1,000 + activists, academics, concerned citizens from 20+ states in India and across the globe write to Chief Minister Chhattisgarh

Call for immediate release of Hidme Markam and end state excess on adivasis in Bastar 

21 Apr, 2021: Deeply outraged by the arbitrary incarceration of Hidme Markam, an adivasi human rights defender and environmental activist, for over 40 days, more than a thousand activists, academics, concerned citizens from across the globe sent a petition to Mr. Bhupesh Baghel, the Chief Minister, Chhattisgarh calling upon him to immediate ensure the release of Hidme Markam and take pro-active steps to end the cycle of repression against adivasis in Chhattisgarh. They also appealed that false charges against Hidme and other adivasi activists be dropped and an independent inquiry be conducted into all instances of sexual and state violence.

[The full text of the letter and full list of signatories available at the end]  

It has been widely reported that on 9th March, 2021, Hidme Markam, a committed environmental activist from the adivasi community, working in the Nandraj Pahad anti-mining movement was openly abducted by the Dantewada Police (and later shown as ‘arrested’) when she was attending a programme commemorating the International Women’s Day in Sameli, Bastar. Several women had gathered peacefully to remember and mourn the rapes and murders of adivasi women at the hands of the State. 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 that Hidme Markam 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 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. 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.

Condemning Hidme’s arrest as entirely wrongful, the Chief Minister has been called upon to immediately:

a. Free Hidme Markam and drop all charges against her, including UAPA matters.

b. Stop the 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’.

c. Halt all potentially destructive projects that displace adivasis and jeopardizes the environment and dialogue with the adivasi communities.

d. Disband questionable schemes like Lon Varatu and unconstitutional entities like the District Reserve Guards Force (DRGF).

e. 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.