Over the past few months, news coming out of Chattisgarh has been grim. Amid long-standing allegations of violence perpetrated by the state police, which include sexual assaults and extrajudicial encounters of locals, many journalists, lawyers, and activists have been forcefully evicted out of Bastar. The police crackdown on locals has escalated. In February, the home of Malini Subramaniam, a contributor to the web publication Scroll.in, was attacked by members of a vigilante organisation suspected of being backed by the police. Later in the month, the tribal activist Soni Sori was attacked; unidentified men threw grease on her face, causing chemical burns.
On 7 March, Krishn Kaushik, a staff writer at The Caravan, and Atul Dev, a reporter at Vantage, The Caravan, met with Isha Khandelwal and Shalini Gera who were also forced to leave Bastar. Gera and Khandelwal moved to the state in 2013 to set up the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group, a non-profit that provided free legal services to the adivasis in the area. The lawyers spoke to The Caravan about the administrative decisions that may have led to the current situation, and how the forced evictions are diminishing the meagre support available to the marginalised locals.
The Caravan: What is happening in Bastar right now?