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
VILLAGES FROM WHERE PEOPLE HAVE FLED IN FEAR
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
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
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
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
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.