Over 1000 activists, concerned citizens call for immediate release of Hidme Markam, ending state excess on Adivasis in Bastar

Hidme Markam, an Adivasi human rights defender and environmental activist. | Photo by Detention Solidarity Network

Human rights defender and environmental activist Hidme Markam has been in jail for over 40 days now. She was arrested on March 9 by police and paramilitary forces from Dantewada’s Sameli village in Chhattisgarh. She was attending a programme to remember and mourn the rapes and murders of Adivasi women.

TCN Staff Reporter 

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Over a thousand activists, academics, journalists, filmmakers and concerned citizens from across the globe have petitioned Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel demanding the release of Adivasi human rights defender and environmental activist Hidme Markam and “take pro-active steps to end the cycle of repression against Adivasis in Chhattisgarh.”

Condemning Hidme’s arrest as entirely wrongful, the signatories of the letter called upon the Chief Minister to immediately, “Free Hidme Markam and drop all charges against her, including UAPA,” and “Stop clamp down on environmental, Adivasi and other human rights activists as well as Adivasi villagers in Chhattisgarh, especially women in the garb of ‘combating Naxalism’.”

The letter is signed by Adivasi rights activists like Elina Horo, Lingram Kodopi, Aloka Kujur, groups like Adivasi Ekta Manch, Adani Watch National Alliance for People’s Movement, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Stop Adani and Saheli, and, feminist activists such as Aruna Roy, Meera Sanghamitra and Syeda Hamid. 

Hidme Markam, who is in jail for over 40 days now, was arrested on March 9 by police and paramilitary forces from Dantewada’s Sameli village in Chhattisgarh. She was attending a programme to remember and mourn the rapes and murders of Adivasi women.

The signatories stressed that “inquiry be conducted into all instances of sexual and state violence in the state.”

The signatories demanded that the Chhattisgarh government should “halt all potentially destructive projects that displace Adivasis and jeopardizes

the environment and dialogue with the Adivasi communities,” and urged the government to “disband questionable schemes like Lon Varatu and unconstitutional entities like the District Reserve Guards Force (DRGF).”

The signatories urged the Chief Minister to “institute 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.” 

Put an immediate end to the sexual violence being rampantly inflicted by the police and security forces on the women of Bastar, the signatories demanded. 

Arrest of Hidme Markam

On March 9, 2021, 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, the letter states. 

The letter says that several women had gathered peacefully to remember and mourn the rapes and murders of Adivasi women at the hands of the State. “But ironically, that day became witness to another incident of state high-handedness,” it says. 

The letter states that Hidme Markam along with other Adivasis, organized 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 organizing 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,” the letter said.  

Her arrest is just the latest in the chain of the State hounding Adivasi women activists who are fighting for constitutional and human rights, it said. 

The violence of ill-thought and arbitrary ‘development’ projects have haunted the Adivasi state of Chhattisgarh and Central-Eastern India for decades. 

The wide-scale displacement and environmental devastation caused by these projects remain unaccounted for, and they multiply constantly, to cater largely to corporate profits, the letter says. 

“The local communities who have peacefully existed there for decades, not only depend on these forests and mountains for their sustenance but also sustain them, have been violently crushed to build mines and industries. But they continue to resist, and democratically fight for their rights,” the letter maintains.