We are happy that the Chhattisgarh police have dropped our names from the chargesheet in the murder of Shyamnath Baghel. We hope that the many hundreds of innocent adivasis and all others who have been falsely implicated and are languishing in jail will also soon get justice. We are grateful to our lawyers, friends and all those who helped us in clearing our name.

Brief background to the case

FIR No. 27/16 under Sections 120B, 302, 450, 147, 148 and 149, IPC, Sections 25 and 27 of the Arms Act and under Sections 23, 38 (2), 39 (2) of UAPA had been lodged against us in Tongpal thana on 5th November 2016. The case was supposedly filed on the written complaint of Shyamnath Baghel’s widow, Vimla Baghel. But even in that alleged complaint, we are not directly implicated at all – since the killers did not even say that they were acting at our behest, but only because Baghel did not listen to us when we had visited the village six months previously.

In an interview taken by Mr. Siddharth Ranjan Das, of NDTV, aired on 11 November 2016, Vimla Baghel is saying on camera that she does not recognize the killers of her husband, they said nothing to her, and did not take our names. It is totally improbable that she would have known our full names and official designations and the whole written complaint was clearly a fabrication.

On 15/11/2016 the Supreme Court recorded a statement made by the Additional Solicitor General on behalf of the State of Chhattisgarh, that no investigation shall be carried out and no arrests shall be made of the six in FIR no. 27/16. In the event of any investigation which the police intends to carry out against these persons, they shall be given at least four weeks notice of the same. This is how we were at liberty under Supreme Court protection.

In the two years since this direction was passed, the Chhattisgarh police did not take any steps to investigate or close the matter. After Nandini Sundar filed an application in the Supreme Court asking to have her name and that of the others dropped from the FIR, on 27th November 2018, the Court directed Chhattisgarh government to show what action they had taken. We are glad that the charge sheet finally brings closure in this matter.

Our Position

The six of us had carried out a study tour of Bastar from 12-16 May 2016. We published and circulated a report, that was also carried by Economic and Political Weekly, on June 25, 2016. In the report and article we had clearly blamed both the Naxalites and the government for the situation of adivasis. We had brought out the fact that villagers in Kumakoleng and Soutnar had fled because of Maoist pressure. The police claim that we had told the villagers to support Maoists is a rank lie, and goes against our entire stated positions till date.

The FIR was lodged immediately after the CBI charge-sheeted SPOs for burning the villages of Tadmetla, Timapuram and Morpalli, in which the then DIG SRP Kalluri was also implicated, since he admittedly directed the operations as SSP Dantewada. Following this, the police burnt effigies of activists, including Sundar, in six different places. Even before this, the police had been propping up vigilante groups to protest against Nandini Sundar and Archana Prasad.

Political vendettas and the use of state machinery against political opponents is not good for the health of democracy, and those who misuse the law should be punished. Indeed, the NHRC had summoned Mr. Kalluri after his malafide action, but he did not come.

Nandini Sundar is the lead petitioner in the Supreme Court in a case on human rights violations in Bastar since 2005, in which the Supreme Court had banned all support for Salwa Judum in 2011, and ordered the CBI to investigate the attack on Tadmetla and the assault on Swami Agnivesh in March 2011. The matter is still pending in court for contempt and further directions.

Nandini Sundar
Archana Prasad
Sanjay Parate
Vineet Tiwari
Manju Kawasi
Manglaram Karma

Nandini Sundar is Professor at Delhi University, Archana Prasad is Professor at JNU, Sanjay Parate is State Secretary CPM; Vineet Tiwari is at the Joshi-Adhikari Institute of Social Studies, CPI; Manju Kawasi is Sarpanch Gupidi; Manglaram Karma is a former resident of Nama village.

(Cover photo: In Bastar, police burn effigies of activists Nandini Sundar, Himanshu Kumar and Bela Bhatia)