“They have told me that I cannot go to the jungle any more. I don’t know how I will work on my farm, which is around a kilometre from the village and inside a forest. How will I earn my livelihood? I have to take care of my children. I have been living in constant fear. I am not a Maoist and have not done anything wrong.”
These are the words of Lakshman Madavi, 33, who was among the 121 men acquitted in July after five years of wrongful imprisonment in the in Bastar. After the court verdict, Lakshman had hoped to start life afresh, with his wife Vijaya and two children aged 13 and nine, who were struggling to make ends meet without him. But just 10 days later, Vijaya died of brain haemorrhage, and three months later, Lakshman was allegedly picked up by the CRPF’s CoBRA battalion and accused of Maoist links – again.
“They were telling me that I regularly go to the forest to meet Maoists and they are receiving a lot of complaints about me. I do not understand why I have been targeted. I am already trying to cope up with the problems in my life and now this new problem has cropped up,” he said.
Newslaundry reached out to CRPF’s Sukma DIG Arvind Rai, but he didn’t respond to our queries. This report will be updated if he does.
Newslaundry had earlier on the plight of the 121 men who were jailed for five years for a crime they did not commit.
On October 23, Lakshman was taken to the Burkapal police camp and interrogated by CoBRA personnel. “It was noon and some of my friends had come home to meet me. The police barged into my house and took me with them. They interrogated me and alleged that I was connected to Maoists and had gone to the jungle to meet them. They also alleged that I was involved in a recent IED blast. They began hitting me. I informed them that I have been acquitted by court recently and have lost my wife.”
Denying all the accusations made against him, Lakshman claimed that he was released at around 5 pm after an intervention by local residents and that he had only left the village once to attend a funeral of a relative. He said he had not even visited his farm but it was time to harvest his crop now.
In 2016, before he was jailed for five years, Lakshman’s father was killed by Maoists on suspicion of being a police informer. “Now the police are again trying to frame him in another Maoist case,” said Vijay Sodi, a relative of Lakshman.
Lakshman’s is not the only case of alleged rights violation by security forces in Bastar. Nine days after his detention, Pandu Muchaki, 28, husband of Burkapal’s sarpanch, was taken from his home while he was watching a cricket match. At the Burkapal camp, Muchaki alleged he was assaulted and forced to admit that he had carried out the IED blast along with Lakshman.
Muchaki said that he went to the CPRF camp and informed senior officials as police personnel at the Chintagufa police station allegedly refused to file a complaint when he approached them the day after. “Those officials assured me that they will look into the matter. They are unnecessarily targeting us. They have slapped restrictions on us to go into the jungle. This is unfair,” he said.
Chintagufa SHO Ashok Yadav said, “I wasn’t at the police station that day. But if they come again to report the matter, I will register their complaint and investigate the matter.”
Arvind Netam, a former union minister and an advocate for Chhattisgarh’s Adivasis, said, “Neither the central government nor the state government is able to understand the plight of Adivasis in Bastar. Bastar is governed by security forces and the government in centre as well as state support them even for wrong actions. It’s a pathetic condition and the tribals hardly get any support from any government.”
Asked about the government’s efforts to protect Adivasis in such cases, RP Singh, a Congress spokesperson in Chhattisgarh, told Newslaundry, “I cannot comment on such issues. You should talk to the police about it. However, I will look into the matter.”