Rapes in Bijapur by policemen; NHRC steps in
According to National Human Rights Commission report released on January 7, 2016, 16 women were prima facie victims of rape and sexual assault at hands of policemen in Bijapur district. In this regard, the NHRC has issued a notice to Chhattisgarh government asking why interim relief should not be granted to victims. The Chhattisgarh High Court is expected to take up this matter today.
Journalists raise alarm
News reports appeared in October 2015 that women from five villages in Chhattisgarh's Bijapur district had alleged assault and rape by state police personnel. Local journalists who travelled to these areas were also reportedly troubled when they tried to get video footage of these allegations. Based on these rumours, Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) sent a fact-finding team to these villages.
Fear and harassment
A Bijapur journalist said: "It's not advisable to go there now. There are still victims who are scared to record their statements. If we cover human rights lawyers and defenders for stories, they target us in subtle ways."
The WSS fact-finding team discovered that women in the mentioned villages were raped, assaulted and molested by security forces who have been on patrolling between October 19 - October 24 2015. An FIR was subsequently lodged in Bijapur on November 1, 2015. Based on media reports of WSS's fact-finding team, the NHRC initiated its own investigation into the matter.
Press release by NHRC
NHRC stated that it was waiting to receive recorded statements of victims. In the meantime it has proposed interim relief of Rs.37 lakh in total be granted to the 16 victims.
Reactions from multiple quarters
Spokesperson of Chhattisgarh Congress unit has demanded that CM Raman Singh resign and said, "The BJP government wants "adivasi-mukt" Bastar because the government is selling rich minerals in Bastar region to corporates." Special director general of police (Naxal) DM Awasthi said, "The complete order of the NHRC is yet to come and things will be clear only after we read the copy."