The National Human Rights Commission finds itself having to clean up after Raman Singh, chief minister of Chhattisgarh. It has summoned his chief secretary Vivek Dhand and S.R.P. Kalluri, inspector general of police of Bastar (Range), over the FIR against New Delhi-based academics Nandini Sundar and Archana Prasad and others in connection with the killing of a member of the anti-Maoist movement.
It has noted that the time gap between the killing in November and a visit to the victim’s village by the accused in May was so large as to make their culpability in the matter improbable. It has rightly read this as yet another instance of the police force’s use of intimidation against the ruling party’s political opponents, scholars and activists in the garb of fighting Maoism. By all accounts, this has become an abiding feature of the state under Raman Singh.
The chief minister has said that “the government knows how to take corrective steps” against erring officials. But in this matter, he appears to be in considerable error himself. The state police has been accused of carrying on a vendetta, and the targets are activists, the academics and lawyers who support them and journalists who cover their work. There is mounting evidence that points to a many-layered assault, from direct harrasment to the indirect route of making it impossible for people to live in peace in Bastar.
Allegations of rape, arson and fake encounters in the state have actually been amplified by the very intimidation that was intended to turn down the volume. The NHRC has taken note of the fact that a CBI inquiry mandated by the Supreme Court had probed operations conducted under IGP Kalluri for acts of arson in villages, and has asked why the investigation of the present FIR should not be similarly handed over to an independent investigative agency.
Regrettably, the government of Raman Singh, who wishes to be seen as a model of good governance, has not deterred the police from stepping beyond the rubric of the law. With respect to the case at hand, the Chhattisgarh Auxiliary Police have actually burned effigies of Nandini Sundar and her associates, a disturbing contravention of the conventions of service. However, this proxy violence is a pale shadow of the real thing — the direct acts of arson the police stand accused of. The chief minister on whose watch this has become possible, even commonplace, must be held accountable.