Twenty days after security forces allegedly burnt about thirty seven houses in Morpalli and fifty homes and granaries in Timapuram in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district, villagers said they were yet to receive emergency rations sanctioned by the district administration.
On March 24, The Hindu reported allegations that a combined team of Special Police Officers (SPOs) of the Chhattisgarh police and the Central Reserve Police Force burnt close to 300 homes, granaries and sheds over the course of a five day operation in the villages of Morpalli, Timapuram and Tarmetla from March 11 to March 16, prompting the then District Collector R. Prasana to send emergency food rations to the affected villages.
Today (Thursday), in a telephone call with this correspondent, a villager speaking on the condition of anonymity as he feared for his safety, said that while food rations had reached Tarmetla, but residents of the interior villages of Timapuram and Morpalli were yet to receive any aid and were fast running out of supplies.
On March 30, the Supreme Court directed food commissioners N.C. Saxena and Harsh Mander to visit the affected villages to inquire into the basis of reports that six residents of Morpalli had died of starvation. The National Human Rights Commission has also directed the Chhattisgarh government to file a report on the incident. However, it appears unlikely that anyone will be able to access the villages anytime soon.
The district police have sealed that sole motorable road leading to the three villages. In the past two weeks, journalists, social activists and even a convoy of 10 Congress members of the Chhattisgarh Legislative Assembly have been turned back by a hostile crowd of SPOs and members of the Salva Judum, an anti-Maoist vigilante force that the State government claims has been disbanded. The State government’s claims were made in response to a case, pending in the Supreme Court, which holds the Judum responsible for 537 murders, 99 rapes and 103 acts of arson.
Responding to calls that Dantewada had descended into anarchy, the state government transferred Dantewada Senior Superintendent of Police, S.R.P. Kalluri, but locals in Dantewada say the situation is yet to improve. Last week, social activist Swami Agnivesh described the SPOs and Judum as a “Frankenstein’s monster” that the Chhattisgarh police had created and subsequently lost control of. Mr. Agnivesh made these observations soon after he was attacked for trying to deliver rations to the stricken villages.
In an interview with IANS, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh has admitted that Dantewada is not completely under his government’s control and claimed that parts of the district had been sealed by the police for security purposes.