Activist Bela Bhatia on Tuesday vowed to stay and work in Chhattisgarh a day after a group of men barged into her home and threatened to burn it down if she did not leave Bastar. She has been under pressure to leave since she accompanied a National Human Rights Commission team to Bijapur to record statements of alleged rape and sexual assault victims.
Bhatia said that she was likely to move out of her home and had asked the Bastar collector for alternate arrangements. “They had made me and my landlord sign on a piece of paper that I will move within 24 hours,’’ Bhatia told the Indian Express from her rented home in Parpa village. “The administration told me today (Tuesday) that since that (declaration) was under duress, it did not matter. But at the village level, it could have repercussions.’’
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She added that authorities had agreed to make alternate arrangements. “…there is security that has been provided to me. But I will not leave Bastar and discontinue my work.’’ An official said that they would try and make the arrangements. “It would only be possible after Republic Day as the Chief Minister is coming to Jagdalpur.”
A three-member team constituted to probe the threats separately recorded Bhatia’s statement on Tuesday. “SP Jagdalpur R N Dash asked for my version of events, which I told him. Local policemen were also asked for their version, and they tried to suggest that it was the villagers who were organising a protest — a perspective I contested,” Bhatia said. She added that she would register an FIR on Wednesday.
She described Bastar Adivasi Suraksha Manch’s objection to her dog’s name — Somari — as an effort to whip up sentiment and that it had hurt tribal sentiments. “For me, Somari is not a dog but my daughter. She came into my life on a Monday and like people in the region do, I named her after the day as a mark of my love,’’ said Bhatia.
“I have lived in Parpa for so long and nobody has ever objected to this name. It is also curious that this came after the senior police officers who came on Monday night asked me about the name several times.’’
Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi tweeted support for Bhatia. “Violence has never silenced truth. I stand with Bela Bhatia and all those fighting for justice for the tribals in Chhattisgarh.”
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