Fifteen civilians were massacred by Indian police on August 6 in the village of Nulkatong in the town of Sukma, Chattisgarf. To cover up its crime, police claimed that the civilians were armed and members of the people’s militia of the Communist Party of India-Maoist. Families and villagemates of the victims denied this claim.
In August 8, human rights groups filed a case against the police.
According to police accounts, the civilians returned fired and 13 low caliber arms were confiscated from the scene. They even dressed one of the victims, 14-year old Muchaki Muka, in camouflage. The reactionary India state boasted of the massacre as one of the “biggest anti-Naxalite operations” in Chattisgarh. Chattisgarh is considered part of the “Red corridor, an area where CPI-Maiost and its army, the People’s Liberation Army, is strong.
But according to investigations by Scroll.in, an independent media outfit in India, around 30 individuals were sleeping in a “kheta” or “Ladi,” a temporary shelter used by peasants during farming season, when the police opened fire. Out of the 15 killed, four were minors. Four were arrested, one seriously wounded while the rest managed to escape. According to the list released by the CPI-Maoist, none of the civilians were members of the party nor of their militia. Police investigation even proved “some” of the victims as civilians.
Families of the victims, as well as their villagemates, attested to the fact that the victims were civilians. This include three cousin minors who were with their father and uncle. In fact, only two of the civilians originally planned to sleep in the kheta that night. They were joined by others when the police started operating in Nulkatong and nearby villages.
According to the families, the 30 civilians stayed in the kheta to avoid police abuses when its troops started operating last August. Villagemen are often subjected to arbitrary detentions and physical assaults by police forces who enter their communities. The troops also steal the villagers’ rice and chickens.
In related news, more and more organizations in and outside India are condemining Nahendra Modi, the country’s prime minister, for his crackdown on activists to stifle legitimate dissent against his regime.
Indian police launched a series of raids and arrests in six states against community leaders, including intellectuals last August 28. Arrested and detained are Sudha Bharadwaj, lawyer and human rights worker; Varavara Rao, known literary figure and poet and his two daughters Anala at Pavana; Arun Ferreira, writer and activist; Gautam Navlakha, reporter and activist; Vernon Gonsalves, writer and activist; Stan Swamy, Catholic priest and activist; Anand Teltumbde, professor and expert; K. Satyanarayana, professor; KV Kurmanath at Kranti Tekula, journalists; at Jiten Yumnam, journalist and human rights worker.
They were arrested for purportedly being involved in the plan to assassinate Modi and for supposedly leading a protest in support of the Adivasis, the collective term for India’s national minorities. They were also accused of supporting the CPI-Maiost and its armed wing, the People’s Liberation Army, which is mainly based in Adivasi areas.
Around 12 organizations from India, Nepal, Germany, Bangladesh and Philippines signed the petition to junk the trumped up charges against the said activists and release them immediately.
In August 17, the ILPS-Canada also called for the immediate and unconditional release of political prisoners G.N. Saibaba, together with the “India 5” and others during the occassion of India’s 72nd independence day.
Saibaba is a known literary professor in Delhi University. The five activists are staunch human rights defenders, especially of the Adivasis. They were arrested in June 2017. Saibaba was sentenced to life imprisonment on the same year, together with Hem Mishra, Prashant Rahi, Mahesh Tirki and Pandu Narote. They were accused of having links to Maoists. Saibaba is detained in the notorious Nagpur prison despite his failing health.