An Open Letter to the President and Prime Minister of India
The Honourable Narendra Modi
Prime Minister of India
7, Lok Kalyan Marg
New Delhi, India
The Honourable Shri Pranab Mukherjee
President of India
New Delhi, Delhi 110004, India
Phone: +91 11 2301 5321
Dear Prime Minister Modi and President Mukerjee,
We, in the Asian Peoples' Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD), are writing to express alarm and grave concern over reports from our members of rampant violations of human rights in Bastar (Chattisgarh).
These include the following:
Attack on independent scholar and activist Dr. Bela Bhatia. On 23 January, a group of about 30 goons barged into her house in Parpa village (outside Jagdalpur), threatened to burn it, and told her to leave within 24 hours or face dire consequences. Under pressure, Dr. Bhatia had to sign a statement promising that she would leave the next day. This happened just after Dr. Bhatia helped a team from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) investigate local women’s complaints of sexual violence by the security forces near Bijapur. The police have a video footage of the incident but no action has been taken. This comes only as the latest act of harassment against Dr. Bhatia.
Harassment of the Jagdalpur Legal Aid (JAGLAG) group. The JAGLAG group provides free legal services particularly to adivasis in Chattisgarh. It was forced to to leave the area after their landlord came under pressure from the police. There have been many similar acts of harassment of human rights activists, lawyers, journalists, scholars and other independent observers in Bastar in the last few months.
Threats to Journalists from Local and Foreign News Agencies. Malini Subramaniam from Scroll and Alok Putul from BBC were also forced to leave, while many other local journalists (Lingaram Kodopi, Santosh Yadav, Samaru Nag, among others) experienced various forms of harassment by the police. Soni Sori, Manish Kunjam and other outspoken leaders of opposition parties such as the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Communist Party of India (CPI) have been routinely threatened or attacked.
Arbitrary arrests and detention under the Chattisgarh Special Public Security Act. Members of a team of lawyers, journalists and human rights activists who recently visited Bastar from Andhra Pradesh and Telengana were promptly booked under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act. A baseless First-Information-Report (FIR) prepared by the police charged Sociology Professor Nandini Sundar and her colleagues of murder, no less. There have been many other recent cases of harassment of people speaking against human rights violations in the area. To the best of our knowledge, no action has been taken to provide remedies, which in itself is a violation of the basic right to due process.
The human rights situation in Bastar has reached such grave proportions that even the NHRC, the National Commission for Women, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Amnesty International, the Supreme Court, and other institutions have strongly expressed their criticism.
The Indian government is a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and a host of other core human rights treaties. It also takes pride in being the "world's largest democracy", which we hope is not a hollow claim. The Indian government must take immediate and substantive measures to address the impunity in Bastar, and ensure that the rights to free speech, assembly, mobility, due process, and against arbitrary arrest and detention are upheld and protected for everyone.
Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development
31 January 2017