| Pavan Dahat 
Santosh had been living in a climate of fear: PUCL

Santosh Yadav, the Bastar journalist who was booked under “draconian” Chhattisgarh Jan Suraksha Adhiniyam for suspected Maoist links, was allegedly facing police pressure to work as a police informer.

According to the People’s Union for Civil Liberties’ (PUCL) bulletin published in August 2015, more than a month before his arrest, Mr. Santosh was one of the first reporters to reach the spot of Darbha valley attack on Congress convoy in May 2013, so the police presumed that he collaborated with the Maoists.

“In mid-2014, the police began threatening him. One night, they [police] arrived at his house and detained him. The police ordered Santosh to take Rs.5 lakh to catch Maoists and bring them to the police but he refused to do so. For last one year, Santosh had been living in a climate of fear with police spreading rumours that they were out to get him,” said the PUCL bulletin.

Mr. Santosh’s lawyer Isha Khandelwal confirmed that her client was facing continuous police pressure and “harassment” to act as a police informer.

A father of three young girls, Santosh , however, refused to relent to the police pressure.

“In June 2015, the police took him to Darbha police station and stripped him. There had been constant search and cordoning operations in Badarimahu area of Darbha for the past few days and the police picked up some villagers accusing them of being Naxal supporters. Santosh was trying to help them and to publish their version of truth but before he could do so, he was arrested,” PUCL Chhattisgarh unit secretary Sudha Bharadwaj told The Hindu.

“There is not even an iota of truth in the allegations against my husband. The police accuse him of being involved in August 21 Darbha incident when Maoists cut a road and there was an exchange of firing between the police and the Maoists. But he was at home all night when the incident took place. A year ago, they (police) threatened to kill him in a fake encounter for his fearless reporting, but my husband continued to work for common tribal public,” claimed Poonam Yadav, the wife of Santosh Yadav.

When tried to reach for his reaction over the allegations against Bastar police, Bastar range Inspector General of Police, Mr.SRP Kalluri did not respond to messages from The Hindu. The Bastar police boss also did not entertain requests for an interview to seek his response.