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Updated: March 24, 2011 01:53 IST

Chhattisgarh villages torched in police rampage

Aman Sethi
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An investigation by The Hindu reveals the horrific aftermath of a five-day anti-Maoist operation in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district. Photo: Aman Sethi
An investigation by The Hindu reveals the horrific aftermath of a five-day anti-Maoist operation in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district. Photo: Aman Sethi

Three women assaulted, three men killed, hundreds rendered homeless in course of 5 day operation

The operation began in the early hours of March 11 when about 350 heavily armed troopers marched into the forests of Dantewada. They returned to their barracks five days later, with three villages aflame, about 300 homes and granaries incinerated, three villagers and three soldiers dead, and three women sexually assaulted, the victims and several eyewitnesses told The Hindu.

Last week, the Chhattisgarh police said three Koya commandos were killed in a Maoist ambush during a routine search, yet journalists attempting to reach the site were turned away by gun-toting special police officers. On visiting the area through a forest route, this correspondent was confronted by the aftermath of what appeared to be an attack by security forces on three tribal settlements in a 15-km radius of the police camp at Chintalnar, which has left hundreds homeless and brutalised.

The following account is based on interviews with villagers who spoke on the record and senior police sources who sought anonymity to speak freely. The names of victims of sexual assault have been changed to protect their identities.

In the first week of March, the police and the Central Reserve Police Force planned an operation to be conducted by the CRPF's elite CoBRA battalion and the police's Koya commandos, a tribal corps of surrendered Maoists and local youth.

A surrendered Maoist had claimed that the guerrillas were running an arms factory at Morpalli, a tour-hour march from the police camp at Chintalnar, a police official told The Hindu. Intelligence inputs indicated that about 100 Maoists, including Jai Kishen, a high-ranking Andhra cadre leader, were present nearby.

“On March 11, about 200 Koyas and 150 CoBRA left Chintalnar about 4 a.m. to destroy the arms factory,” said a police source.

“The force arrived at 8 in the morning and surrounded the village,” said Nupo Mutta, a former sarpanch of Morpalli. “They fired a few shots in the air and we ran into the forests.”

Madavi Sulla, 30, did not act fast enough. “My husband was sitting in a tree picking tamarind,” said his wife Madavi Hunge. “The force saw him and opened fire. I pleaded with them to stop, but they tore my clothes and threatened me.” Hunge escaped. The police moved further into the village, leaving Sulla's corpse hanging in the tree.

“I was picking ‘tendu patta' on the fields when the force came and said I was spying for the Maoists,” said Aimla Gangi, 45. “They threw me to the ground, pulled off my clothes and molested me in front of my two daughters. They also stole Rs.10,000 from a bag I kept tied around my waist.”

Villagers say the force left by noon, having torched 37 houses. They also picked up Madavi Ganga, 45, his son Bima and his daughter Hurre, 20. “They took us to the Chintalnar police station and put me in a separate cell and stripped me,” said Hurre.

Hurre said she was kept all night in the station and sexually assaulted. Ganga and Bima said the police repeatedly asked them whether Maoists visited their village and beat them through the night. The Madavi family was released when the women of Morpalli demanded their release at the Chintalnar station.

Police sources say they found neither arms factories nor Maoists at Morpalli that day, though they did find a 15-foot memorial commemorating the death of eight Maoists in the April 2010 encounter, in which 76 CRPF troopers were killed near Tarmetla village.

The operation resumed at Timapuram on March 13. “There was a disagreement because the CoBRAs prefer night operations, and the Koyas wanted to operate in the day,” said a source familiar with the operation, “so the Koyas set out on their own.”

En route, the Koyas stopped at Phulanpad where they picked up Barse Bima and Manu Yadav and took them along to Timapuram.

As word spread of the Koyas imminent arrival, Timapuram's resident fled to the forests. “The Koyas came to Timapuram about 2 in the afternoon. They set up a camp, killed our chickens and goats and ate them.” said Timapuram resident Madkam Budra.

Budra said the commandos spent the night at Timapuram, a fact confirmed by the police, and installed sentries to ward off a possible Maoist attack.

The Maoists attacked next morning, on Monday March 14. “We knew the Koyas had spent the night at Timapuram and laid our ambush early morning,” said a Maoist fighter who had participated in the attack and met this correspondent on the outskirts of Timapuram late Sunday night. “About 70 Maoists participated in the attack, including Area Commander Ramanna.”

The ambush lasted for two hours. Three Koyas were killed and nine injured. After the Koyas called for reinforcements, a helicopter flew in to evacuate the injured; the Maoists finally retreated by noon. The police and local newspapers say 37 Maoists were killed in the ambush, but a handwritten note sent to this correspondent by the Maoists claims that only Section Commander Muchaki Ganga was killed.

The Koyas spent the night at the village and left next morning, March 15, for Chintalnar. Before they left, villagers say, the Koyas burnt about 50 buildings, including homes and granaries. They also executed one of their captives, Barse Bima, with an axe. “My husband's hands were tied behind his back, he had been hit with an axe on the base of his neck and twice on his chest,” said Barse Lakhme, who cremated the body.

The other captive, Mannu Yadav, was taken to Chintalnar where, villagers allege, the police shot him and claimed he was a Maoist fighter killed in the ambush. “The body claimed by the police was not a Maoist,” said a senior officer. He said he was tipped off by a Koya. “They killed him because they needed to show something.”

On March 16, villagers say the same company of Koyas surrounded Tarmetla village and burnt about 200 structures, including homes, granaries and woodsheds. Tarmetla's former sarpanch, Gondse Deva, said the Koyas swept through the village, setting fire to the straw roofs, stuffing burning hay into the granaries, burning food, clothes, valuables, money and keepsakes. “The force has also taken away two men, Madavi Handa and Madavi Aita,” said Deva. “We don't know where they are, we think they are dead.”

When she heard the commotion, Madavi Hidme threw all her jewellery and money into a bag before rushing for the forests. “I was stopped by four SPOs and beaten with sticks until I lost consciousness,” she said. “When I awoke, I was naked. My bag was gone.” Hidme has been assaulted so violently that a cut has opened up on the left side of her face; she can't see from her left eye.

Dantewada Collector R.Prasanna is setting up a committee to look into the incidents. “The committee shall be headed by the tehsildar of Konta, along with a representative from the press, civil society and a people's representative,” he told The Hindu. “We will provide Rs. 50,000 in compensation for each house burnt, and will reimburse villagers for their grains, utensils and other possessions. The committee shall submit its report in one month.”

Director-General of Police Vishwa Ranjan did not return phone calls to his office.

I am ashamed being indian and have been living in this pseudo democratic country.

from:  Gopal Thodsam
Posted on: Oct 20, 2011 at 19:22 IST

Hats off to Aman and The Hindu for bringing this news from the villages. Can we belive that we live in society where such acts took place between 11-16 March, it came out on 23 March. Aman this is your real tribute to Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev. Can we believe that even after this came out no one is allowed to enter in the area to meet the affected people and provide the food and other necessary things as relief to the people. Can we believe that a Additional Superintendent of Police, Mr. Maravi accompanying Swami Agniwesh on the order of State Government is not allowed to reach to the people with relief material. And finally ASP Mr. Maravi wanted to lodge an FIR of attack and local police station refused to do so. In this situation reporting from the village Tarmetla is really commendable job.

from:  Rajpal
Posted on: Mar 31, 2011 at 18:30 IST

What is not understood is to whom these so called special forces answerable to.How come something so crude and incompetent as Koya commandos can be handed responsibility for something do delicate. Moreover it comprises former Maoists themselves. They are just trying to save their asses. Do we even have the same set of laws for urban and tribal people anymore? Why is there no response from the central government on this? Had this been Kashmir, the centre would have been all over this. I am from Assam and I have literally seen the situation in North East becoming chaotic because of this kind of double standards.

from:  Arun Kumar Singh
Posted on: Mar 31, 2011 at 15:50 IST

Commendable piece of Journalism. The Dantewada Collector R.Prasanna says that 'The committee shall submit its report in one month'. But what about until then? Shouldn't he be answerable to those villagers whose homes and granaries have been destroyed by the fire. How will they survive until they receive the compensation amount for their losses (even if they do)?

from:  Xitiz Bhatia
Posted on: Mar 30, 2011 at 05:13 IST

The Home Minister of Chattisgarh says it was the Maoists who burn those villages and molested the women, this evidence is contrary; what's lucid to the ear here confirmed by both the report and the oblivious authority is that the forces were mobilized, which is logical in the loose government's an-eye-for-an-eye approach. Their strategy basically shouts 'if the rebels don't give up arms and since they think hey have some muscle, we use our arms to show our strength', and if the government thinks the people directly concerned (which I believe everyone should be) don't hear them, they retaliate 'the rebels are bad, if you don't understand that, then we'll show you how bad they are'. And they did show them, ruthlessly.
But the only fault the logic perseveres in is when you ask why resistance takes arms in the first place, when you start to wonder why does this violence exist is when it is utterly devastated.Which essentially pulverizes the point of doing such in the first place. The point still being that there are rudimentary individual rights infringed and livelihoods that are being bloody destroyed. I fail to understand how an elected government chooses such childish measures, I fail to understand how the righteous soldier follows an order playing with human lives like old toys, I fail to understand what the 'upright' Naxal rebellion is fighting for in their demonstration of spilling blood and menacing penetration of the gullible mind, I fail to understand the point of having such a government if it not be for the protection of the society. Moreover why are the people of this largest 'democracy' quiet in their own mundane lives? I refuse to submit to the idea that nothing can be done about this. Isn't this enough to wake up from the banal sleep?

from:  Aman Bardia
Posted on: Mar 29, 2011 at 19:27 IST

All this naked dance of violence by the very people who are duty bound to protect lives and properties of the citizens of the country is a very serious matter. Where has gone their oaths taken under the Constitution of India? We talk of being the largest democracy of the world but have failed when it matters to the poor innocent tribals who are killed at will. This is not the way to discharge frustration of not being able to go behind the blood of naxalites. It is time for Apex Court to take a suo moto notice of the facts and bring the culprits to justice.

from:  Pravin Patel
Posted on: Mar 28, 2011 at 06:29 IST

I congratulate Mr Aman Sethi for this brave piece of journalism. Wish we had more journalists like him in this country.

from:  Kshitiz
Posted on: Mar 28, 2011 at 00:24 IST

What is the National Human Rights Commission doing...it should take suo motto cognizance of such gruesome and gory incident. An appeal to Mr. K.G. Balakrishnan- please act or quit so that someone more competent, credible and honest can look into this.

from:  Mohan Shekhar
Posted on: Mar 27, 2011 at 18:48 IST

Can anyone tell the difference in treatment of poor tribal Indians by this so-called police and the treatment by police under British rule?

from:  Yashwanth P
Posted on: Mar 27, 2011 at 16:27 IST

The stubbornness of the governments especially Chhattisgarh is responsible for fueling the Maoist activity. Illegal mining, ignoring local welfare may be prominent causes but the way they are dealing with Binayak Sen and people of this village instigates people resorting to violence.Similar pattern can also be observed in JandK.

from:  Rananjay
Posted on: Mar 27, 2011 at 10:33 IST

I would really appreciate if Government of India internal security make a note of these issues and try to initiate some operations. This is the 21 century - enough of fighting and I think all these are encouraged by local politicians. One more thing, if this is has to be stopped the government should be led by educated persons like IAS or IPS officers rather than uneducated politicians.

from:  Rama
Posted on: Mar 27, 2011 at 10:04 IST

Shameful indeed. We as a country have got out priorities all wrong. What's the difference between our govt and Libyan ? No wonder India didnt support the military action against Gaddafi and co. With so much pain all around us, we Indians have grown immune to the pain of other people. Kudos to'The Hindu' for publishing the story. I am sure not many people will bother to click and read it. Any news about cricket World Cup will generate more clicks.

from:  Manav
Posted on: Mar 26, 2011 at 23:23 IST

Is there anything left to comment? I don't know how come both sides can justify what they are doing specially how they are doing it. Sometime I wonder this is what I should call 'India Shining'??

from:  Chanchal
Posted on: Mar 25, 2011 at 18:45 IST

Congratulations to Mr. Aman Sethi for bringing this out. The State forces stand like an alien invader among its own people.

from:  Gilbert Sebastian
Posted on: Mar 24, 2011 at 14:06 IST

Shame on CRPF. This is too much on tribals of Chhattisgarh. Thanks to The Hindu for bringing out the right picture, this will be helpful to get justice to them.

from:  ASHOK KUMAR
Posted on: Mar 24, 2011 at 13:15 IST

More progress as India marches on to becoming a global super power!

from:  vxpatel
Posted on: Mar 24, 2011 at 12:56 IST

The Chhattisgarh Govt. should be immediately dismissed and Central rule should be imposed there. Whether koya commandos or salwa judum, these are just different instruments for implementing organised state brutality. The state govt. is behaving like a warlord who happens to have more arms and men than the maoists at the moment. A search operation by a police force, based on intelligence input, is a legal exercise, but dumping their frustrations onto the hapless tribal villagers by vandalising their properties (whatever little they have) and dignity, speaks of a cheap warlord kind of attitude. The aim seems to be showing the maoists, that the govt can be more brutal than them. Shame on Raman Singh's Govt

from:  Anirban
Posted on: Mar 24, 2011 at 02:50 IST

No wonder why movies still show atrocities commited by police on common men. I am deeply hurt and angered by what has occurred to people who are innocent. The gravest of crime according to me is to harm women, how can these commandos sleep at night, won't they be haunted by what they had done to innocent people. I hope they are duly punished, but knowing our Indian politicians, I am certain that this would never happen and incidents such as these arent the last that we will witness.

from:  Prasanna
Posted on: Mar 23, 2011 at 22:48 IST

Exellent reporting

from:  snm rao
Posted on: Mar 23, 2011 at 22:37 IST

Given the circumstances where Indian state machinery kill their own people, no surprise that Indian government did not favour NO FLY ZONE in Libya. There is no democracy in India, rather dictators rule us and loot public money.

from:  Indian tiger
Posted on: Mar 23, 2011 at 21:57 IST

The state is alienating people each day and brutally
thanks to Aman for the report from an area difficult to cover

from:  sreedhar
Posted on: Mar 23, 2011 at 21:47 IST

These reports of police brutalisation of our very own citizens is shocking and very saddening. Where is the battle to win the hearts and minds of our own people? Those found guilty, and I am sure there will be pressure brought to bear to ensure that at least some are brought to justice, must be given severe penalties to act as a warning to others who might exploit poor villages. The GOI MUST take these issues extremely seriously. They are meant to represent all Indians.

from:  Samir Mody
Posted on: Mar 23, 2011 at 21:12 IST

In what civilised society are we living? Are we killing our own people like this for accomplishing what? Humane society has no room for this sort of activitis and every human being will come with out any reservations condemning it.

from:  praveen
Posted on: Mar 23, 2011 at 19:31 IST

So far I was thinking these maoists are really a nuisance, but on reading an article like this, I asked myself, what will I do if I am attacked and tortured and stripped of my belongings - repeatedly for no fault of mine .....I will be pushed to commit the fault, what the heck anyways they are going to attack but now with me wielding a gun , I feel I have power. Great Job Army, CRPF, BSF and Police officers - some of them who do not believe power comes with responsibilities (while I salute many truly serving the country)

from:  sriram
Posted on: Mar 23, 2011 at 18:20 IST

Is this the way government handles the biggest threat to nation? Ashamed of this cowardly act; those people without any basic facilities need to be cared for. Actions like this will definitely increase the strengh of maoists in the region.

from:  Ezhil John
Posted on: Mar 23, 2011 at 18:18 IST

This is not fair by the police. The police never think about people. What fault of those who lost his home, son, and every thing?

from:  Vakil Ahmed
Posted on: Mar 23, 2011 at 18:12 IST

The policemen committing the crime must be arrested and charged with Rape and murder. The crimes must be investigated by a national committee and all involved in its planning and execution must be brought to justice. It is a shame that the poorest of the poor and the most vulnerable sections of the population are being subjected to rape, murder and terror by the police while the whole nation watches silently.

from:  Raghuram
Posted on: Mar 23, 2011 at 17:57 IST

It is always the innocent who suffer. Usually, the Govt. forces vent their anger on the helpless villagers. Rape, torture,torching of houses, etc are the only things they can actual do. No wonder why India sided with Qaddhafi.

from:  pingmi
Posted on: Mar 23, 2011 at 15:47 IST

Another Committee, headed by tehsildar and other representatives. Again bribes will be given to the officials, the committee will report that the commandos acted correctly and that will be the end of matter. I am sure none of the "50,000" compensation will reach the villagers. Instead of giving compensation, the authorities should ask themselves, how can such an incident happen first of all?

from:  Amy
Posted on: Mar 23, 2011 at 15:45 IST

I'm shocked and very disturbed on reading this news. I doubt if our country is a democracy anymore. Will these culprits be punished and the victims be rehabilitated? I request this newspaper to follow up on this story and make sure justice is served.

from:  arun
Posted on: Mar 23, 2011 at 15:37 IST

This is absolutely disastrous and shocking!. First of all I commend The Hindu for bringing out this story as it is risking life and limb. But, it is appalling to read what has happened at the villages in Dantewada, where is the government? Who is controlling these operations? Who has authorised the koya commandos to commit such a barbaric act on their own countrymen?. All these questions need to be answered, The district administration may have taken a step to bring to light the facts of this massacre, but it is not enough.It is heart-rending to see that on one hand India opposes the military action on some other country, but turns a blind eye on its own.

from:  bharath r
Posted on: Mar 23, 2011 at 14:51 IST

Absolutely awful. Even if these villagers were Maoist sympathisers or active members, the alleged treatment meted out by the security forces is abhorrent. This will just increase the membership of the maoists. Human rights should be observed when dealing with such poor, simple and helpless people. The perpetrators of this crime should be prosecuted.

from:  Vipul Dave.
Posted on: Mar 23, 2011 at 14:33 IST

This incident is a slam on the Democracy and the Fundamental Right's of these tribals, which has been enshrined in the Constitution of India. A gross violation of human rights and Article 21. Everyone has to condemn this brutality.

from:  Yusuf Hayath
Posted on: Mar 23, 2011 at 14:32 IST

The state acting in disguise of a protector is plundering its own villages. Tarmetla, Dantewada incident on 11th March displays the concealed intention of the state of Chhattisgarh to do away with the tribal population and grab their land for its insatiable hunger for industrial development. It was a commendable job undertaken by The Hindu to reveal the true face of the BJP government in Chhattisgarh. There was no whisper of this cruel incident for twelve days which shows how efficient the government has been in hiding it real agenda. Another report in one of the leading newspapers corroborates it that every attempt was made to dissuade people coming from outside from entering the village. How democratic the state is when it resorts to such technique in portraying the beautiful picture of shining India. The local media is yet to murmur about this rampage.

from:  mohan shekhar
Posted on: Mar 23, 2011 at 13:57 IST

To think that this violence is dished out by the state is incomprehensible. And they wonder why people take up arms to fight back? Good reporting, by the way, by Aman Sethi.

from:  Rashmi Singh
Posted on: Mar 23, 2011 at 12:51 IST

As far as I know it happens a lot of times. However all due to your brave journalists we know this on national level. We do have news papers in the state but they always buckle to corporate interests for they are run by them. Thank you Hindu in you and because of you the journalism is alive and we have hope.

from:  Saurabh
Posted on: Mar 23, 2011 at 11:19 IST

What is our country coming to? The police force that were meant to deal with the Maoists are actually showing their inability on the villagers. Even without a single thought they are hunting down the villagers and harassing the women folk. Such incidents should be dealt with much more vigor than just reporting them. Where has the Human Rights Commission gone? Don't they have a say in such grave injustices to mankind. This assault on the lower classes of people do not claim anybody's attention, but it highlights how the power and authority of the Police personnel and the other forces of the government are being misused for their own satisfaction.

from:  Shyam Varma
Posted on: Mar 23, 2011 at 11:17 IST

Helpless fellow Indians.
This is just a news for others. But for those who affected is a pain for ever.
As usual, the government has running out of back log issues. This would be an additional case..thats all to say.

from:  RG
Posted on: Mar 23, 2011 at 11:05 IST

Is this the freedom for which our forefathers fought and died?

from:  GERSHOM CHELLIAH
Posted on: Mar 23, 2011 at 10:30 IST

Once again The Hindu did a great job. What a shame on the state police forces. Are these humans? Corrupt government, cruel CRPF personnel..Communist groups with no honest agenda..what is going on in the nation? Government immediately announces compensation.

from:  Abhay
Posted on: Mar 23, 2011 at 08:59 IST

Is there anything called "shame" still left with us. What a gory act. Really appreciate The Hindu for bringing this up. As citizens we need immediate action against the perpetrators of the crime, and this should be set as an example for police highhandedness. Whatever happened to the collective conscience of the society?

from:  raghavan
Posted on: Mar 23, 2011 at 08:31 IST

Shame on the Indian government? Human rights is not worth one paisa. I'm ashamed to call myself Indian.

from:  Karuna
Posted on: Mar 23, 2011 at 06:39 IST

It is a known fact that Tribals and villagers in remote areas have always been treated as third class citizens in their country, without any development for years. However, the recent incidents of violence, killing and pillage of their community will shock any one with a heart to the core. Are we living in a such a brutal democracy where poor people have no right to even live?

from:  Somu Kumar
Posted on: Mar 23, 2011 at 05:06 IST

This medieval approach of security issues happens in many places in India. It happens in Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Kashmir and it is seldom reported. Indian police and para-military are savage and brutal. India needs to grow into 21st century. Besides compensating the people who have suffered, they should also punish those who perpetrated this savagery. I do not like the comment of the "Collector" that they will be compensated and their is no mention of punishment for the beasts.

from:  Naveed Khan
Posted on: Mar 23, 2011 at 04:57 IST

The Hindu is the ONLY newspaper that has boldly come out against the police atrocities happening against the tribals under the pretense of maoist operation. Government has silenced people like Binayak Sen who spoke against this. What a pity !

from:  DR
Posted on: Mar 23, 2011 at 04:07 IST

What the hell are these people doing? Is these how our police and commandos behave? If all this is true then no wonder tribals are supporting Maoists. I am ashamed really.

from:  RP
Posted on: Mar 23, 2011 at 03:09 IST

There has to be some morality in the way the forces behave and operate. This story is a clear indication of how the 'system' turns ordinary people into Maoists. Not that I support the activities of Maoists, but I also do not condone, and hope that the people in power also do not, the security forces who act so recklessly.

from:  mgupta
Posted on: Mar 23, 2011 at 01:18 IST
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