Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently provided the media with another photo-op by helping an Adivasi woman in Bijapur wear her new slippers. But like much else in his government, the gesture is tokenistic – only one person per family of tendu leaf collectors gets the grand gift of slippers. In the meantime, not one person has been compensated for their houses and all their belongings – including slippers – being burnt during the time of the Salwa Judum.
Saying ‘Jai Bhim’ in Chhattisgarh counts for little if one cannot implement Babasaheb’s vision in practice. Would Ambedkar have been happy to see the constitution subverted by a government that cannot protect its young daughters, a party whose MLAs are accused of rape and whose ministers support rapists? The day the adivasis of Bastar who have been gangraped, whose relatives have been killed and whose houses have been burnt get justice is the day the government’s demand that the Maoists lay down arms will have some chance of being heard.
This is a story from exactly a year ago, April 2017, when security forces in Chintagufa village of Sukma district allegedly raped a minor girl. On April 2, at around 4 am, the girl and her mother were sleeping in the courtyard of their house when CRPF personnel came looking for her elder brother, who was supposedly a sangham member, or a village-level Maoist sympathiser. Her brother wasn’t there. Three men dragged her to a distance, and two of them took turns raping her, she said later. The other police/CRPF personnel stayed back, beat her mother and pushed her younger sisters inside the house and locked it. The victim was injured on the neck during the rape as photos taken at the time reveal. Due to the darkness, she could not identify the men who raped her.
The matter was first reported by a villager on April 3 last year and published in Nai Duniya on April 4 morning. That same article quoted the DIG, P. Sunder Raj, saying the allegations were false, mala fide and intended by ‘white-collar Naxals’ to tarnish the image of the police. All this before any police investigation, even though at first reporting, the reported rape clearly came under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offcences (POCSO) Act.. Instead, the journalist who reported the matter was questioned.