from the state and vigilante groups to threaten and hound out any voices of support for the locals, be it through fact finding missions, lawyers or journalists. This attempt at isolating Bastar and even entire Chhattisgarh from where no information can go out, this waging of “a war without witnesses” has been characteristic of fascist regimes everywhere.

However, these attempts at persecution have not weakened any of the activists and civil society members who have working on bringing out the brutal realities of Bastar. We stand in solidarity with all of them and the people of Bastar who have resisted this state-sponsored war.

It is imperative that this fabricated FIR be immediately modified to exclude the names of the fact-finding team members, and the police officials responsible for registering such a vicious and malafide FIR be suitably disciplined. In particular, Mr. Kalluri should be immediately suspended from service – in addition to the above, he is also using his position of power to intimidate and interfere with the ongoing inquiry into Tadmetla, Morpalli and Timmapuram arson cases, in which he is an accused, and is thus severely eroding the trust and reputation of local police and law enforcement agencies.

Bastar Solidarity Network-Delhi Chapter along with Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) appeals to all progressive and democratic persons to join the demonstration against the intimidation of activists, journalists, lawyers and academics by the Chhattisgarh police and the vigilante groups led by IG Kalluri.