Archive for the ‘Dorla’ Category


‘Even if they don’t let us settle here..’

May 4, 2012

This article appears in Daily News & Analysis on the 4th of May, 2012.

Conflict and displacement in Bastar leads to deprivation and forest loss in neighbouring Khammam.

Around 43 families from the villages of Millampalli, Simalpenta, Raygudem, Darba and Singaram in Dantewada District, lost their makeshift homes for the second time in three months in the Mothe Reserve Forest of Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh on the 26th of March, 2012, when the Forest Department, mandated to protect the forests, would evict them using force.

A large number of families are Internally Displaced Persons who’ve escaped the Salwa Judum-Maoist conflict of Dantewada and have lived in Khammam as informal labour.

Most originated from Millampalli, that was burnt down by the Salwa Judum in 2006 and Maoists have killed at least three people – Sodi Dola, Komaram Muthaiya and Madkam Jogaiya in the past ten years. Another resident of Millampalli, Dusaru Sodi, used to be a member of the Maoist Sangam but would eventually become a Special Police Officer who witnesses from Tadmentla and Morpalli alleged was present during the burnings of the villages or Tadmetla, Morpalli and Timmapuram in March of 2011 by security forces. His name again re-appeared in testimonies by victims of rape, submitted to the National Commission of Women and the Supreme Court by Anthropologist Nandini Sundar.

Madvi Samaiya and Madvi Muthaiya from the village of Raygudem were also killed by the Maoists.

In Simalpenta, the Sarpanch’s brother Kurra Anda was killed by the Maoists in 2006.

In Singaram, an alleged encounter that took place on the 9th of January of 2009, where 19 adivasis were killed by security forces as alleged Maoists.

In Khammam, most of the IDPs/migrants have worked as informal labour during the mircchi cutting season, earning around Rs.100 per day and live off their savings in the summer season when there is no work, and little access to water to a majority of the settlements. The Muria from Chhattisgarh, or the Gotti Koya as they are known in Andhra along with Koyas from Chhattisgarh, have been in a struggle to appropriate the Reserve Forest land of Khammam for podu cultivation, often leading the Forest Department to evict them, aware that the entire forest cover is turning into a ‘honeycomb,’ as described by the DFO Shafiullah, who pointed out to satellite imagery of a pockmarked forest in Khammam, in 2010 itself.

The influx of migrants and Displaced persons has even led to conflicts with local adivasi Koya tribes over land and resources, sometimes leading to deadly clashes, such as an incident in Mamallivaye in Aswapuram Mandal where the local Koya burned down the homes of the Gotti Koya, or in Kamantome settlement in 2009 where one man would be killed as a Maoist by the police after an erroneous tip-off from the neighbouring village of migrants who had settled before the civil war.

Recently the Forest Survey of India, Ministry of Forest and Environment, published a controversial report that almost exonerates mining and land acquisition yet claimed that over 367 square kilometres of forest has been lost since 2009, pushing Khammam district to one of the worst affected districts where 182 square kilometres of forest cover have been lost.

In a recorded conversation between an activist and Home Minister P.Chidambaram during the first months of Operation Green Hunt in late 2009, when repeated combing operations in Dantewada/Bijapur led to further influx’s of IDPs into Andhra Pradesh, the activist Himanshu Kumar had urged P.Chidambaram to look into the plight of the IDPs and the migrants yet his claims were refuted by the Home Minister as an exaggeration.

Yet there have been many recent reports of IDPs from the previously independently estimated 203 settlements who have returned back to their villages owing to a decline in the frequency of combing operations and violent actions in their villages in Chhattisgarh and further difficulty to settle in Andhra Pradesh. After the villages of Nendra, Lingagiri and Basaguda block were rehabilitated with the help of NGOs and activists using Supreme Court orders, many others have simply moved back to their villages on their own accord, including those of Kistaram, Uskowaya, Kanaiguda, Mullempanda, Gompad and Gaganpalli, to mention a few. Both Gompad, and Gaganpalli have faced a large number of killings – nine people were killed in Gompad on the 1st of October, 2009 by security forces, and in the village of Gaganpalli, from where one of the leaders of the Salwa Judum originates, ten people were killed in 2006 during the burning of the village by the Salwa Judum.

While the Forest Survey of India Report 2011 has put the blame on leftwing extremists for massive deforestation in Khammam, the villages of Millampalli repeatedly exhorted and listed all the violent actions by the Maoists in their villages in Chhattisgarh. In fact, one of the most educated villagers of the settlement, Komaram Rajesh, is the brother of a Special Police Officer and has repeatedly claimed that the Salwa Judum didn’t oppress his people, often denying that his village was burnt down by the Salwa Judum, when the rest of his neighbours said it was indeed the Salwa Judum.

Beyond conflict with the Forest Department, other tribes, the Salwa Judum and the Maoists, another conflict takes place within settlements themselves where a growing tendency to cut down a large number of the forests for podu cultivation, has brought individuals in conflict with their own villagers who feel there should be more moderate felling of trees. Certain settlments cultivate rice without cutting larger trees while others have destroyed acres of forests.

‘If we cut the entire forest down, where will we live?’ A man from Kamantome once exhorted during a summer season when there was little access to food, or water for the settlement.

Ironically, in Millampalli, one of the men killed by the Maoists, Kumaram Muthaiya, was killed in 2002 because he refused to share his 70 acres of land with other villagers.

A Shrinking Space

Land alienation for the all the adivasi tribes of Khammam isn’t a new phenomena, and was adequately studied by late civil servant J. M. Girglani, who had commented in his report that, ‘The most atrocious violation of the LTR (Land Transfer Regulation) and regulation 1 of 70 is that all the lands in Bhadrachalam Municipal town and the peripheral urbanized and urbanizable area is occupied by non-tribals with commercial buildings, hotels, residential buildings, colleges including an engineering college. The market value of this land on an average is Rs.4,000/- per square yard. This was confirmed to me not only by local enquiry but also by responsible District officers. This would work out to about 5,000 crores worth of land, which should have been the property of the tribals. It is now the property of the non-tribals and is commercially used by them.’

Just two kilometres away from land that was meant to belong to the adivasis, is the latest Koya settlement that was destroyed by the Forest Department.

‘They (the Forest Department) destroyed our homes in January, and in February, and they came in March and even took away all the wood we used to make our homes. Now, we will rebuild our homes and if they come again and destroy them, we will rebuild them again.’ Said Komaram Rajesh of the village of Millampalli.

Villagers alleged that Forest Guards held them down and beat them on the soles of their feet, asking them why they had settled in the forest, and who had pointed them out to this patch of the forest. One man embarassing recollected in humour as his neighbours laughed, that one of the Gaurds threathened him saying, ‘ghaand mein mirrchi ghussa doonga.’

Officials would arrive a day later to convince all the Koyas, to leave the Reserve Forest but the residents protested. When the tractor arrived to carry away all the timber that was being used to make their homes, the adivasis willingly piled the timber onto the seat of the tractor, threathening to burn it down but refrained.

‘Even if they don’t let us settle here, we will manage somehow.’ Continued Komaram Rajesh.


The Summer Of Our Discontent

June 5, 2010

Madvi Hidme of the IDP settlement of Kamantome in Khammam district can only manage to feed his three daughters Laxmi, Anita and Parmila a little rice with some imli.

This article appears in The New Indian Express on the 6th of June,2010.

Summer 2010, and it is becoming evidently clear that the adivasi refugees from the Maoist-Salwa Judum conflict in Dantewada, residing in Khammam district have either no access to water nor food. There are an estimated 16,024 IDPs identified in 203 settlements in Khammam district alone with a 110 settlements in the Reserve Forest. At the same time, the Forest Department is struggling to prevent the clearing of forests by the IDPs for podu cultivation.


There was a dead scorpion in their only source of drinking water – a miasmic well dug into the dry riverbed adjacent to their IDP village of Kamantome in Khammam District of Andhra Pradesh. Four Adivasis in their village were already sick, everyone suffers from rashes, no one has any work, barely any food – all they eat is a little rice with imli.

Kovasi Santo (6 years) has been lying in bed all week, barely eats and barely talks and his mother Maasa doesn’t know what to do. No doctor has visited them yet.

Shamala Idma can’t work, can’t get out of bed, complains of pain in his stomach and vomiting. Two other men complain of similar symptoms. One man has malaria. They all say they started to fall sick when they started to drink that water.

In November 2009, the Child Rights Commission had recommended that handpumps be built in the village of Kamantome but there are still no handpumps as of the 31st of May, 2010, as the temperature regularly crosses the 47 degree Celsius mark, and is slowly and infamously being recognized as one of the cruellest summers in recent time.

Kamantome started as a settlement for Gotti Koyas or Murias when they migrated from Chhattisgarh for land, and to escape the Salwa Judum-Maoist conflict. Their homes were broken down by the Forest Department in 2005 yet they returned a few years later.

Eventually, an encounter would take place in 2009, one tribal would be killed as an alleged Maoist, two would be arrested and booked under Andhra Pradesh Public Security Act. Both would be eventually released. One of them, Madvi Hidme, now with his three infant daughters in Kamantome recollects how his hands were tied behind his back, hung by the ceiling and then beaten and interrogated in Badrachalam police station for information on the Maoists.

Truth is, the police had acted on an evidently erroneous tip-off received from the neighbouring village of Ramchandrapurum that is also native to Gotti Koyas, with whom the villagers of Kamantome are in constant conflict over, owing to the limited resources available in the jungle. In Ramchandrapurum, Maoists had killed two people earlier. It has a handpump (built by missionaries) and is over a kilometre away from the village of Kamantome. It may be the closest handpump to Kamantome but the villagers will never go to it.

They spend all their days trying to beat the heat, as no work is available to them. They received NREGS cards and all the villagers last received their payments in April. Kunjam Deva worked to receive a payment of Rs. 1038 on the 22nd of April. All the money he received was used to repay loans he took last year to buy rice for his family. Of the 20 families in Kamantome, this pattern is repeated. And now they have very little rice left for this year and no money and no work.

‘Even if we have work, what’s the point as there is no water?’ Said Madkam Mulaiya s/o Ganga. ‘There is no food either, the rains failed last year.’

There isn’t a single child in Kamantome that doesn’t suffer from malnutrition. Kovasi Santo’s sunken stomach isn’t just indicative of hunger in one family – almost all the children have thinning hair and the symptoms of Grade 2-Grade 3 malnutrition – bloated bellies.

‘We sent an application to build a handpump in Kamantome three months ago,’ Says Srinivas Rao, the Mandal Parishad Development Officer. A year ago, a similar application to build a handpump in Kamantome was rejected by the Forest Department. In fact, no handpump can be built on Reserve Forest Land or in any of the 110 IDP settlements in the Reserve Forest – the IDPs are legally encroachers. There are even allegations made by members of the administration that the Forest Officials routinely hamper their efforts to help the Muria or the Gotti Koya. And it’s no secret that the Forest Department wants to send the IDPs back to Chhattisgarh.

‘At times, we’ve broken their homes down some 7-8 times,’ Says DFO Shafiullah, Badrachalam North Division, ‘And yet they come back.’

A few days ago, on the 25th of May, 2010, another IDP settlement of Chalampalam in Murmuru Panchayat was  broken down by the Forest Department.

‘The entire jungle is a honeycomb,’ Said DFO Shafiullah, ‘In three compartments of the Reserve Forest, 141, 142, 143, right in Murmuru, there has been at least 60-70 acres of forest land cleared by the Gotti Koya.’

‘They have done a lot of damage to the forest.’

DFO Shafiullah’s North Division is directly connected to the state of Chhattisgarh and sees a regular influx of migrants and IDPS. Satellite imagery confirms that there’s been regular felling of trees in the entire division.


Kovasi Seema with his son Nagesh stand before the remnants of their home.

In the village of Chalampalam, the Muria claim that it were the ‘Dorlawalla’ who had called the Forest Department to break their homes. While the Dorla from the neighbouring village of Simalpad support the Muria in Chalampalam, the Dorla from Murmuru village do not. Historically it has been the adivasis who protect the forests, and now they are protecting it from the adivasis who’re starving.

In the 22 homes in Chalampalam, almost all the villagers take money from the Dorla to feed their families in the months where they have no work. They will take money from the Dorla or the non-tribal landlords, and during the ‘mirchi’ cutting season, they will work for lower wages to repay the debt. For instance, the regular price for wage labour would be Rs.60 or Rs.70, yet they’d work only for Rs.50. This is a widespread practice in Khamman district.

‘We’ve offered some Gotti Koya Rs.100 to work under the NREGS,’ Said MPDO, Srinivas Rao, ‘But they are very sincere people, they’d still work for Rs.50 for the locals to repay debts.’

In Chalampalam, Madkam Ganga’s house was broken by the Forest officials and Rs.500 was allegedly stolen. He is unmarried and has no children and lives alone. He points out to the small tuck box where he kept his money, and then locks the box. He only started to lock the box after he lost his money.

Kovasi Seema s/o Devaiya also claims that the Forest Department stole around Rs.1000 from his home. He has a one year old child, Nagesh.

Madkam Hidma s/o Dima is a cripple. The forest officials dragged him out of his house before tearing off the roof of palmera leaves. His two daughters, one 18 years old and another 12 years old, and his wife Laxmi, are the only ones in his family who can work.

Laxmi Madkam’s husband Hidma is a cripple. He was dragged out of his house at Chalampalam by Forest officials who then vandalized their home.

‘We all have problems with food,’ said Kovasi Hoonga, who said that even three cows have died in his village from lack of feed.

Then there is another aspect of Muria life – they refuse to drink cow’s milk.

‘Why don’t you drink cow’s milk?’

‘If we did, there’d be nothing for the calf.’

In fact, the Muria would rather starve than drink cow’s milk, at the same time, they secretly cut down trees in the hope of cultivating enough land to feed themselves but are hampered by the Forest Department. Back in Kamantome I had asked the Muria about the allegations of the Forest Department –  ‘The forest department thinks that if given the chance, the Muria will cut down all the trees.’ I said.

‘If we did, then where would we live?’ They replied.

‘We need a policy change,’ Says DFO Shafiullah, ‘These people need to be rehabilitated.’

The Invisible Drought

One of the two sources of water for the villagers of Kamantome.

The only source of water for the IDP settlement of Chukalpar had dried up this year. There was slight reprieve for the IDPs due to rains caused by cyclone Laila.

In the village of Chukalpaar in Chintur Mandal of Khammam, there are over 28 families who have no voter cards, no handpump, no electricity, no NREGs and they survive by getting ration from Chhattisgarh. Their only source of water for the last five years has been a small rivulet that dries up in summer. They then dig a well into the riverbed for water. But this year, their wells dried up and they started to walk two kilometres in the 46 degree sun to get water from the village of Edugurrallapalli. Then it rained for three days thanks to cyclone Laila. It filled up the little wells in the riverbed but the villagers know it will all dry up in another week.  The monsoons, they think, shall only come to them in a month.

In the revenue villages of Pungutta and Amdalpeta in Paiga Panchayat of Chintur, their only hand pumps ceased to work. The villagers had complained to the Mandal Development Officer but their handpumps haven’t been repaired yet.  Now they are all dependent on water dug out from the riverbed, or handpumps in the next village that are over 2-3 kilometres away.

Boringudem isn’t named so because there is a handpump or a boring in their village, it is named so as a majority of the villagers in the village work in Vijayawada as labour for a company that specializes in digging borewells. While they receive a decent amount of money – around Rs.5000 that covers their food expenses, their village has no handpump and no boring.

In Kotthur village that is directly adjacent to the main Chintur road, the villagers get water from a small ‘nalla’ or stream nearby. They complain the water tastes terribly foul and that they have no handpump either.

In Dehiyalaware in Paiga Panchayat in Chintur there are over 26 homes that have existed for the last 12 years. There are no IDPs in this village who have escaped the Salwa Judum-Maoist conflict, but mostly migrants hoping for land even though all their ‘patta’ (title) applications have been rejected. ‘We don’t let them come live with us, we know there’d be problems if they came here.’ Said one villager who refused to be named.

Their village has no handpump either and the villagers walk a kilometre to get water from a well dug into the dry riverbed.

‘Is it difficult to sleep at night in this heat?’ I asked.

‘Very difficult, it’s almost impossible to sleep in this heat.’ He replied, ‘We go to the river and take a bath and try to sleep as our bodies feel cooler. But by the time we walk back home, it’s hot again.’

‘Why don’t you just sleep next to the river then?’

He laughed.

‘There are lots of police in this area and if they find us near the river they might think we are Naxalites and take us away or kill us.’

Photography Post-Script

Laxmi, Parmila and Anita. The three infant daughters of Madvi Hidme of Kamantome village.

Rawa Devi (6) of Chukalpaar village suffers from Pyoderma, a bacterial infection.

Widow Padan Hoongama, of the IDP village of Challampalam that was torn down by the Forest Department.


To Get Away With Murder, Chhattisgarh Style

February 21, 2010

The graves of the villagers of the now eeriely empty Dorla-para of Gompad. The bodies were exhumed by the state of Chhattisgarh on the 23rd of January.

This article appeared in The New Indian Express on the 28th of February, 2010.

Sets: The Supreme Court and the inaccessible jungles of Dantewada.

Cast – missing witnesses and supreme court petitioners, a controversial activist, a young superintendent of police, counsel for the petitioners Colin Gonsales, counsel for the respondents Ajit Jha and DGP Chhattisgarh Vishwaranjan.

Plot – the truth about the killing of nine villagers at the onset of Operation Green Hunt.

Act I – It was alleged that, in the early morning of the 1st of October, 2009, a police party killed nine innocent adivasis at the village of Gompad, Dantewada district, Chhattisgarh.

There were no press reports about it, no press conferences and no bodies were taken to the police station. There were numerous conflicting accounts of whether it was ever announced by the police.

Testimonies of the villagers: The Maoists were present outside the village in the morning but they had disappeared long before the security forces arrived. All those who were killed were villagers of Gompad and two were from Bandarpadar. Three of them were women, one of them was an eight year old girl, and an eighteen month old baby Katam Suresh lost three of his fingers. His deceased mother was missing her nose and her body was found before the remnants of her burnt home. Two other deceased villagers – Soyam Subbaiya (20) and Soyam Jogi (18) were a newly married couple.

One more villager was killed from the neighbouring village of Nukaltong and another from Velpocha on the same day.

Act II – Activist Himanshu Kumar takes the victims of violence of Gompad, Velpocha, Nukaltong and the village of Gacchanpalli where five villagers were killed on the 17th of September, 2009 to the Supreme Court and files a Writ Petition (criminal) No.103 of 2009, against the State of Chhattisgarh, Respondent no.1.

The Supreme Court accepts the petition and requests the State of Chhattisgarh to file a reply.

Act III – Activist Himanshu Kumar is hounded out of Chhattisgarh, his right-hand man Kopa Kunjam is imprisoned and petitioner no.13 Sodhi Sambo who was in the care of Mr. Kumar is detained at Kanker police station on her way to receive treatment for her injured leg. She will be kept in virtual confinement at Jagdalpur’s Maharani Hospital with no access to her lawyer, activists or the press.

The Supreme Court passes an order directing that the Respondents would in no way obstruct Sodhi Sambo from going wherever she pleases. So instead of letting her go wherever she pleases (which no one could ask her about as she had no access to anyone), the respondents take her to Delhi, AIIMS hospital themselves and she is again, not allowed access to her lawyer, activists or the press.

At the same time, villagers who had come for a public hearing at Dantewada (organized by Himanshu Kumar) on the 5th of January, 2010 were last seen being driven away by the police in four Bolero vehicles without license plates.

Katam Suresh of Gompad who is now around two years old, and his father Katam Dulaiah, along with Soyam Rama and Soyam Dhulla from Gompad were taken away and were last seen at Konta Police Station on the 14th of January, 2009.

Colin Gonsales, advocate for the petitioners, on the 10th of January: ‘Apparently all the 12 tribal petitioners from the writ petition have been picked up and are in custody of the police, and it is possible that they will be coerced to withdraw from the case.’

On the 22nd of January, Justice Sudarshan Reddy and S.S. Nijjar, presiding judges of the Supreme Court passed an order allowing lawyer Colin Gonsales and activist Himanshu Kumar access to Sodhi Sambo at AIIMS, stating, “we direct that the respondents shall not create  any obstacle in the way of petitioner No.1 and/or advocate for the petitioners in meeting petitioner No.13, in which the police shall not be present.”

However it soon came to light that Sodhi Sambo was discharged from AIIMS. Counsel of State of Chhattisgarh Ajit Jha had previously told the court that the Chhattisgarh State had no objection to anyone meeting her and that she was still in AIIMS.

Act IV – On the 23rd of January, the police exhume the bodies of the villagers of Gompad while the lawyers claim they’re tampering with evidence.

On visiting Gompad, it has been observed that articles of clothing have been removed from the graves. A bottle of phenyl as well as the packaging of surgical gloves lie around the graves.

Act V – The Supreme Court directs the State of Chhattisgarh to produce all the petitioners by Monday the 15th of February, 2010. The State claims all of them have gone back to their villagers, the lawyer for the petitioners claim all of them are still in custody of the police. No independent verification is possible.

On the 9th of February, a police party attempts to go to the village of Gacchanpalli to bring the petitioners to court and are allegedly ambushed by Maoists around the village of Gorkha.

No local journalists visit the spot yet two SPOs are reported to be seriously injured.

On the 15th of February, the police present the petitioners of the village of Gompad – Sodhi Sambo along with Soyam Rama and Soyam Dhulla to the Supreme Court. They also presented petitioners Muchaki Sukdi from the neighbouring village of Nukaltong and Kunjam Idma from the village of Velpocha.

They were always in the custody of the police, and the police claimed they did this to protect them from Maoists who might consider them to be police informants.

Act VI – On the 15th and 16th of February, six of the petitioners (of all the villages but Gacchanpalli) confirm that killings took place but they don’t know who attacked their villages on the said day.

As of February 18th, all the villagers still living at Gompad and the villagers of Velpocha claim that it was the police who had attacked them on that day. They had come at six in the morning at Gompad, burnt two houses and killed nine people. They had killed one young boy Kunjam Hoora from Velpocha and another Muchaki Bhoote from Nukaltong a while later.

According to press reports from the South Asia Terrorism Portal regarding the 1st of October, the police claimed to have killed two Maoists around the Nukaltong forested area, and detained nine villagers for ‘interrogation.’

DGP Vishwaranjan writes in the Outlook: “The police have since August 2009 been receiving credible intelligence about Maoist designs to oppose Operation Green Hunt by killing tribals or committing other atrocities and then blaming the security forces.”

Two houses were burnt down in the village of Gompad.

Act VII – On the 18th of February, Sodhi Sambo’s parents claim they met their daughter at Jagdalpur three ‘saptaahs’ ago (three market days ago, which is three weeks). Superintendent of Police Amresh Mishra had initially claimed that Sodhi Sambo’s parents were her attendants at Jagdalpur hospital in the first week of January. That was six ‘saptaahs’ ago. The next of kin of both Kunjam Idma and of Soyam Rama and Soyam Dhulla, claim that their relatives never made it home after a meeting in Dantewada more than two months ago – the date of the botched public hearing on the 5th of January.

Kattam Dullaiah and his 2 year old son Suresh from Gompad, who are NOT petitioners are still missing.

Act VIII – Similarly, a few days after the alleged ‘ambush’ at Gorkha, villagers from Gacchanpalli begin to appear at the markets in Andhra Pradesh and claim that the police had come to their village and taken away 20 people.


Gompad Encounter Baby Missing

January 26, 2010

Katam Suresh (20 months) with his father Katam Dulaiya (20 years) were last seen on the 14th of January at Konta Police Station, Chhattisgarh.

20 month-old Katam Suresh who lost three of his fingers during a fatal attack on his mother during a combing operation on their village of Gompad on the 1st of October, was last seen at Konta police station, along with his 20 year old father Katam Dulaiya.

They were apprehended by the police from the botched public hearing on Operation Green Hunt to be held in the town of Dantewada and were last seen on the 14th of January, 2010 at Konta police station. Along with them, were two other villagers Soyam Dulaaih and Soyam Ramu, relatives of victims Soyam Subaiya and Soyam Subhi of Gompad village.

Police have denied detaining them but relatives in Khammam District have complained for days now that they have been missing. Reports started to surface that more than twenty-five villagers who had come for the public hearing were detained by the police. The villagers from Gompad were seen at Dantewada police station and later seen at Konta Police station.

Previously, on the 1st of October, security forces had raided the villages neighbouring Gompad and the Superintendent of Police, Amresh Mishra had announced that two Maoists had been killed in an encounter and nine villagers for detained for interrogation.

Yet amongst the dead were the maternal grandparents of Katam Suresh – his grandfather Madvi Bajaar (50), his grandmother Madvi Subhi (45), as well as his mother Katam Kanama (20) and his aunt Madvi Mooti, (8) who were killed, as their home was the closest to the approaching forces, according to the villagers.

His grandmother Madvi Subhi had lived for three days after the attack before she succumbed to her injuries from lack of medical assistance.

Their neighbours, Soyam Subaiya (age 20) and Soyam Subhi (18) were only married for a year before they were killed. Madvi Yankaiya (age 50), and two visiting villagers from the village of Bandarpadar were also killed on the same day.

The matter of the killings of the village of Goompad was taken to the Supreme Court, against the State Of Chhattisgarh, Respondent no.1, via social activist and petioner no.1 Himanshu Kumar of Vanvasi Chetna Ashram and the victims of violence.

Sodhi Sambo, petioner no.13 of the said Writ Petition (Criminal) No.103 of 2009,  had also disappeared from AIMS in Delhi after receiving treatment for a bullet wound that she received during the said day of attack. She had no access to the outside world once she was detained by the police on the 3rd of January 2010, and is now missing.

This article appears in The New Indian Express as…


The Case of Sodhi Sambo

January 13, 2010

This Article has been written for The New Indian Express.

Witness and Supreme Court petitioner Sodhi Sambo at the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram.

The bullet that traveled through Sodhi Sambo’s leg didn’t just shatter her bone. It didn’t just leave her without medical care for twelve days of writhing agony in her village of Goompad, Dantewada District, where nine of her neighbours were killed in an alleged encounter on the 1st of October. It didn’t just take her to Delhi, to AIMS, to the Supreme Court, away from her four children and her husband. It didn’t just ensure that she’d become an intrinsic character of a drama that is played out between activists, the press, the police and the supreme court.

She was initially detained at Kanker on route to Delhi for treatment, on the 3rd of January and two days later she was found under guard at Maharani Hospital in Jagdalpur.

‘It is a medico-legal case. We haven’t arrested her, nor have we detained her, we’ve just brought her to collect her testimony on the said incident of Goompad. The police is accused, I understand but the whole police is not accused.’ Said Superintendent of Police Amresh Mishra, who had given journalists the permission to visit Sambo when they were in Dantewada to collect her own version of the story.

But by the time the press got to Maharani Hospital in Jagdalpur, this permission was mysteriously denied. Tehelka journalist Tusha Mittal was literally pushed out of the ward by policewomen. The journalists had gone back to the SP, the DIG, the IG, the Collector, from both Dantewada district and Bastar district yet no one was forthcoming. The plain clothes police personnel would ask for written permission. Every official who was contacted, forwarded responsibility to another. Many didn’t take calls, others mysteriously transformed into some other individual when informed they were speaking to journalists. Many of them refused to meet the press, IG Longkumer of Jagdalpur mysteriously leaves from the back as the press wait for him.

The red tape for the journalists was a gagging order on any testimony of Sodhi Sambo. No one shall be allowed to talk to her and there was never any intention to let anyone talk to her. The Director of the Hospital, Dr.Paikra had given full permission for journalists to talk to Sodhi yet the plain clothes police still refused permission. The head constable at the hospital admitted his fear of his superiors, DIG Sitaram Kalluri and S.P. Mishra, not the law. Advocate Colin Gonzalvez, Sambo’s lawyer, armed with a supreme court order that the State of Chhattisgarh is directed not to prevent or create any obstacles to Sodi
Shambo, was not allowed to meet her either. Chief Secretary Joy Oomen had told lawyer Kavita Shrivastava, ‘I can’t meet you, and I don’t want to meet you.’

Sodhi Sambo stayed in ‘protection’ of the plain-clothed police, who called every visitor ‘a naxalite’ or ‘naxalite sympathizer’. The S.P. Amresh Mishra had also claimed that her parents were with her yet when informed that her parents had passed away, her relatives who were attending to her, had turned into a mysterious ‘maasi’ and ‘maasa’. Yet the other attendants or nurses in the ward have little notice for any such ‘maasi’ or ‘maasa’. Her doctor Sudeep Thakur would only communicate with her, via the translation provided by another patient’s attendant, not any ‘maasi’ or ‘parent’.

Sambo is shy, vulnerable and barely talks to anyone, and the police say she is free to go where she pleases and she did not protest to come with them in the first place. Yet she still has no access to anyone but the police.

She was eventually referred to Medical College Hospital, Raipur for bone-grafting surgery, or limb-lengthening, as Maharani Hospital in Jagdalpur had no such facilities. Yet she stayed in Jagdalpur for three days, uselessly waiting for treatment she could not receive in the hospital. She was only taken to Raipur at Ramakrishna Care hospital where she was again referred to AIMS. At the whole time, neither the press nor her lawyers were allowed access to her. At one point, she was said to be in Delhi by Director General of Police Vishwa Ranjan, when she was actually still in Raipur. As of now, it is confirmed that she is in the private ward of AIMS in Delhi, and has no access to the outside world.

Meanwhile, her husband and one of her children had arrived for the Jan Sunwai on the 6th of January and had been taken away by the police. More than 25 villagers had arrived for the Jan Sunwai and there is no news of them. According to Supreme Court lawyer Colin Gonzalez, ‘Apparently all the 12 tribal petitioners from the writ petition have been picked up and are in custody of the police, and it is possible that they will be coerced to withdraw from the case.’