By Sanchari Pal
“Rape is being used as an instrument of terror, as a part of counter-insurgency ops.”, says Bela Bhatia, a prominent face of protest against police atrocities on tribal women in Bastar.
But here we all are, pretending like Bastar doesn’t exist and sipping warm coffees in our drawing rooms while flipping channels between live coverage of the Ramjas circus and Gurmehar Kaur. It happened in Delhi so it’s got to be important, right?
Bastar Is A Reality We Are Not Talking About
What is more important is that in a particular part of our country, tribal women are being raped with threats of chilli being shoved up their vagina by the police.
What is more important is that the tribal men are being taken off into police camps and brutally tortured just on the basis of suspicions of Maoist involvement.
But no, the mainstream media has peculiarly kept mum about all of this because hey, who wants to know what’s happening to poor tribes? Also, the police and politicians are directly incriminated in these atrocities so it’s better to keep quiet.
But speaking has become the need of the hour when it comes to Bastar. The nation needs to know what happens in the little villages of Pegdapalli, Chinnagelur, Peddagelur, Gundam and Burgicheru in Bijapur district.
The National Human Rights Commission has asked the state government of Chattisgarh for detailed reports on the civil society group’s charges of sexual assault on women of Bijapur and Sukna.
The charges of sexual assault are against the state police forces. The police has also failed to invoke the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act) wherein the surviving victims are to be paid an interim monetary relief of rupees 37 lakhs.
What Actually Goes On In Bastar
However things are not so simple. In the districts of Bijapur and Sukna, police thanas are located right next to the police camps.
These camps are a place of terror to the villagers because many a times, their men have been dragged into those camps and tortured based on mere suspicions of Maoist connection. The irony is too acute.
Our constitution grants the right to lodge a complaint at the police station to every citizen. In Bijapur and Sukna, a police station is quite literally the enemy zone.
It terrifies the villagers to enter a thana knowing that they might be held back at the camp right next to the thana because of the nature of their complaints.
Atrocities On Women
The police is these areas have a very simple rule when it comes to women. If the woman is not conforming to the conventional patriarchal expectations, she must be a Naxalite. If the woman is not breastfeeding, she must be a Naxalite.
If the woman sounds too confident, she is most definitely a Naxalite. “Just telling the police I have a breastfeeding infant will not suffice. The police will press, fondle, and squeeze my breast to know if I really am lactating”, says one.
Such behaviour is probably better than being held down and forcibly raped and then receiving threats of “gaand mein Mirchi daal dunga”(will shove chilies up your vagina).
Even more fearful are threats of Salwa Judum where the police promise to recreate the terror lest the villagers forget.
The only developmental work which goes on in these areas are construction of roads and they have become something of a joke lately. The police continues to cut tree after tree so that the villagers have no thicket to hide inside when the police come.
There are no primary schools or health centers. The nearest ones lie at least 10 kms away.
Protests rise. And then get snubbed. Soni Sori, a prominent activist, had her face smeared with some hot, greasy substance on 20th February, 2017.
Nandita Bhatia has been refused entry. Here, the people are no longer citizens of the state and the state is no longer the people’s government.
It is about time the state of Chattisgarh stops pretending Bastar is a wonderland where the concept of “area domination exercises” by the police doesn’t exist. Otherwise more and more villagers will join the Maoist movement.