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Will the Union of India and the Government of Chhattisgarh explain the existence of craters and bomb remnants in the forests of Sukma and Bijapur? | Press Release National Campaign to Defend Democracy (April 27, 2022)

Friday 29 April 2022




27th April 2022

We are extremely concerned about news reports that allege aerial attacks by indeterminate platforms on the intervening night of 14-15 April 2022, in the villages of Bijapur and Sukma districts including, interalia Bottetong and Mettagudem (Usoor block), Duled, Sakler, Pottemangi (Konta block). (A partial list of reports is enclosed).

Photos from the ground by reporters from Bottetong village, Mettaguda and other places show remnants of ordnance explosives and craters in the jungles, as well as forest cover destroyed. They quote villagers as saying that there were loud noises and flashes of fire from the forest.

It must be noted that the forests are not “uninhabited”. This is peak mahua collecting season when villagers, especially women and children, wake up early (3 AM) to collect mahua before it becomes hot during the day. People are constantly going into the forests to collect non-timber forest products, graze their cattle, perform routine ablutions and so on. Given the extensive access to the forest by civilians, aerial attacks on forests amount to direct hostilities against civilians.

The police deny the use of drones to carry out the alleged bombing. However, they still need to explain the existence of craters and remnants of wires and other ordnance material in the forest. It is important that the authorities clarify the type of ammunition used and the reasons for this type of raid. It may be recalled that in 2010 the then Air Chief Marshal had said “the military are not trained for limited lethality. The weapons we have are meant for the enemy across the border. Therefore, I am not in favour of use of air force in situations like the Naxal problem (The Hindu, 7 April 2010).” Ironically, now the same appears to have happened, though it may not involve the Air Force per se. The dangers of innocent Adivasis falling prey to the use of lethal ammunition and sophisticated attacks cannot be explained as "collateral" damage. Such actions potentially targeting civilians need to be stopped immediately.

This incident raises the following questions:

1. Under what law are the Centre and State allegedly carrying out aerial attacks, with drones or other platforms, in these areas?

2. If there is evidence of air-dropped lethal ammunition, the Government can no longer deny that what is happening in Chhattisgarh is a ‘non-international armed conflict’ and not a mere ‘law and order’ problem. Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions which India has ratified prohibits inhumane treatment of civilians. Further, India must sign on to Additional Protocol II of the Geneva Conventions which enhance civilian protection. In any case, India is bound by customary international law prohibiting the indiscriminate use of ordnance.

3. If the Government is claiming the aerial raid reports are Maoist propaganda, why does it not order an independent investigation or issue a white paper on this?

We demand that the Governments at Centre and State -

1. Do not conduct any aerial attacks in Chhattisgarh or any other Adivasi area.

2. Engage in dialogue with villagers protesting against security camps, fake encounters, and mass arrests.

3. Address human rights violations by security forces. Despite clear-cut findings by more than one Judicial Enquiry, CBI, NHRC and the Supreme Court that there have been grave violations of human rights in Chhattisgarh by the security forces, no action has been taken against them. To begin with, the Government must provide justice to the innocent victims of mass killings by security forces in Sarkeguda and Edesmetta and to the victims of mass arson, rape and killing in Tadmetla, Timapuram and Morpalli. The cases of murder, sexual assault and rape by security forces that have been brought to the notice of the NHRC and Courts must be prosecuted.

4. Stop militarizing Bastar with additional battalions and security camps.

5. Disband the DRG (District Reserve Group) as directed by the Supreme Court in 2011 which banned the use of SPOs (Special Police Officers) and surrendered Naxalites in counterinsurgency operations against Maoists, under any name.

6. Engage in peace talks with the CPI (Maoist).

List of news reports from the ground:


Signed by the following organisations and individuals

1. People’s Union for Civil Liberties, V. Suresh, (PUCL) General Secretary
2. National Federation of Indian Women, (NFIW) Annie Raja, General Secretary
3. Human Rights Forum, (HRF) Gutta Rohit
4. Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan, (CBA) Bela Bhatia
5. National Alliance of People’s Movements, (NAPM) Arundhuti Dhuru, Meera Sanghamitra.
6. All India Progressive Women’s Association, (AIPWA) Kavita Krishnan
7. People’s Union For Democratic Rights (PUDR), (Secretaries)
8. New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI), Gautam Modi
9. All India Lawyers Association for Justice, (AILAJ) Clifton D’ Rozario,
10. Saheli, Vani Subramaniam
11. Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, Siraj Dutta
12. Paschim Banga Khet Mazadoor Samiti (PBKMS) Anuradha Talwar
13. People’s Watch, Henri Tiphagne,
14. Manthan Law, Avani Choksi
15. Citizen For Justice and Peace, Teesta Setalvad
16. Bargi Baandh Visthapith evam Prabhavit Sangh, MP, Raj Kumar Singh
17. Khanan Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti, Rajasthan, Kailash Mina,
18. Domestic Workers Union, Karnataka, Sr. Celia,
19. Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, Gujarat, Krishnakant Chauhan
20. Jan Jagaran Shakti Sangathan, Bihar, Ashish Ranjan
21. Women Against State Repression and Sexual violence, Nisha Biswas,
22. All India Progressive Writers’ Association, Vineet Tiwari, National Secretary,
23. Nandini Sundar, Academic and Writer
24. Vijayan, MJ, Peace Activist
25. Fr. Cedric Prakash, Prashant.
26. Aakar Patel, Human Rights Activist and Writer
27. Fr. Jothi, SJ, Right to Food Activist
28. John Dayal, Writer, journalist
29. Dr. Frazer Mascarenhas, SJ, Academic Administrator
30. Brinelle D’Souza, Academic and Activist

For further information, please contact:

Nandini Sundar: 9868076756
Bela Bhatia: 9479045421
Suresh V: 9444231497
Kavita Srivastava: 9351562965

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