A member of the European Parliament earlier this month raised questions in the House on alleged aerial bombings on Adivasis in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar district.
Marisa Matias claimed that there have been four aerial attacks in Bastar in the last three years, adding that the latest such incident took place in Bijapur on April 7 when the Indian government “sent three helicopters to discharge heavy machine gun fire on villagers”.
In a question in the European Parliament on May 16, Matias, a Portuguese sociologist, asked how the European Commission was supporting the victims “who are suffering persecution in India”. Matias claimed that the alleged attacks were part of Operation Samadhan-Prahar that targets “indigenous environmental defenders”.
Bastar and surrounding areas are mainly controlled by Maoists. However, despite years of counterinsurgency operations, the paramilitary forces have failed to dislodge them.
After the alleged attack on April 7, Scroll had visited the area to look into the charges. Residents of four villages in the area – Bhattiguda, Kawargatta, Jabbagatta and Meenagatta – claimed that they witnessed aerial bombing and firing in the nearby forest on the day.
The security forces denied the allegations. However, Inspector General Saket Kumar Singh, the head of the Chhattisgarh sector of the Central Reserve Police Force, conceded that his men fired in “self defence” from a helicopter on January 11 – one of the days when residents had raised alarm about the attack.
“These attacks grossly violate the right to life of indigenous people in India, and contribute to widespread environmental destruction,” Matias alleged in her question at the European Parliament.
She added: “Although the Indian Air Force is not officially deployed for combat in Chhattisgarh, these repeated aerial bombardments against civilian populations suggest a new dimension to the state terror that has been inflicted on the Adivasi population of Bastar for years”.
Ten days after the April 7 attack, over 85 international organisations, individual campaigners, activists and academics had demanded that the bombings and Operation Samadhan-Prahar be stopped.
The Scroll investigation had found metal and plastic debris as well as remnants of electronic material atop a hill, where the alleged attack happened on April 7. There were some small craters as well as an object that resembled a rocket – that the villagers claimed to be an unexploded “bomb” found the day after the alleged attack.
Scroll, however, did not see any extensive damage or bullets in the area.
Experts have said the the images of the objects seemed to be of precision-guided projectile explosives designed to travel in the air and hit a specific target but they differed on what exactly they could be.