Release Hidme Markam; More than 1,000 activists write to Chhattisgarh CM

Deeply outraged by the arbitrary incarceration of Hidme Markam, an Adivasi human rights defender and environmental activist, for over 42 days, more than a thousand activists, academics, concerned citizens from across the globe sent a petition to Bhupesh Baghel, the Chief Minister, Chhattisgarh calling upon him to immediate ensure the release of Hidme Markam and take pro-active steps to end the cycle of repression against Adivasis in Chhattisgarh.

They also appealed that false charges against Hidme and other Adivasi activists be dropped and an independent inquiry be conducted into all instances of sexual and state violence.

It has been widely reported that on 9 March this year, Hidme Markam, a committed environmental activist from the Adivasi community, working in the Nandraj Pahad anti-mining movement was openly abducted by the Dantewada Police (and later shown as ‘arrested’) when she was attending a programme commemorating the International Women’s Day in Sameli, Bastar. Several women had gathered peacefully to remember and mourn the rapes and murders of Adivasi women at the hands of the State.

She has been in jail for over 42 days now.

The letter states that Hidme Markam along with other Adivasis, organised as the Nandraj Pahad Bachao Andolan, has been resisting the mining of a sacred indigenous hill by corporations like Adani Pvt Ltd. She has also been organising against the Bailadila Mine Deposit project that would result in grave ecological damage in the region especially on the local forest, land and water bodies. As a member of the Chhattisgarh Mahila Adhikar Manch, Hidme has been present in numerous public spaces and meetings in Chhattisgarh, asserting the rights of Adivasi women, especially against displacement and state repression.

“How does the Govt. explain the arrest of an Adivasi woman activist who has only been trying to draw the attention of the state and police authorities to violations of constitutional rights? Like many others, Hidme is clearly being targeted for her political work in defence of Adivasi lands and lives and standing up against the might of the State and profit-making corporations. The State should know better that such scare-mongering tactics would neither dampen the spirit of the Adivasis of the region nor the democratic minded citizens across the country who stand resolutely in solidarity with them,” read the letter.

Condemning Hidme’s arrest as entirely wrongful, the Chief Minister has been called upon to immediately free Hidme Markam and drop all charges against her, including UAPA matters and stop the clamp down on environmental, Adivasi and other human rights activists as well as adivasi villagers in Chhattisgarh, in particular women in the garb of ‘combating Naxalism’.

The signatories also urged to halt all potentially destructive projects that displace Adivasis and jeopardises the environment and dialogue with the Adivasi communities.

They also demanded an independent and high-level inquiry into the sexual violence and alleged “suicide” of Kawasi Pande, the rape and death of Nande, the rape and murder of Bheeme Mandawi and other young women who have been sexually assaulted by the police.