Recent attack on Nandini Sundar, others is direct result of CBI absolving ‘Naxals’ of burning villages

sundarStatement by Campaign for Peace and Justice in Chhattisgarh (CPJC) and Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) on false FIR filed against Delhi University professor Nandini Sundar and others:

Giving a whole new turn to the on-going attacks on activists, local leaders and journalists in Bastar, Chhattisgarh Police has now filed an FIR against Nandini Sundar (Professor of Sociology, DU), Archana Prasad (JNU Professor), Vineet Tiwari (Joshi Adhikar Institute and CPI), Sanjay Parate (CPI (M)), villagers and CPI activists Mangla of Nama and Manju Kawasi, Sarpanch of Gadiras, in the case of murder of a villager Samnath Baghel, from Nama village in Sukma. They have been charged under Sections 302, 147,148, 149, 450,120B of IPC , 25 and 27 of Arms Act.

It is to be noted that all the above-mentioned people had gone for a Fact Finding visit in May this year where they documented various incidents of forceful surrenders of villagers by the Police. They also looked into the allegations of Maoist backlash on villagers who have joined the security forces or surrendered to the police. The vicious campaign against the team started during the fact-finding itself. The Collector of Bastar posted on social media platform that the villagers filed a complaint that the Fact Finding members threatened them to join Maoists. But this allegation was squarely denied by villagers, as per an investigative report in Indian Express on May 29, 2016.

The Fact Finding report had also expressed apprehension about restarting the Salwa Judum model of arming villagers which might result in further backlash from the Maoists towards the vulnerable villagers. The deceased Samnath Baghel was from a recently formed and police supported armed group called “Tangiya Gang”. The Fact Finding team had also suggested for constructive dialogue between various stakeholders, including the State and Communist Party of India (Maoist). It is really ironical that the members of the Team are now booked for murder when there is no link whatsoever of this murder to the visit of these people. It is clear that such a step by the State police is for the sole purpose to harass Nandini Sundar along with others who have been relentlessly challenging violent state actions against Adivasis in Bastar.

In 2005, an armed vigilante group Salwa Judum, supported by police and Security forces, was started in the name of fighting the Maoists. It led to excessive human rights violations of innocent villagers in Bastar. Finally in 2011, Supreme Court in a petition filed by Nandini Sundar and many other activists and local leaders ordered a ban of the vigilante group holding it unconstitutional.  Since last year, which marks the tenth anniversary of the Salwa Judum, Chhattisgarh police has been desperately and strategically trying to revive vigilante groups of the Salwa Judum model in this region. The offensive by the state too has intensified over the last 2 years, resulting in massive increase in allegations of mass gang rapes and sexual violence on women by the security forces, fake encounters in which ordinary villagers have be killed and fake ‘surrenders’.

Number of these incidents have been investigated and documented by WSS and other human rights groups, as well as by national bodies including the Scheduled Tribes Commission and the Editors’ Guild of India.  This sudden increase in the recent times can be seen since Mr. SRP Kalluri took charge as Inspector General (Bastar Range) in 2014. In last one year, formed with complete support of the State Police especially IG SRP Kalluri, a number of vigilante groups like the now disbanded Samajik Ekta Manch , Naxal Peedith Sangharash Samiti and  the newly    formed group AGNI are being used by the police, to harass and intimidate everyone working in the area , be it lawyers, journalists, local leaders, researchers who are exposing these cases of atrocities and calling the state to account. Many of these present groups have ex Salwa Judum leaders.

It is to be noted that even during his earlier posting as SSP Dantewada, between 2010-11, Mr. SRP Kalluri created a reign of terror in the area when human rights activists like Swami Agnivesh, Medha Patkar were attacked, journalists were driven out of the region and CPI representatives were arrested on false charges.  It was during his term that in March 2011, hundreds of homes and granaries were burnt down, women were raped and three men were killed in 3 villages namely, Tadmetla, Morpalli and Timapuram of Dantewada district by security forces and SPOs. Additionally, Swami Agnivesh and some other volunteers were attacked by the SPOs who were enroute to these 3 villages to distribute relief materials after getting prior permission from the District Collector.

Immediately after the incident, Sundar and other petitioners in the on-going Salwa Judum case, brought this incident to the attention of the Supreme Court. In July 2011, by the same order where Supreme Court outlawed Salwa Judum, it also directed the CBI to investigate the allegations of crimes that took place in the 3 villages as well as the attack on Swami Agnivesh. SRP Kalluri being the SSP under whose directions the operation in these villages was conducted was transferred out of Bastar to ensure independence of inquiry into the matter.

The recent attack on Sundar and others is precisely because of the findings of the CBI into the Tadmetla incident that it submitted last month. CBI filed chargesheets before the Special CBI Court, Raipur which has completely demolished the police’s story that Naxalites burnt the villages. In its closure reports, CBI held police/SPO’s responsible for arson. Kalluri’s vindictiveness against Sundar was clearly visible in his press conference on 23rdOctober 2016 i.e one day after the CBI report was submitted in the Supreme Court, where he denied allegations made by the CBI and suggested that Sundar had bribed the villagers to give statements against the SPOs.

The pure lawlessness of the State police became more evident when after the CBI inquiry report; Chhattisgarh police in all 7 districts of Bastar Division publicly burnt the effigies of Nandini Sundar and other human rights activists like Manish Kunjam, Soni Sori, Bela Bhatia, Himanshu Kumar, and Journalist Malini Subramaniam, infront of the SP’s office and chanted slogans “Goli Maro Salon Ko”. Vigilantes also attacked a press conference held by Mr. Manish Kunjam, president of the Adivasi Mahasabha, and vandalised his office.

Given these circumstances, we at Campaign for Peace and Justice in Chhattisgarh (CPJC) and Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) strongly believe that this case against Nandini Sundar, Archana Prasad, Vineet Tiwari, Sanajy Parate, Mangla and Manju has no lawful basis and is a clear act of vengeance. We condemn the lawless behaviour of SRP Kalluri and demand that:

–       The FIR against all of them should be quashed immediately.

–       Action should be taken against Mr. SRP Kalluri for the burning of homes in Tadmetla, Morpalli and Timmapuram and numerous cases of fake encounters, mass rapes and sexual assault by men under his command.

–       We demand protection of the Fact Finding team members Mangla of Nama and Manju Kawasi who being locals are the most vulnerable amongst all.

–       Kalluri should be stripped of the “President’s award in 2013 for meritorious service” with immediate effect.

In the present situation it has also become imperative to have a high level committee inquiring into the state of lawlessness and reign of terror continuing unabated on the local population of Bastar.

Click HERE for timeline of events

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