For over ten days, authorities in the Bijapur and Sukma districts of South Chhattisgarh delayed or have simply refused to file First Information Reports (FIR) in two separate cases of sexual assault. These include the alleged gang rapes of 13 adivasi women who are subsistence farmers by security forces earlier this month. The sexual violence and assaults are reported to have taken place when security forces conducted anti-Maoist military operations in Bijapur’s Nendra village between 11 and 14 January, and in Sukma’s Kunna village on 12 January. The police reluctance is despite a Supreme Court ruling and a 2013 amendment to India’s anti-rape laws, which makes it mandatory for the police to file a case as soon as a complaint of sexual violence is brought to them.
In Bijapur, the police finally relented and filed an FIR late on the night of 21 January, over a week after the alleged violence in Nendra village took place. By then, a group of women’s activists who had first brought attention to these instances had been urging the police to take action for three days. In Sukma, villagers reported the violence to a senior official in the administration on 15 January, but the police has not filed an FIR yet. The two heavily militarised districts are at the epicentre of the deadly, decade-long, state-Maoist military conflict, which has claimed close to 7,000 people already, a third of whom are civilians.
These two complaints come on the heels of allegations of sexual violence by security forces between 19 to 24 October in five remote villages of Bijapur district. In that case the police registered an FIR on 1 November 2015. They did so only after the victims, aided by a fact-finding team (comprising members of a civil society group, Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression), travelled to Bijapur town—the district headquarters, and narrated the violence to the district collector, Yashwant Kumar, who asked the police to file an FIR immediately. Over a month later, I visited four of the affected villages, located deep in the forests, and 18-25 kilometres from the nearest road. The police had made no arrests in the case nor formally questioned the men who were a part of the security operation. At that point, officials were yet to visit the villages in which the violence had allegedly taken place, or collect evidence from there. In late December, the National Human Rights Commission took cognisance of my reportage for the Hindustan Times to ask the union home secretary and Chhattisgarh’s director-general of police AN Upadhyay to submit detailed action taken reports within a month. As of this time, over 100 days since the alleged rapes, the police has still not made any arrests.