The National Human Rights Commission in India released a report on Saturday stating that they believe 16 women were victims of rape by police officers in the Bijapur district of central India during an attack on Maoist rebels in the Fall of 2015. There are potentially dozens more assaults yet to be confirmed.
The Indian Express reported in 2015 that as many as 40 women from five different villages reported rape, assault and sexual harassment by the Chhattisgarh Police, two of them gang rapes. Many of the villagers were also allegedly chased from their homes and their belongings were scattered or destroyed.
Aljazeera reports that an attorney representing 14 of the cases, Kishore Narayan, slammed the time it took to establish the facts of these attacks, saying to AFP news agency, “The victims gave the names of the policemen involved in the barbarity but nothing has happened. They carried a sham investigation and are trying to obfuscate the case.”
Police obstruction may have contributed to the delay, but access is also an issue. The region is a place of frequent unrest and is largely inhabited by very poor tribes who often get caught in the violence of insurgent combat. As several reporters told The Hindustan Times, getting to those villages is almost impossible:
“This area of Bastar is virtually a no-go zone for us. One has to cross 10 CRPF camps and three police stations to reach the villages,” said a local TV channel reporter who did not want to be named. “Police, usually, do not stop local journalists, but CRPF personnel treat everyone as Maoists. I will not to go there because anything can happen.”
Another Bijapur journalist claimed, “It is not advisable to go there now. There are still victims who are scared to record their statements. If we cover human rights lawyers and defenders for stories, they target us in subtle ways. It is very difficult to work here.”
The NHRC is still interviewing alleged victims and say they have at least 20 more interviews to record.