“If I’d tried to escape, Police would have shot me dead”
Posted by Admin on November 3, 2009
“They branded me a Naxalite…for days together, they locked me up in one tiny room… I had to shit, urinate and eat in the same room…”
When Linga starts talking he does not stop.
Linga is a young Muriya tribal from Sameli, a village in Dantewada. He is just one of the many caught in the terrible crossfire that is likely to escalate further. State and non state actors like the Salwa Judum on one side, and the Naxalites on the other. Like every other tribal in his land, he too has been asked to choose. Is he on the side of the state, or is he on the side of the Naxalites? A paranoid state government needs to have every tribal on its side if it hopes to win this war… as informers, as guides during their operation in the jungles, as special police officers, and as foot soldiers. They who are killed in what the police call an “encounter”, and the adivisis call,” murder”, pass off as dead Naxalites. In this strife, the same word does not mean the same thing to different people.
On 31st August morning, Linga was picked up from his home in Sameli by plainclothed but armed policemen. When they came for him, he was watching tv. Police took him to a CRPF camp enroute to the Dantewada police station. Linga says, “crpf ne bola yehi hai naxalite, phir maa behen ka gali diya… sarkar police ko achi tarah gaali dene ki training de kar bhejti hai kiya?”. In Dantewada, Linga was taken to the Superitendent of Police, Amresh Mishra’s room. ” The SP made me sit on the floor and kicked me. He asked me whether I was the son of a Naxalite? I said, I was the son of a farmer, my father has been a sarpanch. Then, for days together, they locked me up in one tiny room… I had to shit, urinate and eat in the same room…there was another boy with me. He was inside since a month. We were allowed to wash once in more than a week. They tortured us constantly. If you don’t support us, we will say you are a Naxal and kill you.”
But why did the police call you a Naxalite, I asked ? Did Naxalites ever visit your village? Did you ever meet Naxalites? Linga says, “Naxalites have guns, when they come into our village we have to meet them. It is not a crime if we just listen to them. The police also has guns, when they want us we have to go with them too. The difference is that Naxalites don’t beat us, but the police doesn’t spare anyone.”
While Linga was locked up, his brother filed a habeas corpus in the Bilaspur high court. The Dantewada police station received a notice from the high court. This forced the police to change its strategy. Linga says, “my hair had grown long…I had a beard…I was dirty… unwashed… they gave me soap, water, clothes… took me to Bilaspur, made me roam in every market. SPOs were following me at a distance. If I’d tried to escape, they would have shot me dead.”
A well clothed, well fed, clean shaven Linga roaming in all the market places with special police officers would plant seeds of doubt in the mind of the Naxalites. Has Linga joined the police or become an informer? It might provoke a brutal retaliation. Indeed, that is exactly what the police wanted, to close all exit routes for Linga.
Linga seen meeting Naxalites does not make him a Naxalite. Linga seen roaming in market places with the police does not make him a police informer. But in Dantewada, it is the Rashomon effect at work. When the partial truth masquerades as the whole truth and the only truth, it is a lie. Open to exploitation by all sides.
Though Linga was tortured in custody, in the court he said he wasn’t. And though he was never a special police officer, in the court, he said he was. But, he stuck to one fact; he did not want to be a special police officer. The court ordered the police to let him go. He was in illegal detention from 31st August till 6th of October.
Why did you lie in court, I asked him. “… police boli, agar jhooth nahi bolega to mara jayega… I was scared for my life … I never knew if I would ever come out alive…”. And Linga did not want to become an spo, ” If I became an SPO, as the police wanted, they would have burnt my village through me, raped my sisters through me. I cannot bear that” . In custody, Linga agreed to the deal offered by the police; he would not speak about the torture, in return the police would not insist on him becoming a SPO and would let him go. Linga did not want to put his fragile safety net, or whatever was left of it, on the line. He knew, he was not safe in police custody. He knew, he was not safe outside either. There were no charges, no case, no evidence, yet …
He tells me that police in Dantewada will try and take revenge. But if he survives, and does not get justice he would become a Naxalite. Why not? The government says, Naxals are anti development…but is sending more and more security forces development? Linga’s family is well-off and could approach the court in Bilaspur. One senior lawyer in Delhi is readying his affidavit saying that there is a threat to his life. For the rest that may not be an option.
Does Linga think that operation Greenhunt will work? He says, “operation greenhunt kuch nahi hai …raat me jaa kar gaon ko gher dena…acchi ladki mili to rape karna, jawan ladka mila to torture karna… naxal bolkar goli maarna … ghar ko jalana … bakra, suar, murga khane ko mil jaata hai… yehi hai operation greenhunt!”
Are we adivasis not Indians?
Like I said, when Linga started talking, he did not stop.
PS: Dantewada SP when asked about Linga said, “initially we keep all the SPOs in the police station because there is a threat to their life. When Linga said he wanted to leave, we let him go.” About the torture, the SP said Linga was lying. IBN Blog