In an incident of open firing by the Central Reserved Police Forces (CRPF) on Adivasi protestors in the Bijapur district of Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh, three Adivasis were killed, and more than a dozen were left injured on Monday.
Since May 12, in Bijapur’s Silger village, thousands of Adivasi locals were protesting against the newly built CRPF camp in what was previously a jungle on the border of Bijapur and Sukma districts. But on May 17, the security forces openly fired at the Adivasi protestors at the campsite leading to the death of three people.
The security forces at the camp were also accompanied by the District Relief Group (DRG), a militant group of local Adivasi men formed by the government to curb the Maoist Movement inside a few districts. The villagers told the Outlook Hindi that the security forces were forcefully occupying their land and forests and continuously harassed them.
“Since May 12 the Adivasis from fifteen villages had been protesting outside the newly formed camp and the security forces lathi-charged on them in order to disperse them but the locals kept their ground. On 14th, the security forces even used tear gas against the Adivasis. It was on the 17th that the CRPF open-fired at the protestors.” – Kamal Shukla, senior journalist and the editor of Bhumkal Samachar told the Gauri Lankesh Team.
A video of the incident is circulating since last 2 days in which continuous several rounds of firing by the security forces can be heard and protestors can be seen running. He reported that a large chunk of forest area was destroyed by the state authorities for the police camps to be set up which was also one of the reasons for the protests by the locals.
He wrote that “It wasn’t a fake encounter or a gunfire at night. Bullets flew under thick sun.”
The violent history of Bastar saw a new chapter today when, perhaps the first instance in a decade, police opened fire at unarmed adivasis in Silger, killing 3 and injuring at least 16.
It wasn't a fake encounter, or a gunfire at night.
Bullets flew under the thick sun. pic.twitter.com/pMXUWkM6FY
— Ashutosh Bhardwaj (@ashubh) May 17, 2021
Meanwhile, the IG alleged that the security forces were attacked by Naxalites who hid among the Adivasi protestors and it was only in the retaliatory firing that three people among the protestors were killed, the Outlook Hindi reported. Bhardwaj on the other hand reported that the villagers have denied the presence of Naxalites among them and there is no evidence that any shots were fired from the side of the Adivasi protestors.
“Till now the police has not been able to inform us about the charges that existed against the protestors given that the authorities have claimed that they were Naxals.”, Shukla told the Gauri Lankesh Team.
The administration has also said that twelve security personnel have been injured in the incident but the villagers have refuted this claim, saying that there was no violence from their side.
It was only after the local journalists intervened and almost 24 hours after the brutality of the security forces, the injured Adivasis were taken to the district hospital in Bijapur. The locals also said that some protestors were missing. Later on the Inspector General (IG) Bastar, Sunderaj P clarified that eight Adivasis were detained in the police station only for interrogation but last night the villagers reported that all of them have been imprisoned.
On May 19, it is being reported that after more than 50 hours of the incident, the district collector of Bijapur, Ritesh Agarwal has asked the Adivasis to give in writing that they won’t continue the protests as a precondition for the release of the arrested protestors.
Rupesh Kumar, a social activist, and independent journalist told the Gauri Lankesh Team that during the last state elections, Congress in its manifesto had promised that they will initiate peace talks in Bastar. But when the party came to power under the leadership of Bhupesh Baghel, it did not make any substantial effort at negotiations with the Naxalites.
He added that “ye jo jal-jungle-zameen ki loot hai usme BJP aur Congress ka aapsi samjhauta hai (in this loot of natural resources, land, and forests, Bhartiya Janta Party and the Congress have made a mutual consensus.”
Kumar said that even though the camps were built in forests that have historically belonged to the local Adivasi population, no permission was taken from the local Gram Sabha by the security forces before their construction. “If the villagers don’t want the camps, why is the government building them?”, he added.
Social activist and political leader Soni Sori had been trying to visit the village in solidarity with the protesting Adivasis but so far she was not been granted permission by the authorities.