Additional facts regarding Open Letter to the Chief Justice of India for immediate intervention into physical attacks and eviction drives against women activists by police and vigilante groups in Chhattisgarh

PEOPLE’S UNION FOR DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS
 
To,
Chief Justice of India
Supreme Court of India
Tilak Marg
New Delhi-110 201 (India)
 
26th February 2016
 
 
Honourable Sir,
In continuation with our previous petition dated 22nd February 2016 seeking your intervention into the above matter, we would like to furnish some additional facts which have emerged in the interim and which add to our existing apprehensions about the situation in Bastar.
 
1. Intensification of harassment of women activists: Besides the shocking attack on Soni Sori on February 20th, 2016 for which she is undergoing treatment in Delhi, we have also learnt that the harassment of the two lawyers, Shalini Gera and Isha Khandelwal, is continuing as the district bar association has issued yet another resolution against them. There is also news of a police complaint filed against them in the last few days. The harassment is in tandem with what activist-academic, Bela Bhatia, is reportedly undergoing. On 23rd February, the SHO from Parpa PS with a uniformed personnel visited her residence. Although the official reason proffered was that of police protection, the fact that they photographed her and her house, and that two personnel in civilian clothes also visited her, casts doubts on the nature of the visits. We fear that the present harassment could well be connected to the fact that as a member of the WSS (Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression) team, she was the complainant in the Peddagellur incident for which an FIR was filed under the amended IPC on 1st November 2015, a point mentioned in our petition.
 
2. Obstruction in filing of FIRs against guilty personnel: We believe that the harassment of the two lawyers has increased in recent times as they have helped in filing FIRs under the newly amended IPC which allows for filing of complaints against members of the armed forces deployed in the area for committing rape and gang-rape, and also for filing charges against sexual harassment. In this context, we would like to draw your attention to the additional information that we have gathered apart from the 1st November 2015 FIR mentioned above and in our petition. Two other FIRs have also been filed on 23rd January and 27th January 2016 at Bijapur PS and Kukanar PS, respectively. The first pertains to the incident at Nendra village (PS Basaguda, District Bijapur) where security forces had entered the village, looted homes and sexually assaulted, raped and gang raped women. The FIR under sections 376(2)(c), 376(2)(a)(iii), 376D, 354, 354B, 323, 395 of the IPC was filed with much difficulty on 23rd January as the police had initially refused to lodge it. The second instance pertains to the incident at Kunna village (PS Kukanar, District Sukma) where security forces entered the village and sexually abused and punished women and looted and raided their homes on 12th January 2016. Again, in this case too, the Adivasi Mahasabha (affiliated to the CPI) had to put immense pressure on the administration before the latter agreed to receive the complaint from the victims themselves.
 
3: Need for Prosecution: It is pertinent to point out that in the few cases cited above there is an urgent need for prosecution to commence. However, we are not sure whether the police has initiated investigations into them, or the fairness with which they would have proceeded. It also needs to be recognized that there are several instances of state excesses for which no FIRs have ever been lodged. Lack of information aids repression as an artificial normalcy is created out of absence or paucity of real information. Further, while we all believe that due process of law must prevail, we feel that the long arm of the law has receded into lawless times. Our apprehensions about the petitioners and countless victims are greatly increased as we fear for their lives and liberty.
 
We therefore request for your kind and urgent intervention in this matter.
 
Deepika Tandon, Moushumi Basu
Secretaries, PUDR