Endless cycle in Bastar: of 'fake' encounters and alleged rape
Have a close look at the picture of this slain woman. She is apparently wearing a uniform which Maoist cadres usually wear.
The Chhattisgarh police claims that this woman, Madkam Hidme, was a Maoist. She was allegedly killed in an encounter in the Sukma area on 13 June; more specifically, in the Gompad village of Bastar. The area falls under the jurisdiction of Inspector General K Sivarama Prasad Kalluri, known for his tough approach against Naxal insurgents.
Bastar is flooded with alleged Maoist encounters or surrenders these days.
According to Sukma's Superintendent of Police, EK Alesana, security jawans were out on a search patrol when 25-30 Maoists started firing at them at around 9am, in an area between Gompad and Gorwa. The security personnel retaliated, leading to the killing of Madkam Hidme, while the rest of the insurgents managed to escape.
The picture of this slain young woman went viral on social media, hours after the alleged encounter. Sources say the police released this photograph, a claim refuted by the police.
The police has not yet been able to find the person who leaked this photo on social media. While SP Alesana maintains that not only Hidme, but her father was also involved in Naxal activities, this photograph raises several questions.
Police officials have failed to explain why the woman's dress seems brand new, even after a fierce encounter. One can see the body does not even fit into the dress properly; the dress has been folded at the lower part. Why would an active Naxal wear a uniform that doesn't fit her?
While even the crease of the dress has been unaffected by the encounter, how is it that Hidme forgot to wear her belt, and went for the ambush in slippers?
Even the gun carried by Hidme is under the scanner. While the Maoists of the area are said to possess sophisticated weapons, why was Hidme carrying a simple country-made gun, locally known as 'bharmar bandook'.
Police officers say Hidme received three to five bullets, whereas social media posts claim her body was riddled with at least 20 bullet shots.
Even if the police claim is to be believed, why isn't a single bullet hole visible on the uniform?
All these loopholes in the police theory have led to suspicion about whether the uniform was put on her body after the encounter.
According to adivasi activist Soni Sori's nephew Lingaram Kodopi, Hidme was abducted on 12 June by security forces from Gompad village.
Villagers say Hidme was soon going to be married, and was thrashing paddy outside her home when the jawans picked her up.
Locals have also alleged she was raped before being murdered, and the Maoist uniform was later put on her body to cover up the crime.
The other Madkam Hidme
Social activist Himanshu Kumar says the police party was searching for another woman by the same name in the area, and Hidme paid the price for being her namesake.
The other Madkam Hidme was allegedly on the police radar, as she had filed a petition before the Supreme Court demanding an investigation into the alleged massacre of at least 16 adivasis at Gompad in October 2009.
The CoBRA battalion of the CRPF had allegedly entered Gompad village on 1 October 2009, and hacked 16 tribals to death. The dead persons included some senior citizens, as well as the mother of one-and-a-half-year-old child.
The jawans had also allegedly chopped off an old lady's breasts, and three fingers of a child.
Kumar, along with 12 villagers, had moved the Supreme Court, demanding justice in this matter. All the villagers, who were co-petitioners, have gone missing during the past seven years.
The state government had denied the existence of any woman by the name of Madkam Hidme in the village during court proceedings. However, this Hidme was even interviewed by a magazine in Delhi.
Kumar alleges police had exhumed the bodies of the slain adivasis a few days after the filing of the petition, and cut off their hands to erase the evidence.
"The court was considering handing over the probe of this massacre to an independent agency. The police department of Sukma and Dantewada was afraid after the tough stance taken by the court. It was conspiring to wipe-off all the evidence related to the case. Hidme's killing is part of the same conspiracy," alleges Kumar.
Alesana could not be approached to respond to this allegation, despite repeated attempts.
The ground situation
Meanwhile, the area surrounding Gompad village has been heavily fortified. Security personnel are not allowing anybody to enter the village. An inquiry team from the Congress party was prevented from visiting the village, citing security concerns. It is not clear yet what happened to Hidme's dead body.
However, adivasi activist and AAP leader Soni Sori has been demanding a probe into Hidme's killing. She has reportedly managed to take out Hidme's parents from the village, and taken them to court to file a petition demanding a re-postmortem of Hidme's dead body, to verify the allegations of rape.
The Aam Aadmi Party is demanding an SIT probe into the entire episode.
Translated by Deepak Sharma, edited by Shreyas Sharma
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