NHRC directs Chhattisgarh to compensate activists implicated in false cases by the then-BJP govt
It has been asked to pay ₹100,000 each to 13 rights activists including DU professor Nandini Sundar and PWA’s Vineet Tiwari who were falsely implicated in two cases in 2016
In a snub to the BJP which ruled Chhattisgarh till 2018, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has directed the Chhattisgarh government to pay ₹100,000 compensation each to 13 rights activists including DU professor Nandini Sundar and PWA’s Vineet Tiwari who were falsely implicated by the then Raman Singh government in two cases in 2016.
The activists were booked by the BJP government for murder after they visited Chhattisgarh for a fact-finding mission about human rights violations in Bastar region.
The NHRC - a statutory public body - has also directed the Chhattisgarh government to submit a compliance report along with proof of payment to the activists within six weeks.
“We have received the directives from NHRC. The state government is taking appropriate action,” Chhattisgarh’s chief secretary R P Mandal told the media.
“As regards to the registration of FIR (First Information Report) against Professor Nandini Sundar and others, the Director General of Police DM Awasthi has submitted that during the investigation, no evidence was found against Nandini Sundar, Archana Prasad, Vineet Tiwari, Sanjay Parate, Manju, and Mangla Ram Karma. Hence, their names have been removed from the FIR,” the NHRC said in the order.
Reacting to the NHRC’s directive, the activists issued a statement saying, “We welcome the NHRC order and hope that the Chhattisgarh government will act promptly to redress the reputational loss and mental agony suffered by us”.
Hailing the directive, Vineet Tiwari said, “This victory is incomplete as people like Varvara Rao are languishing in various jails for speaking in favour of the poor. Those who misused their position in the government and suppressed tribals in the name of fighting Naxalism, should be punished.”
A statement issued by the activists following the NHRC directive can be read here:
On 5th November 2016, the Chhattisgarh police lodged an FIR against us under various sections of the IPC, Arms Act, and UAPA for the alleged murder of one Shamnath Baghel of Nama village, Sukma District.
The case was supposedly filed on the written complaint of Shyamnath Baghel’s widow, Vimla Baghel. However, she is on record saying she did not name anyone. On 15th November 2016, the Supreme Court gave us protection from arrest. In 2018, since the Chhattisgarh police had not taken any steps to investigate or close the matter, we filed a petition in the Supreme Court.
Following the Court’s directions, the Chhattisgarh government initiated investigations, and finding there was no case against us, dropped the charges in February 2019. The NHRC had also taken up this matter in 2016, along with the issue of police burning our effigies and IG Kalluri threatening to stone us if we entered Bastar.
In February 2020, taking note of the Chhattisgarh Police admission that there was no case against us, the NHRC noted: “In our considered opinion, these persons would have certainly suffered a great mental pain and agony as a result of registration of false FIRs against them by the police, which is a violation of their human rights and for this the state government should compensate them. Therefore we recommend and direct the Government of Chhattisgarh through its Chief Secretary to pay a sum of Rs one lakh each as monetary compensations to the six persons, namely Prof Nandini Sundar, Ms. Archana Prasad, ShriVineetTiwari, Shri Sanjay Parate, Ms. Manju and Shri Mangla Ram Karma, whose human rights were gravely violated by the Chhattisgarh police.”
The NHRC also directed the same monetary compensation to a fact-finding team of lawyers from Telangana who were acquitted of all charges after having spent some seven months in Sukma jail. (Letter dated 13.3.2020 reporting NHRC decision of 13.2.2020).
We welcome the NHRC order and hope that the Chhattisgarh government will act promptly to redress the reputational loss and mental agony suffered by us.
We hope that the police officials responsible for filing false charges against us, especially then IG Bastar Mr. SRP Kalluri will be investigated and prosecuted. The false charges were filed immediately after the CBI indicted SPOs and Salwa Judum leaders under Mr. Kalluri’s command for the burning of the villages of Tadmetla, Timapuram and Morpalli as well as the murderous attack on Swami Agnivesh in 2011.
To date, despite NHRC recommendations in 2008 and repeated Supreme Court directions, the Government of Chhattisgarh has not compensated the thousands of villagers whose homes were burnt by Salwa Judum or prosecuted those responsible for rapes and murders. Fake encounters and false arrests continue to be a grave concern in Chhattisgarh.
We are grateful to the PUCL for taking up the cases of all human rights defenders in Chhattisgarh and for informing us about the NHRC order. It is deeply distressing that PUCL Secretary and Advocate Sudha Bhardwaj who took up such cases in Chhattisgarh has herself been arrested under false charges. We trust that all human rights defenders who have been falsely accused will get justice.
Mangla Ram Karma