Updated: March 24, 2016 9:24:02 am
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) sent a notice to Chhattisgarh government Wednesday in connection with the arrest of journalist Prabhat Singh, who was picked up by police Monday. The notice is based on a complaint “drawing specific attention to the illegal arrest, detention and torture of a progressive journalist by police in Bastar on March 21, 2016, and alleging that human rights defenders are being targeted for doing their legitimate work as defenders of tribal rights in the state.”
The Chief Secretary and DGP have been given two weeks’ time to submit a factual report.
Singh was picked up by police from Dantewada and charged under Sections 292 and 67 and 67(A) of IT Act, based on a complaint by Santosh Tiwari who took umbrage to a post allegedly circulated by Singh on a WhatsApp group. The post on the group ‘Bastar News’ read, “Patrakaar Suraksha Kanoon se keval unhe parhez hai jo already mama ki **** mein bathe hai” (Only those sitting in ‘mama’s’ **** have a problem with Patrakaar Suraksha Kanoon). “Mama” is a term commonly used by journalists in the region to refer to a top police officer in the Bastar range.
Incidentally, Singh had filed a complaint against Tiwari and members of Samajik Ekta Manch, a group known to be close to state police, for allegedly abusing and defaming him. The complaint has seen no action so far.
The NHRC notice says, “The complainant has alleged that the victim journalist and a Human Rights Defender Shri Prabhat Singh was picked up from his shop…He was taken to Parpa police station, beaten up and tortured all night and even deprived of food and water.”
The complaint, filed by Henri Tiphagne of Human Rights Defenders Alert India, names IG S R P Kalluri and the Manch as “perpetrators” and says, “…The latest arrest of journalist Prabhat Singh comes after a series of attacks, harassment and illegal arrests of human rights defenders in the state… working as journalists, lawyers, researchers and political activists. They are being targeted by the state police as well as by state-sponsored groups and many are being systematically hounded out of Chhattisgarh for doing their legitimate work as defenders of tribal rights….”
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