Raipur: The conflict between the police and tribals have emerged in Chhattisgarh over the release of tribal people who were falsely implicated by the police under stringent laws.
Demanding releases of the tribals on the basis of recommendation made by the Justice AK Patnaik committee, which was formed in March 2019 to review cases registered against tribals under various sections of the IPC including Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and National Security Act. The committee recommended to abolish 404 cases and urged the release of the accused.
On the contrary, police booked nine men suspecting their ties with the Naxals on September 12. And the following day, Police again detained 15 tribals on suspicion of ties with Naxals and later released them after interrogation. The issue irked the tribals and they have launched a massive protest against the government.
Nearly 6,000 tribals from Sukma, Bijapur, and Dantewada launched a protest at Dantewada district headquarter and demanded the immediate release of the tribals who were wrongfully detained by the police, pending trials due to lack of evidence. They demanded regular and expedited hearing for the undertrial along with basic amenities to be provided to the tribal prisoners. The police, however, stopped the protesters near Shyamgiri in Dantewada claiming it would spread Covid-19.
According to an Indian Express report, there are over 23,000 tribals in the Sukma, Bijapur, Dantewada, and Naxal-affected areas of the Bastar region against whom cases were filed under various sections of IPC. By April 30, 2019, there were over 6,700 residing in jails as undertrials and more than 16,000 accused including 5,239 held under Naxal Matters in Chhattisgarh.
The protestors accused the Congress government of not fulfilling its poll promise made during the election to release the falsely implicated tribals. "It seems that the Congress government has betrayed the tribals," said a local activist Sujeet Karma.
"The villagers were peacefully protesting for the release of their kins and family members who have been detained and are in jail for years. However, police used force to quell their voice. And many of the men and women carrying babies have reported injuries during the police action," said Sujeet Karma, Secretary Jail Bandi Rihai Samiti.
"The government has been duping us and no visible action has taken on the ground. Our Adivasi brothers and sisters have suffered a lot and they just want their family members to be released" he added.
A video of the incident also went viral on social media, however, police denied any allegation of using force.
"We were assured by Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel that all the prisoners would be released and that the AK Patnaik committee would consider our words and keep us in the loop. However, no prisoners have been released and we are being kept in a blind," said Soni Sori, Tribal Activist and vice president of Jail Bandi Rihai Samiti.
"Police used force to suppress the voices of the tribals and innocent villagers in the name of the Coronavirus epidemic," she alleged.
Abhishek Pallav, SP, Dantewada district, however, dismissed all claims of lathi-charge. "It was a planned move under Naxal guidance to attack the jail and free prisoners causing unrest in the area. Hence, the police stopped them," he said.
He further said, "We restrained them from moving ahead due to COVID-19. We were also not intimated of the protest and some of the villagers even tried to attack policemen."
He also urged the tribal community to protest with the Covid-19 guidelines.