Acquitted 6 times, arrested again: cops charge activist Mandavi afresh
Last year, the Bastar police had booked Ayata Mandavi, a tribal activist from Sukma district, Bastar, in six violence-related cases and jailed him. Courts in Dantewada and Sukma acquitted him in all the cases within eight months, and he was out of jail in October.
Now, Mr. Mandavi is back behind bars, accused once more of a Maoist violence-related case.
“Ayata Mandavi has been charged for plundering election material during an election last year,” Mr. Kshitiz Dubey, Mr. Mandavi’s lawyer, toldThe Hindu . It’s a Maoist-related case. He was detained on May 21 and was kept in illegal detention for three days. He was shown as arrested by the police only when we moved to court and the court issued a notice to the police. They have also declared him a Maoist with a reward on his head.”
After his release from jail last year, Mr. Mandavi — a popular leader in the Kukanar area of Sukma, and a close aide of tribal activist and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Soni Sori — had told this reporter that he was being hounded by the police on the orders of a senior police officer posted in Jagdalpur, Bastar’s district headquarters.
Calling his arrest “blatantly illegal” Ms.Isha Khandelwal, who secured his acquittal in all six cases last year, said that he continued to face pressure from a top cop of Bastar. “We have known that a senior police officer was after him for a long time,” Ms Khandelwal said. “When he went missing on May 21, it was reported widely in the local media. [The police] have done this with him before, and they are doing it again. I spoke to the DGP, Naxal Operations, a few days ago, and told him that this person was missing for four days, still the police came up with some random story and showed him arrested.”
When asked about the reasons for the alleged victimization of her former client, Ms.Khandelwal said, “He is being targeted for being vocal and raising his voice against what is happening on the ground. He is a popular local leader and earlier he was arrested because he was organising protests along with Soni Sori. He had also addressed a press conference last year after his release, and had accused a senior police officer of threatening him. Even after his release, he was facing continues harassment and was living under threat.”
Calling the labelling of Mr. Mandavi as a Maoist “a joke”, Ms Sori said, “If he was a Maoist with a reward on his head, how come he was living in his village freely with his wife and other villagers?”