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Visitng JNU, Delhi Univ professors "incited" villagers to support Maoists: Bastar district collector on Facebook

Amit Kataria
By Our Representative
In a surprise move, district collector, Bastar, Amit Kataria, has posted on his Facebook page a “complaint” in the name of unidentified local villagers, demanding that FIR be lodged against an independent fact-finding team, which visited to inquire into allegations of intimidation, murder, rape and abduction (click HERE).
Bringing this to light, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has said in a statement, “This raises the crucial issue of the ethical and legal propriety of the district collector posting in a public forum like social media such a complaint even before it is verified.”
Kataria's Facebook page dated May 18 said, “Received a complaint from villagers of Kuma Koleng today, claiming that some professors from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU)/ Delhi University (DU), namely Archana Prasad, Richa Keshav, Vinit Tiwari, Sanjay Parate, came to their village and incited them against government and to support Maoists.”
Expecting the district collector to “behave in a restrained, independent and balanced manner”, the PUCL, which is one of India’s most important human rights organizations, said, his office in Bastar “has degenerated to indulging in political propaganda to whip up hate campaign.”
The PUCL statement comes close on the heels of what so far seemed “informal threats” being issued by the Chhattisgarh state police and district administration to “criminally prosecute” team members – academics and members of Left parties – who had visited Kanker, Bastar, Dantewada and Sukma districts of southern Chhattisgarh between May 12 and 15.
The team, inquiring into the conditions of life of ordinary adivasis “caught in the conflict between the State and the Maoist”, consisted of Prof Nandini Sundar of Delhi University, Prof Archana Prasad of Jawaharlal Nehru University, Vineet Tiwari of Joshi- Adhikari Institute (CPI), and Sanjay Parate, State Secretary, CPI(M).
“The team pointed out the human rights violations suffered by the ordinary adivasis at the hands of both parties to the conflict – fake encounters and fake surrenders and arrests by the State as well as arbitrary beatings and killings by the Maoists”, PUCL said.
“What is shocking and deplorable is that the State police, instead of providing their response to the findings of the team, has chosen to sponsor a ridiculous and politically motivated allegation against the team that ‘they are JNU professors who threatened the villagers to side with Maoists’,” PUCL pointed out.
Referring to the Facebook post by the district collector, the PUCL said, “Even a cursory reading of the so-called complaint of the villagers does not inspire confidence about its authenticity and indicates that it is a fabricated complaint.”
One of those who accompanied the team, Manju Kawasi, a member of the CPI women's wing, “got a midnight visit from the Sukma police, who told her that she would have to go to Jagdalpur for questioning”, the PUCL said, adding, “She was also threatened that an FIR would be registered against her.”
Another person who accompanied the team – a villager from village Nama, Mangla, who happens to be a carpenter by profession – “has been repeatedly called to the police station for questioning”, PUCL revealed.
The PUCL apprehended, a major reason why the state administration became wary is, the team consisted of Prof Nandini Sundar, a petitioner in the case before the Supreme Court challenging the government-sponsored Salwa Judum, which had to be disbanded following an apex court order few years ago.
“It is evident that the Chhattisgarh government does not want human rights organisations, Citizen’s fact findings teams, or social activists to make any independent enquiry into the news of dozens of encounters, hundreds of surrenders and arrests and of the counter insurgency operations being carried out in the Bastar region”, the statement, drafted by Dr V Suresh, national general secretary, and Prof Prabhakar Sinha, national president, said.

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