A very serious matter was brought to my notice recently. It appears that a large number of villagers from Devarpalli were shelled with hand-grenades, as they approached the SJ camp at Dornapal. Some of these villagers might indeed have been armed. Curiously enough, first defintive reports of this alleged massacre began to trickle into Raipur only three days later, on June 12, 2006. Following the incident the Konta-Dantewada sector of the national highway had been sealed by S.P.Os.
The casualty-figure is speculative. Speaking to the Times of India, the CM said that ‘about 10 persons’ died. Mr. Manish Kunjam, the local CPI (M) chief, alleges that more than 150 persons were killed. A local press-representative, who recently visited the spot, puts the figure at around 40. However, given the devaluation- not to mention dehumanization- of tribal life in mainstream media, bludgeoned as it is by the draconian Chhattisgarh Public Safety (Special) Act passed during the last Vidhan Sabha session and an all-pervasive sense of apathy in the state’s urban areas, any report would have been ‘sanitized’: “SPOs bravely defend Camp against marauding Naxalites”.
According to one elected representative from this region, who visited the site two days after the Devarpalli Massacre, ‘mutilated bodies were lying for as far as the eye could see’. The reason why he wishes to be unnamed is because he apprehends that now that he has seen what he has seen, there is every likelihood of him being targeted by the SPOs, who would conveniently shift the blame onto Naxalites. Not surprisingly, he has left for Hyderabad, and hasn’t returned to his constituency since.
If what is alleged is true, then the Devarpalli Massacre is the first incident in post-independent India’s history where the state has deliberately bombed its own civilian population. Even more troubling is the fact that an event of such magnitude has gone entirely unnoticed, and that there is no effort- on the part of the media or the intelligentsia- to investigate what really happened.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
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