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Fresh allegations of sexual assault by security forces surface in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district

Kunjami Mangli's torn blouse and a lock of her hair that she says was cut off when she was sexually assaulted by the Chhattisgarh police's Koya commandos. Photo: Aman Sethi

Kunjami Mangli's torn blouse and a lock of her hair that she says was cut off when she was sexually assaulted by the Chhattisgarh police's Koya commandos. Photo: Aman Sethi   | Photo Credit: Aman Sethi

A young woman carries a torn blouse and an undergarment and a lock of her hair in a clear plastic bag that rarely leaves her side. Kunjami Mangli (name changed) of the Bade Bidme panchayat in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district preserves these items as evidence of the events of the night of October 12.

“Four uniformed policemen burst into my house at 2 a.m.,” said Mangli, speaking through a translator. “They ripped off my blouse and brassiere and sexually assaulted me.”

“I was sleeping on the floor, one policeman put his foot on my head, pulled my hair and cut off a lock with a knife,” said Mangli. “The three others pulled up my petticoat and tried to rape me.” Mangli said her ordeal lasted about 15 minutes, even as her mother pleaded with the men to spare her daughter.

Mangli and her mother said the assault was perpetrated by the Koya Commando wing of the Chhattisgarh police. The Koyas are a commando unit raised from Adivasi special police officers, a tribal police corps recruited in the aftermath of the 2005 Salwa Judum, and is at the forefront of the Chhattisgarh police's battle against the CPI (Maoist), a banned organisation committed to the overthrow of the Indian state.

Villagers say the October 12 raid began with an eight-hour blackout in which the adjoining panchayats of Bade Bidme and Phulpar were plunged into darkness. The police raid continued through the night during which, villagers say, policemen assaulted Kunjami Mangali and arrested Kunjami Bhima from Bade Bidme's Kunjamipara village and picked another five men from Phulpar panchayat's Domarpara and Koyalipara villages. In the last month, 12 residents of Bade Bidme have been arrested on the suspicion of aiding Maoists.

Villagers also accused the Koya commandos of breaking into houses and stealing utensils and jewellery. Kunjami Hidme, 26, of Kunjamipara said the search party had stolen Rs. 3,000, a pair of golden earrings, a necklace and silver anklets from her home.

The raid ended at 4 a.m. Electricity returned a few hours later.

The sexual assault on Kunjami Mangali is one of an increasing number of cases in which Adivasi women have allegedly been targeted by the security forces; both State and Central paramilitary forces stand accused of assaulting and raping young women during search operations.

In a June 8 report in The Hindu, three teenaged girls from Mukram village in Dantewada district stated that they were brutally assaulted by SPOs attached to the 62nd battalion of the CRPF. The National Human Rights Commission directed the Chhattisgarh police to conduct an inquiry and submit a report on October 1. A spokesperson for the NHRC said the police were yet to file a reply, and that the deadline for the inquiry had been extended to November 9.

On September 11, The Hindu published the testimony of two girls from Pachangi village in Kanker district, in which they accused personnel of the Border Security Force of sexual assault. BSF Director-General Raman Srivastav ordered a prompt internal inquiry.

When contacted on Sunday, BSF DIG Ram Avtaar said witness statements had been collected and the inquiry report would be submitted “soon.”

The Chhattisgarh police have consistently maintained that all such accusations are taken very seriously and inquiries are under way.



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Printable version | Sep 26, 2020 9:37:15 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/Fresh-allegations-of-sexual-assault-by-security-forces-surface-in-Chhattisgarhs-Dantewada-district/article15793215.ece

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