Torture tales from freed tribals

Caesar Mandal, TNN 24 October 2009

MIDNAPORE: They came out of the prison and looked around in awe at the army of journalists, totally unaware of the high-tension drama that had taken place over the last three days that led to their release. One of them, a 70-year-old widow, stepped back in fear and clutched the woman who was helping her walk. She is accused of trying to murder police personnel.

After being locked up in jail for nearly one and a half months on serious charges — ranging from attempt to murder to sedition and waging war against the state — the tribal women didn’t quite know how to react to their freedom. Like their arrest, their release was also a mystery to them. They were not aware that the Maoists had negotiated their release.

The Lalgarh women’s first worry was how to get back home. No one had money for bus fare. And no family member had come to meet them — they are all hiding for fear of being branded Maoists as well. Most of the 14 women bailed out in exchange for the release of abducted sub-inspector Atindranath Dutta had never left Lalgarh before this and were on the verge of tears.

Their lawyer Mrinal Chowdhury stepped in, in the nick of time, gave them some money and helped them catch the right bus home.

This group of 14 tribal women, released at noon on Friday, were arrested from Bansber village near Kantapahari on September 3, 2009. Their ages range from 22 to 70 years and all of them resembled the simple village folk from this impoverished part of the country.

They were hesitant to speak at first. When one opened up, they all did, in a flood of emotions. “Security personnel regularly ransacked our homes in the name of ‘search operations’. Do we look like Maoists? But we never objected. They’d verbally abuse us and damage whatever little we owned. By the time they left, we would not even have our earthen pots and pans to cook a meal. Police kept asking about the ‘people from the jungle’. How were we to know their exact location? When we told them this, they dragged us away. They claimed that we had tried to beat them up,” said 22-year-old Phoolmani Soren.

Courtesy: The Times of India

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