They demand withdrawal of the criminal charges against sociologist Nandini Sundar and other Leftist leaders in the murder of a villager.
Human rights activists and women’s rights groups condemned “the throttling of democracy in Chhattisgarh” and “the attacks, including filing of false cases” against Adivasi activists, journalists, activists and researchers by the Chhattisgarh government, at a media meet in New Delhi on Thursday.
Demanding the immediate withdrawal of the criminal charges filed by the Chhattisgarh government against Delhi University professor Nandini Sundar, JNU professor Archana Prasad, Vineet Tiwari of the CPI, Sanjay Parate of the CPI (M), villagers Manglu of Nama and Manju Kawasi of Gadiras, and others, in the case of the murder of Samnath Baghel, a resident of Nama village in Sukma, CPI leader D. Raja demanded the withdrawal of the FIR registered against them and sought the dismissal of Bastar IG, S.R.P. Kalluri for “human rights crimes” allegedly perpetrated under his watch. “The CPI offices in the state have been ransacked by RSS goons during his tenure. We cannot let this man continue in his job”, Mr. Raja alleged.
Speaking at the meeting, organised by the Campaign for Peace and Justice in Chhattisgarh (CPJC) and Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS), CPI (M) leader Brinda Karat said that Chhattisgarh has become a battleground where the government, in collusion with corporates, is waging a war against Adivasis who are resisting a model of development based on brutal extraction of mineral wealth that is being imposed on them in violation of the their Constitutional rights.
“In the name of a fraudulent war against leftwing extremism, the Chhattisgarh government is making a concerted effort to eliminate all political activity and silence every voice of dissent in Chhattisgarh. Even the CPM state secretary was brutally assaulted. We will raise this in the Parliament next week,” she said.
Swami Agnivesh of Bandhua Mukti Morcha (BMM) drew attention to the “complete breakdown of law and order” in Chhattisgarh. “I have myself suffered a murderous assault by state-sponsored goons. Mr Raman Singh is fully aware that Mr Kalluri has given free rein to SPOs (special police officers) to run amok”, Agnivesh alleged.
Echoing the words of Mr. Raja and Ms. Karat, supreme court advocate Vrinda Grover pointed out that the objective of Fifth Schedule of the Constitution was to give adivasis control over decisions that affect their lives, such as mining in the lands they live on. “But given the continued violations of this right and human rights violations, the state government does not want any witnesses to the crimes against the adivasis, and is therefore intimidating journalists and human rights activists to leave the state. There is total breakdown of law and order in Chhattisgarh today, and this is a direct outcome of the failure of the country’s institutions – including the Supreme Court, the CBI, and the National Human Rights Commission.”
Former director-general of the BSF and human rights activist E.N. Rammohan pointed out that the state government should not interfere in the administration of reserved forest areas that come under the Fifth Schedule. “As per the Constitution, the Schedule V areas are to be administered solely by the Governor, with the help of the Tribes Advisory Committee. The Chhattisgarh government’s handing over of mining rights in forest areas is therefore illegal – it has no right to do so. There needs to be a writ petition to make sure that this provision is respected.”
Sociologists slam police
In a related development, more than 200 sociologists from around the world released a statement condemning the FIR filed by the Chhattisgarh police, including charges of murder and criminal conspiracy, against Ms. Sundar and others. The statement, whose signatories included eminent sociologists T.K. Oommen, Veena Das, and Patricia Uberoi, noted with concern “the increasing incidents of attempts to intimidate or falsely accuse” sociologists in the recent past. It appealed to the President and the Prime Minister well as Chief Ministers of states to “uphold the freedom to do critical academic research.”