Fact Finding team members framed and arrested…
Sharpen the voices against this brutal war on people. Break the blackout!
STATEMENT BY BASTAR SOLIDARITY NETWORK (Delhi Chapter):
If the horrors of the yesteryear are any indicator, this year is only going to witness a further escalation of the state-terror – rape, torture, murder, loot – in the adivasi heartland of India. And certainly it would also be matched by an equally stubborn resistance of the people in defence of their jal-jangal-jameen. It is onto us whether we would match up in our resolve to speak up against this brutal war being waged by the state-corporate nexus in the name of ‘development’ (read corporate greed).
Only last month, on the 16th of December, a 13-year-old Adivasi boy, Somaru Pottam was brutally tortured to death by security forces engaged in anti-Naxalite operations in Bastar. The villagers have narrated that the boy was undressed in front of them after being killed, changed into a Naxalite uniform and photographed. Now that isn’t new. Is it? In fact, that’s a routie as per democratic right actvists. The oversized freshly creased uniform with no bullet holes on the bullet-riddled body of Madkam Hidme is still fresh in our memories.
As per the witness accounts, Somaru was returning after collecting Chhapra Chhapra – red ant colonies, harvested for culinary and medicinal properties – when he was captured by the security forces. He was thereafter tied to a tree trunk and subjected to inhuman torture in front of other villagers – his family and other women dragged to the spot as “captives”. They narrated how a group of 4-5 police personnel interrogated him and repeatedly stabbed him with their bayonets as he remained tied to the tree till he died. The “captives” were threatened of dire consequences if they told anyone about the murder. The official version, of course, maintains that an “unidentified armed Naxalite in uniform” was killed following a “fierce gunbattle”!
The boy’s father has demanded an independent high-powered special investigation team to inquire upon the killing and the court has already ordered for the exhumation of the body for forensics. In his struggle for justice, he is getting legal assistance and support from the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group (JAGLAG). And it is precisely for this unpalatable task that members of the JAGLAG has repeatedly been at the receiving end of harassment and intimidation by the police and its hired goons like the Samajik Ekta Manch (the latest avatar of the banned Salwa Judum). The same treatment has been meted out by the police to those journalists, authors or intellectuals whosoever still dare to report about the stains of blood in the forests and fields. They wish to enforce a complete blackout in the Adivasi hinterland so as to carry on the brutalities in silence without any hue and cry.
Fact Finding teams that attempt to break this iron curtain are thereby subjected to harassment, intimidation, threats, brandings and even arrests. On the 25th Of December, the Chhattisgarh police arrested seven members of a fact-finding team of the Telangana Democratic Front (TDF). The team comprised lawyers Balla Ravindranath, Chikkudu Prabhakar, D. Prabhakar, Durga Prasad, an independent journalist, and three research scholars from Osmania University — Nazeer, Rajendra Prasad and R. Lakshman. They were travelling to Chhattisgarh to investigate reports of large-scale fake encounters resulting in the death of adivasis. For this “crime” of theirs’ they were booked under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act!
Much the same, if not wore, is going to continue in this year too. We must resolve to sharpen our voices of resistance against the war on people. We must break the blackout in Bastar and the entire adivasi heartland. We must demand an end to Operation Green Hunt. We must stand in solidarity with the fight of the oppressed for their land-livelihood and dignity. We condemn in the strongest possible words the brutal murder of Somaru Pottam. We also condemn the witch-hunt of Fact Finding team members and the state sponsored reign of terror being imposed in these areas.