Stop War on Adivasis, says the banner at Devraj Hall in Mumbai, as people from different walks of life, the elderly, students from colleges and professionals gather to listen to the voices from Bastar.
Chhattisgarh is in turmoil, with tribals being thrown into jail with false charges or worse, being killed in fake encounters. But even as the state continues to try and suppress and criminalize all voices from Bastar, there are many who continue to risk their lives daily to ensure that amid the Acche Dins, the voices of the people of Bastar are heard, somewhere, somehow.
Mainstream media has always been silent and largely ignores the atrocities committed by the state in Bastar, even as news sources fervently reported the Prime Minister’s visit to Chhattisgarh, only to sign MoUs in the state, without the people’s consent. Consent, it seems, has been long forgotten by the state.
Take the example of Raigarh, for instance, 26000 acres of fertile land was given to corporates, without consent of the people. Those who try to protest and raise their voices against such land grabs are quickly met with consequences such as harassments, threats and false arrests under the guise of them being Maoists.
Justice Prabhakar Gwal, Ex-CJM of Sukma district was also present at the event, one of the few judges that support the people’s struggle against the systematic oppression by the state, has himself been subject to threats, harassment and violence by the state and its’ agents, like many other government officials who try to help the people of Bastar.
Linga Kodopi, Journalist and Activist from Bastar, spoke of his journey of becoming a journalist and activist in response to what he had been witnessing. Kodopi was actively involved in the people’s struggle in Bastar and was arrested and tortured by the police, spent many days locked up in filthy conditions and faced repeated torture from police officials.
Kodopi started following incidents of state oppression in Bastar and would immediately go to affected districts to investigate in-depth, and became a strong voice against the injustices of the state in Bastar. Kodopi shared first hand experiences from the ground, separating facts from fiction as he recounted the incidents surrounding the ‘encounter’ of Makdam Hidme, police brutality towards her and those who tried to protect her and the malice with which she was murdered. He also talked about Salwa Judum, its’ spread across 5 camps in Bastar and Dantewada, who played a major role in many atrocities reported across the state, including the attack on Soni Sori and threatening members of JagLAG (Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group)
“ …From mid 2015, the Police has been rounding up hundreds and detaining young Adivasi men in special security camps for days. Some have been beaten and released, others officially arrested and many are still missing. Mass detentions were followed by ‘mass surrenders’, as police claimed they surrendered voluntarily. Local accounts suggest otherwise. Surrenders were followed by encounters, and as the death toll continued to rise, people were confronted with mass rapes by uniformed personnel..”
—Bastar Solidarity Network, Mumbai
Tales from Bastar are too many to recount, and the number people whose lives have been destroyed and turned upside-down because of the cruelty of security forces and the state of Chattisgarh are even more. Stories of children being killed, of the elderly being abused, of the women being raped and mutilated continue to turn up in the warzone that Bastar has become. Activists from Bastar call to the civil society to raise their collective voices; it is time to speak up for Bastar!