The ongoing witch-hunt to brand marginalized communities in the state of Jharkhand as ‘violent insurgents’ has reached the doorstep of two more innocent tribals. They were father and son, a farmer and a young college student. When questioned both denied any connections with the Maoists stating that “we have never seen or spoken to them.” Their appeals, however, fell on the deaf ears of the state police. They were placed in a lock up for over 45 hrs. They were abused and beaten.
Jetha Manda and his son Birsa Tutti of Deyo village of Kunti district, Jharkhand (naxalite affected area) were arrested and beaten by the police on February 1, 2012, for the “alleged crime” of aiding and abetting the insurgent group known as the Maoists by serving food to them.
The arrest caused uproar in the village. The people were growing increasingly tired of the state and police oppression and called a village meeting known as a Gram Sabha where the villagers decided to join hands, speak out and protest. Around a 100 men and women of the village walked to the police station. They demanded that Jetha and Birsa be freed. They had the law on their side, which clearly states that No accused can be in police custody for more than twenty four hours without an inquiry being done. Community Correspondent Amita Tutti who made a video on the violation says that the inquiry was only done much after the stipulated 24 hours during which Jetha and Birsa had already been beaten mercilessly and heinously.
When Amita subsequently questioned the constables about the accused being kept in custody, the police constable replied that “they have been brought in only for enquiry” and that ”rules that are written on paper cannot possibly be followed in practice”. It was almost two days later that the two broken men were released.Such detentions are a common in Jharkhand were thousands of people are being held illegally.
Community correspondent says: Amita Tutti is a 25 year old social worker from Setavara village in Kunthi district. She is a single woman who belongs to the Munda tribal community. She has dedicated her life to working for tribal rights and works as a Block Co-ordinator with an NGO named Jharkhand Jungle Bachao Andolan.
Whenever villager been taken by the police, Amita organizes other women in the village to collectively rush to the station to question the constables. She has seen approximately 100 villagers been taken to the police station and beaten up as they were suspected of being naxalites themselves or supporting the naxlites in any way. A Gram Sabha is organized so the villagers themselves can try to find out if the victim is guilty.
She says, "Due to this unfair and brutal harassment towards innocent villagers, youngsters are bound to hold guns in their hand and fight against this injustice. If this harassment stops, Sevatara will be a better place for us.”
Amita says that it was the people’s efforts that freed both the father as well as the son. Today they are no longer harassed but the trauma of that incident still prevails.
“Who can we rely on if we cannot rely on the state to protect our rights and freedoms?” questions Amita. “The village of Devo has found its strength within its community. We stand up for each other against whoever is oppressing us. Be it the Maoists or be it the State.”
Amita wants everyone to see this video and realize what her village is going through. “This witch-hunt must stop,” she says.
Many applications later, hundreds of people continue to suffer.
Formal applications to get new beds have been sent thrice to the local administration. But the situation hasn't changed.