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Watch: Why is repression against Adivasis not getting due media attention, asks Bela Bhatia


For more than a decade now, Bastar in Chhattisgarh has been a story of violations of human rights and exploitation of natural resources, a region caught between the Naxal insurgency and the brutal state violence in the name of counter-insurgency.

In this heavily militarised and resource-rich tribal region, innocent villagers are routinely killed in fake encounters and passed off as Maoists, women are raped and molested by the security forces, young men are captured and made to stage surrender as rebels.

Those who dare call out such atrocities are branded "Naxal supporters" and made to fear for their lives by state-sponsored vigilante groups, if not jailed or killed.

Local journalists and activists have been assaulted and imprisoned, while activists from outside have been intimidated and hounded out. Last October, the security forces themselves burnt effigies of activists, including those who had complained to the Supreme Court about police excesses.

In recent weeks, a false case of murder was filed against the academic Nandini Sundar, and lawyers Shalini Gera and Isha Khandelwal of the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group as well as the journalist Malini Subramaniam were forced to leave Bastar.

On Monday, at a press conference organised by Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF) in Delhi, tribal rights' activist Soni Sori, academic Bela Bhatia and CPI leader Manish Kunjam - all of whom have been attacked for defending human rights - spoke about their experiences in Bastar.

Catch caught up with Bhatia, the Bastar-based researcher and activist who was the latest target of intimidation by a new state-sponsored "anti-Maoist" vigilante group called AGNI (Action Group for National Integrity).

On 22 January, a mob of some 30 men threatened to burn down her house at Parpa village in Bastar if she did not leave within 24 hours. Following an outcry from activists from across the country, Chief Minister Raman Singh met her a few days later and assured her of safety. The family of her landlord continues to be harassed, however.

In this two-part video interview with Catch, Bela Bhatia talks about how she came to work in Bastar, and explains the larger problem in the region (in the first part), and details the latest attack on her (in the second part).

One point Bela Bhatia stresses no end: she is going to "stay put" in Bastar no matter what.