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Silger police firing: Bela Bhatia, Jean Dreze stopped from meeting survivors

SP says the activists were not “not detained” but asked to get tested for Covid-19; IG says area needs to be “cleared” before any visit is allowed

Sabrangindia 21 May 2021

Image Courtesy:theweek.in

Social activists Bela Bhatia and Jean Dreze have been “detained by the Bijapur administration at the Circuit House since last night,” according to information shared by people’s union for civil liberties (PUCL), Chattisgarh. Bela Bhatia accompanied by Jean Dreze have been stopped from meeting the villagers at Silger, in Bastar. Bhatia and Dreze wanted to meet families of victims and survivors of recent police firing. But they were stopped and were taken to the administration’s own Circuit House, where they are still reported to be. 

The villagers’ protests continue outside the camp, while police claim three Maoists were killed during the exchange of fire. “What does the government have to hide?” asked Bhatia in a social media post. 

 

The two activists who have worked with the people of Chattisgarh’s tribal area for decades, were going to visit Silger village, where the Adivasi villagers are still sitting in protest against the setting up of a police camp on their land. According to the PUCL another group of Sarv Adivasi Samaj has also been stopped from visiting the area.

However, SP Kamlochan Kashyap, told SabrangIndia that the two activists have “not been detained”, adding that they have been asked to get tested for Covid-19 as they have come from “outside” the area. According to the SP, it is “mandatory to get them tested,” but he added that the two “were hesitant” and have thus been asked to stay in the guest house till they get tested. “The administration is in touch with them,” he added.

While PUCL has stated that as “lawyers and social activist they have every right to visit the villages and the sight of the police firing and meeting the affected persons and families,” the SP maintains the official response that apart from the Covid-19 protocol. “No one is being prevented from visiting anyone,” said the SP, adding that “Even we have to get tested when we go anywhere, or come from outside.” He, however, confirmed that the group of villagers continued to sit in protest even now but said that the “situation is under control.”

According to P Sunderaj, IG Bastar Range, the area needs to be “cleared” before it is “safe” for the activists to visit. “The situation is tense, hence we have requested them to stay… we have provided the accommodation at the rest house,” Sunderaj told SabrangIndia, adding that there was also a bandh announced in the area. He further said, “They can go but we need to clear the areas first. We are responsible for peace.”

So is there still a threat of violence in the area which the SP has said was “under control"? And when asked why the activists had been detained the IG also said the activists were “not detained”. However, he said, “Today the naxals target activists and media persons. People fail to appreciate that it is not the villagers but it [referring to the protest and the violence that ensued] is a big conspiracy by Naxals.” According to the IG, a number of “naxal” cadres have come from other areas in “civilian camouflage” and have blended in with villagers, he accused the “Left Wing extremists and Maoist supporters,” of instigating, and even threatening the villager to protest the camp as it brings “development, education, healthcare, roads” into the are and thus weakens the “[Maoist] strong hold”. 

According to the IG, the collectors office has been in touch with Bela Bhatia and Jean Dreze. He added that a group of 15-20 villagers met him as well and that the residents of the village had some apprehensions “which were cleared.” When asked why the massive violence and firing that led to many deaths ensued if this was the case, he said “Naxals were instigating villagers to protest. The Naxals got people/cadres from far away places, their sangathan members…” 

According to the IG “none of the people who died were from Silger” and added that they were from “Naxal central organisation cadres”. He said the security forces “fired in retaliation” to “firing” by those he said belonged to the “People's Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) cadres who were there in civilian camouflage.” When both senior policemen were asked if the Covid-19 tests had been done for Bela Bhatia and Jean Dreze, so they could then leave the Circuit House, they said the District collector was in touch with the activists. Meanwhile, Collector Ritesh Agarwal has not been reachable on phone so far. 

Related:

Chhattisgarh: Villagers allege police fired, killed peaceful protesters at Sukma security camp
Mark India as “country of particular concern”: USCIRF
Missing CRPF jawan's family demands answers
Chhattisgarh: 5 police personnel killed, 14 injured in alleged Maoists attack

Silger police firing: Bela Bhatia, Jean Dreze stopped from meeting survivors

SP says the activists were not “not detained” but asked to get tested for Covid-19; IG says area needs to be “cleared” before any visit is allowed

Image Courtesy:theweek.in

Social activists Bela Bhatia and Jean Dreze have been “detained by the Bijapur administration at the Circuit House since last night,” according to information shared by people’s union for civil liberties (PUCL), Chattisgarh. Bela Bhatia accompanied by Jean Dreze have been stopped from meeting the villagers at Silger, in Bastar. Bhatia and Dreze wanted to meet families of victims and survivors of recent police firing. But they were stopped and were taken to the administration’s own Circuit House, where they are still reported to be. 

The villagers’ protests continue outside the camp, while police claim three Maoists were killed during the exchange of fire. “What does the government have to hide?” asked Bhatia in a social media post. 

 

The two activists who have worked with the people of Chattisgarh’s tribal area for decades, were going to visit Silger village, where the Adivasi villagers are still sitting in protest against the setting up of a police camp on their land. According to the PUCL another group of Sarv Adivasi Samaj has also been stopped from visiting the area.

However, SP Kamlochan Kashyap, told SabrangIndia that the two activists have “not been detained”, adding that they have been asked to get tested for Covid-19 as they have come from “outside” the area. According to the SP, it is “mandatory to get them tested,” but he added that the two “were hesitant” and have thus been asked to stay in the guest house till they get tested. “The administration is in touch with them,” he added.

While PUCL has stated that as “lawyers and social activist they have every right to visit the villages and the sight of the police firing and meeting the affected persons and families,” the SP maintains the official response that apart from the Covid-19 protocol. “No one is being prevented from visiting anyone,” said the SP, adding that “Even we have to get tested when we go anywhere, or come from outside.” He, however, confirmed that the group of villagers continued to sit in protest even now but said that the “situation is under control.”

According to P Sunderaj, IG Bastar Range, the area needs to be “cleared” before it is “safe” for the activists to visit. “The situation is tense, hence we have requested them to stay… we have provided the accommodation at the rest house,” Sunderaj told SabrangIndia, adding that there was also a bandh announced in the area. He further said, “They can go but we need to clear the areas first. We are responsible for peace.”

So is there still a threat of violence in the area which the SP has said was “under control"? And when asked why the activists had been detained the IG also said the activists were “not detained”. However, he said, “Today the naxals target activists and media persons. People fail to appreciate that it is not the villagers but it [referring to the protest and the violence that ensued] is a big conspiracy by Naxals.” According to the IG, a number of “naxal” cadres have come from other areas in “civilian camouflage” and have blended in with villagers, he accused the “Left Wing extremists and Maoist supporters,” of instigating, and even threatening the villager to protest the camp as it brings “development, education, healthcare, roads” into the are and thus weakens the “[Maoist] strong hold”. 

According to the IG, the collectors office has been in touch with Bela Bhatia and Jean Dreze. He added that a group of 15-20 villagers met him as well and that the residents of the village had some apprehensions “which were cleared.” When asked why the massive violence and firing that led to many deaths ensued if this was the case, he said “Naxals were instigating villagers to protest. The Naxals got people/cadres from far away places, their sangathan members…” 

According to the IG “none of the people who died were from Silger” and added that they were from “Naxal central organisation cadres”. He said the security forces “fired in retaliation” to “firing” by those he said belonged to the “People's Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) cadres who were there in civilian camouflage.” When both senior policemen were asked if the Covid-19 tests had been done for Bela Bhatia and Jean Dreze, so they could then leave the Circuit House, they said the District collector was in touch with the activists. Meanwhile, Collector Ritesh Agarwal has not been reachable on phone so far. 

Related:

Chhattisgarh: Villagers allege police fired, killed peaceful protesters at Sukma security camp
Mark India as “country of particular concern”: USCIRF
Missing CRPF jawan's family demands answers
Chhattisgarh: 5 police personnel killed, 14 injured in alleged Maoists attack

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