Skip to main content

Top academic Bela Bhatia threated in Chhattisgarh: She helped NHRC probe into cops' "atrocities" on tribal women

By Our Representative
Well-known academic and social activist Bela Bhatia, who has been working for several years in the Maoist-infested area of Bastar in Chhattisagarh, has been threatened to leave her house, where she currently lives – Papra village outside Jagdalpur town – or face “severe” consequences.
A couple of days back, Bhatia, who has been particularly helping out tribal women allegedly raped by security personnel in Bastar, helped a team of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to investigate complaints of rape by security forces in the state.
According to sources, a mob of 30 goondas has told her to leave her house within 24 hours. These people came in “a Bolero-type” vehicle and several motorbikes, the sources said, adding, they were “very threatening”, and told Bhatia to leave immediately. They threatened to burn the house, kill her dog, and also threatened the landlady.
The sources further said, after some time they “theateningly” barged into the house. Meanwhile, Bhatia managed to call the local thana. The police came, but did not do much to restrain the mob, except when they tried to move again into the house.
Bhatia agreed in writing to leave and pleaded for time – a few days. They refused and wanted her to leave immediately. Eventually they agreed to give her 24 hours to leave.
Bela Bhatia's written "assurance" to mob
Earlier, the sources said, two days ago, another group of goondas had come to her house in the middle of the night and told her to leave. They have been threatening her landlord to evict her for the past several days, the sources added.
During the NHRC team's visit to the area, Bhatia accompanied it to record the statements of rape and sexual assault survivors, who have filed FIRs against police personnel. In a note that she circulated on WhatsApp, Bhatia said, her landlord and his sons were called to the local thana on Sunday and told them that they must ensure that she left the house immediately.
Journalist Malini Subramaniam, lawyers like Shalini Gera and Isha Khandelwal of the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group and other human rights defenders have been forced out of Bastar after similar mob attacks.
In November last year, the police instituted a case against Nandini Sundar, a Delhi University professor and rights activist, researching on Bastar tribals, for “instigating” murder of a tribal, had false cases foisted on them.
The attack on Bhatia comes following NHRC telling the Chhattisgarh government early this month (click HERE to read) that, during its on-the-spot investigation, it has found 16 women prima facie victims of rape, sexual and physical assault by state police personnel.
It had said that it would further record statement of about 20 other victims, pointing out that the rape victims be given interim monetary relief of Rs 37 lakh, which should include Rs 3 lakh each to eight rape victims, Rs 2 lakh each to six sexual assault victims, and and Rs 50,000 each to two physical assault victims.
NHRC notice was sent after it examined the records of 34 victims, who were mentioned in three separate FIRs – 22/2015, 2/2016 and 3/2016. The material includes copies of statement of victims recorded by the NHRC team as well as those recorded in respect of 15 victims sent by the inspector general of police (IGP), Police Headquarters, Raipur, Chhattisgarh capital, on November 12, 2016.
This is not the first time that Bhatia has been intimidated and threatened for staying in Bastar. The attack against her began in November 2015, when she helped tribal women file an FIR against the police for allegedly sexually assaulting them.
Bhatia is a PhD from Cambridge University, has been researching the counter-insurgency in Bastar since 2007. She has also been on the Planning Commission panel that looked at problems of governance in conflict areas. She has taught at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, and also been a fellow in the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi.

Comments

TRENDING

Whistle-blowing IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt's wife suspects foul play after truck hits her car

By Nachiketa Desai*
Paranoia has seized Shweta Bhatt, wife of suspended Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Sanjiv Bhatt, after the car she was driving was rammed in broad day light. According to Shweta Bhatt, it was beacon light-flashing truck without registration number plate. The incident took place on January 7, just a day ahead of the Gujarat High Court was scheduled to take up the bail application of Sanjiv Bhatt, arrested last year for "involvement" in a 23-year-old case.

Call to support IIM-Bangalore professor, censured for seeking action against Uniliver

Counterview Desk
Sections of the Indian Institute of Managements (IIMs) across India have strongly reacted to the decision to censure Dr Deepak Malghan, a faulty at IIM-Bangalore. Prabhir Vishnu Poruthiyil, who is faculty at IIM-Tiruchirapalli, has sought wider solidarity with Dr Malghan, saying, "The administration has censured Deepak for merely suggesting a meaningful action against Hindustan Unilever for their abysmal environmental record" by “disinviting” it for campus placement.

99% MGNREGA funds "exhausted", Govt of India makes no additional sanctions: Study

Counterview Desk
A letter, addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and prepared by senior activists led by Aruna Roy on behalf of the Peoples’ Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG), and signed, among others, by 80 members of Parliament, has regretted that, despite repeated public statements by his government promising employment and job creation that will boost the country’s growth, the country’s only employment guarantee programme, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), “is being systematically undermined.”

Morari Bapu, who has installed new statues of Ram, Laxman, Hanuman without weapons

By Sandeep Pandey*
A saint is one who can give some inner peace by his/her voice. This will happen only when s(he) will talk about love and harmony. Morari Bapu is one saint who has been conveying the message of love, peace, harmony, fraternity, etc. Today when a number of saffron clad figures with aggressive posture, spewing venom, fanning hatred to polarise voters are at the forefront of politics of Hindutva it is a relief to see Morari Bapu in a different mould.

Nuclear reactors sought from French giant "not safe": Letter to Modi on Jaitapur project

Counterview Desk
Amidst reports that the French nuclear giant EDF has submitted a “techno-commercial offer” for the world’s largest nuclear power park proposed in Maharashtra’s Jaitapur nuclear power park in Jaitapur on the Maharashtra coast, Dr EAS Sarma, India’s former Union Secretary in the Minister of Power, and an eminent voice in the civil society, has written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who also heads Department of Atomic Energy (DAE),  protesting the move.

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

Kaiga NPP expansion: Karnataka to get just 400 MW, but lose thick forest, fresh water

Counterview Desk
In an open letter to the chairman and members of the Atomic energy Commission (AEC) on the issue of Kaiga nuclear power plant (NPP) expansion plan in Karnataka, Shankar Sharma, well-known power policy analyst, has argued that that in case of expansion, the site will face “exponential increase in radiation emission risks”, underlining, “Nuclear safety experts identify such a scenario as enhanced risk for NPPs with multiple reactors and shared technical facilities."
Sharma says the questions that also be asked whether Karnataka should lose more than 54 hectares of thick forests and about 152,304 cubic meters of fresh water per day from Kali river for a meager benefit of 400 MW from the Kaiga NPP, for which “there are many benign alternative options available for the state at much lower overall costs to the state.”
Text of the letter: This has reference to the public hearing under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Rule 2006 of Ministry of Environment, Fore…

Uttarakhand High Court: Biodiversity boards can impose fees on Ramdev's Divya Pharmacy

By Mridhu Tandon
In a significant decision, the Uttarakhand High Court on December 21, 2018 has dismissed the writ petition filed by Divya Pharmacy founded by Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balakrishnan, challenging the demand of the Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board (UBB) imposing fees under the provisions of the Fair and Equitable Benefit Sharing (FEBS).

Modi becoming Prime Minister now appears to be an "accident" to the people of India

By Sandeep Pandey*
Anupam Kher's film 'Accidental Prime Minister' has targeted Dr Manmohan Singh who served for two terms and may be again acceptable for the job if his party regains power. But his tormentor Narendra Modi seems to be out of breath even before his first term is over. Disillusionment with him is so widespread and deep that people of India may not bear with him for another term. As the general elections approach again the difference between the two needs to be examined.

Story of a foot soldier of Gujarat riots coming from a vulnerable community, Chharas

By Rajiv Shah
He is one of the more prominent "foot soldiers" of the 2002 Gujarat riots. Suresh Jadeja, alias Langdo, alias Richard, is indeed a well-known name in the Naroda Patiya massacre case, in which 97 persons were killed on February 28, 2002, the first day of the riots that shook the nation. Ordinarily, such a person should have been subjected to sociological scrutiny. What have here is a keen journalistic account, with clear political-ideological overtone.