TWO DAYS after it first emerged that Chhattisgarh Police intended to drop charges of murder and criminal conspiracy against DU Professor Nandini Sundar, JNU Professor Archana Prasad, Sanjay Parate and three others, police on Thursday officially submitted its chargesheet in a special court in Jagdalpur, without their names. The chargesheet specifically mentions that no evidence was found against the six-member fact-finding team that was initially named in the FIR.
In May 2016, the team, which also included Vineet Tiwari, Sanjay Parate and Manju Kawasi, had visited the villages of Nama and Sautenar in Sukma district on a fact-finding mission. The men of the two villages had formed what they called the “Tangiya Army”, guarding the village against Maoists. The police, under IGP S R P Kalluri, had then accused the fact-finding team of telling villagers to “side with Maoists”. However, villagers had told The Indian Express that they had filed no police complaint and those who signed on the police complaint, raising the allegations, didn’t live in the village. They said the fact-finding team had made no remarks that suggested they should side with Maoists.
In November 2016, Shamnath Baghel, who was part of the “Tangiya Army”, was killed by Maoists, and based on an alleged complaint by his wife Vimla, members of the fact-finding team were accused of murder despite not being in Chhattisgarh at the time. Amid protests, Kalluri and SP I K Elsela had pushed ahead with the FIR. Even the NHRC had come down hard on the police, saying that it viewed the framing of the FIR as an “act of hostility”.
On Thursday, the police dropped the names from its chargesheet, naming only 15 Maoists in the case. The chargesheet said, “A brief explanation of the incident is that on November 4, 2016, Vimla Baghel was sleeping at their home with her husband and her family… Around 9 pm, armed Maoists Umesh, Ramlala, Soma, Jogi, Aytu and Mongla forcefully entered their house and dragged Shamnath Baghel out where there were 25 others waiting…. They included Naxal commander Sanju, Masa, Badal, Raje, Shyamla, Dashmi Hidme, Sukhram and Lakshman, who assaulted Shamnath Baghle and said that he incited others in the village against them. They then slit his throat with a knife and killed him.”
The chargesheet says, “The accused in the FIR Nandini Sundar, Archana Prasad, Vineet Tiwari, Sanjay Parate, Manju Kawasi and Mangla Ram have no concrete evidence against them, and under 120(b) no proof has been found that they were involved in the murder… Therefore due to absence of any evidence… after legal opinion, and after permission from the Superintendent of Police, their names have been removed from the case.”