In December 2018, the Congress toppled the 15-year regime of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Chhattisgarh, winning 68 of the 90 seats in the assembly. In Bastar, the Adivasi-dominated region in the south of the state, it won 11 of the 12 seats.
What swayed the vote in favour of the Congress in Bastar was not just the economic promise of an increase in the purchase price of paddy and tendu leaves. Equally important was the promise of dignity and justice.
Accusing the BJP government of targeting innocent Adivasis in the name of fighting Maoists, the Congress said it would review police cases against them. This raised the hopes of the beleaguered families of Adivasis languishing in jails, as well as the wider community living in constant fear of the police. In addition, the Congress’s promise of restoring the rights of Adivasis to their land and forests created a groundswell of support for the party.
But ten months after they voted for the Congress, many Adivasis in Bastar are feeling disappointed. Last week, nearly 6,000 people gathered in Dantewada to protest against a series of alleged fake encounters by the police. Instead of allowing the participants to peacefully protest, the police arrested Soni Sori,...