No Distance Left To Run

Internally Displaced Persons from Dormangum, Kistaram Panchayat, Chhattisgarh, before their shack of sticks and palmera leaves at Khammam, Andhra Pradesh.

As more people escape the upsurge of violence in Chhattisgarh and begin to settle in Khammam District as Internally Displaced Persons, the true extent of the destruction reveals itself.

According to witnesses, five villagers were killed by security forces at Gachanpalli, 30 kilometres from the town of Konta in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh. Madvi Admaya, Madkam Sulaya, Madvi Joga, Kovasi Gangaya, Madkam Moiyi were killed in their village after being apprehended by security forces during a raid sometime in late October. Four of the five men killed were over the age of sixty and were too old to escape into the jungle. One of them, Madkam Moiyi was apparently crippled and incapable of walking. They were allegedly bayoneted and shot to death in the middle of the village.

Nineteen homes were also burnt down. This was the second attack on the village of Gachanpalli. In 2005, sixty-fives homes of the village were burnt down by the Salwa Judum.

‘I have so much land at Gachanpalli, but no one to work on it now.’ Says Kovasi Jogi, aged 60, from the village of Gachanpalli, now in an Internally Displaced Person settlement in Khammam. Her village is almost empty now. Most of the villagers have scattered further into the jungle or have migrated to Khammam, Andhra Pradesh.

Sodi Rani (name withheld) left her village of Pallecharma with her two children for Andhra Pradesh where she is living at the charity of her relatives. According to her, three people were killed from her village of Pallecharma by the security forces.

Sodi Sanausi, Tunki Chinnay and Dodhi Adma were killed sometime in late October. The police had apprehended them in the morning as alleged Naxalites and shot them dead sometime in the evening. The villagers of Pallecharma were unaware that they were killed and when news of their death reached them, they left their village for Khammam District, Andhra Pradesh.

On the same day as the attack on Pallecharma, Vaika Madvi (name withheld) was apprehended by the security forces. He was held captive by the security forces along with an unidentified villager from Pallecharma. Vaika Madvi managed to escape, leaving behind the unidentified villager from Pallecharma, whose fate is unknown. Vaika Madvi now lives in Khammam District, Andhra Pradesh.

Near Pallecharma is the village of Batiguda where Sodi Venka (name withheld) was regularly harassed by Special Police Officers and Naxalites. He was detained over a year ago by security forces and asked to relocate to the Maraiguda Salwa Judum camp, abandoning his five acres of land. At the same time, the Naxalites threatened him – that he dare not to leave his land.

Meanwhile, his village of Batiguda has had four handpumps installed about 12 years ago. Out of the four of them, three have stopped working. The villagers of Batiguda approached the authorities at Konta for help to fix them. Instead they were sent away by the authorities.

‘Go ask your Naxalites to fix your handpump.’ – was what the dejected villagers had to repeat again and again to the rest of the villagers who asked them about what happened.

‘And what do the Naxalites say?’ He says with a fatalistic snicker, ‘They say, go to Badhrachalam and buy all the materials and we shall fix it. But we don’t have any money!’

Sodi Venka now lives in Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh where he earns around Rs.60 a day working as a landless labourer – for about 10 to 20 days a month. Back at his village, he used to sell a kilogram of imli for five rupees, each mango for two to three rupees. However, he used to sell mahua for twelve to fourteen rupees a kilogram and had to buy a kilogram of mahua for twenty rupees.

He left his village soon after he heard about the killings of Pallecharma.

Muchki Deva, age 65, was picked up by Gondi-speaking SPOs from his village of Oonderpad near Bhejji and taken to jail to be repeatedly beaten and allegedly given electric shocks. He was incorrectly reported as being burnt with oil by other publications – in fact, he had no idea what they were doing to him. He was only released after four days, when a superior police officer found him in the company of young Special Police Officers who were beating him. The officer chastised the SPOs and ordered them to release the old man. He was neither booked nor asked to give a statement. He soon left his village for Khammam district, Andhra Pradesh.

On the 24th of October, at Maroodbacka of Usur Block, Bijapur district, Katam Kistaya (age 20) and Bhandavi Bhimaya (age 18) were picked up by the police during a raid on their village. Bhandavi Bhimaya was incapable of escaping as he was incapacitated in his hut due to high fever. Both of them are now, reportedly languishing in Dantewada jail. Soon after, around 15 families of Maroodbacka left their village for Khammam District, Andhra Pradesh.

Others like Madkam Mooti from Bijjamariaguda weren’t waiting around for the attack on their villages, and left for Andhra Pradesh with their families.

When news of the attacks on Tatemargu, Pallodi, Doghpar, Pallecharma spread across the tehsil, villagers from Paytalguta, Ampeta and Dormangum from Kistaram Panchayat also left their villages afraid of an impending attack, and are now living in Khammam district, where they have no land, no ration cards, no schools, no angaanbadi and are at the risk of being branded off as Naxalites or Naxalite sympathizers by the Andhra Pradesh Authorities.

Adding to their complications are inter-tribal conflicts. The Gotti Koya from Chhattisgarh and the local Koya villagers find themselves at odds at times, fighting over meager forest resources. Even then, many settlements are made with permission from the local Gram Sabhas and there is no confrontation as the IDPs also work as manual labour for them. Many more IDPs are living with their relatives and face no local opposition.

However, there are reports that party members from New Democracy (CPI-ML) have been threatening the local Koya villagers to evict the Gotti Koya IDPs and send them back to Chhattisgarh. The Andhra Pradesh police and the forest officials are also considering a similar proposal and have reportedly approached the Collector’s office for provisions to ‘pack off’ the IDPs back to Chhattisgarh.

Meanwhile, Gandhibabu of the ASDS (Agricultural and Social Development Society), who has been interacting with government officials and the IDPs entirely disagrees.

‘Firstly, it is their constitutional right, freedom of movement. Secondly, how can you send them back to Chhattisgarh where they’d end up in Salwa Judum camps and thus in danger of being killed by the Naxalites or to their villages where they’re in danger of being killed by the security forces? They really have no place to go back to, at the moment.’

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