Shalini Gera: In the last three or four months, we have witnessed wanton, large scale violence by the security forces in the villages—something of the scale that we haven’t witnessed in over two years that we have spent there. Violent incidents were still not unheard of then, but this is something entirely different. In two different districts, there have been three cases since October 2015 of mass sexual violence. To someone who has seen things on the ground, it now seems to be their strategy. Sexual violence is being used as a weapon for war, and victimised women are being seen as an enemy of the state. What we are hearing now from the villagers is that people are being picked up in buses and taken. This scale of terror is completely new. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that villages, at this point, are on fire.
SG: When SRP Kalluri had come in as the inspector general, we presented our credentials to him in the first month itself—since we were going to be working in the area, we wanted to be upfront about it, and go meet him. That was in July 2014. He said that he had recently met with a secretary from the ministry of steel, and that they are planning on setting up an Ultra Mega Steel Plant, or UMSP. He said that this are is really well positioned for industrial development—we have the ore nearby, we have a rail connection, water supply and so on. And he said that the only reason we haven’t been able to develop magnificent industries here is because of this trifling problem of the Naxalites. He told us that he was appointed to clear up this area so we can have another Bhilai or Raipur in Chattisgarh. Since then, he has repeated this on several occasions.
SG: He has certain kind of immunity, and we don’t know where it is coming from. He also said when we met him—and I don’t know if we are to believe it, as it could have been self-aggrandisement—that he had been appointed by “Modiji himself.” That was what he told us.