Activists who are fighting for the rights of tribals in Bastar, have claimed that the charges against professors Nandini Sundar of Delhi University and Archana Prasad of Jawaharlal Nehru University are “trumped-up”.

This, they believe, happened because the duo had the temerity to take on Bastar’s police chief who is widely accused of employing authoritarian tactics.

Violence Leads to Harrassment

Soni Sori, a school teacher-turned-activist (and herself a victim of Chhattisgarh Police’s high-handedness), termed the FIR against Sundar, Prasad and others in an alleged murder case in Bastar ‘fake’.

“There’s nothing new about the ways of the police in Bastar,” Sori, who was arrested and allegedly tortured by the police, said.

Police in Bastar have this method of putting people behind bars on trumped-up charges. Any act of violence – be it a blast or arson – is enough for police to harass villagers and land them in jail. The real Maoists are hardly affected, only the poor tribals are.

An FIR was lodged at Tongpal police station in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh against Sundar for murdering a tribal, Shamnath Baghel, in insurgency-hit Sukma district on 7 November. She was booked along with JNU professor Prasad and a few others.

Indiscriminate Exploitation

Sundar is a sociology professor and an activist working for the welfare of tribals in Bastar. She has also recently penned a book on their lives.

In the wake of the hue and cry from intellectuals and activists, the Chhattisgarh government has now assured the Supreme Court that it won’t arrest Sundar and any of the other activists without giving them a one-month notice.

The case against Sundar was filed on the complaint of Baghel’s wife, who had reportedly told police that her husband was threatened by the professor and Maoists in May to give up his anti-Maoist activities.

Baghel was allegedly killed by armed Maoists on 4 November during which, his wife contended, the ultras referred to the warning given to him earlier.

Personal Vendetta Killing Tribals

Sori, however, termed the action against Sundar as “nothing but an eyewash and just another attempt at weeding out any element which impedes police’s indiscriminate exploitation of the villagers”.

She also mentioned Bastar Inspector General SRP Kalluri, a controversial figure, who, according to her, is one of the reasons for the increasing body count in the region.

“It’s personal vendetta which has inspired this move against Sundar. She was responsible for bringing a CBI inquiry against Kalluri concerning the burning of villagers’ homes in 2011,” said Himanshu Kumar, a human rights activist.

The CBI report, which came on 23 October this year, found the Special Police Officers (SPOs) in-charge guilty of the operation against the Maoists. According to Kumar, the police had originally blamed the Maoists for setting on fire 160 houses in Tadmetla village of Bastar region of south Chhattisgarh.

(With inputs from IANS)