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Days After Attack on Bela Bhatia, Amnesty India Pulls up Bastar Police

Social activist and researcher Bela Bhatia was attacked and asked to vacate the rented room by a vigilante group in Chhattisgarh’s insurgency-hit Bastar on Sunday.

Avdhesh Mallick | Pradesh18

Updated:January 25, 2017, 6:43 PM IST
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Days After Attack on Bela Bhatia, Amnesty India Pulls up Bastar Police
An undertaking forcefully taken from Bela Bhatia by miscreants who barged into her home.
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Raipur: Social activist and researcher Bela Bhatia was attacked and asked to vacate the rented room by a vigilante group in Chhattisgarh’s insurgency-hit Bastar on Sunday. The attack not only elicited a response from activists and human rights defenders but also compelled Amnesty India to issue a release attacking the increasing number of atrocities against tribals and activists.

“It is chilling to see the continuous intimidation of activists in Chhattisgarh taking place under the nose of the state police. The Chhattisgarh government should be embarrassed about failing to uphold the rule of law,” said Aakar Patel, Executive Director of Amnesty International India.

Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi also came out in support of Bela Bhatia and tweeted, “Violence has never silenced the truth. I stand with Bela Bhatia and all those fighting for justice for the tribal of Chhattisgarh.”

Amnesty India, while criticising Bastar police and government, mentioned that the state government needed to do more in order to end these threats and violence faced by human rights activists.

“When will the state police take any action against those who had threatened the activist,” Amnesty India asked the Superintendent of Bastar police.

Responding to Amnesty’s question, the Superintendent said, “People sitting in Bengaluru should not interfere in the matters here and disturb us in our work. If you want, come and take a statement here.”

A group of men had stormed the rented house of Bela Bhatia on January 22, 2017, and asked her to leave Bastar. Accusing her of being a supporter of Maoist armed groups, the group also threatened to burn down her house if she did not leave Bastar immediately.

Citing a local reporter, Amnesty India claimed that the local villagers said that none of the group members was from the village.

According to Amnesty India, Bela Bhatia had accompanied a team from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on 19th and 20th January to record the statements of Adivasi women who had registered complaints of rape, sexual assault and loot by security forces in 2015.

Earlier in January, the NHRC said it had found prima facie evidence of rape, sexual and physical assault by state police personnel in three separate incidents, including one in which Bela Bhatia had helped Adivasi women register a complaint.

In the recent months, several human rights activists in Chhattisgarh have been intimidated and even arrested under trumped-up charges. In November 2016, the state police had registered a case against Nandini Sundar for allegedly murdering a tribal of Nama village. The charges, however, were refuted by victim’s wife.

| Edited by: Mirza Arif Beg
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