Activists, academics, and concerned citizens from around the globe have demanded an end to the cycle of repression against Adivasis in Chhattisgarh.
On March 9th, Hidme Markam, an Adivasi activist from Bastar region of Chhattisgarh was arrested from a peaceful protest held to seek justice for Adivasi women allegedly harassed and killed in Police custody. Hidme is a well-known activist who is associated with various movements fighting for Adivasi rights. She works with the Nandraj Pahad anti-mining movement, and Jail Bandi Rihai Committee which is a platform that advocates for the release of Adivasi persons, particularly youths, held in pre-trial detention.
More than a 1000 activists, academics, and concerned citizens from around the world have written a letter to the Chhattisgarh CM, Bhupesh Baghel, demanding her release. According to news reports, there are five Naxal offences pending against Hidme under IPC, Arms Act, Explosives Act and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The letter, written on April 18, states that the cases are “false” and “concocted” and that Hidme's "arrest is just the latest in the chain of the State hounding Adivasi women activists who are fighting for constitutional and human rights."
A press release by “Campaign to Free Hidme Markam” observes that Hidme Markam along with other Adivasis, under the umbrella of Nandraj Pahad Bachao Andolan, have been resisting the mining of a sacred indigenous hill by corporations like Adani Pvt Ltd. She has also been organizing against the Bailadila Mine Deposit project that would result in grave ecological damage in the region especially on the local forest, land and water bodies. As a member of the Chhattisgarh Mahila Adhikar Manch, Hidme has been present in numerous public spaces and meetings in Chhattisgarh, asserting the rights of Adivasi women, especially against displacement and state repression.
“Hidme is clearly being targeted for her political work in defence of Adivasi lands and lives and standing up against the might of the State and profit-making corporations. Not only was the manner of the arrest illegal and highly objectionable, but the charges were obviously concocted post-facto; as time passes, they suddenly seem to have found more cases against her,” says the letter signed by Adivasi rights activists like Aloka Kujur, Elina Horo, Linga Ram Kodopi, feminist activists such as Syeda Hamid, Aruna Roy, Meera Sanghamitra, and groups like National Alliance for People's Movement, Saheli, People's Union for Civil Liberties, Adivasi Ekta Manch, Adani Watch and Stop Adani.
The signatories have demanded the following:
Free Hidme Markam
Stop clamp down on environmental, Adivasi and other human rights activists as well as Adivasi villagers in Chhattisgarh, in particular women in the garb of ‘combating Naxalism’.
Halt all potentially destructive projects that displace Adivasis and jeopardizes the environment and dialogue with the Adivasi communities.
Disband questionable schemes like Lon Varatu and unconstitutional entities like the District Reserve Guards Force (DRGF).
Institute an independent and high-level inquiry into the sexual violence and alleged “suicide” of Kawasi Pande, the rape and death of Nande, the rape and murder of Bheeme Mandawi and other young women who have been sexually assaulted by the police. Put an immediate end to the sexual violence being rampantly inflicted by the police and security forces on the women of Bastar.