THE CAMPAIGN FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE IN CHHATTISGARH (CPJC)
WOMEN AGAINST SEXUAL VIOLENCE AND STATE REPRESSION (WSS)
invite you to a press conference on
EMERGENCY IN BASTAR
Date: 12 January 2017
Venue: Indian Women’s Press Club 5 Windsor Place, Ashoka Road, Delhi
Time: 2.00 pm
The strongly-worded order of 7thJanuary issued by the National Human Rights Commission has come as a welcome affirmation for activists and human rights defenders in Chhattisgarh. Validating fact-finding reports by WSS teams, the Commission has found that 16 Adivasi women are prima facie victims of rape, sexual assault and physical assault perpetrated by the State police personnel engaged in anti-Maoist operations in Bastar. Holding the Government of Chhattisgarh “vicariously liable” for gross violations of human rights in the state, the NHRC has directed the state government to record the statements of another 20 women who have filed similar complaints, and also invoked the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act.
However, this is just the tip of the iceberg – and reports of fake encounters, coerced surrenders and sexual assaults/rapes continue to come in, including of young children. In the last year, as part of Mission 2016, the Bastar police proudly claim to have killed 134 Naxalites. Doubts have been raised about many of these encounters, as family members of those killed have asserted that they are ordinary villagers killed in cold blood.
Bastar Police Launch ‘Mission 2017’ to silence critics
Even as Bastar villages reel under escalating levels of violence, local authorities with full support of the state government have renewed attempts to silence and attack all those who question the state and the war in Bastar. IG Kalluri has just announced ‘Mission 2017’ – a war against “safedposh Naxali” (white-collar Naxals) who have been declared to be more dangerous than Naxals themselves. On 25 December 2015 seven members of a fact-finding team, including lawyers, journalists and adivasi/dalit leaders, from the Telangana Democratic Forum were picked up from Telangana by the Chhattisgarh police and arrested under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act on charges of money laundering for the Maoists. They have been twice denied bail. Lawyers of the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group have been threatened with similar charges. Days after the CBI indicted IG Kalluri in a case of unprovoked firing on unarmed villagers and torching of an entire village in 2011, the police openly vented their anger by burning effigies of human rights defenders in all seven district headquarters in Bastar. Manish Kunjam, Adivasi Mahasabha leader was attacked at a press conference, and his life is under threat. Professor Nandini Sundar (the main petitioner in the Salwa Judum case) and her colleagues on a study tour, were charged with a concocted charge of murder. The intention is clearly to intimidate anyone who can bear witness to the war that the state is waging against its own citizens.
The Chhattisgarh Government is in repeated contempt of the Supreme Court and the NHRC on several counts. The actions of IG Kalluri and his violent vigilante gangs are open violations of democratic rights guaranteed by the Constitution including the right to free movement, the right to legal representation and equal treatment before the law, the right to dissent and above all, the right to life.
Even as the NHRC orders further recording of statements of rape survivors and the CBI is continuing its investigation into the rapes and murders in Tadmetla and neighbouring villages in 2011, it is not clear how this will happen in the prevailing atmosphere in the state where even statutory authorities and those who assist them can be threatened and intimidated. How will affected villagers speak out, file complaints, or get legal representation?
Speakers at the press conference will include Kalyani MenonSen and other WSS members who are working to expose the large-scale use of sexual violence by police and security forces in Bastar; Advocate Shalini Gera of the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group; Professor Nandini Sundar, who is a petitioner in the Supreme Court, as well as other human rights defenders who are being targeted for calling the Bastar police to account for their misdeeds.
We invite you to attend and cover the press conference, and strengthen our hands in calling for the restoration of democracy and the rule of law in Bastar.