Activist Bela Bhatia was allegedly threatened by a group of 30 men who barged into her home and asked to leave the region in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar, the Indian Express reported on Tuesday.
They threatened to burn down the house she rents and forced Bhatia and her landlady to sign an undertaking that she would vacate the house within a day.
This comes two days after Bhatia visited villages in Bijapur district with a National Human Rights Commission team that recorded statements of women who had allegedly been the victims of rape, physical and sexual assault by security personnel between October 2015 and January 2016.
Two weeks ago, the NHRC had issued an interim order stating that 16 women were victims of such acts. In November 2015, Bhatia was one of the activists who had entered villages deep inside Bijapur, facilitated the registration of FIRs and brought the alleged incidents to public attention.
Bhatia lives in Parpa village on the outskirts of Jagdalpur, Bastar district headquarters. Chhattisgarh police said the men were residents of Pandripani in Parpa who were holding a “virodh pradarshan” and had dispersed once personnel arrived. They added that a 15-member police team has been deployed for Bhatia’s security.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Raman Singh reacted to the development and said that security has been provided to prevent anything untoward.
“A group of around 30 men arrived on motorcycles and a white SUV in the morning. They said I would have to leave the house immediately or they would burn the place. They were threatening the landlady, too, that she must see to it that I move out immediately,” Bhatia told the Indian Express.
“My landlord and his sons had been called to the police station several times last week on different pretexts, and they had already communicated to me that I must leave. There has been a conscious attempt to manufacture discord between me and the residents of the village,” she added.
Bhatia’s partner, economist Jean Dreze, told The Indian Express that another group had similarly arrived at her home after 1 am on Saturday night. “They shouted at her to leave the house, but the door was locked and they couldn’t gain entry. On Monday, they were much more hostile, and threatened to burn the house. Under duress, she had to sign a piece of paper, along with her landlady that she would leave in a day,” he said.
Bastar District Magistrate Amit Kataria told the paper that he received a call from Bhatia that her home had been surrounded, and “immediately sent a police force”.