The NCST's Report on Gangrapes and Assaults in Bastar Says There is a Breakdown of Discipline Among Security Forces

This Bijapur villager and her pregnant daughter-in-law were assaulted with rifles and gangraped by security forces during an anti-Maoist operation in October.
Chitrangada Choudhury
This Bijapur villager and her pregnant daughter-in-law were assaulted with rifles and gangraped by security forces during an anti-Maoist operation in October.
Chitrangada Choudhury

In a 15-page fact-finding report, the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) has stated that there is a breakdown of discipline among security forces deployed on anti-Maoist operations in south Chhattisgarh. The report was the result of a probe by the NCST into three instances of mass sexual violence against Adivasi women—all hardscrabble subsistence farmers—including gangrapes, as well as assaults, and looting by the police and paramilitary forces, in the Bijapur and Sukma districts of the state. The violence reportedly took place in October 2015 (in Bijapur) and in January 2016 (in Bijapur and Sukma) by contingents deployed on anti-Maoist operations.

A three-member NCST team led by the commission’s chairperson Rameshwar Oraon visited Chhattisgarh between 3 and 5 April to probe the charges of violence. On 29 April, the commission finalised its report. It terms the investigations into the charges “unsatisfactory,” adding that “no progress has been made in identifying” the security personnel who attacked the women villagers. “The statements of all the complainants are yet to be recorded,” the report notes. The commission recommends that the investigation be taken away from the district police authorities, and handed over to the Criminal Investigation Department of the state, and suggests a judicial enquiry. The report stresses that, if the investigation is to be “credible,” these steps are essential.

The commission found that for all three cases, the district police had set up “special teams” of two or three members of police personnel to investigate the violence. However, despite the six months that had passed since the October complaint and the four months since the January ones, these teams have made no arrests, nor have they filed charge sheets.

“Transferring the cases out of the district is necessary, because those responsible for investigating the crimes are themselves involved,” Oraon, the commission chairperson, told me on 9 May. The NCST report notes that the commission sensed a breakdown of discipline among security forces deployed on search operations. Unless commanding officers enforce appropriate supervision, the report says, it would be impossible to prevent such acts of violence.

Last October, in Pegdapalli, Chinnagellur, Peddagellur, Burgicheru, and Gundam villages of Bijapur, three women, including a teenager and a pregnant woman reported being gangraped by members of security forces. Several others complained of sexual assaults and molestation. This January, 13 women from Bijapur’s Nendra village reported being gangraped by security forces personnel, some of whom reportedly carried out the assaults inside the women’s homes. The attackers belonged to a contingent that stayed in the village from 11 to 14 January, while on an anti-Maoist operation. In Sukma’s Kunna village, several women reported being sexually assaulted by security personnel on 12 January. In all three instances, many villagers complained that members of these forces had also beaten them, ransacked their homes and looted money, food, and other possessions.

Chitrangada Choudhury is an independent journalist and researcher, working on issues of indigenous and rural communities, land and forest rights, and resource justice. She is on Twitter @ChitrangadaC

Keywords: Chhattisgarh Bastar Adivasis Sexual violence Security forces paramilitary forces National Commission for Scheduled Tribes
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