June 1, 2013

Demands Peaceful Solution

Association for India’s Development (AID) unequivocally condemns the brutal murder of 24 people on May 25th by the Maoists in Bastar, Chhattisgarh. We condemn the killing of any human beings and send our condolences to their families. Any escalation of violence by the state or the Maoists will lead us further away from a peaceful and lasting solution to the conflict in Chhattisgarh.

The Government of India has been swift in dispatching additional security personnel to supplement the 30,000 forces already deployed in Chhattisgarh. Given the history of such military operations in the area we are fearful that this will cause even more human rights violations of the Adivasi communities. Human rights violation cannot be committed by the state in response to the violations by the Maoists because the major brunt of the violence is borne by the Adivasis who are already amongst the most marginalized. Human rights violations of these communities have to end.

As many concerned citizens, including former security heads have stressed, a chiefly military response to Maoist violence cannot secure peace in Chhattisgarh. In a judgement addressing the core of the problem, the Supreme Court in July 2011, while ordering the disbanding of Salwa Judum, commented: “Tax breaks for the rich, and guns for the youngsters amongst poor, so that they keep fighting amongst themselves, seems to be the new mantra from the mandarins of security and high economic policy of the State. This, apparently, is to be the grand vision for the development of a nation that has constituted itself as a sovereign, secular, socialist and democratic republic.” In the same order the Supreme Court directed the  state of Chhattisgarh to file FIRs and diligently prosecute all unconstitutional activities of Salwa Judum. To this day the state has not filed a single FIR. We urge the government to implement the Supreme Court orders in letter and spirit.

We are also seriously concerned by an incident that has attracted less attention: On the night of May 17-18, 8 villagers, including 3 children, and a member of the CRPF were killed in a gun-battle near Edasmeta village in Bijapur district. We appreciate the government’s decision to grant compensation to the families of those killed and to order a judicial inquiry into the incident by the Justice V K Agrawal Commission, constituted to investigate a disturbingly similar incident that occurred in Bijapur last June, when 17 Adivasis, including 7 minors were killed by CRPF personnel. At the same time, we strongly urge that these investigations be concluded in a timely manner and that those responsible be held accountable. The adivasis of Chhattisgarh have long been caught in the armed conflict between state and non-state actors in the region, with village after village being subjected to indiscriminate violence, deprivation and displacement. The lives of these communities cannot be treated as expendable.

The state should ensure the immediate implementation of Panchyat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 and Forest Rights Act, 2006. The rights of the Adivasis to the land and forests are protected under Schedule V of the Indian Constitution and any violation of it is unconstitutional and illegal.

At the end of 2011, close to 60% of the prisoners in jails in Chhattisgarh were undertrials. A recent Right To Information (RTI) application also revealed that in south Chhattisgarh alone over 95% of the 1067 undertrials were tribals, a majority of whom only speak Gondi. They have little or no money to appoint a lawyer or even find out about their own case details. According to the recently released Nirmala Buch Committee report, there are 990 adivasis lodged in the Chhattisgarh jails without a trial for 2 or more years. We request the committee to release the names and details of all 235 such cases so far reviewed by them. The fundamental right to personal liberty of all citizens, guaranteed by Article 21 of the constitution, should not be violated. We urge the state to expedite the review of all cases where people are held for such long periods without being produced in court.

We advocate for the cessation of violence and the demilitarisation of the region, with dialogue and meaningful engagement between State and non-State actors.  As Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye only makes the whole world blind.”  Violence brings only further suffering and injustice. We appeal to both parties to sit down for dialogue, to find a non-violent resolution to the conflict and a lasting political solution for peace.