Tribals' protest against security camp in Chhattisgarh enters 17th day, efforts by police go in vain

Express News Service
RAIPUR: Silger, a tribal habitat located along the border of two worst Maoist-affected districts of Sukma and Bijapur, about 450 km south of Raipur, persistently witnesses a strong protest by thousands of local villagers against the security base camp, which was set up on May 12.

While the villagers apparently continue to nurture trust deficit with the police force alleging such camps will further add to the atrocities they face by the deployed security personnel in the conflict zone, the Bastar police however blamed the Maoists to have instigated the innocent tribals to oppose the camp.

The villagers also claimed to be fighting for their rights over ‘jal-jungle-jameen’ (water-forest-land) that they candidly cited belonged to them. “We will continue our peaceful protest till the camp is removed from here,” the villagers contended.

The Bastar administration and the police have repeatedly tried to convince the agitating tribals to withdraw the protest and return to their villages. “Our fear is with such huge gathering there arises a bigger risk for these villagers likely to turn into super spreaders in their hamlets amid pandemic,” said IG (Bastar zone) P Sunderraj. 

However the tribal villagers refused to budge and even claimed that they were not taken into confidence before setting up the camp.

The locals are claiming that the camp has been built on the land owned by some villagers, though an official clarification countered that given area was actually encroached in the past by the locals but still they will be compensated with the similar land at some other place.

The human rights activist Bela Bhatia who visited the area couple of days ago insisted that all major projects causing any dispute with villagers should be put on hold during the pandemic. “The peaceful protest of the tribals should be taken into account,” she said.

On Saturday, a 6-member fact-finding team of opposition BJP on their way to Silger had to return owing to the security reasons.

Silger and adjoining areas happen to be in the Maoist stronghold and the rebels might never wish to let the region go under the influence of the state administration, opined Brigadier (Rtd) BK Ponwar, a jungle warfare expert.

The police though have plans to set up more camps further inside the same area to strengthen their hold.

However the tribals from over a dozen nearby villages expressed their objection through their sit-in demonstration at Silger. Later the protest turned violent leading to direct confrontation with the forces on May 17 when the police firing killed 3 and injured 18 others.

“We have already spoken to a 40-member team representing the tribal villagers appealing them to restore peace and return owing to the risk of coronavirus infections. The camps are meant to ensure security in the region and foster development. Maoists are on the backfoot and frightened  with more camps coming up. Any decision on the camp is to be taken at the government level,” the Bastar IG said.