Two weeks after it was alleged that Chhattisgarh Police personnel performing combing operations through the Naxal-affected district of Bijapur had gangraped three women, and assaulted and looted residents of five villages, an enquiry committee instituted by the Congress has demanded that action be taken against the men.
The committee with legislators from Bastar, including Konta MLA Kawasi Lakhma, Chitrakoot MLA Deepak Baij and Kondagaon MLA Mohan Markam, said on Saturday that the actions of the police were “of the most despicable order” and asked for an independent agency to probe the charges and punish the guilty.
Lakhma, who headed the probe, told reporters in Raipur that the incident was symptomatic of the situation in Bastar, where security forces were viewed with suspicion and fear. “I repeatedly say that there may be a government in Chhattisgarh, but there is none in Bastar. For the past 15 years, there is no government, and instead of being saviours, people run away from their villages when the forces arrive. The womenfolk get left behind and often they are assaulted or misbehaved with, but this incident took matters too far. The government is trying to suppress it, but we will not allow them to do it,” Lakhma said.
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The report of the committee, that visited villages of Pedagullur and Chinagellur among others, consists of accounts of 21 alleged victims, three of whom have said they were raped by the forces. According to the committee, none of the victims lodged a complaint as they were too scared.
The allegations had first been made on November 1, when right group Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression and local reporters first went to the affected villages, and brought four alleged victims to Bijapur.
Pedagellur residents had also told The Sunday Express when it went to the village that the police had misbehaved with them. A young woman with a one-year-old told the paper, as well as the Congress committee, that “When I asked the forces to stop hitting me because I had a young child, they asked me to prove that I was breastfeeding.”
Senior police officials said a case had been registered, and all procedures were being followed. “A medical test has been conducted on the alleged victims who came to Bijapur,” said K L Dhruv, Bijapur SP.
However, even police officers admitted in private that the distance made “normal investigation” difficult. Most of the women The Sunday Express spoke to were unconvinced about travelling over 50 km to Bijapur when they had no surety that their complaints would be heard.
“For us, it is very difficult to believe that our forces indulged in something like this… The medical examination has been conducted 10 days after the alleged incident, and while we will continue taking accounts and evidence from those who come to us, it is clearly a difficult situation in terms of an investigation,” a senior officer said.