India: community assaulted for protesting military campEvent
- Initial Date
- Dec 15, 2022
- Event Description
About the Human Rights Defenders: • Villagers of Gangaloor block in Chhattisgarh who are protesting the establishment of illegal paramilitary camps in Pusnar and Burji villages. • Moolwasi Bachao Manch is a civil society platform steered by educated youth that works towards protecting the constitutional, legal and cultural rights of socially marginalised groups. The Moolwasi Bachao Manch also spearheads similar ongoing peaceful protests against paramilitary camps proposed/set up without gram sabha consent in several other places in south Bastar area of Chhattisgarh such as Silger, Nahadi and Dharmaram.
Background of the Incident: Villagers in Gangaloor block in the Maoist-insurgency affected Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh have been opposing the establishment of new paramilitary camp in Burji village without due process. In end-2021, villagers – predominantly tribals – began a peaceful sit-in protest at Burji village, located 3 km away from Gangaloor police station, demanding the withdrawal of all proposed security camps in the block. The dharna was organised under the banner of Moolwasi Bachao Manch, and a stage and temporary shelters were constructed at the venue to facilitate the indefinite protest. Hundreds of villagers including men, women and children from Gangaloor and adjacent blocks took turns to visit the dharna site every day for over a year to participate in the protest. The protestors alleged that proposed paramilitary camps in Burji and Pusnar villages were in violation of provisions in the Forest Rights Act, 2006 and the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, as they did not have consent from gram sabhas.
They demanded withdrawal of proposed paramilitary camps, and protested against the construction of a concrete road through the farm lands of hundreds of families in Gangaloor, Pusnar, Hiroli and other villages. They also demanded justice for the victims of police firing in Silger village (May 2021) and other encounters in Bastar. Activists from Moolwasi Bachao Manch also met and/or wrote to various government authorities in 2021 and 2022 demanding withdrawal of proposed paramilitary camps. Details of the Incident: Shortly after midnight on December 15, 2022, a large contingent of police and paramilitary personnel led by Mr. Anjaneya Varshney, Superintendent of Police Bijapur; Mr. Ashok Patel, Divisional Forest Officer; Mr. Pavan Verma, Officer in Charge, Gangaloor Police station; and Officer in Charge, Bijapur Kotwali Police station arrived at the protest spot in Burji in official vehicles. The police used brute force to break up the peaceful assembly of about 200 protestors. They bulldozed the stage and temporary shelters set up by protestors and destroyed or threw away their belongings such as rice, dal, vegetables, utensils, and clothes. When villagers and activists from Moolwasi Bachao Manch protested against the vandalism, police began a lathi-charge. They charged at protestors, many of whom were still asleep, and hit them with batons, forcing them to flee from the dharna site. The police force then moved to Pusnar. At 10 AM on December 15, 2022, when the protestors started trickling back to the protest site, they chased away villagers who, hitting them with batons. Meanwhile, other police and paramilitary personnel proceeded to Pusnar village, located 7-8 km away through dense forests, where they set up a security camp within a few hours. More than 25 protestors suffered serious injuries on their head, back, hands and legs due to the assault by police. Though many of them were unable to walk or stand upright for over a week, they did not visit the government hospital or access medical treatment fearing intimidation and arrest by police. Since the construction of the camp in Pusnar, police and paramilitary personnel stationed there have not allowed villagers to harvest their crops in farmlands in the vicinity of the camp. Police also beat and chase away villagers when they venture into the forest to fetch firewood and other forest produce. Tribal villagers and Moolwasi Bachao Manch activists who were part of the dharna in Burji had been highlighting violation of their constitutional and legal rights through peaceful means for over one year. While the government paid little heed to their concerns, a security camp was established in Pusnar overnight on December 15, 2022. It also appears that police personnel led by the Deputy Superintendent of Bijapur unleashed violent reprisals and assault on protestors on two occasions.
- Impact of Event
- Gender of HRD
- Other (e.g. undefined, organisation, community)
- Violence (physical)
- Rights Concerned
- Freedom of assembly
- Freedom of expression
- Right to healthy and safe environment
- Right to Protest
- Community-based HRD
Case shared by FORUM-ASIA member People's Watch
- Monitoring Status
- Event Location
- Event Location
- Summary for Publications
On 15 December 2022, around 200 villagers and community-based defenders were brutally assaulted by the police that raided overnight their temporary shelters when protesting the setting up of a military camp in Bijapur District, India.