Police atrocities

Chhattisgarh must identify and prosecute policemen who raped 16 women, demand activists

There is prima facie evidence to prove the crimes, said the National Human Rights Commission.

Human rights activists have welcomed Friday’s statement by the National Human Rights Commission asking the Chhattisgarh government why it should not give monetary relief to 16 women who were raped and physically assaulted by security forces. But the activists have noted that the order does not mention prosecuting the guilty policemen or their supervising officers.

“Why is it that it is talking only about compensation and not about disciplinary actions for allowing these crimes to happen?” said Shreya, who was a part of one of the civil society fact-finding teams that brought to light the rapes, which occured in 2015 and 2016.

Added Shreya, who uses only one name: “It’s a huge victory for the claims of the woman to be validated when the police had been denying the allegations. The onus is now on the state to identify and prosecute the perpetrators.”

In a statement on Saturday, the Commission said there was prima facie evidence to prove the crimes and issued a notice to the state government asking it “to show cause why it should not recommend give interim monetary relief of Rs 37 lakh” to the women.

Since almost all the victims belonged to Adivasi communities, the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes in April 2016 had recommended that the state government should invoke the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. However, the state government did not do this. “As a result of this, the due monetary relief under the [Act] has not been paid to the victims,” the Commission noted.

The Commission had begun its investigation into some incidents of sexual violence and looting by the security forces in Bijapur district after the Indian Express reported about them in November 2015. As the commission was carrying out its proceedings, it received complaints about other attacks, in Bijapur and in neighbouring Dantewada district.

However, the Commission was able to record the statements of only 14 of the 34 victims mentioned in First Information Reports about the assaults and has asked its Deputy Inspector General (Investigation) to set up a team to do so. It has asked the team to submit its report within a month.

Chilling stories

The sexual assaults first came to national attention at the end of 2015, when a group of half a dozen activists from an independent collective called Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression, travelled to Basaguda in Bijapur. They uncovered chilling stories of sexual violence against several women in the district. Their report formed the basis of the Indian Express article.

With the help of the activists, four women from Pedagellur in Basaguda block of Bijapur on November 1, 2015, filed a First Information Report against a team of security personnel. This was the first time an FIR had been filed against security personnel since the rape laws were amended in 2013 after the brutal rape of a 23-year-old woman in Delhi.

The FIR claimed that the armed men had raided several villages in the district between October 19-24, looting homes, molesting and raping three women, including a teenager. One girl said she was grazing cattle when she was blindfolded by security forces and raped by at least three men. Another woman, in the fourth month of her pregnancy, was dragged into a lake by security forces and raped in the water.

Another group of activists investigated cases of large-scale sexual violence that occurred in the region between January 11-14, 2016. These cases involved torture and looting in Kunna village in Sukma district and Nendra village in Bijapur district. Women in Kunna said that men in uniform had pressed their breasts to see if they were lactating and joked about impregnating them. At least 13 instances of gang rape were reported by the women in Nendra.

The Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression report was sent to the National Human Rights Commission on January 21, 2016.

Even after this, reports of rapes found their way out of the dense forests of Bastar. Between May 5 and 7, 2016, another civil society team visited villages in Bijapur and reported large-scale sexual violence and assault on Adivasi women by security forces in the Gangalur thana area.

A backlash

The publication of these independent investigations landed several activists in trouble. In January, 2016, members of a civil vigilante group burnt effigies of Aam Aadmi Party leader Soni Sori and scholar-activist Bela Bhatia, who had led the team of women activists to Sukma and Bijapur to document the violence.

On February 4, leaflets were thrown into the home of Soni Sori at Geedam, warning her to not return to Bijapur on pain of death.

After repeatedly being harassed, Scroll.in contributor Malini Subramaniam left Jagdalpur, in the heart of Bastar, where she was living. She had reported extensively on the excesses of the security forces in the region. Two days later, a group of lawyers for the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group had to leave the town after an imminent threat of arrest. Members of the group had been part of the independent fact-finding teams and had represented many Adivasis in cases against the security forces. On February 20, 2016, Soni Sori was attacked by three men, who rubbed a corrosive agent all over her face.

Despite the Commission’s statement, the Chhattisgarh police seems unlikely to change its strategy in the region.

Last year, Inspector General of Bastar range SRP Kalluri had announced “Mission 2016”, to “rid Bastar of Maoists”. If the police are to be believed, the mission was a spectacular success. According to police records, 2016 registered the largest number of Maoist deaths since 2000, when Chhattisgarh was formed. However, activists have claimed that the forces have sometimes killed innocent villagers and branded them as Maoists.

Early this year, Kalluri held a press conference in Jagdalpur to announce his Mission 2017. This time the targets are different. “Certain lawyers, journalists and fact-finding teams of activists have tried to pressurise the police in the past few months,” he said according to reports in local newspapers on January 4. “They should be dealt with.”

While Kalluri was speaking to the media, in another part of the city, a civil vigilante group called AGNI (Action Group of National Integration) said it would step up its actions to stop “white-collared Naxals” from creating hurdles to Bastar’s development. They were referring to human rights activists and others who have criticised violations by the security forces in the region.

Already, human rights groups are under pressure. In December a seven-member fact-finding team from Telangana was arrested in Sukma district of Bastar. They were on their way to investigate the killing of a 13-year-old deaf boy who the police claimed was a Maoist. On January 2, their bail was rejected by the District Court in Dantewada. They were prosecuted under section 8 of the Chhattisgarh State Public Security Act.

Such police actions have somewhat dampened the victory human rights activists have achieved with the National Human Rights Commission order on Saturday. “Mission 2017 is being talked about everyday,” said Shalini Gera, a lawyer with the lawyer with the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group. “Not sure how much of a dent the NHRC order will cause it.”

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

The ordeal of choosing the right data pack for your connectivity needs

"Your data has been activated." <10 seconds later> "You have crossed your data limit."

The internet is an amazing space where you can watch a donkey playing football while simultaneously looking up whether the mole on your elbow is a symptom of a terminal diseases. It’s as busy as it’s big with at least 2.96 billion pages in the indexed web and over 40,000 Google search queries processed every second. If you have access to this vast expanse of information through your mobile, then you’re probably on something known as a data plan.

However, data plans or data packs are a lot like prescription pills. You need to go through a barrage of perplexing words to understand what they really do. Not to mention the call from the telecom company rattling on at 400 words per minute about a life-changing data pack which is as undecipherable as reading a doctor’s handwriting on the prescription. On top of it all, most data packs expect you to solve complex algorithms on permutations to figure out which one is the right one.

Source: giphy.com
Source: giphy.com

Even the most sophisticated and evolved beings of the digital era would agree that choosing a data pack is a lot like getting stuck on a seesaw, struggling to find the right balance between getting the most out of your data and not paying for more than you need. Running out of data is frustrating, but losing the data that you paid for but couldn’t use during a busy month is outright infuriating. Shouldn’t your unused data be rolled over to the next month?

You peruse the advice available online on how to go about choosing the right data pack, most of which talks about understanding your own data usage. Armed with wisdom, you escape to your mind palace, Sherlock style, and review your access to Wifi zones, the size of the websites you regularly visit, the number of emails you send and receive, even the number of cat videos you watch. You somehow manage to figure out your daily usage which you multiply by 30 and there it is. All you need to do now is find the appropriate data pack.

Promptly ignoring the above calculations, you fall for unlimited data plans with an “all you can eat” buffet style data offering. You immediately text a code to the telecom company to activate this portal to unlimited video calls, selfies, instastories, snapchats – sky is the limit. You tell all your friends and colleagues about the genius new plan you have and how you’ve been watching funny sloth videos on YouTube all day, well, because you CAN!

Source: giphy.com
Source: giphy.com

Alas, after a day of reign, you realise that your phone has run out of data. Anyone who has suffered the terms and conditions of unlimited data packs knows the importance of reading the fine print before committing yourself to one. Some plans place limits on video quality to 480p on mobile phones, some limit the speed after reaching a mark mentioned in the fine print. Is it too much to ask for a plan that lets us binge on our favourite shows on Amazon Prime, unconditionally?

You find yourself stuck in an endless loop of estimating your data usage, figuring out how you crossed your data limit and arguing with customer care about your sky-high phone bill. Exasperated, you somehow muster up the strength to do it all over again and decide to browse for more data packs. Regrettably, the website wont load on your mobile because of expired data.

Source: giphy.com
Source: giphy.com

Getting the right data plan shouldn’t be this complicated a decision. Instead of getting confused by the numerous offers, focus on your usage and guide yourself out of the maze by having a clear idea of what you want. And if all you want is to enjoy unlimited calls with friends and uninterrupted Snapchat, then you know exactly what to look for in a plan.

Source: giphy.com
Source: giphy.com

The Airtel Postpaid at Rs. 499 comes closest to a plan that is up front with its offerings, making it easy to choose exactly what you need. One of the best-selling Airtel Postpaid plans, the Rs. 499 pack offers 40 GB 3G/4G data that you can carry forward to the next bill cycle if unused. The pack also offers a one year subscription to Amazon Prime on the Airtel TV app.

So, next time, don’t let your frustration get the better of you. Click here to find a plan that’s right for you.

Source: giphy.com
Source: giphy.com

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Airtel and not by the Scroll editorial team.