POLICE BRUTALITY ON TRIBALS IN WESTERN MADHYA PRADESH

In an incident hard to visualise in independent India, thousands of tribals, including women and children have been forced to abandon their homes, due to fear induced by police brutality. During the last one week, in a 90-village tribal pocket of the Bagli tehsil in Dewas district, people from 16 villages have fled their homes into the adjoining forest, following a massive hunt for wood launched by the administration. The wood is alleged to have been illegally cut by the tribals from the neighbouring forest.

On the 2nd of April, 2001, 6 people, including a 12-year old girl and 4 tribals, were killed in police firing aimed at flushing out the wood from tribal homes. In an operation that began on the 28th of March, at least 50 houses in 5 tribal villages have been torn down. Thousands of tribals hiding in the scorching heat of the dry teak forests, do not have a drop of water to drink. Meanwhile, labourers belonging to the task force employed by the administration to confiscate wood and dismantle the houses, have gone on a rampage, looting grain and possessions from the abandoned homes of the poor tribals. A shop owned by Dhan Singh, a tribal from village Katukiya, was raided. An aged woman from Sabalgarh village is said to have died from sheer terror. 3 women from tribal village Potla were forcibly taken into police custody for pleading with the task force not to break the tiles of their homes. In the same village the house of an ailing widow was razed to the ground.

What is most deplorable is that even after the firing incident of the 2nd of April, the administration retains its aggressive stance and the task force continues to spread a reign of terror, threatening the tribals with dire consequences if they do not surrender the wood they have allegedly cut.

We demand that there be an immediate cessation of hostilities on the part of the administration and that those who have suffered loss of life and property be adequately compensated.

This information has been gathered by activists of Samaj Pragati Sahayog (SPS) moving from village to village in the area. SPS has been carrying out programmes of drought-proofing based on watershed development in almost every one of the affected villages. These programmes have suffered a setback in this year of severe drought, as a result of the police action.

PEOPLE WHO DIED IN POLICE FIRING

Balram s/o Jherma Village Semli

Nemichand Jaiswal Village Bisali

Bholu s/o Ida Singh Village Jamasindh

Pathania Village Kanad

12 year old girl Village Mehndikheda

Unidentified man Village Mehndikheda

VILLAGES WHERE HOUSES WERE DESTROYED AND PROPERTY LOOTED

Kadodiya

Potla

Patpadi

Katukiya

Mehdikheda

VILLAGES FROM WHERE PEOPLE HAVE FLED IN FEAR

Kadodiya

Potla

Patpadi

Katukiya

Mehdikheda

Sitapuri

Kanad

Semli

Shampura

Jamasindh

Bisali

Pandutalab

Mirzapur

Hirapur

Sabalgarh

Narsinghpur

There can be no denying that the illegal cutting of forests must be stopped. However, can the Forest Department be said to carry the moral authority to take such action, when so many of its own employees have been engaged in corrupt practices aimed at destroying the forest over the last several years? Has the Forest Department taken any action against its own erring employees? Has the Forest Department made any attempt to reach out to the tribals, to win their confidence and involve them in the process of forest protection? For it is only the tribals who can be the real protectors of the forest once they are assured that they would be allowed to meet their basic needs from the forest.

(Dr. Mihir Shah)

Secretary, Samaj Pragati Sahayog

3rd April, 2001

At 7 PM on the 4th of April, 2001, the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Shri Digvijay Singh, called a meeting in his office to discuss the escalating tensions between the administration and the tribal population of Bagli tehsil of Dewas district. Among those present in the meeting were the Deputy Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Smt. Jamuna Devi, Home Minister Shri Mahendra Baudh, Minister for Scheduled Castes and Tribes Dr. Vijaylakshmi Sadho, Chief Secretary, Director General of Police, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and other senior officials. Dr. Mihir Shah, Secretary, Samaj Pragati Sahayog and Shri Rangu Rao, senior activist of Samaj Pragati Sahayog, a grass roots people's organisation active in the area for the last decade were specially invited by the Chief Minister for the meeting.

After a detailed discussion, the Chief Minister issued the following orders:

A committee of enquiry comprising people's representatives and senior officials is being constituted to investigate the loss of life and property suffered by the tribal population of the area in the recent operations conducted by the administration. In order to carry out its mandate, this committee will visit the area in a few days. In case the committee concludes that there has been a loss of life and property as a result of these operations, appropriate monetary compensation will be provided to the victims.

Complete transparency would be ensured regarding the Working Plan and coupe felling operations of the forest department in the area. The local tribal population will be fully taken into confidence by the department about these plans and the proposed activities of the forest department.

All forest department officials and personnel who have been in service in the area for 5 years or more will be transferred out of the area.

In case forest officials and personnel posted in the area are found to be in possession of property disproportionate to their incomes, appropriate action will be taken against them. In order to restore the confidence of the local tribal people, drought relief works will be carried out in the affected villages. For immediate relief, foodgrains and arrangements for drinking water will be made.

5th April 2001

DETAILS OF LOSSES INCURRED BY THE TRIBAL POPULATION

DURING THE RECENT ACTION BY THE ADMINISTRATION

Village Patpadi

Rem Singh s/o Keriya                   :           Locally made roof tiles and house broken

Gildar s.o Vesta                            :           Locally made roof tiles and house broken

Bhav Singh s/o Thavariya             :           House broken

Rum Singh s/o Thavariya              :           House broken

Dedu s/o Bhuvan Singh                 :           House broken

Sardar s/o Bonder Singh               :           Morvi roof tiles and house broken

Ramesh s/o Jam Singh                   :           Morvi roof tiles and house broken

Sikdar s/o Jam Singh                     :           Morvi roof tiles and house broken

Prem Singh s/o Dongar Singh        :           Morvi roof tiles and house broken

Bonder Singh s/o Kalu                  :           Morvi roof tiles and house broken

Sitaram s/o Bhuwan Singh            :           Morvi roof tiles and house broken; 10 quintals                                                                 of  foodgrain, all clothes in the house and                                                                         Rs.600/- looted

Gangaram s/o Gokul (sarpanch)    :           Morvi roof tiles and house broken

Village Potla

Cheda s/o Nanuram                       :           Morvi roof tiles and house broken, 5 quintals                                                                               of grain, all utensils, all clothes in the house                                                                     and agricultural implements looted

Redu s/o Nanuram             :           House broken, 2 quintals of grain, 1 quintal of                                                                  mahua, all the clothes in the house, all                                                                                   utensils and Rs. 500/- looted

Lohariya s/o Phool Singh              :           House broken, 250 grams of silver jewellery                                                                               and 1 quintal of mahua looted

Kedar s/o Nanuram                       :           Morvi roof tiles and house broken, silver 250                                                                              grams of jewellery and Rs.4,000/- looted

Bapu s/o Nandariya                       :           House broken

Dev Singh s/o Reecha                   :           House broken

Roop Singh s/o Naanla                  :           House broken

Har Singh s/o Rangariya               :           House broken and wheels of bullock cart                                                                         looted

Habliya s/o Ver Singh                   :           House broken

Villlage Katukiya

Gopal s/o Chain Singh                  :           Morvi roof tiles and house broken. 2 quintals                                                                               of foodgrains, all clothes and utensils in the                                                                     house looted.

Laalo s/o Chain Singh                   :           Morvi roof tiles and house broken, 4 quintals                                                                               of foodgrains looted

Jaama s/o Seheriya                                    :           House broken

Booda s/o Chaina                          :           Locally made roof tiles and house broken

Amar Singh s/o Semrav                 :           Locally made roof tiles and house broken

Ballu s/o Fatliya                            :           Locally made roof tiles and house broken, all                                                                               clothes and Rs.2,500/- looted

Mohan s/o Ballu                            :           Locally made roof tiles and house broken

Narain s/o Vakla                           :           Locally made roof tiles and house broken

Ter Singh s/o Malla                      :           Locally made roof tiles and house broken, all                                                                               clothes and utensils in the house looted

Deep Singh s/o Rai Singh              :           Locally made roof tiles and house broken, all                                                                               clothes and utensils in the house looted

Aap Singh s/o Rai Singh               :           Locally made roof tiles and house broken, all                                                                               clothes and utensils in the house looted

Maddu s/o Bansi Lal                     :           Locally made roof tiles and house broken,                                                                        tape recorder looted

Devsa s/o Jawan Singh                 :           House broken

Kishore s/o Galiya                                    :           Morvi roof tiles and house broken, all clothes                                                                              in the house looted.

Subhan s/o Jam Singh                    :           House broken and 10 kgs of jaggery looted

Mansa Ram s/o Sitaram                :           House broken

Sobharam s/o Sukhlal                    :           Locally made roof tiles and house broken

Ballu s/o Jawan Singh                   :           Morvi roof tiles and house broken

Badiya s/o Heera                          :           1 quintal of foodgrains looted

Chope Singh s/o Malla                  :           All utensils in the house looted

Dhan Singh s/o Ditiya                   :           Goods worth Rs.5,000/- and Rs.4,500/- in                                                                       cash looted from his shop

Village Mehendikheda

Rum Singh s/o Baathu                   :           The walls of his old house broken and silver                                                                    jewellery looted

Mun Singh s/o Naathu                   :           Agricultural implements and all the utensils in                                                                             the house looted

Bheema s/o Boodha                      :           Brass utensils for storing drinking water                                                                           looted

Reechha s/o Poona                        :           Blacksmithy implements bought by taking a                                                                      loan from the bank, all utensils, 2 quintals of                                                                    wheat, 15 kg groundnut seeds, 3 kg red chilly,                                                                                    tape recorder, Rs.500/- in cash looted. All                                                                              seeds stored in the house were destroyed and                                                                                     one chicken was killed

Heeralal s/o Rai Singh                  :           One chicken was forcibly snatched

Hazari s/o Gal Singh                     :           House destroyed, agricultural implements, 2                                                                    quintals of wheat looted

Bhar Singh s/o Gal Singh              :           Agricultural implements and wall clock looted

This is an update on the actions of the administration in the area of our work.

- Mihir