Once every few months, tribal women from Sarkeguda village in Chhattisgarh’s deep interiors walk the 52-km road to Bijapur town and then take a rickety bus ride to Jagdalpur—Bastar’s district headquarters—in pursuit of the law. They are seeking justice for the killing of 17 villagers, including seven children, on the intervening night of June 28-29, 2012, by security forces, who fired upon villagers, allegedly mistaking a gathering (where preparations for an upcoming festival) were being discussed to be a meeting of Maoists. The multiple journeys to Jagdalpur bring the villagers face to face with the security personnel they testified against, and the stares they get from them and other policemen, for obvious reasons, are anything but friendly.
The Sarkeguda killings had triggered public debate on fake encounters in conflict-torn regions. And when news of the killing of eight undertrial prisoners from Bhopal central jail on October 31 rekindled that debate, the focus was on Muslim identity and outlawed SIMI connections.