“She was dragged into the police vehicle. No warrant was shown and no reason was given for her arrest” – Eyewitness
On 9th of the March, Tribal Activist Hidme Markam was forcefully detained by Police “In Abduction Style” without any warrant from Sameli village, while she was celebrating International Women’s Day. The 30-year-old was taken into a police van on the charges of being a member of the banned outfit CPI (Maoist). According to the police she has been detained and sent on judicial custody till March 19th.
Who is Hidme Markam
Hidme Markam hails from Burgum village under Aranpur Police Station in Dantewada. She is the Convener of Jail Bandi Rihai Committee which is a platform that advocates for the release of Adivasi persons, particularly youths, held in pre-trial detention.
She was arrested from Sameli village that falls under the Aranpur police station area where she was at a gathering of about 300 people. The group was commemorating the death of a young woman whilst in police custody in Chhattisgarh. The woman, named Pande Kawasi (20), was found dead on February 23 at the officers’ guesthouse in Chhattisgarh’s Karli.
Why She is Arrested
As per the police version she is being detained in connection with cases registered between the years 2016 to 2020 for her alleged involvement in Maoist activities.
The police said she was involved in several cases including two cases registered in July and August 2020 on alleged charges of murder, rioting, arms and explosive acts and other relevant sections of the IPC.
Citing the reason for the arrest, Abhishek Pallav, Superintendent of Police, Dantewada, said, “Hidme Markam was a range president of Jantana Sarkar Adhyaksh and carried a reward of 1.10 lakh on her head. She has been sent on Judicial custody till March 19.”
However, differing from the Police version, activists raised the concern that how a social activist within a night becomes a Maoist?
Giving the details of the arrest, SP Pallav said, “A joint team of Aranpur Police Station and a party of local forces spotted Hidme Markam and arrested her. She was posted as the range president of Jantana Sarkar at the event. She was arrested near village Sameli following the legal course and was presented before Magistrate from where she has been sent on 10 days remand.”
Activist Soni Suri, who is also an eyewitness of the incident said, “She isn’t a Maoist as police claimed and has been fighting for the Jal-Jangal-Jameen (water, forest and land) of tribals in Bastar. She had been going to the offices of SP, Collector frequently and met with many prominent personalities including Bhupesh Baghel, and Governor to raise tribals’ issues.”
“Have you ever heard that a Maoist goes to the SP or Collector’s office, meets with the Chief Minister, Governor and reveals their identity openly?,” asked Soni Sori, highlighting the arrested activist’s work.
Another Tribal Rights Activist and a member of Chhattisgarh Mahila Adhikar Manch, Rinchin termed Markam’s arrest as “illegal abduction”.
“This was not an arrest, it was a planned abduction. Hidme is a social activist and people’s leader who works through democratic means. She has attended meetings with the Chief Minister and many political leaders and has openly led andolans. How can she be a wanted Naxal?,” she questioned.
“If she was a Naxalite, and the police had inputs against her since 2016, why wasn’t she arrested earlier? It’s a hoax being orchestrated by the police to quell the voices that talk about tribals, women and their rights,” Rinchin added, highlighting the irregularities in the police charges.
“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.”
-People’s Union for Civil Liberties and Mahila Adhikar Manch
Hidme is fighting a non-violent battle was for the rights and upliftment of the tribal community, yet Dantewada police put her in jail by calling her a Naxalites. This is not the first time; Chhattisgarh state has a story of harassing social and Human Rights activists in the name of Naxalism. The Congress government of Chhattisgarh state seems to be failing to run the government. The “abduction” of Hidme is a clear case of state oppression. The state and the district administration is flouting the fundamental rights of the tribal and locking them without any evidence.