An online petition demanding withdrawal of charges pressed against the academicians and activists by Chhattisgarh police in the case of murder of a tribal villager, has been receiving support not just from India, but also from parts of world like South Africa, UK and USA.
The petition, uploaded by Prof. Aparna Sundar addressed to the president, prime minister and home minister of the country, alleges that the charges have been fabricated by police.
On Sunday, Chhattisgarh police booked Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Professor Archana Prasad, Delhi University (DU) professor Nandini Sundar, Vineet Tiwari of Joshi Adhikar Sansthan, Delhi, Chhattisgarh CPI(M) state secretary Sanjay Parate, Mangalram Karma, and Manju Kawasi, CPI activist and Sarpanch of Guphidi in Sukma district for the alleged murder of a tribal villager Shamnath Baghel on November 4. Baghel had earlier this year complained to the police that Prof Sundar and others are inciting tribals against the government.
SabrangIndia had earlier reported that the Chhattisgarh police had called all the accused academicians and activists ‘Naxals’, and had booked them under sections 120 B (criminal conspiracy), 302 (murder), 147 (punishment for rioting), 148 and 149 of IPC.
However, talking to SabrangIndia, Prof Prasad and Parate had called the allegations ‘bogus’ and had termed it as an attack on activism. Several academicians have since stepped forward showing their support, including JNU Teachers’ Association and the said petitioner.
The petition, which has received support from 404 people so far, elaborates on work done by those named in the FIR in the insurgency-afflicted area and their repeated attempts at achieving peace in Bastar. It has also blamed Chhattisgarh police for fabricating the charges in order to intimidate the activists. It has been endorsed by many users who claim to be belonging to several other countries.
Read the full text of the petition below:
We, the undersigned, are outraged by recent charges of murder that have been laid against Delhi University professor Nandini Sundar, JNU professor Archana Prasad, Vineet Tiwari (of Joshi Adhikar Sansthan, Delhi), Chhattisgarh CPI(M) state secretary, Sanjay Parate, Mangalram Karma, and Manju Kawasi, CPI activist and Sarpanch of Guphidi in Sukma district, by the Chhattisgarh police in the killing of Shamnath Baghel.
The charges are patently fabricated, and follow a pattern of intimidation by the Chhattisgarh police every time evidence is released of their lawless prosecution of the war against the Maoists. Earlier this year, Sundar, Prasad, Tiwari and Parate were part of a fact-finding team that looked at the impact of Maoist violence and state excesses on ordinary villagers in Bastar, finding that they were victims of fake encounters, rapes, arrests, beatings, IED blasts, and killing of informers, implicating Maoists, police, and security forces. The residents of Bastar were also found to be facing the renewal of attacks by civilian militias armed by the state. At that time too, the district administration of Bastar had tried to implicate the fact-finding team on fake charges on the basis of a contrived complaint. More recently, when the police were charge-sheeted on the basis of evidence gathered by Sundar and others for carrying out arson in an operation in 2011, they retaliated by burning effigies of her and other activists and journalists in order to intimidate and incite violence against them.
Sundar and others have put on record their unequivocal condemnation of the killing of Shamnath Baghel. Their writing and interventions on the ongoing war in Bastar have consistently condemned all forms of violence, whether by the state or by the Maoists.
We are saddened by the climate of silencing of dissent that is becoming widespread in India and concerned that the work of researchers, journalists, lawyers and activists is being monitored and controlled to quell critical scrutiny of governmental actions. We believe such silencing of opposing views poses a grave danger to the democratic values of India.
We condemn the police tactics of intimidating and harassing of journalists, lawyers, researchers, political leaders and human rights activists who have been documenting and speaking out against the violence and brutality unleashed by the police, paramilitary, and civilian militias against the local population of Bastar in the war against the Maoists. We demand that the Government of India unconditionally withdraw all charges against all the six persons who have been falsely accused by Chhattisgarh police. We further demand that an inquiry be set up to interrogate the manner in which the police is interfering with law and taking the liberty to frame researchers and activists to create an atmosphere of terror.