There’s a coffin in the courtyard of the Pudiyam family. Kesa Pudiyam points at it and says, “the ambulance brought my brother in this (pointing at the coffin) last week and dropped him off. They didn’t explain anything.”
Pudiyam Mara was a tribal from Kondhre village in Chattisgarh state, in what's commonly called India's Maoist corridor . In early January, Mara was arrested by the Central Reserve Police Force on allegations of being a Naxalite, or Maoist. Four days later he died in police custody.
The police passed it off as a case of suicide, but his family doesn’t agree with their verdict. “They tortured and killed him. His genitals were cut off and wrapped up in a towel when they dropped his body,” Mara’s mother says agitatedly.
Kesa agrees. He says he met Mara when he appeared in court after his arrest. “He told me that they had done horrible things to him. That they had electrocuted him on his feet. He turned up to court with nothing but a towel. He pulled up the towel and showed me the torture marks.”
You can hear from the Pudiyam family and more on this week’s show:
Mara’s is not an isolated case. Himanshu Kumar, a human rights activist who has spent nearly two decades in Chhattisgarh, says he has recorded many cases of deaths and rapes caused by the state police. “We have filed such cases in courts. The courts have issued arrest warrants against cops, but the government is not arresting them and continuously lying in the court that these cops are absconding, but continuously giving them salaries,” he says.
According to Kumar, the state is trying hard to hide its bad human rights track record. Independent journalists and human rights activists have been banned from entering the region. Kumar himself has not been allowed into Chhattisgarh since two years.
“The government claims that the Naxalites are the bad people and government is doing very well there. Then why the government is trying to hide something? Why it is stopping people from entering? It should allow people, it should welcome people who want to know the situation. They will themselves know how bad the Naxalites are and how good the government is,” he says.
And Kumar fears the situation is only worsening. “Unfortunately, if we don’t do anything, it will only get worse. The state will tighten its hold over the tribals and they will lose the battle,” he says.