A group of social activists have demanded action against the demolition of the Vanavasi Chetna Ashram (VCA) in Bastar,run by Gandhian social activist Himanshu Kumar. The ashram was demolished on May 17 this year.
The VCA had been providing the displaced adivasis,hit by Naxal violence,with various facilities for the past 17 years but had recently been told it was encroaching on government land.
A peoples fact-finding committee of six people,including Magsaysay awardee Dr Sandeep Pandey and advocate Kamayani Mahabal visited the area recently. Their report will be released on June 26 in New Delhi by Dr Binayak Sen.
Speaking at a press conference in Mumbai,Pandey said,Himanshu Kumar was the only ray of hope for the three lakh adivasis who have been displaced because of the Salwa Judum – Naxal conflict. The Salwa Judum is a state-funded anti-naxals force.
The VCA has been providing the adivasis with medical facilities and implementing various welfare programmes,said Pandey,adding that Kumar had also filed over 500 First Information Reports in the past two years about crimes committed against adivasis,allegedly by the Special Police officers (SPOs) of the Salwa Judum.
Mahabal said,According to our findings,revenge could be a reason for the demolition as Himanshu tried to rehabilitate the adivasis back in their villages whereas the government wants to give the land to industrialists. During our visit we also noted that a lot of trees over a patch of almost 10 km had been cut and the reason given was that it was to facilitate spotting naxals. The police have also accused Himanshu of being sympathetic towards the naxals only because he has indulged in various activities against the Salwa Judum.
Freelance photojournalist Javed Iqbal (24) who was at the VCA when it was being demolished said,I was picked up by a policeman along with four others,my camera was confiscated and I was repeatedly beaten up by some personnel.
The matter has been brought to the notice of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) who has asked the Chattisgarh government to submit a report within four weeks.