‘Is this the Democracy of India’? : A letter to the fellow youth by Lingaram Kodopi
Ligaram Kodopi is a Bastar based Adivasi journalist who was has been actively reporting on atrocities in the region. His recent documentary “Who is Hidme kawasi ?“ (Video link at the end) was screened in Don Bosco College, Goa by DB Film Club, the fortnightly film club managed by the Department of Mass Media.
Kodopi wrote a letter to be read out to the gathering. Here’s an English translation of the letter (Original letter in Hindi can be read here):
There could be no greater joy for me than to know, you will learn about Bastar through this movie. All of you students belong to some or other religion and caste. You and I are citizens of this country. I would like to thank all of you for giving me this opportunity so that I can show existing situation of Bastar through this movie, as representative of Adivasi community.
This film is about an Adivasi girl. Hidme Kawasi was 15 years old when she was picked up in the name of being a “Naxalite”. For a month, she was taken to many police stations and raped. She was charged under UAPA (Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act) and sent to jail. After spending 8 years in jail, the court acquitted Hidme. I met Hidme in Jagadalpur prison and was astonished to hear of her experience, thought that in my country India – who claims itself to be world’s largest democracy, still an Adivasi girl is tortured in this manner. I decided that as soon as I step out of jail, I am going to make a movie about Hidme and ask people, ‘is this the Democracy of India’?
You are the future of this country, you can and you will bring change in this country. I too am a young guy from Bastar, Chhattisgarh. I also wanted to get education like you but I could not study because of conditions in Bastar and was sent to jail in the name of being a ‘Naxal’. If youth from different states come together to a conclusion, what could be greater achievement than that? The future is ours and we need to think for it. In the entire country right now, some or other form of civil war is going on. There is chaos in the country in the name of ‘nationalism’. These incidents are on rise with each passing day. Democracy is being crushed and murdered. When the youth talks on ‘nationalism’, he is termed ‘Anti-National/traitor’. Constitution and Democracy of this country provide equal rights to everyone. Any citizen can reside and make his living in any state of this country. It also provides us ‘Freedom of Expression’. But do these laws exist? Where are these laws that could be implemented to establish ‘peace’ in the country?
The existing conditions in Bastar are detrimental to Democracy of this country, where journalists, social workers and lawyers are being attacked. At the same time, Adivasi women are becoming victims of heinous sexual violence like gang rape, in the name of ‘Naxalism’. Law and order is not at place. It has become a crime to talk about democracy in Bastar. Adivasis here, want to put forward their opinions democratically in front of the administration, however the judiciary doesn’t want it this way. In such situation intensity of civil war is increasing day by day. On 30-03-2016, Maoists killed 7 army personals in a blast. Vehicle was found wrecked, dead bodies were not recognizable. While I was recording a video of it, a policeman came and asked me, ‘who are you recording it for?’ I didn’t have an answer. Then Soni Sori came and said, he’s doing it for me. We don’t even have the rights to record or document (video and photography) when someone dies.
No matter who dies or gets killed in Bastar, its sorrows are shared equally by the Adivasis. Those who died were no one but our own brothers. They were also sons, brothers and fathers of someone. People sitting in centre and state government would reiterate the same old statement that, they condemn the incident and the sacrifice of soldiers won’t go in vein. Who will ask the government, if so many surrenders have happened, who is killing our brothers? Those who are killing are also no one else but probably our own brothers.
After this incident, again Adivasis are going to face the catastrophe of Police Administration. Many Adivasi women will be raped, many Adivasis will be charged with fake cases and many would probably get killed. Centre and State governments argue that Naxalism is the biggest threat to internal security? Then why doesn’t it initiate any dialogues with them? In fact it has been seen that whenever Naxalites have attempted initiating talks with Indian Government, Naxal leaders have been killed. For example in 2010, a spokesperson of Maoists – Azad was in the process of dialogue and seize fire with the Home ministry, before he was caught and killed in an encounter. If such acts of Indian government continue, how is Naxalism going to end? Naxalism is even supported by Indian government, e.g. SP of Dantewada Ankit Garg was given gallantry award. He is the main accussed in the case of Soni Sori’s harassment (Soni was sexually assaulted and stones were inserted into her private parts.), then why was he given President’s Gallantry award? SRP Kalluri, who is currently IG of Bastar division, had executed an operation in 2010, in which 310 Adivasi houses were burnt, many women were raped and murdered. Kalluri was SP of Dantewada at the time, the case is still under investigation then why was he (promoted and) sent back to Bastar as IG?
Whoever has opposed government have been termed ‘anti-national’, whether they are students, social activists, lawyers, journalists or common people of this country. Youth of this country will have to act towards the unfortunate incidents that are recurring and increasing day by day. Otherwise, that day is not far from us when it will be difficult to talk about ‘democracy’ in this country. I hope that you (students) will reflect upon the ongoing situation in the country and decide a way forward differentiating the right and the wrong .Through my letter, if I have hurt the sentiments of anyone then I would like to sincerely apologize to you!
Many-many thanks to you all,
Linga Ram Kodopi,
(Chhattisgarh) Bastar Division,
We thank Atul Anand for sharing the letter and poster with us. The letter was translated into English by Akash Poyam.