At the age of 17, Kawasi Himde was arrested for “being involved in the killing of 23 policemen” in Dantewada district of South Chhattisgarh.
A young girl, full of energy, at the time of her arrest in 2008, a tired Kawasi Hidme walked out of jail three days ago when a Dantewada court found her not guilty. “I was never involved in any Maoist activity. Yet, I have lost seven years of my life. I am exhausted now with a number of health issues caused by police torture. What was my fault?” she asks.
Hidme was accused of being a part of a team of over 350 Maoists that killed the policemen near Errabore village of Bastar in July 2007. She was charged under sections 302, 147, 148 and 149 of the Indian Penal Code and different sections of the Arms Act.
“Hidme is a typical case study of how tribals of Bastar are subjected to harassment and exploitation in the name of tackling Maoists,” alleged tribal activist Soni Sori who received Hidme at the gates of the jail on Wednesday. “She was innocent, but it took the system seven years to realise that. The proceedings in her case were completed many months ago, but the judgment was delayed…”
Advocate Shalini Gera, who fought for Hidme along with senior lawyer Bichem Pondi, said the evidence presented by the prosecution was frivolous. “Hidme was not even named in the first FIR. Five months after the incident, some policemen suddenly recalled that Maoists present at the ambush site took her name. But none of the witnesses identified her,” Ms. Gera said.
“I was arrested in 2008 January. But for the first three months I was lodged in different police stations and subjected to all kinds of torture. I cannot even think of marriage now because of my health issues,” Hidme said.
“I lost my parents as a child. I will visit my relative in Sukma and then come back to join Soni Sori in her fight against injustice,” the 24-year-old told The Hindu .