Press release from WSS – Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression – a nationwide platform of feminist activists and women’s organizations working to expose, challenge and resist sexual violence and its use as a tool of systemic repression.
Challenging State Impunity – A PIL on Extra-Judicial Killings in Bijapur, Chhattisgarh
Even as the Bastar police celebrate their “success” in having killed over a hundred alleged Naxalites this year, a Public Interest Litigation challenging the spate of encounters in Bijapur has been filed before the Chhattisgarh High Court in Bilaspur. The petitioners are two young women from Korcholi with extra-ordinary grit and determination –Suneeta Pottam (19 years old).and Munni Pottam (18 years old), who have been supported in this effort by a national women’s organization, the WSS (wssnet.org) as the third petitioner.
The Petitioners, Suneeta Pottam and Munni Pottam, with a copy of their petition, in their lawyer’s office
This petition highlights the extra-judicial executions of 6 people, which took place in the villages of Kadenar, Palnar, Korcholi and Andri in Bijapur district over the course of the last year. The police acknowledge only three of these incidents as encounters, and in each one of these, they providean almost identical story to the media –that these “encounters” occurred when combined teams of local police and paramilitary forces had gone out on combing operations after receiving “verified information” about the presence of Maoists in the area. In each one of these cases – Kadernar, Palnar and Korcholi – the police claim that they first came under fire, forcing them to return fire – and it was only on searching the area in the aftermath that they stumbled onto the bodies of dead Maoists who had been killed in the exchange of fire. All of these dead Maoists, as per the police accounts, were found conveniently clad in uniforms and lying next to arms, spent ammunition and Maoist literature.
However, the villagers have something completely different to say. Accompanying this petition are sworn affidavits of ten villagers who are family members of the deceased or eye witnesses of the incident, who challenge the police versions. In Kadenar, the villagers talk about how a married couple, Tati Pande and Manoj Hapka, were forced out of their home in the evening at gunpoint, on the pretext of getting them “surrendered” in the Gangaloor police station. In Palnar, Seetu Hemla was dragged from the fields which he was ploughing, with his hands tied behind him, in full view of his young wife, mother and other villagers. In Korcholi, the womenfolk witnessed Sukku Kunjam of Itavar being shot point-blank, while he was visiting his relatives house in November 2015.