Two days after The Hindu reported that security forces had burnt close to 300 hundred homes and granaries in three villages in Chhattisgarh’s violence-wracked Dantewada district, Special Police Officers (SPOs) of the State police assaulted a truck owner for delivering emergency rations to the affected villages.
According to eyewitness reports, a tribal police corps known as the Koya commandos conducted a five day anti-Maoist offensive from March 11 to March 16 in Dantewada’s Konta block, in the course of which they reportedly burnt about 300 buildings, sexually assaulted three tribal women and killed at least three men (two more are missing) in the villages of Tarmetla, Timapuram and Morpalli.
Yesterday, Dantewada District Collector R. Prasanna constituted a five-member inquiry committee and announced that the district administration would deliver emergency rations of grain, clothes, and cooking and edible oil to the affected villages. However, SPOs at the Salwa Judum camp of Dornapal allegedly assaulted truck owner Kapur Chand Rajput and accused him of aiding the Maoists.
“This morning, the Collector [Dantewada] and Commissioner [Bastar] requisitioned my truck to deliver rice and blankets to some interior villages. As soon as the trucks left Dornapal, an SPO leader called Surya accused me of sending food to the Maoists, threatened me and beat me with the butt of his rifle,” said transporter and Congressman Kapoorchand Rajput.
“Surya said ‘The collector is a Maoist, the commissioner is a Maoist’. How dare you send your truck’,” Mr. Rajput said, adding that Mr. Surya pointed his assault rifle at Mr. Rajput and threatened to kill him.
According to a March 23 report in the Times of India, TOI reporter Supriya Sharma was prevented from visiting the affected villages by the district police on grounds of ‘security’.
Dantewada Collector R. Prasanna said he had received Mr. Rajput’s complaint and said he would investigate the matter. He refused to comment on Mr. Surya’s alleged remarks. Mr. Prasanna said that the rations had reached Chintagupha village and would be distributed to the affected villagers today and tomorrow.
In zero hour at the Chhattisgarh Vidhan Sabha yesterday, senior Congress leader and five time MLA from Kharsiya, Nand Kumar Patel, cited news reports to draw attention to the acts of arson in Dantewada and demanded an explanation from the government. “This is a grievous crime,” said Mr. Kumar, “It has been 10 days since the incident but the government is yet to determine exactly what happened on March 11.”