V.  Abuses by the State

Although the director general of police (DGP) of Chhattisgarh stated that government security forces attend Salwa Judum rallies “because they have to be protected,”100 nearly all of the people who reported Salwa Judum raids on their villages said that government security forces participated in the burnings, killings, and beatings.

When NGOs and human rights activists have brought to light human rights abuses and violations since mid-2005, the government has questioned the authenticity of their reports and largely ignored them, allowing human rights abuses and crimes to be perpetrated unchecked.101 Chhattisgarh officials, including state police, have repeatedly harassed journalists and activists who reported such violations and abuses.

A. Killings, beatings, burnings, and pillage

Villagers consistently said that government security forces routinely participated in Salwa Judum raids through late 2007 and a number said that these security forces were still participating in reprisals up to the present.102 A displaced person from Nayapara said, “Every day police used to come, beat us, threaten us, kill people, that’s why we got frightened to death and ran here [Andhra Pradesh].”103

Lohit Rao’s account of a raid by government security forces in Boreguda 

Lohit Rao, age 37, from Boreguda, described to Human Rights Watch a brutal attack on his village and family. Rao said that Salwa Judum members began visiting Boreguda in 2005, together with government security forces (Boreguda falls under Basaguda police jurisdiction in Bijapur district). While, over time, Salwa Judum members stopped coming, government security forces continued to raid his village. The last raid that he witnessed was in December 2006. He fled to Andhra Pradesh after that.

Rao told Human Rights Watch,

On December 29, 2006 at about 5:30 a.m.… SPOs [special police officers] killed my father. That is, the new ones that have recently joined the police. They beat him with the rifle butt on his genitals also.… I was hiding and watching.

We have two houses.… We had woken up and I was starting the fire [for heat] when they came and surrounded our village. They burned everything. If I tell you what all they took and burned, you will run out of paper and ink. 

They were asking my father to take them to the Naxalites.… Then they brought my sister out and beat her. Then they beat my mother. They took her [sister] to the fields and raped her. She was 18 years old. I could hear her screaming. I was so scared I didn’t come out of my hiding place. I knew that if I came out, they would kill me also. Later, we found her body near the fields. They had put a gun in her mouth and shot her.…

About eight of them barged into my [other] house. We had so many utensils—enough to fill up a tractor. They took all of that and burned it.…  On the same day they killed two others. Poojari Motiram and Poojari Ramaiah.… We found two bodies—Motiram’s and my sister’s in the fields. My father’s in front of my house and Ramaiah’s behind his house.… They burned about 22 huts in Boreguda….

I know they were all SPOs because they were wearing khaki uniforms. They were few CRPF [Central Reserve Police Force] wearing the uniforms with flowers [camouflage]. I don’t know how many SPOs and how many CRPF.104

On another occasion Lohit helped save a villager who was attacked by government security forces:

On another day— this is before my father and sister were killed—they [government security forces] attacked another man [name withheld] who was taking his cattle to the fields. He was taken to the forests and they attacked him several times with daggers. He was stabbed on his chest, neck, palm, hand, and shoulder. They thought he died and left him there.

[He] had gone with his two children to the fields. The children left the cattle, ran to the village, and told the villagers that the police had come and were beating their father. So around 20 villagers went to look for him. I was also there. We found him, put him in a bullock cart, and brought him to Cherla.… They kept him in the hospital for four days and then shifted him to Bhadrachalam hospital. We spent 5,000 rupees (roughly US$125). He survived the attack and now lives in Andhra Pradesh.105

A villager from Surpanguda narrated how government security forces came in helicopters and set his village on fire:

There are around 250 huts in my village, in different clusters. One year ago when I was staying there, the police came to my village— approximately in August 2006. They came and set fire to around 26 houses. I was there when the huts were set on fire. But because my village is very big and is in clusters, my cluster was not set on fire…. But I could see what was happening from my side. The people from the village started running as soon as they heard helicopters approaching and landing. Police came in three helicopters, landed there, and set huts on fire….

The police again came a second time in October this year [2007] and set huts on fire. This time they did not come in helicopters. They came by foot, and set fire to about eight huts.106

Some SPOs interviewed by Human Rights Watch also reported that government security forces participated in Salwa Judum raids. One SPO lamented how tribal communities were suffering because of the fighting: “Salwa Judum and police attack villages and burn them. It is sad because the Judum and police also kill adivasis [tribal communities] and Naxalites also kill adivasis. From both sides adivasis are getting trapped.” 107 The SPO maintained that he had not joined these raids.108

When Human Rights Watch asked to speak with SPOs who had accompanied Salwa Judum members to villages, one police official made an announcement among SPOs inquiring which of them had gone to villages to burn them and bring villagers to camps.109 Two SPOs came forward to share their experiences. SPO Kadti Soman said that he had gone with Salwa Judum members and government security forces to Uddinguda, Barraimuga, Birla, Gaganpalli, Ikkalguda, Kattanguda, and Darbaguda villages but was reluctant to elaborate on what SPOs had done in these villages.110 He said, “We brought them [villagers] here [to the camp].”111 Similarly, SPO Mandavi Mohan stated that he had gone with government security forces to Nendra in mid-2007 to “bring” villagers to the camp.112

Two other SPOs admitted to playing a role in starting the Jagargonda camp. One said, “I helped in starting the Jagargonda camp. We took the police and Judum there—we would go at around 3 or 4 a.m. for patrols and gather people. About 40-45 of us would go each time and bring people to the camp.”113 Another SPO stated, “Judum and police from Dornapal took people from Miliampalli, Kunded, Metaguda, Kodmer, and Tarlaguda to the Judum camp in Dornapal. I was part of them.”114

Some villagers, Salwa Judum leaders, and NGOs said that joint combing operations by government security forces and Salwa Judum have been on the decline since the monsoon season of 2007 (June to September). A common explanation is that Salwa Judum members and government security forces wait for the end of the monsoon season due to poor visibility, and increase their activities during the summer because the visibility in thickly forested areas is better then.115

NGOs generally felt that due to the mounting criticism of Salwa Judum, government security forces had increased their anti-Naxalite operations independent of Salwa Judum, leading to a growing fear that the number of fake “encounter killings” (executions by government security forces staged to look like self-defense) and extrajudicial killings will increase.116  One tribal activist who works extensively in Bijapur and Dantewada districts shared his concerns,

There is not much Salwa Judum activity now [December 2007] and Salwa Judum does not go on processions because these are too noisy and attract too much attention. Now only CRPF and SPOs go quietly and kill people. So now you will see that “fake encounters” are on the rise. There have been encounters in March and May 2007.117

As one senior human rights activist pointed out, such extrajudicial killings often are given a veneer of legality:

SPOs are almost all Salwa Judum fellows given legal cover by the Government…. From the completely anarchic practice of security forces accompanying a civilian vigilante group [Salwa Judum] to burn and kill, they have shifted to a formally legal regime where the forces take the SPOs along. This is accompanied by another change. Earlier they would not announce the killings committed by them. They would let the bodies rot and be consumed by animals. Now they announce “encounter killings” and conduct an inquest and an autopsy.118

There are already allegations of such extrajudicial killings.119 Human Rights Watch interviewed eyewitnesses to what official sources claim was an encounter with Naxalites in May 2007. According to the police, in an armed exchange with Naxalites, two Naxalites were killed and another was arrested in Nayapara. Villagers who witnessed the events that day alleged that the police had opened fire on unarmed civilians.

Gangi, one of the villagers, said that her nephew Baman had come to stay with her in Nayapara in Dantewada to look for employment as a laborer. Six other young men, all in their early 20s, had also come with him. They had arrived on May 16, 2007, and the next morning they went to Dantewada town to see if they could meet a labor contractor. They failed to find work and returned with food rations and vegetables that they cooked and ate. At around 11 a.m., when they were resting outside Gangi’s hut under a mantap (shed), a Marshall jeep arrived.

Baman’s cousin, Aitey, was bathing at a hand pump nearby when the jeep arrived. She said that there were children playing there and her eight-year-old son was trying to learn how to ride a bicycle. Aitey said,

I saw the Marshall. I thought that some people had come to buy some alcohol from us as people usually come for that. But several men got out and started firing at Baman and his friends. Everyone was running away from the firing. My son dropped his cycle and started running. I shouted, “Watch out, there are children!” and started running to shield my son. The men shouted back at me saying, “You are feeding Naxalites!” The firing continued. Two of Baman’s friends were killed right away. The others ran away—except Baman.120

Meanwhile, Gangi said that she had heard the firing and had come out of her house to see what was happening:

Baman did not escape. They caught him. They would not listen to him. He tried to explain that they had come here for work. They tied up his hands and feet and started beating him. He kept screaming he was innocent, but they were beating him. He screamed for help and called out to me to give him water, but I was too scared to go near him.121

The police called in reinforcements who arrived in a van to take away Baman and the corpses. Before they left, they raided Gangi’s hut and took away everything. “They didn’t even leave a spoon,” she said.122

A few hours later, a policewoman arrived and took Gangi to the police station saying that they wanted to return her things. When she went to the police station the police informed her that they had found a rifle in her hut and wanted to question her. She was held in police custody for two days. “The police kept saying, ‘Say that they [her nephew and his friends] were Naxalites and we will give all your things back.’ But how could I? I cannot commit such a sin just because they would give my things back.”123

The police returned a week later and took a number of Baman’s relatives to the police station. Once again the police pressured them to change their testimony. Baman’s cousin Aitey said, “They put us under a lot of pressure, accusing us of supporting Naxalites. Then they said, ‘Say that Naxalites opened fire when the police came and that the police fired in retaliation.’ But that is a lie, so we refused.”124

Baman has now been charged with being a Naxalite, and the trial before the criminal court is pending.

While in some cases security forces actively joined with Salwa Judum in committing human rights violations, in others they have been passive spectators who failed to maintain law and order. In one instance police did not intercede to prevent Salwa Judum members from indulging in criminal acts even in police station premises. A group of women who went to the police station to plead for the release of their family members said that Salwa Judum members came there and beat them while the police stood and watched. As one of the women described, in April or May 2006,

The police used to come and take some 20 to 30 women from our village and keep us in the police station and beat us … After about two weeks [from the first visit to the police station], the Judum people came in [to the police station] and started beating us and that was the worst beating. They would beat us in front of the police and the police would not do anything. They beat us with lathis [wooden sticks] … Many women started bleeding from their nose and mouth. I bled from my mouth. When I regained consciousness I was in the police station compound itself. I had bruises all over my body and was swollen. Even today my left shoulder and left thigh hurt from the beating.125

B. Arbitrary detention, torture, and “disappearances”

Chhattisgarh police arbitrarily detain villagers as alleged Naxalites, and beat and question them about Naxalite activities. Villagers from Dantewada and Bijapur districts reported that police detained them for periods ranging from one day to one month, beat them, interrogated them for information regarding Naxalites, and then released them without producing them before any magistrate, or lodging a criminal case. 126 Villagers interviewed by Human Rights Watch reported six cases of arbitrary detention involving 34 persons. According to their accounts, a majority of the detainees were beaten while in police custody. One police informer candidly admitted that police beat suspected Naxalites who do not surrender.127

India is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which requires a state to specify the legal basis on which individuals may be deprived of their liberty, and the procedures to be used for arrests and detentions.128 Only arrests and detentions conducted in accordance with such rules are considered lawful.

Article 22 of the Indian Constitution provides that a detainee “shall be produced before the nearest magistrate within a period of twenty-four hours of such arrest excluding the time necessary for the journey from the place of arrest to the court of the magistrate and no such person shall be detained in custody beyond the said period without the authority of a magistrate.”129 In addition, all arrests and detentions should be in accordance with the D.K. Basu guidelines issued by the Supreme Court of India.130 These guidelines state that the police should arrange for regular medical examinations of detainees every 48 hours, detainees should be allowed to contact their lawyers during interrogation, and a friend or relative of the detainee should be informed of the arrest and the location of detention.131 Children should be arrested and tried in accordance with the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. This law forbids the police from arresting and detaining children in police lock-ups or jail. It requires the police to transfer child detainees to a juvenile home immediately after arrest.132

One villager from Lingagiri recounted how around April or May 2006 the police detained and beat him along with seven others:

After the [Salwa Judum] meeting in Basaguda, that is, after about two months [of the Salwa Judum meeting], the police came and took us to the police station—eight of us. They came at 6 a.m. and took us. Police came to arrest some people. A few boys came running into my house for shelter. I came out to protect them but got arrested myself. I was also beaten a little but the other boys got beaten severely—with dandas [thick wooden sticks]. They kept me in the police station for eight days. We were all detained, questioned about Naxalites, and asked to show where Naxalites were.133

Two of the eight detainees were children who were studying in class 10 at the time of arrest. He continued,

One of the boys got beaten a lot with the butt of the rifle—and he got beaten all over his body. He was screaming a lot and became unconscious. Two people were detained in the police station as guarantee when the others were released. The police told us that if anything happens to them [police] and Naxalites attack them, then they will send the boys to jail. [name withheld] is the class 10 student who was beaten badly. The two people who were detained as guarantee are [name withheld], also a class 10 student, and his father [name withheld].134

Another villager from Lingagiri narrated how the police tried to lure him with a cash award to go into a school and recover a rifle which they said the Naxalites had left behind. He said he recognized the police’s request as a ploy to plant evidence on him and arrest him as a Naxalite. When he refused to go into the school, the police repeatedly pushed his face into a nearby stream, took him to the police station, and beat him. As he described, in mid-2006,

The police came at around 2 p.m. in the afternoon when I was relaxing with my child at home. They barged into my house and took me and tied my hands at the back. They told me that they had not seen me around earlier and so I must be a Naxalite. They also threatened to kill me if I attempted to run away…. When we reached the school the police asked me to go inside the school and bring a rifle that they knew Naxalites had hidden. They said, “Naxalites have kept a rifle in that school, go and get it and the government will give you 1,500 rupees [roughly US$37]. Government will also give you a uniform.” I refused to go inside the school. I realized that it was a trap and that the police would take a picture of me with the rifle if I picked it up, kill me, and pass me off as a Naxalite. They kept me there for about 45 minutes. At the stream they dunked me in the water 3-4 times and started interrogating me regarding the whereabouts of Naxalites, asking me to show them where Naxalites were, and threatened to kill me. They did this for about 30 minutes.135

He said that the police subsequently took him to the police station, called some Salwa Judummembers, and asked them whether they recognized him. Since he had met some of them at village cockfights on market days, they recognized him, and told the police he was not a Naxalite. The police then released him. He said that he saw around 100 detainees kept in a thatched-roof shed inside the police station compound.136

Tati Somesh from Sunnamguda said that the police detained him for 18 days, beat him, and tortured him with electrical charges:

In 2005, the police took me to the Konta police station. They said I was a Naxalite. One afternoon when I was having tea in a roadside shack two policemen came and took me in a vehicle. They put me in a room in the police station and started beating me. Five people wearing uniforms beat me. They beat me with rods and also ran electric current through my body…. They kept me in the police station for 18 days. They beat me on my face and head till I started bleeding from my nose. They were all drunk at night and asked me where I had planted bombs. They told me that they will give me lots of money—lakhs and lakhs [hundreds of thousands] if I admitted to having planted bombs. When they beat me, I became unconscious. Later they passed electric current through my body—they put the rods on my hands and on my buttocks. Throughout I was handcuffed and kept in a room…. They did not lodge any case against me. After I was released I stayed in my house for a few days, and left my village.137

A woman from Nendra said she saw the police take away her sister in 2006. As of December 2007 there was no news of her whereabouts. The guidelines issued by the Supreme Court of India in D.K. Basu’s case state that the relatives or friends of a detainee have the right to know the location where a detainee is being held. Since the police did not disclose any information about the fate of the detainee or the location, the detention is considered an enforced disappearance under international law.138 Describing how her sister was taken away, the eyewitness said, 

When they [police] came the second time, my sister and I were picking [vegetables]in the fields. Police came and I just managed to run away. When I turned around and saw, they had caught my younger sister and she was being taken away. She was about 16 or 17 years old then. I did not wait to see anything else because I was scared and I kept running. She did not come back at all…. We have no news of her until today. On the same day they took 10 people from old Nendra. I knew one of them—Veko Dhula, about 50 years old. I do not know the others personally. We heard that they were taken to the Errabore police station but after that we do not know what happened to them. We have had no news of these 10 people.139 

C. Failure of the government to investigate abuses

Even though Chhattisgarh state government officials maintain that they “are committed to the Rule of Law” and “[t]here is no failure on the part of State of Chhattisgarh [to investigate] and therefore independent investigation is uncalled for and unwarranted,”140 police and other state government officials were unable to provide Human Rights Watch with any information regarding the investigation or prosecution of members of government security forces or Salwa Judum for human rights abuses and crimes. Several NGO fact-finding teams have exposed these human rights abuses, and recommended that the government initiate investigations.141  

Senior police officials from Chhattisgarh contend that Salwa Judum is a peaceful movement but admit that some abuses occurred “initially.”142 They maintain, however, that such abuses are “no longer occurring.”143 In response to Human Rights Watch’s concern that abuses by Salwa Judum members and government security forces are ongoing, the Dantewada superintendent of police said,

What is Salwa Judum? Can you define it? There are only people in camps now. There is no such thing as Salwa Judum anymore. It is just a name that has stuck on…. Initially there were some complaints of SPOs bullying civilians and we have removed these SPOs.144

Similarly, according to the director general of police of Chhattisgarh, during the early days of Salwa Judum in 2005, “SPOs’ anger was high and they became unruly because they had lost family members.”145

Contrary to official claims that abuses occurred only in the “initial” stages due to the “anger of SPOs,” villagers shared with Human Rights Watch stories of abuses and reprisals by Salwa Judum members and government security forces (not limited to SPOs) through December 2007.146 Human Rights Watch also documented extrajudicial killings by CRPF as recently as May 2008. Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj, a member of the fact-finding team that investigated these extrajudicial killings in Cherpal camp in Bijapur district, said,

CRPF woke up everyone, including children, at around 3 a.m. and asked them to come out of their huts and sit. When people protested, or requested that they be allowed to use the toilet, they were beaten. The CRPF commander in charge apparently gave instructions that if anyone opened their mouth then he or she should be shot. Following this, one of the CRPF members opened fire and killed a 22-year-old unmarried girl and a three-year-old baby. The Raman Singh government [Chhattisgarh government] has now withdrawn the two CRPF companies that were posted near Cherpal at the time of this incident and replaced them with fresh CRPF companies.147

Even though they stated that criminal complaints were registered and some SPOs were removed,148 none of the officials was able to provide Human Rights Watch with further details despite repeated requests for such details in December 2007, February 2008, and May 2008.149 In its April 2007 response to an application under the Right to Information Act, 2005, the office of the police superintendent of Dantewada replied that it had not registered any criminal complaints against SPOs, indicating that the police took no action between June 2005 and April 2007, and contradicting claims to the contrary by officials.150 

Other government bodies have also failed to take action against Salwa Judum members and government security forces for human rights abuses. The Chhattisgarh State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has the power to conduct suo motu investigation into human rights abuses within the state.151 SHRC is also empowered to initiate action based on complaints received by it.152 But its members told Human Rights Watch that they had not initiated any suo motu investigation into human rights abuses.153 They further stated that they had not received any complaints regarding Salwa Judum or Naxalite abuses against villagers from Dantewada and Bijapur districts.154 However, local NGOs said that they had submitted many complaints to the SHRC that went uninvestigated.155

On April 15, 2008, in response to a petition presented before it in 2007, the Supreme Court of India ordered the NHRC to “examine/verify” allegations of human rights abuses and submit a report to the court.156 The court further ordered the Indian central and Chhattisgarh state governments to cooperate during the inquiry.157

D. Government intimidation of NGOs, journalists, and lawyers

Lawyers, NGOs, and journalists told Human Rights Watch that they feel insecure and fear arbitrary arrest as Naxalite sympathizers whenever they voice criticism of government policy on the Naxalite issue or criticize the Salwa Judum campaign.158

In 2006 the Chhattisgarh government introduced special security legislation called the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005, which is a vague and overly broad law that allows detention of up to three years for “unlawful activities.”159 The term is so loosely defined in law that it allows for arbitrary detention and threatens fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the Indian Constitution and international human rights law. For example, it could severely restrict peaceful activities of individuals and civil society organizations.160

The Asian Centre for Human Rights, a prominent Indian NGO, points out in its 2006 report that the Chhattisgarh law lacks even the basic safeguards incorporated under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, a federal law that is already criticized for being draconian in nature.161 Lawyer K.P. Agarwal in Jagdalpur, for instance, said that the police could use the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act at any time to detain someone: “After you leave, someone can come and tell me that I had met Maoists, and put me in jail.”162

Section 2(e) of Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act defines “unlawful activity” as follows:

“Unlawful activity” in relation to and [sic] individual or organization means any action taken by such individual or organization whether by committing an act or by words either spoken or written or by signs or by visible representation or otherwise;

(i)   which constitute a danger or menace to public order, peace and tranquility; or
(ii)   which interferes to [or] tends to interfere with maintenance of public order; or
(iii)  which interferes or tends to interfere which [sic] the administration of law or its established institutions and personnel; or
(iv)  which is designed to overawe by criminal force or show of criminal force or otherwise to any public servant including the force of the State Government or the Central Government in the exercise of the lawful powers of such public servant; or
(v)   of indulging in or propagating acts of violence, terrorism, vandalism or other acts generating fear and apprehension in the public or indulging in or encouraging the use of firearms, explosives and other devices or disrupting communications by rail or road; or
(vi)  of encouraging or preaching disobedience to established law and its institutions; or
(vii)  of collecting money or goods forcibly to carry out any one or more of the unlawful activities mentioned above;

Binayak Sen, a doctor who worked on tribal community health issues for over 25 years in Chhattisgarh, and an activist and general secretary of the Chhattisgarh state level unit of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, was arrested on May 17, 2007, on charges of indulging in unlawful activities as defined under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, and other crimes under Indian penal law.163 Many NGOs, doctors, activists, and academics including professors Noam Chomsky, Romila Thapar, Jean Dreze, and Irfan Habib have called for his release.164 They believe that his arrest was politically motivated and that he was targeted for documenting and protesting human rights abuses committed by Salwa Judum members and government security forces.165 He is still in judicial custody facing criminal trial.

In addition to using the Chhattisgarh security law, activists and journalists who reported human rights abuses have complained of harassment by Chhattisgarh government officials. For example, Himanshu Kumar runs an NGO called Vanvasi Chetna Ashram and has worked for over 15 years in Dantewada and Bijapur districts. He implements government programs on health, nutrition, and education. He has a number of workers in the field and they have become an important source of information about the conflict in Dantewada and Bijapur districts. Himanshu opposes the violent methods adopted by Naxalites. But he opposes Salwa Judum more vociferously. Since June 2005 he has assisted several fact-finding teams that investigated human rights abuses in these districts. He told Human Rights Watch that he faces harassment from government officials because his public comments against Salwa Judum and assistance to other human rights groups has led the government to assume that he is a Naxalite supporter. In December 2006 some of his workers were attacked by SPOs. Himanshu tried to file criminal complaints against them in January 2007 for taking away his staff members’ bikes, and abducting and beating other staff. As of February 2008 the police had not taken any action against them.166

Many journalists who are critical of Salwa Judum have been threatened, beaten, or arrested by Chhattisgarh government officials. Activists and journalists feel that the Chhattisgarh government uses its security legislation to impose curbs on the press, particularly newspapers and other media outlets that are critical of Salwa Judum and the police.

Santosh Poonyem, a former Salwa Judum leader and Bijapur bureau chief of Dainik Prakhar Samachar, a daily Hindi newspaper, complained that he faced harassment from the police:

I started reporting these incidents [abuses by Salwa Judum members and government security forces] to the IG [inspector general of police of Chhattisgarh], CM [chief minister of Chhattisgarh], and district collector. The new [Bijapur District] Collector Ken promised security for me but nothing was delivered. The police took me to the police station in October this year [2007] and threatened to kill me. They showed me a gun, held me at gunpoint, and said I would be killed if I don’t say whatever they ask me to say in the newspapers…. I have two brothers—one is working in the BRO’s [block revenue officer] office and the other is in Raipur, working with the police. My brother who works in the BRO’s office was beaten up severely and was admitted in the hospital for four days. The Judum beat him.167

Kamlesh Paikra, a former journalist with Hind Sath, a Hindi newspaper, was forced to stop reporting because of police threats and harassment. He said,

I was a reporter for Hind Sath and published a news item about Salwa Judum—that they had burned Mankeli village in September 2005. After this news item got published, my elder brother was taken to the police station and beaten, and they charged him with being a Naxalite. He was sent to jail. I also learnt that the police were planning to kill me in an encounter. So along with my family, I left our house in Cherpal—15 kilometers from Bijapur … I do not report anymore. It is difficult to be independent and report because there is severe pressure from the administration.168

The report by the international press organization Reporters sans Frontieres (RSF) on Chhattisgarh documents five more instances of police beatings, harassment, and restriction of movement of journalists, which involved nine journalists and their crews.169 RSF and the International Press Institute have criticized Chhattisgarh government’s suppression of freedom of expression and opinion.170

Activists and journalists who attended peaceful protests and meetings to discuss Salwa Judum-related issues also have been harassed by the police. Manish Kunjam, a former member of the Chhattisgarh legislative assembly is opposed to Salwa Judum and organized a protest rally in November 2007 in Jagdalpur. According to him around 200,000 people attended it. “Villagers from Geedam area were not allowed to attend the protest rally,” said Manish Kunjam.171 Further describing the nature of problems they faced, he said,

The administration heard about our rally and spread rumors that villagers were planning to come to Jagdalpur and attack people. We had a lot of difficulty organizing it. Villagers were carrying their [food] rations, water, and other household items because they walked for three or four days from interior areas and they were stopped on the way [by the police]. The police wanted us to ask them to leave all their things behind but how could we ask them to do that? They would have all starved.172

One villager from Pidmel claimed that one of the participants was arrested: “Recently, people from our village were going to Jagdalpur to attend the meeting organized by Manish Kunjam. On the way to Sukma, SPOs abducted Musaki Unga (about age 25) and took him to Dornapal police station and did not release him.” 173           

Shubhranshu Choudhary, one of the moderators of Chhattisgarh Net or CGNet (, an online citizen journalism initiative, reported to Human Rights Watch other cases of harassment by police. CGNet organizes an annual meeting called the Dream Chhattisgarh Meet.174 According to Choudhary, Chhattisgarh police harassed many participants at the third annual meeting that was held from December 28 to December 30, 2007, in Raipur. Some displaced persons who fled from Chhattisgarh and settled in Andhra Pradesh had also joined the gathering. SPOs threatened these displaced persons and prevented them from addressing the gathering.175

Choudhary also said that in three or four cases, Chhattisgarh police visited participants’ homes in various parts of Chhattisgarh while they were at the meeting. In the case of Tulsiram Yadav, police waited at his house and arrested him as soon as he returned home after the meeting. According to Choudhary, some participants were so intimidated that they were reluctant to tell their stories to the press and lawyers at the meeting. Instead, they returned home immediately, changing routes and cars numerous times to avoid the police.176

The Chhattisgarh police also reopened a long-dormant case against a brother of a journalist who was attending this meeting. They arrested him on charges of being a Naxalite after his brother wrote articles about the atrocities of Salwa Judum and SPOs. Several journalists who had intended to describe their own experiences of being beaten up by Salwa Judum members refrained from doing so at the meeting because they feared similar reprisals. 177

100 Human Rights Watch interview with Vishwa Ranjan, director general of police, Raipur, December 17, 2007.

101 Nandini Sundar and others v. State of Chhattisgarh, Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 119 of 2007, Counter Affidavit on Behalf of Respondent, January 22, 2008, p. 310, para. 5(b). In their counter affidavit, the Chhattisgarh government “disputes the authenticity of report prepared by PUCL [People’s Union for Civil Liberties] and other NGOs.” NGOs fact-finding teams published their findings since 2006.

102 See above, section IV, Abuses by Salwa Judum.

103 Human Rights Watch group interview GR5 with four IDPs (who chose to remain anonymous) from different villages in Bijapur district, village K2, Khammam district, December 2, 2007.

104 Human Rights Watch interview with Lohit Rao (pseudonym), IDP from Boreguda village, village K2, Khammam district, December 2, 2007.

105 Ibid.

106 Human Rights Watch interview with Korsa Vijay (pseudonym), IDP from Surpanguda, village W7, Warangal district, December 1, 2007. Human Rights Watch mapped the time of the first attack as stated by this interviewee with secondary sources. It is possible that this incident occurred at the time the Indian central government briefly deployed the National Security Guard commandos in this region. However, Human Rights Watch cannot confirm that the National Security Guard commandos participated in the Surpanguda raid.

107 Human Rights Watch interview with SPO1 (name and details withheld).

108 Ibid.

109 Human Rights Watch interview with police officer-1 (who requested anonymity), other details withheld.

110 Human Rights Watch interview with Kadti Soman (pseudonym), SPO, other details withheld.

111 Ibid.

112 Human Rights Watch interview with Mandavi Mohan (pseudonym), SPO, other details withheld.

113 Human Rights Watch interview with SPO2 (name and details withheld).

114 Human Rights Watch interview with SPO3 (name and details withheld).

115 Human Rights Watchinterviews with J. P. Rao, professor from Osmania University, location withheld, November 30, 2007 (second interview); Himanshu, Vanvasi Chetna Ashram, Kawalnar, December 9, 2007 (first interview).

116 Human Rights Watch interviews with Rajendra Sail, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Raipur, December 17, 2007; Himanshu Kumar, Vanvasi Chetna Ashram, Kawalnar, January 28, 2008 (second interview).

117 Human Rights Watch interview with A1 (name and details withheld), local activist, Dantewada, December 11, 2007. 

118 Email communication from K. Balagopal to Human Rights Watch on May 7, 2008.

119 Human Rights Watch interviews with A1 (name and details withheld), December 11, 2007; Rajendra Sail, December 17, 2007; Himanshu Kumar, January 28, 2008.

120 Human Rights Watch group interview with Aitey and Gangi, Nayapara., Dantewada, January 29, 2008.

121 Ibid.

122 Ibid.

123 Ibid.

124 Ibid.

125 Human Rights Watch interview with Emla Sunita (pseudonym), IDP from Lingagiri, village K2, Khammam district, December 2, 2007.

126 Human Rights Watch interviews with persons displaced from Lingagiri, Sunnamguda, and B2, Khammam and Dantewada districts, December 1, December 8, and December 15, 2007 respectively.

127 Human Rights Watch interview with police informer (name and details withheld). 

128 ICCPR, art. 9. 

129 Constitution of India, 1950, (accessed March 18, 2008), art. 22(2).

130 D. K. Basu v. State of West Bengal, (1997) 1 SCC 416.

131 Ibid.

132 Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, Act 56 of 2000, (accessed June 15, 2008), Chapter II.

133Human Rights Watch interview with IDP-1 from Lingagiri (who chose to remain anonymous), village K1, Khammam district, December 1, 2007. 

134 Ibid.

135 Human Rights Watch interview with IDP-2 from Lingagiri (who chose to remain anonymous), village K1, Khammam district, December 1, 2007.

136 Ibid.

137 Human Rights Watch interview with Tati Somesh (pseudonym), IDP from Sunnamguda, village K11, Khammam district, December 8, 2007.  

138 See International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, adopted September 23, 2005, E/CN.4/2005/WG.22/WP.1/Rev.4 (2005). India signed but has yet to ratify the convention.

139 Human Rights Watch interview with Modiyam Geeta (pseudonym), IDP from Nendra, village K10, Khammam district, December 7, 2007.

140 Nandini Sundar and others v. State of Chhattisgarh, Sur-Rejoinder on Behalf of Respondent State of Chhattisgarh, April 10, 2008, p. 519, para. 15.

141 Independent Citizen’s Initiative, “War in the Heart of India, An Enquiry into the Ground Situation in Dantewada District, Chhattisgarh,” 2006, (accessed July 16, 2007); Asian Centre for Human Rights, “The Adivasis of Chhattisgarh, Victims of the Naxalite Movement and Salwa Judum Campaign,” 2006, (accessed June 7, 2006); People’s Union for Civil Liberties et al., “Where the State Makes War on its Own People, A Report on Violations of People’s Rights during the Salwa Judum Campaign in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh,” 2006, (accessed July 7, 2007).

142 Human Rights Watch interviews with Rahul Sharma, superintendent of police of Dantewada district, Dantewada, December 10, 2007 (first interview); Vishwa Ranjan, director general of police of Chhattisgarh, Raipur, December 17, 2007.  

143 Ibid.

144 Human Rights Watch interview with Rahul Sharma, second interview, February 1, 2008.

145 Human Rights Watch interview with Vishwa Ranjan, December 17, 2007.

146 See above, section IV, Abuses by Salwa Judum, and sections VA and VB for additional details regarding involvement of government security forces. 

147 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Sudha Bharadwaj, advocate, Raipur, May 31, 2008.

148 Nandini Sundar and others v. State of Chhattisgarh, Sur-Rejoinder on Behalf of Respondent State of Chhattisgarh, April 10, 2008, p. 519, para. 15. The Chhattisgarh government has stated that “[t]here are also instances in which FIRs [first information report of an offence] have been filed [by the police]” but has not furnished details.

Human Rights Watch interview with Rahul Sharma, first interview, December 10, 2007. SP Sharma said that SPOs had been removed.

149 Human Rights Watch requested additional details during interviews in December 2007 and February 2008. In May 2008, Human Rights Watch once again requested details of investigation and other action initated by the Chhattisgarh government in a written letter, without success.

150 Letter from superintendent of police of Dantewada, to public information officer, District Collectorate Dantewada (copied to Himanshu Kumar) No. M-1018/07, April 4, 2007.

151 Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993,, sec. 29 read with sec. 12.

152 Ibid.

153 Human Rights Watch group interview with Chairperson Singh and two other members, Chhattisgarh State Human Rights Commission, Raipur, December 17, 2007.

154 Ibid.  The Chhattisgarh SHRC members stated that between April 2005 and March 2006, they had received only two complaints on issues related to Naxalism, but were not sure whether these complaints emerged out of the conflict in Dantewada and Bijapur districts. In one of the cases in 2006, they had awarded compensation to the complainant—the complainant’s child was mistaken for a Naxalite and shot dead by the police. They were not able to furnish Human Rights Watch  with more details regarding this case. The SHRC members stated that they had not received any other complaints pertaining to the conflict between government security forces, Salwa Judum, and Naxalites.

155 Human Rights Watch interviews with Subash Mohapatra, Forum for Fact-Finding, Documentation, and Advocacy, Raipur, December 17, 2007; Himanshu Kumar, Vanvasi Chetna Ashram, Kawalnar, December 9, 2007. Mohapatra told Human Rights Watch that he had filed more than 300 complaints on a wide range of issues including human rights abuses in the context of the conflict in Bijapur and Dantewada districts, and said that a majority of them had gone uninvestigated.

156 Nandini Sundar and others v. State of Chhattisgarh, Criminal Miscellaneous Petition No. 6462 of 2008, Order, April 15, 2008, (accessed April 17, 2008).

157 Ibid.

158 Human Rights Watch interviews with Ratneshwar Nath, Kanker, January 25, 2008;  Rajendra Sail, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Raipur, December 17, 2007; K.P. Agarwal, advocate, Jagdalpur, February 2, 2008; Himanshu Kumar, first interview, December 9, 2007; Subash Mohapatra, Forum for Fact-Finding, Documentation, and Advocacy, Raipur, December 17, 2007; Kamlesh Paikra, former journalist, Dantewada, December 11, 2007.

159 Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, Act 14 of 226, (accessed March 25, 2008).  See box below for definition of “unlawful activities.”

160 “India: Draconian Response to Naxalite Violence,” Human Rights Watch news release, April 27, 2006,; Asian Centre for Human Rights, “The Adivasis of Chhattisgarh, Victims of the Naxalite Movement and Salwa Judum Campaign,” pp. 49-64; Independent Citizen’s Initiative, “War in the Heart of India,” pp. 41-42.

161 The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Act 37 of 1967.

Asian Centre for Human Rights, “The Adivasis of Chhattisgarh, Victims of the Naxalite Movement and Salwa Judum Campaign,” pp. 49-64. This report compares the provisions of the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005 with the provisions of the federal law, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. It details how the Chhattisgarh law has provisions that are broader with much lesser safeguards than the federal law.

162 Human Rights Watch interview with K.P. Agarwal, lawyer, Jagdalpur, February 2, 2008.

163 “List of Charges and Evidence Against Dr. Binayak Sen,” Tehelka Magazine, vol. 5, no. 7, February 23, 2008, (accessed March 21, 2008). 

164 “Release Dr. Binayak Sen, Repeal Chhattisgarh Act,” June 16, 2007 , (accessed March 14, 2008). “Demand to release doctor,” The Hindu, February 25, 2008,  (accessed March 14, 2008); People’s Union for Civil Liberties, “Through the Lens of National Security, The Case against Dr. Binayak Sen and the Attack on Civil Liberties,” report, January 2008, circulated on

165 Ibid.

166 Human Rights Watch interview with Himanshu Kumar, Vanvasi Chetna Ashram, Dantewada, February 1, 2008 (third interview). Human Rights Watch does not know whether the Chhattisgarh police have initiated any action after February 2008.

167 Human Rights Watch interview with Santosh Poonyem, Bijapur district chief bureau for Dainik Prakhar Samachar (Hindi newspaper), Bijapur, December 14, 2007.

168 Human Rights Watch interview with Kamlesh Paikra, former journalist, Dantewada, December 11, 2007.

169 Reporters sans Frontieres, “Journalists in trouble when reporting on tribes: Situation of freedom of expression in India’s Tribal State of Chhattisgarh,” undated, (accessed March 21, 2008).

170 Ibid; International Press Institute, “2006 World Press Review: India,” report, (accessed March 21, 2008).

171 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Manish Kunjam, former member of Chhattisgarh Legislative Assembly, Sukma, March 18, 2008

172 Ibid.

173 Human Rights Watch interview with Tati Dhiren (pseudonym), IDP from Pidmel, village K8, Khammam district, December 6, 2007.

174 Email communication from Shubhranshu Choudhary to Human Rights Watch, January 8, 2008.

175 Ibid.

176 Ibid.

177 Ibid.