January 21, 2016 morning 9 a.m.
Rape, loot and plunder seem to define the grammar of combing operations carried out by security forces in South Chhattisgarh. In a chillingly similar repeat of what we saw in Peddagellur some months ago and in Sukma as recently as last week where seven women were brutally sexually assaulted, the people of Nendra village, Veerapur Panchayat, Basaguda thana were subjected to this cruel form of violence between the 11th and 14th of January, 2016. Several cases of rape, sexual assault, the loot of poultry and rations causing extensive loss, beating and constant verbal abuse were reported by people of the village.
Sixteen villagers including 8 rape survivors traveled to the district headquarters to lodge their complaint and file an FIR with the Collector and the Superintendent of Police on the 18th of January. It is now the third day since they have been here, giving testimony after testimony to the administration and negotiating with the Kotwali police that refuses to lodge an FIR in the absence of the SP.
Section 154 of the CrPC makes it mandatory for a police officer to file an FIR on receipt of any information of a cognizable offense such as rape, molestation, or disrobing. Further, no preliminary inquiry is permissible in such a case. By refusing to file an FIR, any public servant, is himself culpable under the IPC.
The team met with the Collector, who ordered testimonies to be noted and asked the villagers and human rights activists to trust him, saying that he would make sure that an FIR would be filed as soon as the SP returned from the field, and that latest by the morning of 20th of January, the women would be able to return to their village, having filed and FIR. Similarly, the TI Bijapur Kotwali and DSP also maintained that after the SP returned, it would be done.
Accordingly, detailed statements of the affected women were recorded by the police on the first day, and then again with the SDM. The statements clearly describe rape, sexual assault and looting. Despite this, the police have not lodged an FIR against their own functionaries who have committed such heinous crimes while on official search and combing operations.
As we wait for senior people in the authorities to respond, three children accompanying the women have fallen seriously ill. Others who have left children at home, fear for their safety given the possibility of further repression and attack by security forces. The women are not only exhausted form having to repeat their experiences of violence , but also bewildered at the apathy of the State. How can it be so difficult to lodge an FIR and so easy to blatantly disregard the law? As they recall the horrors of the Salwa Judum, when their homes were burnt, women raped and family members killed, they are determined that they will not allow their lives to be destroyed again and again. The state has to be accountable to its people.