Tribals in Chhattisgarh would not have expected that voicing their troubles would make their lives more difficult.
The 2000-odd inhabitants of Chintalnar village in Dantewada district have allegedly been threatened by the civil militia, Salwa Judum, after they spoke candidly to a visiting National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) team about their struggle to live.
The NHRC team was recently in Bastar on a Supreme Court directive, to probe alleged human rights violation by Salwa Judum activists, and met the villagers.
The team was reportedly assisted by Special Police Officials (SPOs) and cadres of the civil militia in interpreting the local Gondi dialect. Some of the villagers were able to speak Hindi, and spoke directly with the officials, which provoked hostile reactions from Salwa Judum activists. The villagers are apparently not being allowed to venture out of their village; they are unable to procure food-grains or other essential items from neighbouring villages or visit marketplaces.
District superintendent of police Rahul Sharma confirmed that such a situation had risen. “Judum activists were unhappy with the villagers since some Maoists perhaps organised a meeting in Chintalnar, but the confusion has been cleared,” he said, adding that CRPF personnel have been deployed in the area.
The villagers maintain that their movements are still restricted. “Besides the threat from Judum cadres, the police now suspect us of being naxalite supporters,” said a villager. “Earlier, the Maoists did not trouble us but now ultras presume we are police informers because of the visits,” said another villager. The rebels have damaged roads adjoining the village and children have stopped going to schools.