An independent fact-finding team has found “rampant human rights violations” in south Chhattisgarh’s Bastar zone and said the “deteriorating” law and order situation in the strife-torn area is a cause for concern.
The four-member group, comprising former judge of Bombay high court justice H Suresh, former Border Security Force chief EN Rammohan, TISS (Guwahati) director Virginius Xaxa and senior journalist Saba Naqvi, said the incidents of atrocities inflicted by the police force in Bastar region appears to be extensive.
The seven tribal dominated districts of Bastar zone, that share borders with Telangana, Maharashtra, and Odisha, are the areas worst affected by Maoist violence.
They felt the governor is not playing the effective role and should intervene to safeguard the rights of tribals in the area where Fifth Schedule of the Constitution is in force. The Fifth Schedule provides protection to tribals living in the Scheduled Areas of nine states in the country.
The team, which was on a three-day visit to Sukma, Dantewada and Jagdalpur from May 5, interacted with tribal villagers and the journalists who are lodged in jail. However, despite their repeated attempts, the team failed to meet the Bastar inspector general of police SRP Kalluri. Kalluri said he was busy with anti-Maoist operations.
During a press conference in Raipur, members of the panel shared their findings saying the situation is appalling in Bastar and added that the police have a very adverse image in this area.
“The role of governor assumes significance to execute the policy related to the rights of the tribals in the Bastar area falling under the Fifth Schedule,” Rammohan said.
TISS director Xaxa asserted a raging lawlessness in Bastar and journalist Naqvi alleged that there are incidents where police and the security forces beat the tribals and had outraged the modesty of women.
“The behaviour of the police is quite objectionable. During their search operation the forces chase away the men, molest women and snatch their food and other belongings,” they said.
Expressing his disappointment, justice Suresh said the police are not able to apprehend the real Maoists and the tribals from remote locations are reportedly being targeted.
The team met the three journalists – Prabhat Singh, Santosh Yadav and Somaru Nag – lodged in Jagdalpur jail.
Singh was arrested in March under the IT act for writing an objectionable message on WhatsApp. Yadav, who was reportedly working for multiple Hindi newspapers including Dainik Navbharat and Dainik Chhattisgarh, was arrested on September 29 and Nag on July 16. Nag was a stringer as well as newsagent with Hindi daily Rajasthan Patrika.
While Nag has been charged under the Indian Penal Code and the Arms Act, Yadav has been booked under the Indian Penal Code, the Arms Act, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA).
“We were shocked to learn that the police tortured them and took their signatures on papers,” Naqvi said.
The fact-finding team will also meet state government officials to apprise them of their observations.