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NHRC asks Chhattisgarh to pay Rs 1 lakh each to DU professor, activists 4 yrs after false FIR

The human rights panel has ruled that an FIR lodged in 2016 at Bastar caused the 13 activists, among them Delhi University professor Nandini Sundar, ‘mental harassment’. 

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Raipur: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has directed the Chhattisgarh government to pay a compensation of Rs 1 lakh each to the 13 human rights activists, legalists and academicians, among them Delhi University Nandini Sundar, for “mental harassment and human rights violations” in a 2016 case.

The order was issued by the commission on 1 July 2020, but the activists expressed surprise and said they only received it on 5 August.

The case dates back to October 2016, when an FIR was lodged by the Chhattisgarh Police in Sukma, Bastar, under the Arms Act, various sections of the IPC and the UAPA against six human rights activists, and a fact-finding team of seven legalists. Later, on 15 November 2018, the Supreme Court ordered the then BJP government to not arrest the activists and investigate the matter by setting up an SIT.

But no investigation took place until a new government was formed in 2018. The FIR was withdrawn in February 2019.

In the interim, Dr V. Suresh, a resident of Patparganj in Delhi, approached the National Human Rights Commission with regard to the case. The commission ruled in favour of the activists on 2 February this year and ordered the compensation in July. 

The activists have expressed surprise on the compensation order but are now demanding action against the controversial former Bastar IG SRP Kalluri for the “false case”.  

“I was informed by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) on August 5. We welcome the decision of the commission, but no information has been received from the state government yet,” Sundar told ThePrint. “I am happy that the commission took cognizance of the harassment of activists  who helped the tribals at the hands of the then Bastar IG SRP Kalluri and the local police. Now it is our demand that the state government should take action against Kalluri.”

Sunder said a false case was registered against her and her associates for helping in matters where houses of 500 tribals had been burned and women raped during an anti-Naxal campaign allegedly run by the BJP. 

“The police had filed a case against them and had also threatened them with stone pelting and burning effigies. The commission has acknowledged all this,” she said, adding that she will use the compensation amount to help the tribals. 

Also read: Chhattisgarh as Lord Ram’s ‘nanihal’ — how Baghel govt is using religion card to outplay BJP

‘Were framed for murder’

Another activist Sanjay Parate told ThePrint that the police allegedly framed them in a murder case

“On 5 November 2016, the Chhattisgarh police filed an FIR against us for the murder of a person named Shamnath Baghel of Nama village in Sukma district. The case was registered on the complaint of Shamnath’s widow Vimla Baghel, but she did not name any of us,” Parate said. 

He added that the Supreme Court halted the arrests on 15 November 2018. 

“Since the Chhattisgarh government did not take any step to investigate or end the case, we filed a petition in the Supreme Court in 2018. On the instructions of the Supreme Court, the Chhattisgarh government investigated the matter and in February 2019, after finding that we had no involvement in the murder case, we were exonerated and the FIR against us was withdrawn,” he said. 

The activists now want action against the policemen involved.

“We also hope that the police officers responsible for filing false chargesheets, especially the then Bastar IG Kalluri, will be investigated and prosecuted,” Parate said.

“The Salwa Judum campaign led by Kalluri and SPO (Special Police Officers) working under him were found guilty of arson at Tadmetla, Timapuram and Morpalli villages in 2011 and of attempting to murder Swami Agnivesh by the CBI,” Sundar alleged. “The false allegations were made against us soon after that. But even after the court acquitted us of the charges in 2019, no action was taken against the guilty police officers.”

What the NHRC said

The NHRC, in its decision, ruled, “We believe that they have been ‘mentally disturbed and harassed’ due to the ‘false FIRs’ registered against them and their human rights have also been violated.”

It added, “The Chhattisgarh government should compensate them. Therefore, we recommend the government of Chhattisgarh through the chief secretary and instruct that Professor Nandini Sundar, Archana Prasad, Vineet Tiwari, Sanjay Parate, Manju and Mangla Ram Karma, should be given Rs 1 lakh as compensation for the violation of their human rights.”  

In the same directive, the commission has also ordered compensation for seven members of a fact-finding team of Telangana advocates. The police had arrested and registered an FIR against this team of advocates. After spending seven months in Sukma jail, all of them were acquitted of the charges.

“In the opinion of the commission, a false FIR was registered against these seven members. The chief secretary of the state of Chhattisgarh should also compensate each member of the fact-finding team of Telangana — C.H. Prabhakar, B. Durga Prasad, B. Rabindranath, D. Prabhakar, R. Lakshmaiah, Mohammad Nazar and K Rajendra Prasad,” it said.

While the state government had been told to execute the order within six weeks, it is yet to do so. 

Also read: Chhattisgarh’s anti-Naxal fight is hit as Modi govt has cut 65% funds, says minister


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