Activists Bela Bhatia and Soni Sori on Monday condemned the attack on civilians by suspected Maoists in Phulpad village in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh earlier this month. “This is a shocking instance of brutality and coercion against powerless people,” they said in a statement. The incident took place on September 5.

“We went to Phulpad on September 15 to ascertain the facts,” said the two activists. “A large group of Maoist cadre went to two paras [localities] of Phulpad [Koyalanpara and Markampara] and woke people up. Men, women and children all gathered at one place. Meanwhile, the Maoists caught nine persons, including one woman who had tried to interpose when they caught her son. Some were beaten in front of the crowd, others some distance away. Many had their hands tied behind their back.”

The activists said the beating was severe. “Some of the victims showed us the marks of beating on their backs and legs, still visible 10 days after the event,” they said. One of the victims, who is now in a Dantewada hospital, said he was afraid of being killed.

The police had said that 35 villagers were beaten up for refusing to attend a meeting called by Maoists. A case was registered on the complaint of 12 victims. “The villagers were tied to trees and beaten for hours just because they had refused to attend the meeting in a nearby village called by Maoists,” Dantewada Superintendent of Police Abhishek Pallav had told the Hindustan Times.

The activists said it seems that the Maoists resented the fact that the villagers had associated with the government in various ways. “For instance, by building Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana houses; by going along with the construction of an approach road; and by participating in cricket-related activities organised in Phulpad by a local government functionary who is also a BJP leader,” read their statement.

The activists said the biggest problem for the villagers was that there is nobody they can go to for justice. “Instead of helping them, the government often takes advantage of the situation and creates further danger for the villagers,” they said. “We hope that the government will refrain from doing this in Phulpad and we demand from the Maoists that they not repeat such incidents and allow villagers the freedom to choose how they want to live.”