Archive for the ‘Rape as a weapon of war’ Category

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Out of Sight, Out of Mind

February 1, 2010

Gotti Koya from Chhattisgarh often travel 70kms through the jungle to the markets in Andhra Pradesh and often move incognito, in fear of being apprehended by the security forces.

This story appeared in The New Indian Express on the 7th of Feb, 2010.

On the 18th of March, 2008, 14 Maoists of a Dalam (armed squad) were killed by security forces near Dareli, at Pamed, Bijapur district, Chhattisgarh. The security forces claimed no casualties in the alleged gunfight while the Maoists claimed that they were poisoned after the police came to know of a meeting. It was a well-publicised local incident that was reported yet what was neither reported nor investigated was the retaliatory killing of at least five villagers deemed ‘informants’ by the Maoists.

Rava Oonga (30), Badse Masa (50), Kovasi Hidme (35), Madkam Durva (70) and Madkam Idma (21) were returning to their villages in Bijapur District from Hyderabad after an election rally for the CPI (ML) New Democracy. They were hacked to death by axes in front of other villagers by a mixed squad of Sangam and Dalam members as suspected informants. Their previous visit to Hyderabad seemed too suspicious to the Maoists who quickly organized a ‘Jan Adalat’ or ‘People’s court’ to condemn them to death.

One villager was from Pallagudem, two from Jeerlaguda and two from Dareli. When their relatives and neighbours were asked about the identities of the assailants and the Maoists who were present during the killing, they replied: ‘Agar hum aapko bol denge, phir woh log humko marne bhi aajayenge.’ (If we tell you who killed them, then they will come to kill us also.)

A majority of the villagers do not reside in their villages anymore. They left without lodging an FIR against the Maoists at Pamed Police Station for fear of being detained by the police as suspected Maoists, and are now, not eligible for compensation. They had initially moved to Andhra Pradesh where their shacks were broken down by Forest Officials. And as it is, it’s not just the Maoists, or the Forest officials they’re afraid of. The neighbouring village of Thadmetla was raided by the Salwa Judum and one man, Sodhi Nando (30) was burnt to death along with his house.

Similarly, as it was previously reported by the Express, the village of Tatemargu in Konta block was raided by the security forces on the 10th of November, and seven villagers (four from Tatemargu, two from Doghpar, one from Pallodi) were allegedly killed by the security forces while more than 60 buildings were burnt down in Tatemargu and 30 homes in Pallodi. Some villagers of Tatemargu had lost around 40 quintals of rice to the fires that consumed their homes.

There were even some allegations of rape that were investigated yet there were no women willing to come forward to give their testimonies. Yet recently, at least, three women from Tatemargu claim to have been raped on the day of the raid, allegedly by members of the security forces who dragged them into the jungle. One woman claims she was held down by two men, and raped by a third who spoke ‘Koya’ – the tribal dialect.

She has neither lodged a complaint at Kistaram Police station for fear of being apprehended by the police as a ‘Maoist’, nor has she any access to a lawyer.

Previous incidents of rape from Samsetti, Bandarpadar and Arlampalli that were investigated and then taken to court led to nothing but the mental and physical harassment of the victims by their assailants. None of the accused SPOs or members of the Salwa Judum have ever been arrested even as warrants have been issued by the courts.

Yet even before the cases of rape are tried as criminal cases, witnesses and victims of all incidents of violence perpetrated by the state, have a tendency to disappear.

Both Katam Suresh (20 months) and his father Katam Dulaiah (20 years) of the village of Gompad are still missing. Katam Suresh lost three of his fingers during an attack on his village on the 1st of October, 2009, when nine villagers were killed. He was last seen on the 14th of January, 2010 at Konta Police station.

Similarly, Rava Jimey (17) and Madkam Sana (22) from the village of Boorgam were traveling to Kuakonda in Dantewada on the 25th of January, 2010. They disappeared somewhere between Konta police station and Dornapal police station and their relatives haven’t heard of them since. They were residing in Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh and were going to meet relatives at Kuakonda. The tribals from Chhattisgarh often travel incognito from Andhra Pradesh to South Bastar, claiming to be from other villages and other districts. Many of them travel around 70kms through the jungle to Andhra Pradesh for the regular ‘saptaah’ – market day. Their local markets are often out of bounds to them out of fear of being apprehended by the security forces for questioning.

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The Tribal ‘Ruchikas’ Of Dantewada

January 14, 2010

This story first appeared in The New Indian Express on the 7th of January, 2010.

The Muria don’t know anything about rape, as they say, their word for it is closer to ‘baalatkaar’ than anything else. But when four tribal girls were allegedly gang-raped by SPOs in the village of Samsetti in 2006, neither does the entire state machinery of Chhattisgarh.

Recently, the same girls were beaten by the very accused and forced to give their thumb-prints on blank papers. They were then detained for five days in Dornapal police station, where the very accused are stationed. Once the girls were released they flatly refused to talk to anyone, let alone their lawyers. The villagers of Samsetti had told the victims to let go of the matter as well. Previously, throughout September, the Sarpanch of Samsetti would ask the villagers to withdraw the cases and to put their thumbprints on blank papers otherwise the police and the SPOs would come to their village again. They did not heed to his threats.

According to victim testimonies, on the 6th of July 2006, in the village of Samsetti, in the district of Dantewada, three girls, aged 19, 22 and 23 were gang-raped by government appointed SPOs and members of the Salwa Judum during a raid on their village. Another girl had been raped in January of that very year.

When the girls had gone to file a complaint at the police station, they were threatened and chased away. Time would pass. It was discovered that there were allegedly 24 cases of rape in the entire Konta block, out of which, only six of the women were willing to speak up. Four of them were from Samsetti, one from Arlampalli and another from Bandarpadar.

The girls first wrote their complaints straight to the Superintendent of Police and the Collector on the 27th of March, 2009. Nothing happens. Then a complaint case was jointly filed to the Judicial Magistrate First Class, Konta on the 29th of April, 2009.

Interestingly, while statements were being recorded at the court on the 16th of June, 2009, the accused were loitering around the corridors. On the next court date, the 17th of July, when the testimonies of the victims were meant to be heard, the Magistrate was absent, allegedly, ‘called away to headquarters.’ The Magistrate also magically disappears on the next court date, the 12th of August.

The Magistrate, Amrit Karkate nervously rides his bicycle to court everyday from his house in Konta – the bastion of the very accused. A warrant for the thirty accused is finally issued by the court in October to the police stations of Dornapal, Konta and Bhejji. Yet no arrests are made. The accused are missing. One of them is even giving speeches. The accused SPOs are on duty yet for some reason they’re missing too.

Harassment of the victims still continued, the women fled their village and began to live on the premises of the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram. They had even approached the Collector Reena Babasaheb Kangale on the 11th of August to ensure the safety of the women. Yet nothing would happen. There would be no security. They returned to their village. They’d be beaten. They’d be dragged to jail. Irrespective of the fact that once a warrant is issued, the accused cannot withdraw the case unless the accused are brought to court and the matter can proceed. What’s the point of beating them now? What can they do?

Take the case of Madkam Madvi (name changed) of Bhandarpadar, Konta block, who was allegedly gang-raped by SPOs at Konta police station in April of 2008. According to her testimony, she claims that she was taken to the police station by the Salwa Judum, robbed of some Rs. 25,000, then kept alone in a room. She was first raped by a SPO in an isolated room in the police station, then blindfolded and gang-raped over two days at the station by three more unidentified persons.

Eventually, she was set free and after further harassment she escaped to Andhra Pradesh. She had hoped to start over and had even married.

At this point, members of the Salwa Judum traced her down in Andhra Pradesh and the harassment continued. According to her husband, they had threatened him saying, ‘we were going to sell this girl and earn some money but now that you married her, we have suffered a loss that you shall now have to payback.’ They then stole Rs.3500, one cow, three goats and two chickens to ‘make up for their loss.’ After further threatening them, they went back to Chhattisgarh, ensuring that Madvi would sleep in a different room in a different village every night.

Finally, through the Gandhian NGO Vanvasi Chetna Ashram, a complaint was written to the Superintendent of Police, Dantewada. There was no reply for months. The matter was then taken to the court as a private complaint. There was a request to shift the case from Konta to the Dantewada sessions court on the 9th of March, 2009.

Harassment began soon after. SPOs crossed the state border and searched Madvi’s house on the 10th of April, 2009. And on the 2nd of December, 2009, Madvi’s father and a boy who shared her husband’s name were apprehended and taken to Chintur Police Station in Andhra Pradesh. There, the father was threatened and the boy was beaten. They were told to bring Madvi to Konta police station. At this point, she had gone into hiding, knowing that her next appearance at court was to be held on the 10th of December when she had to depose.

The deposition didn’t happen. On the very day of the hearing there was a rally against the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram, who used to support her emotionally and financially. As of January 6th the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram has ceased to exist, it’s workers arrested, it’s employees threatened, it’s director missing.

The day after, prominent activists Medha Patkar, Sandeep Pandey, D. Gabriele, Kavita Srivastava along with some twenty others were attacked by a mob comprising of members of the Salwa Judum who referred to themselves as ‘Maa Danteswadi Adivasi Swabhimaan Manch’. According to activists, the entire mob was orchestrated by police. And according to local media reports, one of the accused in the Konta Rape case was also part of the mob.