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Not merely collateral damage: The tragic killing of adivasis in Chhattisgarh

PUDR condemns the cold- blooded and cowardly murder by security forces of 19 villagers of Sarkelguda in Chhattisgarh including five children in age group of 12-15 killed with bullets, axes and knife wounds, as well as sexual assault of four teenaged girls The incident once again exposes how dispensable and inconsequential is the life of the adivasi people of Chhattisgarh for the Indian state. The sheer brutality and complete impunity with which the forces have acted, is matched by the doublespeak of the political class. We have the Union Home Minister naming three "hardcore" Naxalites only to find that there is no person named Mahesh among the dead; Nagesh is a 17 year old student of class 10 and another Nagesh is a 'dholak' player.; Somulu the supposed 'hardcore naxalite' was a marginal farmer. The Union Home Secretary claimed that no children were killed, not even bothering to explain the five children among the dead. Clearly in the eyes of the political class the men, women and children who were killed did not deserve to be the recipient of the development and progress that the political leadership keeps tom-tomming.  

What is also shocking is the concerted attempt by the bureaucracy and the executive to cover up the massacre. The arrogance of power drove the CM of Chhattisgarh to defend the killing by claiming that villagers got killed when they were used as 'human shields" a fact unequivocally denied by villagers. The state home minister claims that if people are present at any meeting with Naxals then it is alright for soldiers to kill them. Read together with the Union Home Secretary's remarks to the Standing Committee of Parliament that his orders are to troops to "arrest or kill" then it becomes clear that the war against people who are resisting corporate takeover of their land, forest and water is being stepped up to scale new heights of barbarity. It is no less alarming that senior officers of this force say that forces are justified to open fire no sooner they 'come under attack.' In this case, even that is dubitable and has been clearly denied by the villagers. This signals an open acceptance that what is being done is not any "police action" where restraint is the operative word but a war in which soldiers go on a killing spree. The very fact that some of the villagers were killed after these soldiers had taken physical control of the villages corroborates this.

All these facts suggest that there's a war on in Chhattisgarh.  Not a war in which the people of Chhattisgarh are collateral damage, but a war in which the adivasis of Chhattisgarh are indeed the enemy. 

Noticeably not only are all these rationalisations post the hulla, horrifyingly enough they are also seen as self-explanatory. No need to establish identity, investigate or prove a crime; and after the killing, no requirement to follow due procedure and uphold fundamental rights, no need to conduct post-mortems, to make the reports of these public, or to explain the axe marks. Nor any requirement to establish their own veracity- Pellet injuries as the government doctor says, or AK 47/ SLRs as jawans and officials claim? Who cares - not the government certainly? 

The slow decimation that the tribals of Chhattisgarh were experiencing in the 60 years following partition- no medical facilities, malnutrition, displacement- has been speeded up in the last few years first through Salwa Judum and now through Green hunt. It has today reached a point where the state doesn't even feel the need to at least maintain a veil of accountability. Its pursuit of loot of the mineral wealth of the state in the interests of corporates at the cost of the life and liberty (dignity it never bothered with) of the people of Chhattisgarh is now brazen reality. To turn a blind eye is to now become complicit with the state in the ongoing war against the people of Chhattisgarh.

We appeal to all democratic people to come out in protest. The only way in which we can stop this savage war against our people is by bringing the criminals of CRPF, Cobra and Chhattisgarh Armed Force (and their masters in the bureaucracy and the executive) to justice and demand accountability of the government at the state and the centre..

Paramjeet Singh and Preeti Chauhan

(Secretaries PUDR) 

[email protected]