Saturday, May 3, 2008

Massacre of freedom?


ADILABAD: It is almost 27 years following the massacre of Indervelli which claimed the lives of 13 Gond tribals (according to official figures; the figure varies from the version of the tribals according to which hundreds of tribals were killed).

Still, after so many years following the gruesome incident, the district police has made elaborate arrangements to ensure that the tribals do not congregate at Indervelli to pay homage to their dead kin. The police has imposed Section 144 from Gudihathnoor mandal headquarters to Utnoor X roads (a 35 km sketch), on the entire route to Indervelli, restricting entry into the area.

‘‘We can never forget the horrific incident that claimed the lives of our relatives,’’ moaned a tribal leader Shidam Shambu of Utnoor. ‘‘When we are limping back to normalcy, the police is again indirectly creating hurdles in our lives by preventing us from paying homage at the martyrs’ statue at Indervelli,’’ he complained. Neither the police nor the officials seem inclined to talk about the Indervelli massacre that occurred on April 20 in 1981.

Following the massacre, the Hyderabad-based Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (APCLC) had set up a fact-finding committee to tour the area, gather facts and place them before the public.

The committee was chaired by well-known cardio-thoracic surgeon of Secunderabad, Prof CR Rajagopalan. Members of the committee included KG Kannabiran, a noted advocate and Dr SG Kulkarni of the Philosophy Department of Hyderabad University.

Terming the incident an indiscriminate massacre, the committee had said over 60 Gond tribals were shot dead by the police on April 20 in 1981, when they were converging at Indervelli to attend a weekly bazaar as well as a rally organised by the Girijan Ryot Kooli Sangham, a tribal peasant-worker organisation. From April 16, the police had begun to arrest students and youth leaders working for the rally.

On April 19, a Gond leader, Khadia, was taken into custody when he had gone to get police permission for the rally. On the same day, the police imposed Section 144 in the area, the committee disclosed in its report.

According to the committee, the Gonds from the surrounding areas had started coming to Indervelli and police had encircled the village, blocking the road entry from both the sides. By evening, a large number of tribals had begun to arrive, unaware of the police restrictions.

The police first started a lathicharge, then resorted to tear gas and suddenly, without a warning, opened fire on the tribals. An open top jeep full of armed policemen ploughed through the crowd and started firing. The dead and the wounded were carried away in trucks, the committee stated.

The Gonds told the investigating committee that till April 26, panchanama (last rites) had been conducted on 60 dead bodies while another estimate put the number around 100. No dead body was handed over to relatives, no photographs were shown and no ex-gratia paid, the committee reported.

The committee had recommended suspension of the officials present and the setting up of a judicial inquiry headed by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court.

But none of the recommendations have been fulfilled till now and the restriction on the tribals still continues in this area.

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