NHRC summons the Chief Secretary of Government of Chhattisgarh and IGP, Bastar to explain the allegations of hostility and abuse of power against Human Rights Defenders (17.11.2016)

New Delhi, 17th November, 2016

The National Human Rights Commission has noted and taken suo motu cognizance of “the nationwide outcry and protest on IG of Bastar Range Shri S.R.P. Kalluri for registering FIR No.27/2016 P.S. Tongpal dated 5.11.2016 against Delhi University Professor Archana Prasad, JNU Prof. Nandini Sundar, Vineet Tiwari, Sanjay Parate of CPI(M) and Manju Kawasi for offences of murder, criminal trespass, conspiracy and for offences under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. It has been alleged that she and Prof. Nandini Sundar and other associate professors are being threatened by Bastar Police for arresting these activists in the said FIR.

The reports in press and media over last week have alleged that Chhattisgarh Police has named Prof. Nandini Sundar and ten others as accused in the murder of a tribal Mr. Samnath Baghel in Sukma District on 4.11.2016. It is reported that he was killed by Maoists as he had been leading a campaign against Maoists activities since April, 2016. It has been alleged that these professors had visited Bastar in May, 2016, while this murder has taken place in November, 2016. There is no apparent connection between murder and visit of these human rights activists and, therefore, it has been alleged that they have been framed in mala fide manner by police to settle scores. It has been stated that FIR has been registered in the name of the wife of killed Baghel.

The Commission also takes Judicial Notice of Petition filed by Prof. Nandini Sundar recently in Hon’ble Supreme Court against atrocities by Bastar Police against tribal people by burning of their homes. The Hon’ble Supreme Court ordered investigation by CBI. The CBI found S.R.P. Kalluri, IG of Police, Bastar Range responsible for the burning of homes. She has also earlier filed a petition in Supreme Court in Salwa Judum case in 2007 against atrocities by police in the tribal areas. She with other lawyers and journalists has in the past brought to the notice of the Commission mass rape of women, murders and other crimes by security officers under the umbrella of police. The Commission is separately examining those complaints and has sought comments from the State of Chhattisgarh on the findings submitted to the Commission by its team after visiting Chhattisgarh.

The Commission also took suo motu cognizance this month against the unprecedented acts of hostility and indiscipline by Chhattisgarh Auxiliary Police in burning the effigies of Prof. Nandini Sundar and other lawyers and journalists as they were instrumental in exposing the deeds of police.

The Commission on consideration of the whole situation obtaining in Chhattisgarh over more than a year views the action of registration of FIR against Prof. Nandini Sundar and others as an act in line with earlier acts of hostility displayed by police.

It has also been reported in the press that Mrs. Baghel, wife of killed Samnath Baghel had told NDTV on 4th November, 2016 that she had not named Prof. Nandini Sundar or anyone in her complaint. She told that Maoists had attacked their house while they were sleeping on 4th November, 2016. The reports also show that Prof. Nandini Sundar told ANI that she and others have not been in the area for last five months.

Naming of these human rights activists in the FIR in the backdrop and circumstances mentioned above lends credence of the observation of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) that all this was part of the State Police vendetta against the lawyers, journalists and human rights activists who have been critical of fake encounters, mass rapes, arson, etc. by security forces. The naming of these persons in FIR appears to be the ploy to stop their entry and visit to the tribal areas for exposing their misdeeds.

In the considered view of the Commission, Police of Chhattisgarh in the circumstances mentioned above owes its explanation to the Commission as there are allegations and its action seems to be coloured by malafide, hostility and abuse of power on the allegations of false implication to silence the human rights defenders. Though, the Commission is aware of the direction of the Hon’ble Supreme Court given on 15.11.2016 directing issue of notice of four weeks before their arrest, yet the acts on the part of police stand on independent footing for the Commission to intervene.

It is the duty and function of the Commission to see that the faith of the people in the police is not eroded and society is governed by rule of law and faith of people in upholding the human rights of people is restored and vindicated at the earliest.

The Commission is deeply disturbed by the state of affairs in the State of Chhattisgarh over last one year or more and is of the view that the Chief Secretary, Govt. of Chhattisgarh and Shri S.R.P.Kalluri, IGP, Bastar Range should appear in person before the Commission 30.11.2016 at 11.00 am with all reports to explain the allegations made against the police and administration in the press media and by human rights defenders.

The Commission also is of the view that since allegations are made against the Shri. S.R.P. Kalluri, IGP, Bastar Range, the Commission would like to know from them why the investigation in the FIR now registered should not be handed over to an independent agency like CB CID or CBI.”