INDIA - SEPTEMBER 19:  Vrinda Grover, Supreme Court lawyer and Human Rights Activist in New Delhi, India  (Photo by Sipra Das/The India Today Group/Getty Images)THE ADIVASI UNDERTRIAL – A PRISONER OF WAR

A study of undertrial detainees in South Chhattisgarh

Vrinda Grover

In South Chhattisgarh, three graphs can be overlaid that reveal a similar trajectory. The number of MoUs signed between the state with private companies for extraction of minerals and acquisition of land; the number of police, para military and other security forces posted in South Chhattisgarh; and the adivasi undertrial population in prisons. All three soared dramatically
between 2000 and 2014. Official data shows that the prisons of Chhattisgarh were the most overcrowded in the country from 2013-2014. The paper seeks to examine the role of the criminal justice system, and maps the conditions of the prisons, the efficacy of the legal aid system, the approach of the judiciary and lawyers, to the adivasi undertrial, perceived as a caricature and marked as an outlaw. Facing trials in what are known as “Naxal cases”, the majority of adivasis are acquitted after long incarceration. The paper probes whether the overcrowding of jails and protracted trials are symptomatic of the malaise that afflicts the Indian legal system or does the confinement of the adivasi serve other objectives in this conflict zone.

Vrinda Grover, is a human rights lawyer based in Delhi. She was the Executive Director of MARG, New Delhi. She has done seminal work on Anti-Sikh Riot cases and is handling a range of cases related to human rights issues across the country.

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