On the 2nd of April, the chief minister, Raman Singh, the governor Shekar Datt and the DGP Vishwaranjan had visited Tadmetla village which was burned down on the 16th of March, 2011. They did not visit Morpalli village which was burnt down on the 11th of March, and where Madvi Sulla was killed in cold blood and two women were sexually assaulted, or Timmapuram which was burnt down on the 13th of March, where Barse Bhima from Phulanpad was killed with an axe.
‘Six or seven helicopters had flown down,’ Said Madvi Mukka of Tadmetla who met the delegation. Eventually, the security forces started to find whoever they could as many had simply run away on sight of the security forces.
The government also distributed relief to the villagers of Tadmetla, while they had given nothing to the villages of Morpalli and Timmapuram. Yet even the people of Tadmetla aren’t impressed.
‘They gave us 17 quintals of rice,’ Said the former sarpanch Gondse Deva, ‘and that’s not going to last even a week.’
‘Every other house that they burnt down had that much rice.’
There are 185 families in Tadmetla and 207 buildings were burnt down and the government had given 105 sheets of tarpaulin. They had given 200 saris for the women, and nothing for the men. They had also given about 10 quintals of potatoes and 7 quintals of onions, 5.5 quintals of pulses, along with spices.
‘They gave us tea but no sugar.’ Joked a villager.
And it doesn’t end there. The chief minister’s delegation had also distributed volleyballs to the adivasis of Tadmetla, which no one seems to be very thrilled about.
And the villagers of Tadmetla allege, that while the chief minister was taking their testimonies and distributing ration, a group of SPOs who were part of their escort were stealing food at the periphery of the village.
Gondse Deva, the former sarpanch was told by Raman Singh that he’d be made a permanent teacher, while another SPO would threaten him later.
‘They said, they’d re-open the markets, but we told them to shut down the Salwa Judum first.’ Said Bhima Madvi (65), whose home was burnt down, along with all of his grain, his clothes, his vessels and even his patta (deed).
‘Yeh kiska sarkar hai joh ration le ke aata hai?’ aur yeh kiska sarkar hai joh gaon jalata hai?’ (whose government is it that gives us ration and whose is it that burns our villages?) said Madvi Mukka in his broken hindi – Madvi Mukka’s house was burnt down with over 15 quintals of rice. The above question was directed to Raman Singh, chief minister of Chhattisgarh, who apparently had no answer.
Other villagers also brought up the matter of the two men – Madvi Handa s/o Kosa, and Madvi Aita, who were taken away by the police.
‘Handa was sleeping on the cot,’ says his mother Pojje, ‘when the forces came and beat him up and took him away.’
‘They took us all away from our homes, and behind us, some other forces came and burnt our homes down.’
The families of the people who were taken away by the police had eventually gone to the police station to help release their loved ones. ‘It was holi, many of them were drunk,’ Said Hidme, Handa’s wife, ‘And they said they’d release them tomorrow, but the next day they sent them to Dornapal, and then later, to Dantewada jail.’
The chief minister apparently promised that they would be released in a few days. But four days after the visit, none of them have been released. And the people are not surprised. Pojje’s husband, and Handa’s father Madvi Kosa had been taken away by the forces in similar circumstances five years ago, and had only come back after four years.
Hunger but no starvation
Madkam Nande w/o Bandi or Morpalli gave birth to a baby boy on the 3rd of April in a house without a roof. Her home was burnt down with all of her produce and her husband is in Andhra Pradesh working as a day labourer.
The Chief Minister has denied all allegations that there have been starvation deaths in Tadmetla even though local news reports and those from BBC Hindi had claimed that those reports had come from the village of Morpalli. The chief minister is half-right. There were no starvation deaths due to arson and the widespread burning of a self-sustaining communities food supply. But three people over the age of 65, Nupe Rajalu, Madavi Joga and Madkam Bhime from the village of Morpalli had died of hunger/starvation/dehydration after they got lost in the jungle trying to escape the approaching security forces.
Their bodies were found on the 14th, 15th and 16th of March by villagers who buried them at the outskirts of the village.
The people of Morpalli have had to share whatever food they had managed to save from the burning of their homes and are aware that their supply might run out.
And this is not even the first time their village was burnt down by the security forces. The security forces had even burnt their village down along with all of their produce in April 2007.
It took them around fifty-sixty days to rebuild their homes.
Madkam Nande of Morpalli village with her children before the remnants of her home.
The state of Chhattisgarh has repeatedly told the Supreme Court that the Salwa Judum had been shut down and that they aren’t allowed on combing operations anymore.
Yet Bodke Mara s/o Lacha from the village of Morpalli had only become a SPO two or three months ago. The villagers of Morpalli, alleged that he only became an SPO after the Maoists threatened him with dire consequences.
‘He used to misbehave with girls in our village, and he even stole rice from some adivasis in Lachapur in Andhra,’ Said his ex-neighbours.
He would eventually lead the police to the village of Morpalli where one man would be killed and two women would be raped.
The villagers were also able to identify other SPOs who were leading the attack on their villages, including Madkam Bhima of Junagoda village in Penta Panchayat, who used to be known as Comrade Ramesh when he was with the Maoists. There was also Vanjam Deva from Sirpanguda, near Timmapuram who also used to be a Maoist.
Two more SPOs came from Timmapuram which was burnt down – Madvi Chona s/o Mandgroo and a female SPO Payke Barse who allegedly acted as the guide for the security forces.
The people of Tadmetla also identified the above mentioned SPOs along with the following – Ramlal Barse from Budgill village, Telam Nanda s/o Konda from Lakhapal, Telam Kosab, Aimla Mukesh s/o Deva from Nagaram, Aimla Manu s/o Deva, Karti Singha, Dasaru Sodi from Milampalli, Oyam Kapil from Gaganpalli who used to be a teacher, and Kiche Nanda from Dornapal, Surya from Misma – both who have warrants for their arrests, and have been declared as ‘absconding’, for what is known to be the Samsetti rape case.
A few weeks ago, Surya also allegedly led a group of SPOs who stopped trucks taking relief to the affected villages, even though the relief was sent by the collector of Dantewada.
Post-Script: A Case Against Forgetfulness
One year after 76 security personnel were killed in the Chintalnar area, with allegations of rape being used as a weapon of war soon after by the state, the latest attack on the adivasis of Bastar during a five-day long carnage has led to break the silence on atrocities that have been committed for over six years now, across the undivided Bastar region.
Last year in November, the security forces had burnt down Tatemargu and Pallodi village. Pallodi which was on route to Tadmetla has now rebuilt itself. There was no relief given to the people, there was no suo moto case filed by the National Human Rights Commission and there was no visit by the chief minister. There are at least 644 villages that lie empty and at least 300 of them had been burnt down at least once.
And for three of the villages that were attacked recently, this was not the first time.
Sodi Nanda s/o Adma of Tadmetla was killed by the security forces in 2007. Two houses were burnt down that day.
Barse Lakma s/o Bhima of Morpalli was going for ration at Chintalnar market when he was picked up by the security forces last year.
Madkam Nanga s/o Aita was going to the sell his produce in Chintalnar when he was also picked up by the police and sent to jail over three years ago. None of them have been released.
From Phulanpad village where Barse Bhima and Manu Yadav were killed in the recent operation, around three years ago, Aimla Sukka (20) s/o Chola and Aimla Joga (20) s/o Choma were killed when their village was raided by security forces.
There are many people from Phulanpad who live in Andhra Pradesh as Internally Displaced Persons, as a part of the estimated 16,000 to 40,000 adivasis who have been completely forgotten by the state of Chhattisgarh.