5 Years After Bastar Violence, CBI Still Fears Chhattisgarh Police

In March 2011, local cops reportedly burnt down a village in Chhattisgarh. 

2 min read

In March 2011, I arrived in Tarmetla village in southern Chhattisgarh to find the settlement had been burnt to the ground. Villagers told me that on 11 March 2011, a team of local police had stormed their settlement, sexually assaulted three women, and killed three men. Earlier that month, cadres of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) killed three policemen in an ambush in the forests not far from the village.

The attack on Tarmetla, I learnt in the course of my investigation, was part of an established pattern of “collective punishment” meted out to villagers by the police for allegedly supporting the Maoists – a charge the villagers denied.

 (Photo: Aman Sethi)
(Photo: Aman Sethi)

The Tarmetla attack came at an embarrassing time for the state government. A series of public interest litigations, filed by sociologist Nandini Sundar, had pushed the Supreme Court to examine the constitutional validity of counter-insurgency operations in Chhattisgarh. The Court asked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to establish what happened in Bastar.

But the CBI went in with their hands tied. In an affidavit to the court filed in October 2015, a lawyer for the agency admitted that members of the Chhattisgarh police had attacked investigating officers when they tried to visit Tarmetla in January 2012.

It is a really worrisome fact that some personnel from the very security force, who were detailed for providing security to CBI team for smooth conduct of investigation, attacked the CBI.
The lawyer deposed in 2015

Now the same police force continues to provide “security” for the CBI every time it visits the area.

A quirk in police procedures meant that the CBI’s investigations were guided by a First Information Report filed by the police. This FIR claims that the village was attacked by Maoists, and makes no mention of the police.

Five years after the incident, the case is in limbo. Witnesses are too scared to depose against the police, investigating officers are too scared to visit the scene of the crime, and at every hearing, the agency asks for more time to show results. Meanwhile, an inquiry instituted by the Chhattisgarh state government has stated its inability to investigate what happened that morning in March 2011.

The latest hearing is on the morning of 23 August 2016.

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