SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) — The burning of the village of Tarmetla, in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh, was carried out by more than 400 soldiers of Indian security forces, who committed arson and unlawful violence, according to a report from the country’s Central Board of Intelligence.
In March 2011, the residents of Tarmetla, as well as of the nearby villages of Morpalli and Timapuram, were chased from their homes by heavily armed police and paramilitary soldiers who believed militants were being harbored there. The heavily forested, remote region of India where the incident occurred is home to a decades-old Maoist-inspired insurgency that has taken root primarily among indigenous tribal populations known as adivasis.
According to the report, the soldiers were in the village to fight guerrilla groups. They burned hundreds of abandoned homes and granaries.
Three people were also killed in the attacks, three women alleged sexual assault (one while in custody), and three elderly residents who were left behind would starve to death before their caretakers felt safe enough to return to the village. Those cases are still being investigated.
Aman Sethi, then a journalist covering the region for the Hindu newspaper, made it to the villages soon after the attacks and witnessed the destruction. “My husband was sitting in a tree picking tamarind,” a woman named Madavi Hunge told him. “The force saw him and opened fire. I pleaded with them to stop, but they tore my clothes and threatened me.”
Hunge escaped. The police moved farther into the village, leaving her husband’s corpse hanging in the tree, according to Sethi’s report.
Locals and other activists have accused Indian forces of carrying out “collective punishment” against adivasis for their perceived connections to Maoist rebels, whether they exist or not. The CBI report vindicates some of those claims. In particular, it calls out the role of Special Police Officers, or SPOs. These SPOs often hailed from adivasi communities but were paid and armed by the Indian government. Seven were charged in connection with the 2011 attacks.