Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Accused of perpetrating atrocities and abuse against women in Dantewara district
NEW DELHI: Attributing the significant increase in incidence of violence against women in Chhattisgarh's Dantewara district to Salwa Judum, the Committee Against Violence On Women (CAVOW) has called for a review of the Government's counter-insurgency strategy. Salwa Judum was initiated by the Government in June 2005 as a people's movement against terrorism and naxalism.
In a report `Salwa Judum and Violence on Women in Dantewara', the group has documented cases of violence and abuse against women in the State. The report, submitted to the National Commission for Women, highlights the atrocities perpetrated by the Salwa Judum activists.
Released here on Thursday by writer-activist Arundhati Roy, the report points out the absence of health and education facilities in the district.
Speaking at the release function, Ms. Roy said, "This is a disturbing document and the business of setting up vigilante groups is infusing the country with violence." She criticised the Government's policies and said, "We are entering an era where we have to become a police or an army state and they will become the implementers of the great Indian growth rate dream."
Ms. Roy was also critical of the Special Economic Zones being set up and agricultural land being given to corporates at subsidised rates.
Referring to the report, convenor of CAVOW Shoma Sen said, "At the initiation of CAVOW, a team visited the area between September 30 and November 18, 2006, to investigate the conditions of safety, security, life and livelihood of tribal women."
Claiming that Salwa Judum, which was built for restoring peace in the area has instead proved to be a violent institution, CAVOW member and researcher Ilina Sen said, "Women have been raped and molested, dole being given out to people is insufficient, ration does not last for the whole week, international organisations working out of the area have documented that there is malnutrition and hunger, minors are being recruited as Special Police Officers and under-trial women in jails are victims of sexual abuse."
Echoing the view that Salwa Judum has failed to deliver, NCW Chairperson Prof. Malini Bhattacharya said: "Strange things are happening there in the wake of Salwa Judum. Villages are deserted and whatever little civic amenities are available are in the relief camps, SPOs are underage and have been alienated from normal life. Though we have no direct evidence of violence against women, our team met women lodged in prisons who have been abused. These village women claim they have been accused of having links with naxals."
Lamenting that the human rights of these women under-trials have been encroached upon, the NCW Chairperson said, "The situation of violence has accelerated instead of being contained after the Salwa Judum movement."
Citing the problems being faced by the tribals in the State, the CAVOW has urged the Government to ensure that those who have been forced to live in relief camps should be settled back in their villages, all cases of atrocities against women must be investigated by independent agencies and the practice of recruiting underage SPOs should be stopped.