Bastar has a vibrant tradition to preserve death. The jungle is strewn with memorials of stone and wood, erected by the security forces, the Naxals, and the Adivasis. The ones by the Adivasis are the most aesthetic, an exercise in subtlety. They erect these memorials in memory of their dead, and draw artistic figures on them, colourful pictures that depict the life of the deceased. The image on the cover is in the memory of Hadma Ram who was killed in police firing in 2016.
Hadma's brother was a Naxal and was killed in a similar situation. He was arrested by the Bastar police on mere suspicion and remained in jail for three years before he was released in 2016. He went back to his Sulangi village in Bijapur district to resume his family life, but a police party from the Mardum police station of Bastar district came after him and allegedly killed him in his village. The distance between Mardum and Sulnagi is nearly 100 km, a considerable distance in the Adivasi zone. But the police covered all these miles in the jungle to reach their target.
The incident was not sufficiently reported in the media, but his community members built a memorial and etched the story of the encounter in Gond art. Among the images, one depicts him working on a farm land and another shows the police surrounding him and gunning him down, with animals being the witness. The subdued images narrate quiet but profound grief.
This week we look at such killings, their legality, the brutality, the lives that are left behind, the long ordeal for justice, and a State that refuses to lend an ear to the victims. We focus on other extrajudicial killings, euphemistically called encounters, across the country, be it the conflict zones of central India or Kashmir or the North East, or the police encounters in Mumbai, Uttar Pradesh or Punjab, where recently, rapper Sidhu Moosewala's assailants were killed in an encounter.