Between An Expensive Rock And The Barrel of The Gun

February 13, 2010

Unforgiving pasts – In the majority of the IDP settlements at Khammam, the villagers completely refuse to be photographed, for fear of being sent back to Chhattisgarh by Forest officials, or being identified by the Salwa Judum or the Maoists.

This article appears in The New Indian Express on the 14th of February, 2010.

It is a well-known fact that the villages of south Bastar have been systematically burnt down and emptied over the last five years by the state-backed Salwa Judum. Official figures state around 644 villages were emptied – many were systematically burnt down. There has been no clear estimate on the number of villagers who have been displaced by the violence– estimates wary between 60,000 to 2,00,000 and there have been innumerable reports in the increase in displacement caused by the onset of Operation Green Hunt. Many independent observers as well as the Maoists claim that villages have been emptied to make way for big companies to harvest iron ore from the mineral-rich Chhattisgarh forest.

Yet what is not very well-documented is the amount of displacement that is caused by the Maoists as well.

As mentioned last week, 14 Dalam members were killed near the village of Dareli in 2008. The security forces claimed they killed them in a gunfight without suffering any casualties. The Maoists claimed they were poisoned. The said-incident really took place in the village of Kanchal, Pamed Block, Bijapur district, near Dareli village.

The villagers of Kanchal also claim that two villagers were killed on the day of the encounter at Kanchal. However, no one saw their bodies, nor did anyone see any trails of blood. At eight in the morning, 14 Dalam members were lying dead at Kanchal, at twelve in the afternoon, two villagers disappeared with the security forces. Eight days later, six villagers from Kanchal were taken to Pallagudem by the Maoists. Their families were also called to Pallagudem.

Madvi Deva (40) s/o Joga, Kunjam Nanga (35) s/o Adma, Madvi Kesa (22) s/o Bhima, Madvi Aita (25) s/o Adma, Madvi Somroo (30) s/o Sukda and Katam Deva (25) s/o Kesa were allegedly killed as ‘informants’ by the ‘People’s Court’ or ‘Jan Adalat’ at Pallagudem.

A few days later, out of the 89 families at Kanchal, around 59 families left their village. Interestingly, four families of the ‘informants’ are still living in Kanchal. The rest of the villagers refuse to live in Kanchal again, leaving behind their land and their livestock. A while later, senior committee leaders of the CPI (Maoists) had personally apologized to the villagers of Kanchal and had requested them to move back to the village. Yet they didn’t want to. The damage was done.

Similarly at Jarapalli, five kilometers from Pamed police station, two villagers, Suka Madkam s/o Oonga (20) and Madvi Poja (25) s/o Bandi were allegedly executed by the Maoists for ‘taking money’ from the police. They were initially abducted and taken into the jungle. At the same time, the villagers from Jarapalli, Ainpuram, Inkad, Centrambor and Toadguda were called for a meeting. During the ‘meeting’ in the middle of the afternoon, the two from Jarapalli were publicly beaten to death.

‘Many people left then,’ said one villager from Jarapalli, at an undisclosed location at Khammam. Sitting next to him, his neighbour from Tipapuram adds: ‘We’re afraid of both of them, the Maoists and the Judum people.’

Nearby, at Burgill village at Jagargonda, the mere threat of an execution sent a number of villagers fleeing. Two villagers were detained at the Salwa Judum camp and then released. Apparently, neither of them were bruised, battered or bleeding and the Maoists found that extremely suspicious. As the Maoists left the village later that day, around 17 families out of 48 left as well along with some IDPs from the neighbouring village of Rajoom that has it’s own long history.

The village of Rajoom in Jagargonda Block has been lying empty for more than four years. It was only a stone’s throwaway from Jagargonda police station – a kilometer away.

When the Salwa Judum started, Kunjam Suklu (35) s/o Bhutta and Lekam Budoo (55) s/o Oonga were allegedly killed by the Salwa Judum when they raided and burnt their village down. Both of them were killed in close quarters – one was stabbed and the other was suffocated. As their bodies were buried, all 35 families of Rajoom left the village to first live in Budgill for a year, then Meenagutta for two years and finally in Khammam for one year.

They left Budgill for a number of reasons, then they left Meenagutta for unspecified reasons. They finally ended up living as ‘coolies’ or landless labour at Khammam, moving to and fro, from the Godavari. A few days ago, in the first week of 2010, they decided to build four shacks, and plant four mango trees far into the reserve forest at Manguru mandal at Khammam. It was a ‘trial’ settlement, they were not going to take any chances. So when the forest department appears and tears their shack of wood and palmera leaves, there’s really no disappointment that they need to move again.

They move back to neighbouring villagers where they live at the charity of relatives. They start working as coolies again, for a piecemeal Rs.60 a day.

Along with them was Bhooska Madvi (name changed) of Millempalli, who was the only member of his village who was not dragged to a Salwa Judum camp at Jagargonda four years ago. He left his village to live in Dareli, and then had to leave again for unspecified reasons to only end up in Khammam, where he has lived as landless labour.

A few villagers were even asked to leave by the Maoists. 10 year-old Mangroo (name changed) from the village of Rasod was asked to leave his village after the Singaram encounter where 19 tribals were allegedly killed by the security forces. He left with his elder brother, his brother’s wife and his younger sister. He was asked to leave by his neighbours and by the Maoists for half his family (his father, two brothers, his sister and his sister’s husband and their two children) were forced to live in the Salwa Judum camp and have been living there for the last four years.

All the Internally Displaced Persons of Rajoom, Burgill, Kanchal, Jarapalli, Millempalli and Rasod had land in Chhattisgarh – all of them.

Mangroo’s IDP settlement in Khammam was even broken down four months ago by the forest officials and the local Koya from neighbouring villages of Rengagoom and Batalgoom who claimed that they built their shacks on their patta land. Two of the Gotti Koya IDPs – Madkam Gangaiah and Muchki Devaiah were even detained.

Yet CPM party worker and Sarpanch Payam Badraya of Kumargudem village helped them resettle at the same area after pointing out to the forest officials that the patta did not belong to anyone in Rengaboom or Batalboom. Similarly, Congress MLA Rega Kantarao helped free the two individuals from custody.

They returned to their settlement with no right to the jungle around them. They have no voter IDs, no ration cards, no access to a school and no handpump. Once upon a time, they had land.


One comment

  1. […] the decades, to today, where my own work took me from village after village, massacre after massacre in Dantewada, committed by our own security forces and the Maoists as […]

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