Raipur (14th April 2015/Press Statement): The People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) Chhattisgarh in no uncertain terms the recent series of attacks by Maoists on security forces in the Bastar region over the past 72 hours, in which tragically 7 STF jawans, one BSF jawan and 6 CAF jawans lost their lives and several others were grieviously injured. In the first incident of 11th April, a group of 400 Maoists had ambushed in broad daylight a group of STF jawans engaged in combing operations near Pidmel village (block Polampalli) in Sukma district, killing 7 of them; on the night of 12th April, Maoists attacked a BSF Camp at Chhote Baithiya under Bande Police Station in district Kanker killing one BSF jawan, following an incident of torching vehicles carrying ore and mining equipment of the Jayaswal Neco mining company; and on 13th April 6 CAF jawans were killed when the anti- land mine vehicle in which they were going for search operations was blasted, about 3km away from the CAF Cholnar Camp near Kirandul in district Dantewada.
The PUCL reiterates its strongly held belief against this violence and reaffirms its faith in the democratic way of life and appeals to all to use to the utmost the agencies and methods available in an open society under our Constitutional framework. It restates its long held stand that the increasing resort to violent means to attain political ends, and the response of the state machinery, threaten to cause even further curtailment of the basic civil liberties and human rights of the great majority in this country which are already in jeopardy.
The present spate of incidents makes it amply clear that the civil war like situation in Bastar region is far from dying out. The Raman Singh government had claimed more than 300 Naxal surrenders in the last few months, but it looks like the allegations of the opposition, and the findings of the media that these were mostly ordinary villagers, have substance. The Modi Government too is relying primarily only on stepping up military presence whereas the present incidents show that the lack of local intelligence in military operations, largely due to the alienation of the local people, is a major cause of the fatalities of the security forces. PUCL is concerned that after this incident, there are likely to be knee-jerk reactions from the security establishment including indiscriminate arrests in search operations or retaliatory killings of ordinary villagers which will only add to this alienation.
In the past months there have been mass gatherings of thousands of adivasis at Kukanar, Chintagupha, and Tongpal in District Sukma; and Kuakonda in District Dantewada, demanding release of innocent villagers, protesting against beating and torture, and demanding filing of an FIR in the case of police killing of adivasi Nuppo Bhima in Rewali Village etc. These events could have been treated as an opportunity by the state administration to come closer to the adivasi people and win their confidence by dealing with their grievances. Unfortunately those adivasis who have attempted to approach the police or administration, or the courts are being harassed or persecuted.
PUCL and other democratic organisations have long been suggesting that the way to de-escalate violence in the Bastar region would be to resettle adivasis in the abandoned villages, grant forest rights, restore health and education facilities, bring back ration shops, and assure people that development projects will only be started with prior informed consent. Treating the adivasis like an alien enemy in occupied territory can only worsen the situation.
Issued by Sudha Bharadwaj, General Secretary, PUCL Chhattisgarh