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PUCL, February 2003

Brutal killings of Adivasis at Wayanad - Demands and observations

Also, Letter to the Prime Minister

Statement

Observations and demands presented before the government and the Kerala civil society based on the enquiry conducted by an independent people’s committee constituted from members of Forum for Democracy and Communal Amity (FDCA), Peoples Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), Sahaja, AHR, PHR, FAIG on the circumstances that led to the police firing at Muthanga on 19/02/03.

1. It has been officially confirmed that the police fired 18 rounds of bullets at Muthanga on 19/02/03. But only very few people with bullet injuries have so far been admitted to the hospitals. It can be reasonably assumed that many others with bullet wounds are stranded in the forests. How many of these people left in the forests without food and water, and facing the threat of attack from wildlife, could survive is a matter of immediate concern.

In this context, we demand that a team of local people, people’s
representatives, civil liberties activists etc. should be constituted to carry out a search for those who have been stranded in the forests and provide them with medical aid on a war footing.

2. The police have in their possession all details on the people who
had participated in the struggle in the Muthanga forests. The state
government is duty bound to investigate and ensure whether all of these people have returned to their respective colonies/villages.

3. We demand that all efforts to terrorise and persecute the tribal
community people in their colonies as well as the physical torture by
the police should be stopped forthwith. The excessive presence of the police forces in Muthanga should be withdrawn immediately.

4. All possible medical treatment facilities should be provided to
the people who have been hospitalised. The presence of a huge police force in the hospital has created fears in the minds of the people. The police force in the hospital should be reduced.

5. The state government should immediately stop unlawful arrests and torture of hundreds of people.

6. The police have since set fire to the tents in the Muthanga forests on which it opened gunfire on 19/02/03 at 5.25 PM. We consider this as a deliberate and planned attempt to destroy evidence.

7. We observe that even the meagre livelihood support implements of
the tribal families numbering around 1,100 have been destroyed by the police from the tents set up in Ambukthy, Ponkuzhi and Thakarappady areas in the forest. The government should immediately provide livelihood assistance for ensuring the survival of these families.

8. The police should openly share all information on the tribal
families present in the forest during the incident with the media and
civil liberties groups.

9. During our investigation we also observed that a minority group in
the civil society has been making attempts to torture, persecute or
ridicule the tribal people who had participated in the struggle at Muthanga. We consider that such attempts to persecute the victims
further are against developed social consciousness and democratic
principles of law and justice.

10. Based on the following observations, we judge that the police
firing at Muthanga was unjustified and avoidable:

1) The forest department staff taken hostages on 18/02/03 were handed over to the district collector in an agreeable manner. 2) Even in the absence of any mediators, the Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha had voluntarily handed over the policeman injured during the police action in the morning to the authorities for providing medical treatment.

3) The Gothra Maha Sabha volunteered had approached the authorities with a request for providing assistance of a doctor to treat the police official and the tribal people injured during the first incident of police firing.

4) Various media persons present in the area had visited the two injured officials between 12 noon and 5.10 PM. They have testified that the two persons had suffered NO major/fatal injuries on account of the adivasis venting their anger on them.

5) On 19/02/03, the police had approached the media persons to take up the role of the mediator. But the media declined when the police refused to give an assurance that the forces would be withdrawn from Muthanga.

6) Between 12 in the noon and 5 in the evening, the police and other officials were engaged in planning out further attack without making any effort for mediation and peaceful settlement of the issue.

7) The police opened direct gunfire in the evening without giving the mandatory warning to the people and putting the lives of the two hostages under great risk. The action took place at a time when the tired Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha volunteers were in a mood to surrender and were discussing the option.

The extremely serious and tragic events on 19/02/03 were the result of Government inaction in the previous 45 days to resolve the crisis through democratic means and the subsequent heinous reign of terror unleashed on the agitators.

We demand that the Kerala Chief Minister should order an all-inclusive enquiry into the event and produce all those who were responsible for the incidents before the authority and process of law and justice.

(Signed)

Manjeri Sunder Raj (Advocate), P.A.Pouran (Advocate), N.Subrahmanian,
K.Panoor, Anila George (Advocate), V.K.Sadanandan, M.Divakaran, Bose
Kottappuram.

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