Chhattisgarh lawyer allegedly assaulted by cops, WCD officials

Incident took place when officials visited a shelter home for HIV positive minor girls to forcibly evict them; the organisation is now being systematically vilified along communal lines

lawyer attacked

On August 17, police personnel accompanied some officials of the Women and Child Development (WCD) department on a visit to the Our Home shelter home for HIV positive minor girls in Bilaspur, that is locally better known as Apna Ghar. The officials allegedly physically assaulted some of the inmates who were minor girls living with HIV in a bid to forcibly evict them from the shelter. They also assaulted the staff and even human rights lawyer Priyanka Shukla who works pro-bono with the shelter home.

Advocate Shukla who was allegedly beaten up and sustained a fracture to her right arm in the attack now tells SabrangIndia what transpired that fateful day and how all of this has the potential to snowball into a bigger, possibly communal conflict. It is noteworthy that Advocate Priyanka Shukla is a human rights lawyer practicing in Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh since 2014. She is associated with Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group since 2015, working for the rights of the Adivasis.

“I have been working pro bono and offering free legal aid to Apna Ghar since late 2019. I had been approached by them in November last year when the WCD department was trying to shut them down citing violation of provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act, a claim that was totally baseless and one we were able to refute,” recalls Shukla. “We knew we were in the right and had nothing to hide. So, from November 2019 till the national lockdown in March 2020, Apna Ghar office bearers have been cooperating fully with the WCD department and even the police. We have not only appeared before the Collector, but also welcomed WCD department officials from different districts to come to the shelter home and meet and speak with the girls, so that they can ascertain ground realities for themselves.”

Shukla says that the shelter home started attracting trouble from 2018 onwards when they refused to pay a bribe allegedly demanded by some WCD department officials. The authorities then allegedly started targeting the shelter home with baseless allegations about its functioning, and rumours of a communal nature also simultaneously began circulating about the organisation. These rumours have once again regained vigour in wake of the recent attack on the girls.

“They started saying that this was an organisation being used by Christian missionaries to forcibly convert the girls to Christianity. They said that we were getting foreign funding for this purpose. They even accused me of drawing a fat paycheck which was possible only because of the foreign funding. Truth is, I work pro bono for Apna Ghar,” says Shukla. “They accused Apna Ghar of preventing the girls from praying according to their religion, but the truth is that at Apna Ghar, the girls are free to pray to whoever they want and however they want. Nobody is stopping them,” says Shukla.

This year on March 16, just days before the national lockdown was announced due to growing concerns about the spread of Covid-19, Apna Ghar officials were present for a hearing before the Collector. “At the previous hearing we had been asked to make a fresh representation, but due to some misunderstanding or miscommunication we were under the impression that it had to be initiated by the WCD department. We were thus granted more time to make this representation. But then the lockdown was announced and the matter has remained pending ever since as hearings could not be conducted,” says Shukla.

It was only in July that they were told that an order had been passed to shut down the shelter and return the girls to their homes and that WCD department teams from different districts would come to take charge of the girls. “But we were never given any copy of the order. We were just informed on July 5, that the girls will be taken away. Meanwhile, parents of the girls said that they would prefer to let them stay at the shelter home as they would have access to better facilities here. So, we let the officials from different districts come and speak to the girls themselves and ascertain the truth on their own,” explains Shukla.

In fact, on July 15, Apna Ghar authorities wrote to the WCD department asking for a copy of the said order. The letter may be read here:

As Apna Ghar is the only shelter home for HIV positive minor girls in the state of Chhattisgarh, the inmates come from different districts. Later in July, WCD officials from Jangir-Champa district came and met the girls, but they refused to go. The same happened when officials from Raigarh district visited.

On August 17, again a woman official from Jangir-Champa came at about 10 A.M but the girls were not released into her custody as she allegedly did not have relevant documents to demand their custody. The woman left without the girls, promising to return. Advocate Shukla then went to the shelter home to prepare a draft response to the custody demand. Shortly afterwards, nearly 40 people including police personnel from two police stations; the Sarkanda thana as well as the Mahila thana came to the shelter home.

“It felt like a raid, they way they all just landed up together. First, they started yelling and threatening us. Then they confiscated our phones. When I said that I was the shelter home’s lawyer and what the authorities were doing was illegal, they started threatening me too. Women police officials began slapping me and I was also manhandled by a few male personnel,” narrates Shukla.

“They physically assaulted me, beat me up, pulled my hair, slapped me and even pulled me clothes,” says Shukla recalling the chilling impunity with which the police treated her that day. “They dragged me out to the vehicle and put me in the back where they kept hitting me,” she says. Shukla’s partner, journalist Anuj Srivastava, who had dropped her at the shelter home that morning, reached the spot upon hearing about the attack.

“But they wouldn’t let me talk to him. I was able to get out of the vehicle for just long enough to say the words, ‘Anuj they have beaten me badly. Please look after the girls,’ before they yanked me back inside,” says Shukla. Some of the neighbours and people who saw the attack, were able to secretly shoot a few videos of the attack. The videos may be viewed here:



But Shukla’s ordeal was far from over. “I sensed a serious injury to my right hand and told the police personnel that they were violating laws related to arrest and detention procedure and that they must get me medical attention as was mandated by the procedure laid down by the law,” she said. But what followed were more slaps and then Shukla was whisked away from the spot to the Sarkanda police station.

“The case technically falls under the jurisdiction of the Sakri police station, yet I was taken to Sarkanda. When I brought this up, I was further threatened with being locked up in the ‘bandi-grah’, if I did not shut up,” says Shukla, saying she was made to feel like a criminal. “What’s worse, is that they didn’t even follow established procedures like informing my family. I was offered no food or water all day. I was allowed to go to the bathroom only once. All this while, I was barefoot as my footwear had fallen off during the attack. When I complained of the increasing pain in my right hand, they didn’t even let me get a pain relief ointment. I was taken to the Chhattisgarh Institute of Medical Sciences (CIMS) after 6 P.M.”

Shukla suspects this delay in the medical examination was deliberate. “They wanted the swelling on my face to dissipate and injury marks to become lighter before the doctors got to examine me,” says Shukla revealing the diabolical strategy adopted by her captors. “At the hospital, the doctors clearly said that I needed to be admitted, but the police did not allow it. They also did not permit an X-ray to confirm the fracture,” she says.

Shukla’s case was transferred to the Sakri police station where she was taken from the hospital and she was finally released on bail at 9 P.M that night.

“I went to the hospital the following day and got admitted. That’s when they were able to do an X-ray that confirmed the fracture. But the drama followed me to the hospital as well. All this while, I have neither been given a copy of my medical report, the X-ray report, nor a record of my arrest,” says Shukla. “What’s worse, is that the police have refused to file an FIR based on my complaint. I have now made representations to my Bar Council and HRDA has filed a complaint with the NHRC about the attack on me,” she says.

The complaint by Human Rights Defenders’ Alert, India (HRDA) to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) may be viewed here. 

The letter names the following officials as perpetrators:

• Mr. Sanip Ratre, Town Inspector, Sarkanda Police Station, Bilaspur

 Ms. Parvati Verma, District Child Protection Officer

• Mr. Prashant Agrawal, Superintendent of Police Bilaspur

• Ms. Nimisha Pandey, Chief Superintendent of the Police, Chhattisgarh

• Mr. Suresh Singh, District Program Officer, Women and Child Development


• Ms. Anju Chelak, Station In-Charge, Women Police Station, Bilaspur

• Police Personnel of Sarkanda Police Station, Sarkanda, Bilaspur

• Police Personnel of Women Police Station Bilaspur

• Other officials of the Women and Child Development and Child Welfare

Committee, Bilaspur

The matter was further amplified by Shukla’s partner Anuj Srivastava who shared news of the attack on her via a Facebook post saying, “Priyanka is unwell, her hand might have been fractured and she has sustained injuries to her face as well.” He went on to name WCD officials Parvati Verma and Suresh Singh, as well as two personnel from the Sarkanda Police Station; Sanip Ratre and Anju Chelak as the people who assaulted Priyanka.

“Though she was beaten in an inhuman manner at 12:30 in the afternoon, she was not taken to the hospital till about 6 in the evening. They just put her in a vehicle and kept driving her around, perhaps hoping that her swelling and marks due to injuries would subside and wouldn’t be too visible,” said Anuj Srivastava. “The doctors at CIMS clearly said that she needs to be admitted, but the police did not let that happen.” The original post may be read here:


Srivastava, a respected journalist from Chattisgarh who has previously also written for SabrangIndia’s Hindi website, told us, “The police are yet to register an FIR based on our complaint.” He said, “Priyanka is better now, though she has sustained a fracture on her right hand. However, the condition of 14 of the HIV positive minor girls who were beaten up and forcibly evicted from the shelter, is still bad.”

Srivastava fears that the vilification of the organisation, Apna Ghar along communal lines is a part of a greater conspiracy. “They are making false allegations of forced conversions. We are receiving threats from right-wing extremist Hindutva organisations. It appears that the regime is trying to cover up the matter,” he said.


Chhattisgarh police brutality against advocate demands strict action: HRDA



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