Picture: The clothes worn by a teen survivor from Peddagellur village when security forces allegedly gangraped her. Police investigators are yet to collect this evidence, over 50 days after an FIR was lodged. (Chitrangada Choudhury/HT Photo)
On November 2, 2015 The Hindu reported that, “Nearly 40 tribal women from three villages in the restive Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh have accused police jawans of molestation. The women belong to Peddagelur, Budgicheru and Gundam villages of Basaguda block. Soni Sori, tribal activist and Aam Aadmi Party leader, who visited the villages with a team of woman activists, said the harassment took place when security forces from Bijapur were carrying out an operation in the area between October 19 and 24.” A fact finding committee was further constituted to document the details of the reported violence.
Originally written in Hindi, A translation of the report and observations on it has been provided below.
Shri Bhupesh Baghel
Chhattisgarh State Congress Committee
Subject: Investigation report
On direction from Chhattisgarh State Congress Committee, fact finding committee was constituted under leadership of Shri Kawasi Lakhma (MLA – Konta). The committee visited villages and recorded statements from villagers, harassed families and women, govt. officers. Following are the findings:
On 6/11/2015, the team under leadership of MLA Mr Kawasi Lakhma reached Sarkegudda (215 km from Jagdalpur) at 12 noon. At Kothaguda; affected villagers from Chinnagellur, Peddagellur and Anurpalli came and gave statements. After Sarkegudda, team went to Peddagellur, villagers gave the following statement
1. _______ age 15 years, tribe: : Dorla states that at 20.10.2015 force came to Peddagellur . The force stayed in the village at night. Next morning , around 10 am , Ms ____ , Ms ____ , and Ms ____ were herding cattle ( 4 women) 2km away from village , they were beaten mercilessly from gun butts , they were punched and kicked as well . Of the 4, three women were chased back to village, the 15 yr. old was taken hold off, her eyes were covered by Gamcha and then she was gang-raped. After the act, security forces threatened her, that, if she discloses it to anyone she would be shot. Ms Naagma Kaedti and other women on reaching village informed the parents of the teenager, her father and villagers found her lying unconscious, she was given warm bath and given local medicines. After much efforts, she gained consciousness after 2 days. Under fear from policemen, FIR wasn’t filed by family. When women organisation in Bijapur came to know about, they met the family and convinced them to file the report the case in file a report in police station.
2. Lekam Jogi husband ___ is daughter-in-law of ____ husband ____. Lekam Jogi (daughter-in-law) was herding cattle. Three kids were with her. Police force grabbed her, on hearing Lekam’s shouts, her mother-in-law reached the spot as her house was nearby. Both were gang-raped, her family members ran away from the spot seeing the police-force. Even today ____‘s legs are swollen, visible signs of beatings. Lekam Jogi has 2 small kids and is pregnant for 1 month. She was unconscious, villagers took her to family members. They were threatened by police force to not to report it to anyone, otherwise they will by shot or will be fixed under false naxal cases. Family members didn’t registered the crime out of fear.
3. Policemen chased and disrobed many women. This report can’t mention those unimaginable atrocities. Police force crossed all limit of heinousness, even kids – old people were not spared. Many houses were broken.
4. Ms _____ village ____ age 40 yrs., tribe: Dorla. Policemen entered the home forcibly, breaking the door, stole Rs 10,000 from her home. Her house was ransacked.
5. Ms ___ husband ___ age 41 yrs., tribe: Dorla village: Chinnagellur. Police men stole hens.
6. Ms ____ had saved Rs 65,000 from forest produce and other works. Policemen took it away while ‘searching’ the home.
7. At Ms ____ home , police men stole Rs 12,000 cash , chicken , dal and rice.
8. Ms ___ tribe: muria, village: Basaguda. Her home was ransacked , policemen stole Rs 800/-____ father ___ age 52 yrs. Police men stole 1 hen, 7 eggs and other household items from his home.
9. ____ father ___ age 50 yrs. Almost 60 policemen entered his home. on protest women-folks ( Sushila and tulsi ) were beaten up.
10. Mrs ___ Raje husband ___ age 35 yrs. profession : agriculture . Security forces stole Ra 800/- and ransacked her house.
11. ____ husband Bhima , age 55 yrs , tribe : Muria . Security forces numbering 50-60 forcibly entered his house (breaking the door) and beat her chased Madvi Nande to the jungle. They stole 11 litre oil, 3 hen, dal -3 kgs, and rice – 100 kgs. In their earlier patrol too , security forces forcibly ate food prepared for Chaathi.
12. ___ age 55 years, tribe : Muria , ____ village . 50-60 security forces entered home stole 5 litres oil, Rs 200/- , 2 lights and clothes. On raising protest , he was severely beaten.
13. _____ age 43 yrs , tribe : Muria, village Barsaguda , was herding cattles . Security forces beat him and forced him to comb forest throughout the day with them. At evening, they stole 3 hen, 10 payali rice, one gundi landa and had a feast of rice-chicken. They also stole 2 mobile phones and declared they will eat the pig in their next patrolling.
14. ___ father ___ Age 45 years, village ___ , Basaguda , forced dragged him out of his home and beat (with wooden sticks) and threatened him . 2 axe , 10 eggs , 1 hen were stolen by the force.
15. ___father___age 47 years ___ village. Security forces beat him, stole Rs 27,000 cash and even the chillar kept in piggy bank.
16. ____ husband ___ age 47 yrs age 70 yrs . She was herding cattle near her home, security forces beat her up, blaming her to be in collusion with naxals. They then ransacked the home and stle some household items.
17. ____ husband ___ age 60 years . Security forces numbering 60-70 beat her up , ransacked her home , stole some vegetables , 6 paelli rice , 4 hen , 2 litre oil , 4 packets mirchi powder , clothes , sarees .
18. __ age 32 years and ___ age 45 years used to live together . Police force stole Rs 56,000/- from home, took away Bhima (one of the brothers) to Basaguda police station, beat him in legs, thighs. He was kept in custody and harassed for 3 days.
19. ___ husband __ age 50 years , 60-70 police cops barged in her house , threatened her daughter and took away 7000/- . Young girls were disrobed, threatened, harassed and were chased naked. They also took away one man to police station and beat him up mercilessly. ____ Elder daughter who has a 1 month old kid was disrobed, sexually harassed and beaten.
We the fact finding committee and media persons reached Kothaguda village. We left our four wheelers there and moved towards Sarkegudda, Budgichael, and Peddagellur on motorcycles.
We reached Peddagellur via Budgichael but couldn’t find the women victims there. We met victim ___ at Budgichael, she and the accompanying villagers on being asked told us the police force came in the morning and told them to run away from the village which they did . On being asked whereabouts of other women victims – they told us that SDM has called them in Basaguda for recording their statement. On our return journey to Basaguda, we got to know the victims have been taken to Bijapur hospital by SDM, we went there to only to not find them there. SDM informed us that women victims are in collector office. It was about 7 pm at that time, we reached Collector’s office Bijapur by 7 pm. When we reached Collector’ office Bijapur, he out rightly refused. We told him, we need 5 mins with Collector, won’t go away without meeting him. He finally agreed after much request. We enquired about incident at Peddagellur, he said investigation is on at department level, we can’t reveal information enough. On being asked whether women victims are with you, he said they aren’t here. On being probed further that SDM has informed us of the contrary, he conceded that those women are here but won’t allow them to meet us. We requested him that we have travelled via Kondagaon, Sukma, Jagdalpur, chitrakoot, Dantewada to meet those women kindly allow us to meet them for 5 minutes. We then were allowed to meet and record statements of women victims under the presence of SDM, head constable (women).
We then proceeded to meet Bijapur S.P. Mr K.L. Dhruw, he told us he was out of station that day, He was at Raipur, airport when he was informed of the incident, I immediately came back to Bijapur. Some Women activists brought up the women victims, I got the medical examination done and the registered an FIR. The police was in patrol in those areas between 20-24th October as a camp has to in Budgichael and police station in theram needs to establish.
Conclusion: On the basis of the statements from affected families, women and villagers and the inspection of damaged homes, the enquiry committee has come to the conclusion that jawans of police force crossed all limits. The incident shames the humanity. Behaviour meted out Women, old age people and kids sent shivers down spine. Jawans orchestrated a naked orgy in those villages. Women were disrobed by police force, chased naked and were subjected to inhuman acts. Jawans in the name of searching homes looted money, daily essential items like Dal, rice, chicken.
Govt. doesn’t exists in interior areas of Bastar region. Villages lack basic necessities of life, they are struggling with life and death and in between naxals and the police force. Villagers are in a fix. Most south Bastar villagers are migrating to other states. Protection of villagers are the responsibility of the state. Govt. has failed to earn the trust of villagers. Adivasi population is falling continuously. It’s a part of thought-out strategy of the state govt.
Force was deployed in Bastar for the protection of common man. However, their acts are highly deplorable. For events in Peddagellur, Chinnagellur, Pedgapalli, Anurpalli, police forces are squarely responsible.
The incident should be investigated fairly by govt. and responsible persons should be harshly punished.
Members of fact-finding committee:
- Deepak Baej ( MLA – Chitrakoot ,Committee Member)
- Mohan Markam ( MLA – Kondagaon , committee Member )
- Kawasi Lakma ( MLA Konta )
- Ajay Singh
- Vikram Mandavi
- Deepak Karma
- Malkeet Singh Gedu and 3 others
Observations on the report:
- The report uses vague words like “force” or “jawans” for security forces. It could have specified whether it was CRPF or state police which was responsible for this. As per media reports it was joint team of CRPF and police.
- Rape, theft and beatings have been given same weightage in the report. One wonders whether it is the ‘language’, lack of empathy or objectivity.
- Page 2, point 3: report gives a flying mention of mass sexual harassment by security forces and states that they can’t mention those acts here. This is tragic as it defeats the very purpose of fact finding committee.
- It’s a welcome attempt by Congress but politically they haven’t pushed it. It looks just an exercise of routine. The fact-finding committee did meet a lot of people in ground, did the difficult task of interaction with those affected but could have done a better job in reporting it.
- It is also very unfortunate how disproportionately low media coverage it received in CG based newspapers. Editors –owners of same should seriously consider their actions-coverage from lens of journalism ethics and maybe grow some spine or relent some of their larger vested interest. One can’t preach ethics-morality in name of Nirbhaya and ignore gang rapes of tribal women back in Chhattisgarh.
- In page 4, the report mentions how govt. functionary didn’t allow as well lied to them so as to, stop the sexually assaulted women from meeting the committee. It seems the fact finding committee had to plead/beg for given access. This raises big question on the bureaucracy at large – Are we still living in some feudal land? Democratically chosen leaders shouldn’t be so weak in their interaction with bureaucrats especially when they are on the right side of fundamental rights guaranteed by Constitution. This isn’t the democracy which our Constitution has envisaged.
- It’s such a disgrace that people involved in counter-insurgency are involved in petty thefts/stealing from some of the poorest people in India. Adivasis in those areas don’t have banking access, most keep their life savings at home. People at margins are further pushed by such undisciplined activities of security forces .Can people ever expect such people to have a conduct deserving of a counter-insurgency force.
- This report also highlights how security forces are using threats of violence (fake encounter) and fake cases to get away from acts of rape, theft and beatings.
- Such events push local people towards Naxalism. Govt. should act strongly against individual concerned. It will only achieve the higher moral ground if it dismisses those rowdy elements from service. That’s the only way State can differentiate itself from those individual acts, few individuals shouldn’t be allowed to bring name to state. Moreover, it will send the right message among the Adivasis as well as errant elements among security forces. A snail pace weak departmental enquiry will buy temporary peace but make the govt. lose the perception battle.
The original report can be accessed here. Survivor’s names have been omitted from the report and ‘___’ has been used instead.