Appeal to Political Parties, Visit Bastar, Initiate a Dialogue, Restore Fundamental Rights

Published on: July 11, 2016
last five years; this year they got 20-25 days of work. Before the elections, they said, the government blindly distributed ration cards, after the elections, many of these were taken away. The agricultural wage rate is Rs. 100 for men, and Rs. 60 for women.

When we visited, we found that the village was largely deserted, after the Maoists had beaten up villagers on 17 April. 8 villagers had to be hospitalized, including two women. People were scared to return to the village for fear of being beaten by the Maoists. The sequence of events that we could piece together is as follows:

The Maoists came to this area between 2004 and 2007/8. In 2008, they held a janadalat in which they asked the villagers to support them. The villagers refused because they did not want a Salwa Judum type of situation in their village. The Maoists then beat up the village leaders, Gotti Ram Karma, Domu Markam from Markamiras, Jagdev Thakur and Dunu from Kumakoleng. Later, the Maoists also killed Beni, a Dhakad from Kumakoleng, and in 2010, they killed Somaru of Nama, both on charges of being an informer. (In Nama, people particularly resented the killing of Somaru – saying they did not think he was guilty as charged).

But several people also joined the dalams (armed wing of the Maoists) and sanghams (unarmed village level volunteers) were formed. There was a firing in Chintalnar near Kachiras, in which one of the dalam leaders, Sonadhar left his diary (Sonadhar was later killed by the police in Odisha). The diary contained the names of many villagers who had contributed food etc. to the Maoists. The police put pressure on these villagers, threatening to arrest them. In January, 2016 a Maoist called Shankar surrendered, and was used to identify sangham members. Therefore, in March 2016, approximately 50 people from Kumakoleng panchayat ‘surrendered’ to the police; some of them were also later brought around to identify others. The Maoists then put pressure on the villagers for surrendering. On 15 April, 2016 the police held a camp in Kumakoleng and distributed sarees, vessels etc. This was attended by the Additional SP among others.  At this shivir, some of the villagers, especially the Dhakad women,(the Dhakads have traditionally not been so close to the Maoists) asked the police to set up a CRPF camp in their village.  On 17 April,2016, the Maoists came looking for two people who had surrendered, SukhmanYadav and Bhagirath, and beat up a large number of people in Kumakoleng, including those who had asked for a police camp.  On 18th the police came and took 8 people to Maharani hospital in Jagdalpur. Only 35 out of 110 households are still left in the village.  The rest of them left for other villages to live with their relatives. The fear of the Maoists was very palpable.

The following day, we met one of the Dhakad women, Ramvati, who had been taken to hospital and was living in rented accommodation in Tongpal. According to Ramvati, apart from her, three other women had been hit that day, Devaki, Lachandei and Chero. Devaki also had to be hospitalized. Ramvati’s elder son, Tulsiram Nag, is one of those who had surrendered. She described how one of the dalam members had dragged her out from her shop and hit her on the soles of her feet, and with an axe near her eye.

According to Ramvati, not everyone in the village supported the idea of having a camp.

In neighbouring Nama village, Soutnar panchayat, all the villagers have resolved to keep the Maoists out and have been patrolling the villages with bows and arrows and axes for the last three months. They have not given their initiative any formal name like a gram suraksha dal and laughingly called themselves the ‘tangiya gang’. At night the youth sleep together in clusters for safety.

In the Soutnar case too, tension with the Maoists was created after the surrender of a former Maoist, Shankar, who then accompanied the police when they held a camp in the village and identified villagers. Earlier villagers were scared to go to Tongpal because they were