SAHMAT Statement Against the Outrageous Attack on Freedom
We condemn the charges filed by the Chhattisgarh state police against members of a fact-finding team that visited the Bastar region in May this year. Those charged for the murder of Shamnath Baghel, a local political leader include Nandini Sundar and Archana Prasad, professors at Delhi University and the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Vineet Tiwari of the Joshi Adhikari Foundation, Sanjay Parate, state secretary of the CPI(M) and Manju Kawasi of the CPI, a village sarpanch from Sukma district.
Shamnath Baghel, murdered last Friday, was head of a vigilante group that was often deployed by the Chhattisgarh police in search and cordon operations. Its often lawless conduct had drawn the justified criticism of the May fact-finding team. In its report, which was widely circulated over the internet, the team called for greater attention to the plight of ordinary citizens caught in the crossfire between the Maoists and state-sponsored vigilantes.
We deplore the atmosphere of intolerance for the advocacy of human rights, typified by the burning an effigy of well-known activists a fortnight back, by members of the police force. This action followed a finding by the Central Bureau of Investigation that members of the police force – and the so-called volunteers or “special police officers” they recruited – were responsible for an incident of arson in Tadmedla village of Sukma district, in which 160 dwellings were burnt. The incident was blamed on Maoist insurgents but the CBI finding of police culpability came after an investigation ordered by the High Court.
We demand that the charges be dropped at once. We also urge authorities in Chhattisgarh to pay special attention to the safety and security of the two local political activists who have been charged.
The charges brought by the Chhattisgarh police are a transparent effort to intimidate independent civic initiatives that focus public attention particularly on the problems of the state’s adivasi communities. Professors Nandini Sundar and Archana Prasad who have long had a research commitment in this area, have often been subject to intrusive surveillance and intimidation on their visits to the Bastar region.
We call upon the academic community in Delhi and elsewhere to step up to protest this outrageous attack on freedom.
B P Sahu
C P Chandrasekhar
Syed Ali Nadeem
D N Jha
Iqtidar Alam Khan
K M Shrimali
M K Raina
N K Sharma
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