Naxalites have been responsible for numerous abuses.316 In the course of what they claim to be a popular peoples war, their methods have included intimidation, threats, abductions, beatings, torture, and summary executions. Their victims include village leaders and other persons of high standing, and villagers who either refuse to cooperate with them or are suspected of being police informers. They also demand money, food, and shelter from villagers. Naxalites also recruit children into different Naxalite departments, including their armed wing, and therefore expose children to risks of fighting during anti-Naxalite combing operations by government security forces.
The usual Naxalite method of establishing authority over an area is to initially target sarpanches (village officials), rich landowners, priests, and other influential village elders like patels (village headmen).Sarpanches are representatives of the state and thus considered a threat to the Naxalite leadership. Police superintendent G.P. Singh explained, Naxalites have deliberately tried to eliminate leadership, particularly tribal leadership who can challenge Naxal authority.317
According to one man, the son of a landowner, who now lives near Jagdalpur town,
Naxalites beat and kill villagers, particularly people they suspect of being police informers, and village leaders including sarpanches, patels, and priests. In some cases, these beatings and killings follow a jan adalat (peoples court). Naxalites organize such jan adalats to conduct public trials and punish offenders. For instance, wealthy landowners are brought before such a court and asked to hand over a portion of their assets for redistribution among the poorer villagers; those that dare to oppose the sentence or ruling are beaten. Suspected police informers or traitors may be sentenced to death.
The fairness of any justice system should be tested against international human rights law criteria that include independence, impartiality, and competency of judges, presumption of innocence, right to legal counsel and adequate time for preparation of defense, and the right to appeal.319 Jan adalats fail to meet any of these standards.
Subba Atish, a former Naxalite said he had participated in two jan adalats and seen four villagers being executed:
Another former Naxalite, Satyam David, agreed that it was difficult to win acquittal before a jan adalat. From his own experience he surmised that the only way that one could get acquitted in jan adalats is by garnering the support of some Naxalites. Before he became a jan militia (armed infomers) member and when he was in school, Naxalites had accused Satyam of being a police informer. He was abducted and taken before a jan adalat. He was acquitted, however, because his parents convinced some sangam (village-level Naxalite association) members to support him.321
Subba Atish described how four people were executed by two jan adalats. Two of the four were found guilty of conspiring against Naxalite commanders, and two others were found guilty of informing the police about a Naxalite ambush. In all four cases the punishment was implemented immediately after the sentence was imposed, leaving no opportunity to appeal against the decisions. Atish described,
Naxalite policing is also often abusive. Veera Etishan described how Naxalites tried to resolve fights between family members and punished those who did not heed their advice:
Naxalites imprisoned another villager for his alleged offenses. Veera Etishan described how Sukku was locked up in a school in Nendra for a month. The villagers would release him and make him do work during the day, and then lock him up in the evenings, he said.324
Naxalites also threaten families of those they suspect of being police informers. For instance, they repeatedly visited Vattam Fanus family after he ran away from his village to escape Naxalite recruitment. He said,
His parents told him that they were constantly under threat from Naxalites who continuously demanded money, or insisted that their son was a police informer. Vattam Fanu was forced to intervene to prevent this harassment:
He escaped because some villagers came to his defense and Naxalites let him go. After this he left his village for the second time.327
After Vattam Fanus second flight, Naxalites raided his house at least twice and looted grains and jewelry. He said he then approached the police for assistance. The police began to use him as an informer and a guide. In January 2007 he was given a police job. When Naxalites found that he had joined the police they attacked his family:
Similarly, Naxalites beat and harassed Himesh Karans family because he joined the police. He had worked with the police as an informer since 2002 and was accepted into the police force in 2006. He said,
As recently as late January 2008, Naxalites held a meeting in Himesh Karans village and attacked his brothers again:
Naxalites also threaten villagers and enlist their support in different ways. Dhula Janak, for instance, said that he was forced to provide assistance to Naxalites:
The police, after questioning him, offered protection if he switched sides. He still fears for his life:
The most frequent complaint against Naxalites is their extortion of food and money. One villager complained that Naxalites demand food grains from them even when they do not have enough to feed their families:
In another case, Pradeep Rao saw Naxalites extorting money from his sarpanch-uncle:
Naxalites collect fines from families that do not attend their meetings. Some villagers complained that they were forced to pay fines of 50 or 100 rupees (roughly UD$1-2) out of their meager income.335 Said one villager,
Naxalites use landmines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to attack government security forces. Casualties from Naxalite use of landmines and IEDs increased after Salwa Judum began in June 2005. Human Rights Watch gathered information from news reports, NGOs, and government sources on approximately 30 landmine and IED explosions between June 2005 and December 2007.337 These explosions largely targeted government security forces, usually using remote trigger mechanisms. However, such explosions have also killed and injured civilians on numerous occasions.
International humanitarian law requires that parties to a conflict never target civilians, only military objectives. Police are only considered valid military targets when the police force is incorporated into the armed forces338 or during the time they are taking a direct part in hostilities.339 International humanitarian law prohibits the use of weapons, including landmines and IEDs, in a manner whose effects cannot discriminate between military targets and civilians.340 When landmines are used, particular care must be taken to minimize the indiscriminate effects.341 Whether or not a particular Naxalite attack is lawful under international humanitarian law, it still may be prosecuted as a criminal offense under Indian law.
In February 2006 Vasanti Kumars sisters were returning from a Salwa Judum meeting when their truck was blown up. An NGO fact-finding team reported that the blast killed around 27 people and severely injured another 30, most of whom were believed to be civilians residing in Salwa Judum camps.342 Vasanti Kumar claimed that out of a truck-load of people only 20 survived the blast.343 She lost a friend in the blast while her two sisters were injured.
In October 2007, three peoplea civilian and two special police officers (SPOs)were being transported to a hospital when their tractor was blown up in a landmine. Another SPO who was part of police party that was following the tractor said,
In another incident, one villager described how he survived a landmine blast in 2007. He was in an ambulance escorting an injured girl, who herself had been injured in another landmine blast in Jagargonda, when the ambulance hit a mine believed to be placed by the Naxalites. He said,
Naxalites regard Salwa Judum as a serious threat to their influence in the area. After the movement began in June 2005, Naxalites have abducted, tortured, and executed villagers whom they believed were Salwa Judum supporters or supporters family members. Satyam David had gone to Konta for work and was accused of attending a Salwa Judum meeting. I was really scared, he said. I thought they [Naxalites] would kill me. Naxalites had already announced, We will kill anyone who attends a Salwa Judum meeting. We will also kill their families.346 Satyam David, a Naxalite himself, ran away and joined the police.
Villagers who left voluntarily or were forced into Salwa Judum camps risk being assaulted or killed by Naxalites in retaliation if they attempt to return to their villages. Describing their predicament, one villager said, [b]eing neutral is our biggest crime.347 Villagers we interviewed gave us information about 49 people who were killed for allegedly supporting Salwa Judum.348
One woman described the killing of her husband who had been forcibly brought into a camp by Salwa Judum members and government security forces. She said,
Another woman who was abducted and released by Naxalites in April 2006 recounted her experience:
Emla Dhruvesh, another victim of Naxalite abduction stated that on July 8, 2006, Naxalites stopped the public bus that he was traveling in near Manikonta on the national highway. They blocked all traffic and forced travelers including him to attend a meeting nearby. Naxalites were making speeches against Salwa Judum and telling everyone not to support them, said Emla Dhruvesh.
After the meeting most of the travelers were allowed to leave. But Naxalites recognized him and kept him back. Earlier they used to tell me to join them. They knew I was educated, he said. He and three others were blindfolded. Their hands were tied behind their backs. They were then marched for what Emla Dhruvesh thinks must be at least two kilometers. Finally we reached their camp and our blindfolds were removed. There were at least 40-50 Naxalites resting there. They had all kinds of weapons. One of the commanders began to question him. They said that his brother was an SPO and beat him with rifles and sticks. He begged for mercy and explained that he did not follow politics and was studying in a college in Sukma. He even showed them identification documents from his college. Emla Dhruvesh recognized a local village council leader and another villager among those in Naxalite custody along with him. In the evening, all the prisoners were given food. The prisoners were then paired up, and their wrists tied together. A small group of Naxalites began to march them through the forest when he managed to escape. He described,
Emla Dhruvesh was beaten so badly that after his escape he was admitted to a hospital. On the day he ran away, Naxalites attacked the Errabore camp and his brother was killed in the attack.
Similarly, several villagers told Human Rights Watch that they knew camp residents who were killed by Naxalites:352
Not only were camp residents abducted and killed, in 2006 Naxalites also attacked the Errabore camp itself. They killed at least 25 people, injured several others, and destroyed property.354 According to eyewitness accounts, the attack was well planned. Dasru Mangesh said he was on guard duty along with other villagers at the Errabore camp on July 17, 2006, when it was attacked by Naxalites. He had no weapons apart from his bow and arrows:
Five members of Dasru Mangeshs family were killed that nighthis father, brother, and three uncles. Dasru Mangesh maintained that his family was attacked by Naxalites: I know who killed my family. There were local Naxalites in that group and I recognized some of them.356
Naxalite retribution against SPOs has been particularly vicious. In March 2007, Naxalites attacked a police outpost in Rani Bodli (Bijapur district) and killed at least 55 policemen and SPOs. A victims sister said that when they recovered her brothers body there were signs of genital mutilation and the eyeballs had been deliberately pierced.357
In December 2007 some camp residents told Human Rights Watch that they had seen pamphlets inviting villagers to go back.358 The Dantewada police superintendent also claimed, Naxalites are now abducting villagers, counseling them to return to their villages, and sending them back.359
Not surprisingly, many camp residents said that they do not want to immediately return to their villages for fear of Naxalite reprisal.
Naxalites have been merciless when it comes to punishing members who desert them. Four former Naxalites interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that after they deserted Naxalites retaliated by killing members of their family, including children.360 Tarrem Kosa, a former child dalam member, said, What I thought was theres no point in asking them [when I could leave]. The only point is to die with them.361 When he eventually deserted and sought police protection, Naxalites punished his family:
When Vikas Modhey, another former child dalam member deserted, his brother met the same fate:
When Subba Atish deserted, not only did Naxalites kill his family members but they also killed members of their own jan militia who they thought were behind his escape. Subbas brother was brought before a jan adalat in January 2007 and executed. He was first beaten and then axed to death. Within weeks, seven others including two relativeshis sisters husband and a cousins husband had been killed in retribution. All the eight were jan militia members.364 Said Subba Atish, I thought they would kill me because I left [my dalam]. I never imagined that all these people [friends and relatives] would be killed because of me.365
Human Rights Watch was unable to directly correspond or speak with official Naxalite representatives. However, we were able to gather some Naxalite responses through press statements of the CPI (Maoist) party (a prominent Naxalite political party), and have reviewed their letter to the Independent Citizens Initiative, a fact-finding team from India that investigated the conflict between Naxalites, Salwa Judum, and government security forces in Chhattisgarh. The letter responds to an appeal made by the fact-finding team to the CPI (Maoist) party and attempts to justify many Naxalite practices.366
Soon after the Naxalite attack on Errabore camp in 2006, the general secretary of the CPI (Maoist) party, Ganapathi, issued a press statement where he sought to justify the attack as part of retaliatory actions and defence war against Salwa Judum members and government security forces, and denied extensive civilian casualties:
Naxalites tried to justify their killing of civilians in Manikonta in April 2006 as the execution of a verdict passed by people in the Manikonta jan adalat (peoples court) following a trial that afforded due process to the accused, and denied that innocent persons were killed:
They further sought to justify their killings of policemen as a measure of last resort:
None of these statements provide a lawfully acceptable justification for unfair trials and summary executionsthey are instances of abuse for which those responsible should be held to account.
Notably, the CPI (Maoist) statement does not deny Naxalite use of landmines, though it claims landmine use is limited and attempts to shift the blame for its use of such an indiscriminate weapon onto the Salwa Judum campaign:
316 In the event that the conflict in Chhattisgarh amounts to a non-international armed conflict under international humanitarian law (the laws of war), all parties to the conflict are bound by article 3 common to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and customary international humanitarian law.
317 Human Rights Watch interview with G. P. Singh, superintendent of police of Bastar district, Jagdalpur, January 26, 2008.
318 Human Rights Watch interview with villager from Bastar district (name and details withheld).
319 See, for example ICCPR, arts. 6 and 14; see also common article 3 to the 1949 Geneva Conventions (a party to a conflict is prohibited at all times from the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples).
320 Human Rights Watch interview with Subba Atish (pseudonym), former Naxalite, other details withheld.
321 Human Rights Watch interview with Satyam David (pseudonym), former Naxalite, other details withheld.
322 Human Rights Watch interview with Subba Atish (pseudonym).
323 Human Rights Watch interview with Veera Etishan (pseudonym), former Naxalite, other details withheld.
325 Human Rights Watch interview with Vattam Fanu (pseudonym), SPO, other details withheld.
329 Human Rights Watch interview with Himesh Karan (pseudonym), location withheld, January 27, 2008.
331 Human Rights Watch interview with Dhula Janak (pseudonym), location and other details withheld.
333 Human Rights Watch interview with Prateek (pseudonym), IDP from Sankanpalli, village W4, Warangal district, November 30, 2007.
334 Human Rights Watch interviews with Pradeep Rao (pseudonym), IDP from Chinch Dongri, other details withheld.
335 Human Rights Watch group interview with Oyam Suresh and Kadti Soman (pseudonyms), camp residents, other details withheld.
336 Human Rights Watch interview with villager (who chose to remain anonymous), other details withheld.
337 Chhattisgarh police, List of Naxalite attacks in 2006-07, (unpublished); Landmine Survivors Network, World Landmine News, May 19, 2005, http://www.landminesurvivors.org/news_article.php?id=488 (accessed March 29, 2008); December 22, 2006, http://www.landminesurvivors.org/news_article.php?id=718 (accessed March 29, 2008); January 16, 2007, https://www.landminesurvivors.org/news_article.php?id=733 (accessed March 29, 2008); Two injured in Chhattisgarh blast, India eNews, May 15, 2007, http://www.indiaenews.com/india/20070515/51757.htm (accessed March 29, 2008); CRPF jawan killed, three injured in IED blast, Sahara Samay, May 18, 2007, http://www.saharasamay.com/samayhtml/articles.aspx?newsid=75691 (accessed March 29, 2008); Naxalite Watch, Naxalite blast kills 3 in Bastar, post to Naxalite Terror Watch (blog), June 6, 2007, http://naxalwatch.blogspot.com/2007/06/Naxalite-blast-kills-3-in-bastar.html (accessed March 29, 2008); Naxal Terror Watch, Two policemen injured in a blast in Chhattisgarh, post to Naxalite Terror Watch (blog), June 17, 2007, http://naxalwatch.blogspot.com/2007/06/two-policemen-injured-in-blast-in.html (accessed March 29, 2008); Maoist landmine blast kills 10 policemen in Chhattisgarh, November 2, 2007, http://in.reuters.com/article/topNews/idINIndia-30297320071102 (accessed March 29, 2008).
338 See International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Henckaerts & Doswald-Beck, eds.,Customary International Humanitarian Law, Volume I (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), rule 4. India is one of only several states not party to the 1997 Ottawa Convention prohibiting the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of anti-personnel landmines (Mine Ban Treaty).
339 Ibid, rule 6.
340 Ibid, rule 12.
341 Ibid, rule 81.
342 Independent Citizens Initiative, War in the Heart of India, An Enquiry into the Ground Situation in Dantewada District, Chhattisgarh, 2006, http://rightsandresources.org/blog/WarintheHeartofIndia.pdf (accessed July 16, 2007), p. 12.
343 Human Rights Watch interview with Vasanti Kumar (pseudonym), IDP from Pandiguda, location withheld, December 6, 2007.
344 Human Rights Watch interview with Satti Krishna (pseudonym), SPO, other details withheld. See above, section III, Background, for more information regarding SPOs.
345 Human Rights Watch interview with villager from Dornapal (name and location withheld), date withheld.
346 Human Rights Watch interview with Satyam David (pseudonym), former Naxalite, other details withheld.
347 Human Rights Watch interview with Modiyam Lokesh (pseudonym), camp resident, Dornapal camp, date withheld.
348 Human Rights Watch interviews with Apka Karthik (pseudonym), camp resident, Konta camp, December 9, 2007; Kishore Nanda (pseudonym), student, location withheld, January 26, 2008; Mangesh (pseudonym), student, location withheld, January 27, 2008; Umang Deep (pseudonym), camp resident of Dornapal camp, location confidential. January 28, 2008; Kaskul Naiyya (pseudonym), IDP from Nayapara, village K3, Khammam district, December 2, 2007; woman who was abducted (who chose to remain anonymous), other details withheld; Emla Dhruvesh (pseudonym), camp resident, other details withheld; Dasru Mangesh (pseudonym), SPO, other details withheld.
349 Human Rights Watch interview with Kadtam Urmila (pseudonym), camp resident, Dornapal camp, December 12, 2007.
350 Human Rights Watch interview with villager (who chose to remain anonymous), camp resident, Dornapal, December 12, 2007.
351 Human Rights Watch Interview with Emla Dhruvesh (pseudonym), camp resident, Errabore, date withheld.
352 Human Rights Watch interviews with Kaskul Naiyya (pseudonym), IDP from Nayapara, village K3, Khammam district, December 2, 2007; villager from Gorgonda, location withheld, December 12, 2007; villager from Pottenar (who chose to remain anonymous), location withheld, December 14, 2007.
353 Human Rights Watch interview with Umang Deep (pseudonym), Dornapal camp resident, other details withheld.
354 Major Naxalite attack in Chhattisgarh, 25 killed, http://www.expressindia.com/news/fullstory.php?newsid=71166, July 17, 2006; Subodh Ghildiyal, Naxalites massacre 26 tribals in Dantewada,The Times of India, July 18, 2006, http://epaper.timesofindia.com/APA26300/PrintArt.asp?SkinFolder=pastissues2 (accessed September 12, 2007). 27 Salva Judum activists killed, The Hindu, July 18, 2006, http://www.thehindu.com/2006/07/18/stories/2006071814800100.htm (accessed September 12, 2007).
355 Human Rights Watch interview with Dasru Mangesh (pseudonym), SPO, other details withheld.
357 Human Rights Watch interview with villager (name and details withheld).
358 Human Rights Watch group interview with camp residents (who chose to remain anonymous), Jangla camp, December 14, 2007.
359 Human Rights Watch interview with Rahul Sharma, superintendent of police of Dantewada district, Dantewada, December 10, 2007 (first interview).
360 Human Rights Watch interviews with Tarrem Kosa, Vikas Modhey, Sushovan Banu, and Subba Atish (pseudonyms), former Naxalites, other details withheld.
361 Human Rights Watch interview with Tarrem Kosa (pseudonym).
363 Human Rights Watch interview with Vikas Modhey (pseudonym).
364 Human Rights Watch interview with Subba Atish (pseudonym).
366 Independent Citizens Initiative, War in the Heart of India, pp. 48-49.
367 Press statement issued by CPI (Maoist) General Secretary Ganapathi, circulated on CGNet yahoo group on May 4, 2007.
368 Letter from Ganapathi, secretary general, CPI (Maoist), to the Independent Citizens Initiative, October 10, 2006, http://www.cgnet.in/N1/maoistreplytoici/view?searchterm=reply (accessed February 20, 2008), para. 3.
369 Ibid, para. 2.
370 Ibid, para. 4.