The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has summoned the IGP of Bastar Range SRP Kalluri and Chhattisgarh Chief Secretary Vivek Dhand, taking suo motu cognisance of "the nationwide outcry and protest" over filing of murder charges against Delhi University professor Nandini Sundar, Jawaharlal Nehru University professor Archana Prasad, Vineet Tiwari, Sanjay Parate of CPI(M) and Manju Kawasi.
The Bastar police had charged Sundar, Prasad and others for the murder of a tribal man Samnath Baghel in the Sukma district on 4 November. Baghel was said to be killed by Maoists because he had been leading a campaign against them.
In a statement, the NHRC said, "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."
After filing the FIR, Kalluri had told PTI, "As per the complaint lodged by the victim's wife, her husband had been getting threats from Maoists since he and other villagers had complained against Sundar in May this year. Even armed ultras were referring to that complaint and anti-Maoist demonstrations while attacking Baghel."
"There is no apparent connection between murder and visit of these human rights activists."NHRC
Kalluri had also alleged that Baghel's wife, Vimla, had accused Sundar and the others of being responsible for her husband's murder.
These allegations made by Kalluri were denied by Baghel's wife when she told NDTV that she had not named Sundar, Prasad or any others at all.
The NHRC, taking note of petitions file by Sundar and others in the Supreme Court against police atrocities and burning of tribal homes, said, "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."
The NHRC said, "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."
Calling the allegations against Sundar seemingly malafide and "coloured with hostility", the NHRC said that the FIR seemed to be a police ploy to stop activists from entering the Bastar area and exposing their brutalities.
The NHRC also said, "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."
Sundar, after filing of the FIR, had said it was a clear case of "framing" her and some other activists and is direct fallout of the CBI charge sheet of police officers for arson in Tadmetla in 2011, adding police have been forcing some people in Bastar to name her and others in someway.
"The FIR is patently absurd. We condemn the killing of Shamnath Baghel and reiterate that it has nothing to do with us. This is clearly part of IG Kalluri's attempt to intimidate and harass journalists, lawyers, researchers, political leaders and human rights activists who have exposed the reign of fake encounters, gang rapes etc. that are going on in Bastar," she had told PTI.
After Sundar had file a plea against the FIR, the Supreme Court had told the Chhattisgarh police to give advanced notice of four weeks to those named in the FIR before taking action against them.
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