Tribals call off protests against CRPF camp in Chhattisgarh's Silger

Express News Service
RAIPUR: The one-month-long protests by tribals against the setting up of a CRPF camp in Silger ended on Saturday with the authorities allaying some of their concerns. It comes a day after Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel agreed to meet the protestors.

“We told them the camp is not a permanent structure like the police station and it is set up keeping in view the pressing demands of the existing situation in the area. On another demand for a judicial probe into the police firing, we assured them that all evidence and witnesses will be judiciously taken into account during the magisterial inquiry,” IG (Bastar Range) Sunderraj P told The New Indian Express.

The rising COVID cases among tribals are also seen as the reason for the withdrawal of protests. More villagers have tested positive since the start of the protests. Silger, in an edgy district of Sukma, about 480 km south of Raipur, has been roiled by the massive protest for nearly a month against the setting up of the camp. 

The district administration and the Bastar Police could not do much to quell the protests. 

Since the protest site was located in a Maoist stronghold, the state government and the Bastar police administration believed that the rebels had instigated the local adivasi population to agitate against the camp.  Thousands of residents from more than two dozen villages took part in the protests held since May 13. They blocked the main pathway leading to Silger. 

However, the government stayed firm, saying the camp cannot be shifted. With the tribals alleging high-handedness on the part of security forces and that their land was forcibly taken away to set up the camp, the human rights activists stepped up their campaign.

The Bastar Police countered saying the land on which the camp was set up was encroached by the local villagers. “We told the chief minister during our meeting that the issue should be resolved democratically. There have been issues of fake encounters, controversial action by the district reserve guards (DRG – raised from local tribal youths and surrendered Maoists),” said Bela Bhatia, a human rights activist.