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PUCL, October 2008

Statement on Maoist disruption of the non-violent Human Shields

We, the undersigned, are distressed to learn that a peaceful movement
in the conflict-ridden Dantewada district, Chhattisgarh to help
villagers return to their land has been disrupted by the Communist
Party of India (Maoist). The villagers had been displaced earlier by
the state-sponsored Salwa Judum campaign that began in 2005 and has
resulted in horrific violence against ordinary villagers in the area.

According to reports we have received from Shri Himanshu Kumar of the
Vanvasi Chetna Ashram (VCA), the main organiser of the movement, their
human shield volunteers in Nendra village have been forced to leave
the place on 15 October 2008.

"Yesterday night Maoists again threatened our Human Sheild volunteers
that if volunteers do not leave Nendra by 15th October 2008 then
Maoists will kill all Nendra villagers. After this we decided to
retreat and today our Human Shield is leaving the village and coming
back. Their is no Non-violent Human shield now for Nendra people"
says a letter from Shri Himanshu Kumar.

In the 3 years after the start of Salwa Judum, more than 700 villages
in South Bastar have been affected by the conflict between the
government-backed Salwa Judum and the Maoists and an estimated 47,000
people are currently living in roadside camps. The whereabouts of the
rest of the people, over 3 lakhs in number, is not exactly known but
many are believed to have taken shelter in neighbouring States. The
Chhattisgarh administration claims that no one lives in these
villages, and they have stopped providing support for education,
health and PDS.

Since July 2008 the VCA volunteers have offered to act as non-violent
'human shields' to protect villagers of Nendra, who want to restart
their lives in the area again. Initially a VCA Human Shield Team
stayed there and facilitated return of 18 Nendra families residing in
forests of Andhra Pradesh. Gradually tribals of Nendra began to
venture into the local weekly markets escorted by members of the Human
Shield Team. Encouraged by the market visits of tribals from Nendra,
other families hiding further in the forests beyond Nendra also began
to venture out to the markets and now tribals of around 15 villages
are accessing Errabore, Konta, Dornapal and Injaram weekly markets.

VCA also started a two-week long Dosti Yatra on 21st September to
extend a hand of friendship and assure tribals that the time has come
for them to come forward and return to their villages.

We wish to state emphatically that this move by the Maoists to prevent
the return of displaced villagers in Nendra and adjoining villages is
anti people and undemocratic. No political purpose would be served by
forcing these hapless people to live for a long time in brutalized
conditions.

It is also condemnable that the Maoists do not want and do not allow
any social or political process which is not conducted according to
their diktat. We express our solidarity with the Human Shield
volunteers of VCA and the villagers and demand that the Maoists
refrain from threats of violence and allow their return to Nendra to
continue the resettlement process.

Aditya Nigam
Apoorvanand
Kavita Srivastava
Nivedita menon
Prabhash joshi
Satya Sivaraman


People's Union for Civil Liberties, 81 Sahayoga Apartmrnts, Mayur Vihar I, Delhi 110091, India. Phone (91) 11 2275 0014