Chhattisgarh police arrest tribal woman over charges of being member of CPI (Maoist)

Bastar division’s IGP Sundarraj said Hidme Markam has been accused of multiple cases between 2016 and 2020 and she carries a bounty of Rs 1,10,000 on her head.

Chhattisgarh police on Tuesday arrested a 30-year-old tribal woman on charges of being a member of banned outfit CPI (Maoist) in Dantewada district’s Sameli area.

Cops alleged that Hidme Markam was involved in four cases lodged against the outfit, even as activists and lawyers slammed the arrest saying she was a part of several organisations working for the tribals in the state.

Markam was arrested from a gathering where women from several villages around Sameli had come to attend an event, of which Jail Bandi Rihai Committee and Chhattisgarh Mahila Adhikar Manch were also a part, on the occasion of International Women’s Day.

“She was dragged into the police vehicle. No warrant was shown and no reason was given for her arrest,” Gayatri Suman, a lawyer from the Chhattisgarh Mahila Adhikar Manch, said.

However, Bastar division’s IGP Sundarraj said, “Markam has been accused of multiple cases between 2016 and 2020. She is a range ‘jantana sarkaar adhyaksh’ and carries a bounty of Rs 1,10,000 on her head. Attempts were made to arrest her earlier but she had been absconding.” He added that she had been remanded to judicial custody till March 19

Rights activists across the state released statements in support of Markam. “It is crucial to note that Hidme Markam, well known in the area as an outspoken voice against the building of Paramilitary Camps and as an anti-displacement activist has, as the convenor of the Jail Bandi Rihai Committee even met with the Governor, Chief Minister, Superintendent of Police, Collector and several other such high-ranking officials raising issues of releasing wrongfully arrested or convicted Adivasis in jails, police camps and against mining in sacred lands,” an official statement from PUCL and Chhattisgarh Mahila Adhikar Manch read.

According to Suman, who is one of the lawyers representing Markam, the police have not provided them with any details regarding why she has been arrested. “We are not even clearly told what she has been arrested for. Despite the FIRs being from 2016, the ‘chalaan’ has not been presented yet. It is an attack against her to stop the event that she was a part of. When will this practise of putting activists behind bars on the pretext of being naxals stop?” she asked.

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