On 9th of March Chhattisgarh police arrested Hidme Markam, Indigenous human rights and environmental defender while she was at an International Women’s Day event where many had gathered to commemorate Adivasi (Indigenous) women who have lost their lives as a consequence of violent physical and sexual assault by police and security forces.
IndiaMatters UK urges you to write to the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh (firstname.lastname@example.org ) requesting Hidme Markam’s immediate release and an end to the persecution of Adivasi women and their communities. You can adapt the sample letter below if you wish.
The police allege that Hidme Markam is a Maoist, but many believe the charges against her to be false. Accusing someone of belonging to a banned organisation is a tactic commonly used by the Indian state to silence dissent including against critics of large development projects which displace people in contravention of their legal and constitutional rights and cause massive and irreversible environmental destruction. It is likely that Hidme Markam’s arrest is linked to her peaceful resistance to mining at Nandaraj hill where the controversial company Adani operates. As convenor of the Jail Bandi Rihai Committee (Committee for Release of Prisoners), she has been vocal in the demand for the release of the thousands of innocent Adivasis accused in false cases and incarcerated in over-crowded jails. Four recent reports (see below)* describe India’s deeply disturbing descent into authoritarianism. These attacks on large numbers of Adivasi and other villagers is a yet another troubling aspect of this and local people are desperate for the world to hear their voices. They are opposed to mining because they are dependent on the land for their livelihoods, including food sovereignty and security, and understand that non-renewable resource extraction “leaves barren toxic void spaces destroying the prior places and lived environments, causes extreme inequalities and is non-developmental” Dr Markus Kroeger, author Iron Will: Global Extractivism and Mining Resistance in Brazil and India.
* a. The annual report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) places India alongside Pakistan, China and North Korea. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-52467564
b. Earlier this month, in its annual report on global political rights and liberties, US-based non-profit Freedom House downgraded India from a free democracy to a “partially free democracy”.
c. Last week, Sweden-based V-Dem Institute was harsher in its latest report on democracy. It said India had become an “electoral autocracy”.
d. And last month, India, described as a “flawed democracy”, slipped two places to 53rd position in the latest Democracy Index published by The Economist Intelligence Unit. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-56393944