Raipur: Chhattisgarh’s Naxal-hit Dantewada district is said to be witnessing an unprecedented trend. Police said villagers are coming forward to lodge complaints against Maoists, and this did not usually happen before.
According to the Dantewada police, the residents of Chikpal, Parcheli and Nahadi villages have accused the Maoists of assaulting them after rounding them up on different occasions. The incidents occurred over the last one month.
The first incident reportedly occurred at Parcheli village on the night of 17 July. The FIR in the particular case said “seven known Naxals” brutally assaulted 10-15 villagers, allegedly hitting a few of the male victims on their private parts rendering them immobile. Security forces, the FIR stated, moved them to hospital.
The second FIR was registered against “11 named Moaists” for mass assault on villagers at Nahadi on 21 July. This FIR was registered on 24 July.
The latest FIR was lodged on 20 August, over an incident that had occurred in Chikpal a day earlier. It said 10 villagers, including a 12-year-old girl, were assaulted by Maoists. Their medical reports said they had bruises on their backs and above thighs.
The FIR has been registered against 25 named and several unnamed Maoists based on the complaint of the 12-year-old’s father, said the police.
Bawan Markan, 30, a villager, said he fled home when the Maoists came on the night of 19 August, and he is yet to go back.
“I fled from my home and reached Katekalyan, around 10 km from the village, through dense forest,” he said. “They mercilessly thrashed my father, two sisters and mother along with several other villagers. They took away Rs 40,000 and my father’s mobile phone. I am still in hiding as my parents have asked me not to return home even if they are killed.”
Naming a few local Maoists whose names appear in the FIR, Bawan added, “They were angry as we asked for roads, schools and houses from the government. We raised our demands before the Dantewada SP who had come to the village for flag hoisting on Independence Day. Someone has informed the Maoists about the demands we raised before the SP. This irked them and they assaulted the villagers.”
The police have made no arrests so far.
Villagers filing FIRs departure from the past
Dantewada Superintendent of Police Dr Abhishek Pallava told ThePrint that it is unprecedented for villagers in this Naxal stronghold to file police complaints. The change, according to Pallava, is due to the Maoists allegedly rounding up and assaulting entire villages as opposed to those they just saw as ‘police informers’.
According to senior police officers, mass assaults by Maoists have occurred only four times since the state was formed in 2000. Apart from the three recent incidents, the only other such instance was at Phulpad village in Dantewada on 5 September 2018.
“Although around 15-20 villagers were brutally assaulted by the Maoists, no one dared lodging complaints against them despite our ardent efforts to persuade the villagers,” Pallava said. “In the last three instances, however, villagers who were slogged mercilessly have lodged FIRs against named and unknown naxals in all three incidents that took place between 17 July and 19 August this year.”
The 2018 Phulpad incident had led to an outcry, and prompted a fact-finding mission by a team of academicians and social activists.
“From what villagers said, it seemed the Maoists were resentful of the fact that they (the villagers) had associated with the government in various ways. For instance, by building Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana houses, by going along with the construction of an approach road and by participating in cricket-related activities organised in Phulpad by a local government functionary who is a BJP leader,” academician Bela Bhatia said of the 2018 case.
“A change in villagers’ approach is perceptible in some parts of Maoist areas. They are now willing to face Maoists and reach out to the security forces,” said P. Sundarraj, IG Bastar. “This has happened mainly as security forces have increased their camps in areas close to the villages dominated by Maoists. Around 2-3 new camps of security forces have come up in Dantewada district in the last couple of years.”