Thirty major civil rights groups under the banner of the National Campaign for Defense of Democracy (NCDD) have called on the Government of India and the Government of Chhattisgarh to explain the existence of bomb craters and remnants in the Sukma and Bijapur forests, citing field reports of loud noises. and flashes of forest fire in mid-April.
Alleging that these were “air attacks, with drones or other platforms, in these areas”, a statement published by the NCDD, endorsed among others by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (V Suresh), National Federation of Indian Women (Annie Raja), Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan (Bela Bhatia), National Alliance of People’s Movements (Arundhuti Dhuru, Meera Sanghamitra), All India Progressive Women’s Association (Kavita Krishnan), People’s Rights Union Democrats (Deepika Tandon, Shahana Chatterji) and New Union Initiative (Gautam Modi), wonders under what law such bombardment was done.
Emphasizing that “India is bound by customary international law prohibiting the indiscriminate use of ammunition,” the statement said, “if the government claims that the air raid reports are Maoist propaganda, why does it not order not an independent investigation or not publishing a white paper on this?”
Demanding that Central and State governments carry out no air strikes in Chhattisgarh or any other Adivasi region, he insists on the need “to engage in dialogue with the villagers who are protesting against the security camps, the false meetings and mass arrests”.
We are extremely concerned by reports of aerial attacks by undetermined platforms on the night of 14-15 April 2022, in villages in Bijapur and Sukma districts, including but not limited to Bottetong and Mettagudem (Usoor block), Duled, Sakler, Pottemangi (Konta block).
Photos taken on the ground by reporters from Bottetong village, Mettaguda and other locations show remnants of explosives and craters in the jungle, as well as destroyed forest cover. They quote villagers saying there were loud noises and flashes of fire coming from the forest.
It should be noted that forests are not “uninhabited”. This is peak mahua picking season when villagers, especially women and children, get up early (3 a.m.) to pick mahua before it gets hot during the day. People constantly go to the forests to collect non-timber forest products, graze their livestock, perform routine ablutions, etc. Given the widespread access to the forest by civilians, aerial attacks on forests amount to direct hostilities against civilians.
Police deny the use of drones to carry out the alleged bombing. However, they have yet to explain the existence of craters and remnants of wires and other munitions materials in the forest. It is important that the authorities specify the type of ammunition used and the reasons for this type of raid.
It can be recalled that in 2010, the then air chief marshal said that “the military is not trained for limited lethality. The weapons we have are destined for the enemy on the other side of the border. Therefore, I am not in favor of using the air force in situations like the Naxal issue (The Hindu, April 7, 2010).
Ironically, the same thing now appears to have happened, though it may not involve the Air Force per se. The dangers of innocent Adivasis falling prey to the use of lethal munitions and sophisticated attacks cannot be explained as ‘collateral’ damage. Such actions potentially targeting civilians must cease immediately.
This incident raises the following questions:
- Under what law would the Center and the State carry out attacks from the air, with drones or other platforms, in these areas?
- If there is evidence of lethal munitions being dropped from the air, the government can no longer deny that what is happening in Chhattisgarh is a “non-international armed conflict” and not just a “law and order” issue. Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions that India has ratified prohibits the inhuman treatment of civilians. In addition, India must sign Additional Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions which strengthens the protection of civilians. In any event, India is bound by customary international law prohibiting the indiscriminate use of ammunition.
- If the government claims that the air raid reports are Maoist propaganda, why doesn’t it order an independent investigation or publish a white paper about it?
We demand that Central and State governments:
- Do not conduct any air attacks in Chhattisgarh or any other Adivasi area.
- Engage in dialogue with villagers protesting security camps, fake encounters and mass arrests.
- Fight against human rights violations by the security forces. Despite the clear findings of more than one judicial inquiry, the CBI, the NHRC and the Supreme Court that serious human rights abuses have been committed in Chhattisgarh by the security forces, no action has been taken. was taken against them. To begin with, the Government must bring justice to the innocent victims of the massacres perpetrated by the security forces in Sarkeguda and Edesmetta and to the victims of arson, rape and mass murder in Tadmetla, Timapuram and Morpalli. Cases of murder, sexual assault and rape by security forces that have been brought to the attention of the CNDH and the courts must be prosecuted.
- Stop militarizing Bastar with additional battalions and security camps.
- Disband the DRG (District Reserve Group) as ordered by the Supreme Court in 2011 which banned the use of SPOs (Special Police Officers) and handed over the Naxalites in counter-insurgency operations against the Maoists, under any name.
- Engage in peace talks with the CPI (Maoist).