Tribal houses burnt by salwa judum members

Howra News
New Delhi

July 5: An independent fact-finding team of people’s groups which visited Lendra village of Dantewada district in Chhattisgarh on June 26 at the invitation of the Campaign for Peace and Justice found that 11 houses belonging to the adivasis had been completely burnt down and razed to the ground by salwa judum members.

Salwa judum, a campaign sponsored and supported by the Chhattisgarh government, allegedly handed out brutal reprisals for depositions by members of this village before the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). All their belongings were burnt down with the houses.

The NHRC was visiting Dantewada in June in connection with the Supreme Court’s orders in the salwa judum case of April 15, where the court asked the commission to investigate charges of human rights violations by salwa judum and report within eight weeks.

As per the resident tribals of Lendra, a group of more than 100 persons from the salwa judum camp at Erabor entered the village at around 8.30 am on June 15. The group was armed and some of them were in uniform. On seeing the advancing group, the tribals fled. However, two persons who could not flee were caught and beaten up. The attacking group then proceeded to burn down 11 houses in the hamlet.

The fact-finding team consisted of members from Madhya Pradesh, including the Narmada Bachao Andolan, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan and the Madhya Pradesh Mahila Manch.

Between 2005 and 2008, 16 men and women and at least nine children of Lendra village have been killed by members of the salwa judum and the special armed/paramilitary forces stationed in the district, Sridevi Panikkar from the Campaign for Peace and Justice said.

At least four women have allegedly been raped. Over 150 houses have been burnt down by salwa judum. It was to escape being thus brutally killed that most of the villagers of Lendra fled in 2006, after which salwa judum members allegedly burnt down their houses to prevent the villagers from returning. These were reports given by the villagers to the fact-finding team.

Some villagers who had fled to Andhra Pradesh came to Dantewada on June 10 to depose before the NHRC.

These adivasis were detained in Konta for several hours by salwa judum leaders on their return the next day and made to sign statements saying they had been lured by NGOs, Ms Panikkar said. The affidavits they had brought with them from other victims were taken away and copied.

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