Chhattisgarh Police Intimidates Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group and Journalist Malini Subramaniam

18 February 2016
Paramilitary police officials guard a polling booth during elections in 2013.
Parwaz Khan/Hindustan Times/Getty Images
Paramilitary police officials guard a polling booth during elections in 2013.
Parwaz Khan/Hindustan Times/Getty Images

In July 2013, four lawyers—Isha Khandelwal, Parijata Bharadwaj, Rupesh Kumar and Shalini Gera—came to Jagdalpur, the district headquarters of Bastar, Chhattisgarh, and established the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group (JLAG). JLAG has been doing crucial work in the region by providing legal assistance to prisoners under trial in southern Bastar. Last year, in October, The Bastar Bar Association reportedly passed a resolution at their general body meeting. This resolution prohibited any lawyer from “outside” from practicing in the Jagdalpur courts, effectively barring Gera and Khandelwal, both of whom are registered with the Delhi State Bar Council.

Today, at around 3.30 pm, Khandelwal and Gera sent out a letter in which they detailed the manner in which the police in Bastar has been harassing them. In this statement, Gera and Khandelwal acknowledged that, "things have been rocky for us in Jagdalpur for a while now." Last night, the police in Bastar visited Khandelwal and Gera's landlord, who is a driver by profession. His car was impounded and he was dropped back to his home in the early hours of the morning. At 2 am this morning, the landlord, "badly shaken" according to the letter, informed Khandelwal and Gera that they would have to vacate their house within a week. This news comes amidst an atmosphere in which Gera and Khandelwal recount being told, "don't go to Bijapur, the police will arrest you if you go there again. The letter also describes, "a whole week of public lynching of JLAG as defenders of "bloodthirstly Naxalites" by the Samajik Ekta Manch, a vigilante group formed by the police." 

Meanwhile, the police appears to have directed its attention towards Malini Subramaniam, the independent journalist who writes for the news website Scroll.in from Bastar. On 8 February 2016, Subramaniam's house was attacked by an unidentified group of people. Before this, members from the Samajik Ekta Manch had visited Subramaniam's house twice and expressed their distaste for her writing. As Krishn Kaushik, a staff writer with The Caravan, noted yesterday, the Samajik Ekta Manch, which claims to "counter Naxalism in Bastar and support the police in its work," appears to be functioning under the patronage of SRP Kalluri, the inspector general of the Bastar range. 

Yesterday, the letter states, Subramiam's young household help was called to the police station and kept there for hours. She was called to the station once again this morning and was still there as of 3.30 pm. Subramaniam's landlord was also summoned to the station this morning. He served Subramaniam with an eviction notice upon his return. Subramaniam's husband, Ashim, who was also called to the station today, had not been allowed to leave as of 3.30 pm this afternoon. 

Dear all,

Keywords: Chhattisgarh police media freedom Intimidation
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