People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) is greatly concerned and strongly condemns the attempt of the Chhattisgarh government to somehow implicate noted Sociologist Prof. Nandini Sundar, Head of Department of Sociology, Dellhi School of Economics and others associated with her for alleged links with banned Maoists in Chhattisgarh. The fact that this is yet another attempt by the Chhattisgarh government to threaten, intimidate and silence anyone raising issues of accountability by state police and government to constitutional requirements and human rights laws is evident by the incident of 28th January, 2014, when Badri Gowde, Vice-President of the Congress party of Antagarh Block who was arrested and in the custody of the State Police was made to address the media in the presence of senior police officials and to allege that he had arranged for meeting between Prof. Sundar and Maoists. The Additional Director General of Police (Intelligence), Mr. Mukesh Gupta, is also reported by media persons to have made unsubstantiated allegation about Prof. Nandini Sundar.
This conduct of the Chhattisgarh police is highly objectionable, totally illegal, against constitutional principles and condemnable. It is not the business of the police to arrange for media events with accused – arrested persons. This not only compromises fair and independent investigation but also highlights the biased nature of police investigation lending strength to the complaint that the police are only trying to silence voices of constitutionality and accountability. It also raises the disturbing issue of politicization of issues by the police who have a constitutional duty to enforce rule of law and not to indulge in character assassination, false implication and other similar violations of law.
This unacceptable conduct of the Chhattisgarh government and police vindictively attacking the credibility and independence of any constitutionally minded citizen raising queries about unconstitutional conduct of the Chhattisgarh government has been adversely commented upon by the Supreme Court. In the PIL filed by Prof. Nandini Sundar and others challenging the constitutionality of the Salwa Judum, the apex court remarked:
“The situation in Chattisgarh is undoubtedly deeply distressing to any reasonable person. What was doubly dismaying to us was the repeated insistence, by the respondents, that the only option for the State was to rule with an iron fist, establish a social order in which every person is to be treated as suspect, and any one speaking for human rights of citizens to be deemed as suspect, and a Maoist. In this bleak, and miasmic world view propounded by the respondents in the instant case, historian Ramchandra Guha, noted academic Nandini Sunder, civil society leader Swami Agnivesh, and a former and well reputed bureaucrat, E.A.S. Sarma, were all to be treated as Maoists, or supporters of Maoists. We must state that we were aghast at the blindness to constitutional limitations of the State of Chattisgarh, and some of its advocates, in claiming that any one who questions the conditions of inhumanity that are rampant in many parts of that state ought to necessarily be treated as Maoists, or their sympathizers, and yet in the same breath also claim that it needs the constitutional sanction, under our Constitution, to perpetrate its policies of ruthless violence against the people of Chattisgarh to establish a Constitutional order”. (emphasis ours)
(Nandini Sundar vs State of Chhattisgarh, 5.7.2011)
It is unfortunate that the Chhattisgarh government instead of respecting and abiding by the Supreme Court verdict asking it to respect rule of law and disband Salwa Judum should instead continue to threaten, harass and intimidate activists who have highlighted the brazen human rights violations committed by the state police and other groups under its patronage.
The reason why the latest attempt to silence Prof. Nandini should not be taken lightly is for the fact of the vicious actions of the government and state police in arresting numerous persons who have questioned its policies. Amongst those who have been `prisoners of conscience’ are Dr. Binayak Sen, National Vice-President of the PUCL and a vocal critic of Salwa Judum, and Shri. Kartam Joga, a CPI leader and an elected member of the Janpad Panchayat of the Konta area, who was also one of the Supreme Court petitioners challenging Salwa Judum.
PUCL condemns this brazen attempt of the Chhattisgarh government to criminalize dissent and silence critics.
The latest attempt to link Prof Sundar and others associated with her to Maoists comes in the background of proposed large-scale iron ore mining activity in the Rowghat area of Chhattisgarh, which is being actively opposed by local tribal populations. The local opposition is sought to be quelled by deployment of 22 companies of BSF and CRPF forces. Being a Fifth Schedule Area, any mining activity and all military encampments in the Rowghat hills require the approval of village level committees, the Gram Sabhas, which have not yet been obtained. Several constitutional minded citizens of India, including Prof Nandini Sundar, have been drawing attention to the failure of the state in following its own legal mechanisms of utilization of resources, and it is in the wake of such protests that the current allegations against Prof Sundar have surfaced. All this is happening despite the fact that Prof. Nandini Sundar is on record to declare her deep respect for rule of law and constitutional principles, human rights and democratic values.
PUCL demands that the Chhattisgarh government and the state police upholds the civil liberties and fundamental rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution and puts an immediate end to the harassment and vindictive witch hunt of constitutionally minded citizens through such motivated, damaging, dangerous and defamatory police claims. Additionally, it is imperative that the directives of the Supreme Court are followed, local tribal communities are compensated for atrocities suffered by them during the Salwa Judum period, schools and hospitals are immediately vacated by security forces, and PESA rules governing scheduled areas are strictly followed.