The village of Lingagiri of Basaguda Block, Bijapur district was allegedly attacked by members of the COBRA on the 31st of January, 2010 during the panchayat elections held in the village. Six villagers were allegedly beaten for not voting. They duly filed their complaints in Basaguda police station and the Basaguda Police have registered a FIR. Yet there are reports that a few of the villagers have left their village again.
Tokay Ramaiya from Doleguda was the only candidate for Sarpanch in the village of Lingagiri and won by default. He lives in Bijapur town that is 57 kilometres away from Lingagiri. On the day of the polls, COBRA forces found a number of villagers at their homes around eleven in the morning and asked them to show their hands and their fingernails. None of them had voted and they were duly abused and beaten with sticks.
Interestingly, the thanedaar of Basaguda police station had told the villagers of Lingagiri that voting is completely optional and that the villagers needn’t vote if they didn’t want to. He told them that he is aware of their fear of incurring Maoist displeasure.
Earlier, in December 2006, the village was attacked by a joint force of SPOs and CRPF and four people were allegedly killed. Pujari Ramaaih (40), Pujari Motiram (45), Gantal Shridevi and Gantal Kanaiya (50) were killed in broad daylight. Gantal Shridevi was allegedly raped before she was killed, as was Gantal Chandni (name changed) who was allegedly raped but managed to survive. All the villagers left their village in 2006 after burying the bodies of the deceased.
Soyam Ramalu, who was beaten on polling day, was stabbed thrice by security forces in 2006 but managed to survive, being taken to the hospital at Cherla by bullock-cart through the jungle. Gantala Beby was pregnant during the day of the attack, and gave birth to a boy on the way to Cherla through the jungle. The boy was later to be named, ‘Aadavi Ramadoo’, – ‘boy born in the jungle.’
61 villagers of Lingagiri had submitted their testimonies to the National Human Rights Commission’s Enquiry Team at Cherla, Andhra Pradesh in June 2008 yet the NHRC recommended no further need for an investigation. Similar testimonies that detailed Maoists atrocities were accepted by the Enquiry Team that consisted of fifteen police officials. The NHRC eventually visited Lingagiri in 2008 and found all the houses burnt yet could not verify the killings since the village was abandoned.
Eventually, on the 20th of February, 2009, the village of Lingagiri was rehabilitated by social activists and NGOs armed with the Supreme Court recommendation ‘with reference to petitions regarding the Salwa Judum,’ filed before the Supreme Court by Nandini Sundar and others vs. State of Chhattisgarh, Writ Petition (civil) 250 of 2007.
Rights activist Kopa Kunjam who is now in jail was instrumental in the rehabilitation process of Lingagiri and a number of other villagers in Basaguda block, ensuring safe passage to villagers from both the Maoists and security forces.
Since his arrest in December of 2009, the villagers of Lingagiri have lived without any semblance of security from the Maoists or the security forces.
The Fifth Schedule
“The Forest Rights Act gives a guarantee to every tribal for ownership of his land. However, to be given a title (patta) to this land, the tribal must be in possession of it and if not, then it goes to the state. So when villagers are taken at gun point and resettled in Salwa Judum camps, or forced to flee to other areas in fear; they lose possession of the land. Possession of the land then goes to the Government, who merely leases it to mining companies/MNCs.”