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.
this context, we demand that a team of local people, peoples
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.
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.
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police forces in Muthanga should be withdrawn immediately.
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.
The state government should immediately stop unlawful arrests and torture
of hundreds of people.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Based on the following observations, we judge that the police
firing at Muthanga was unjustified and avoidable:
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.