A week after an 18-year-old tribal girl, Payke Veko, was gunned down by security forces in Bastar, Chhattisgarh, the family has alleged that she was raped by the security forces before she was murdered.
In a complaint letter submitted in Bijapur's Nelasnar police station, the family claimed that she was hauled by the District Reserve Guards (DRG) personnel from her home on the night of 30 May. As she was dragged away, the other family members were allegedly threatened to stay silent.
The letter further stated that the DRG team took the girl with them through the forests where she was raped before the security forces killed her, disguising her body as a Maoist’s.
The girl’s mother claimed that she identified one female DRG personnel and six others who are residents of neighboring villages.
“My daughter was innocent. On that night, we followed them for half a kilometer, but they were in vehicles and went through the forests. The next morning when we started for the police station, we met a few people on the way, who said that they had seen the police carrying something that night, wrapped in plastic. Only upon reaching the police station, we understood what they had done to my daughter,” the mother told The Quint.
“There were marks of physical abuse...her fingers, breasts, and thighs were cut. She was not killed in an encounter. She was raped and killed by the security forces,” she added.
The family has demanded that an FIR be booked against the security forces and necessary action be taken against the offenders.
What the Police Says
The police, however, denied all the allegations, calling it to be a common Maoist tactic to defame the police department.
“This is the modus-operandi of Maoists after every encounter. They pressurise the family to say that their ward was innocent and that police had killed them in a fake encounter,” Bastar Inspector General P Sundarraj told The Quint.
Spelling the details of the operation, he said, “The police party was out on an anti-Maoist operation when they encountered her. Payke Veko was an active member of the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army, platoon number 16, and carried a reward of Rs 2 lakh.
Villagers Refute Claims of the Girl Being a Maoist
Ramlal Netam, sarpanch of Chhinged gram panchayat, said, “Payke Veko was not a Maoist. This is a total lie. She was a common village girl who was due to be married on 10 June.”
“She was only 18 and was living with her family. She might have helped the Maoists in the past with petty things, but almost the entire Bastar has done that at some point, fearing for their lives. For the last seven to eight years, she had no ties with Maoists and is innocent,” Netam said.
It is common for the tribals of Chhattisgarh’s Maoist-infested areas to run errands for the Maoists at gunpoint. Failing to help or do as told is often met with physical punishment and even monetary fines.
Former sarpanch Paykuram Jorri, too, maintained that the girl had no Maoist links.
“She didn’t have any arms or any connection with the Maoists. She has been living with the family and was to be married soon. The police are lying, they took her from her home and killed her,” he said.
‘Is an Inquiry Too Much To Ask For?’: Family’s Lawyer
Bela Bhatiya, a lawyer and a social activist working in Bastar who accompanied them to the Nelasnar police station to file a complaint said that the family was kept waiting by the police officials citing various issues. It was only after the intervention of Bastar IG that the local police accepted the complaint, she alleged. An FIR is yet to be registered.
“The family is repeatedly saying that she was grabbed from their home. The villagers are testifying it – the sarpanch and the former sarpanch are endorsing that she wasn’t a Maoist. The reluctance of the police to even accept a complaint raises suspicion. The police are maintaining that the encounter happened near the Gumalnar village. However, when I met them, they denied any such incident on the intervening night of 30 and 31 May,” she said.
“All the claims by the police are dubious and the family is only demanding an inquiry into the matter. Is it a lot to ask for?” she asked.
Earlier, Congress MLA Chandan Kashyap in an interview with the media on 2 June had accused the Bastar police of fake surrenders and oppression against the tribals.
“There have been many complaints against the police for booking innocent villagers and tribals on Maoist charges. In Narayanpur, several such cases have popped up and I have brought it to the notice of DIG. He said he would put out a list of suspected people, but to date, nothing has been done,” he said.