Nandini Sundar case: Senior Chhattisgarh police officer threatens journalist over reporting

WION New Delhi, India Nov 15, 2016, 10.54 AM(IST)

Nandini Sundar has been charged with the murder of a tribal from Chhattisgarh. Photograph:( Twitter )

A senior police official of India's Chhattisgarh -- where Maoist insurgency is rampant -- refused to provide information to a journalist about the alleged involvement of Delhi University professor Nandini Sundar who was booked for the murder of a tribal in Bastar district this month, Indian daily Hindustan Times reported.

The HT journalist, Ritesh Mishra, had asked Kalluri for his comment after local residents in Bastar’s Nama village -- where Baghel was killed -- told him they had nothing against Nandini Sundar.

"If you all do like this, we will not let you visit …you went with my reference to Bastar," SRP Kalluri, the state's controversial inspector-general of police, was quoted as saying by Hindustan Times (HT).

Samnath Baghel was killed on November 4. Police subsequently booked Sundar and the others for the murder, saying she visited the village as part of a Maoist delegation some months earlier and threatened Baghel not to support the police in their campaign against the insurgents.

The police also claimed that Baghel's wife had alleged that the professor and other workers conducted meetings to provocate the villagers and that Baghel had reportedly filed a complaint in May against Sundar. 

Ritesh Mishra, however, says he was informed by the villagers of Nama that they had not seen the killers of Baghel and had no complaints against Sundar. They also disputed the claim of the police that Sundar had visited them as part of a Maoist team and said she had introduced herself as a rights activist.

Kalluri, however, insisted he had enough evidence against the academician and said he would not entertain Mishra any further. “You write whatever that comes to your mind. We don’t care a damn. For you, Bastar is a joke,” HT quoted him as saying.

The daily says journalists have been at the receiving end in Bastar "for what activists say are persistent attempts by the local police to intimidate the media." It reports that four journalists were arrested in the last one year, a visiting BBC journalist was forced to leave the district while another was forced to flee the region after being accused of having links with Maoists.

Nandini Sundar, a sociologist, has worked extensively in Chhattisgarh and recently published a book, 'The Burning Forest, India's war in Bastar' which talks about police atrocities in the state. She had even petitioned in the Supreme Court of India to ban the state-backed anti-Maoist militia Salwa Judum, terming the anti-insurgency operation unconstitutional. 

Bastar is among the regions most affected by Maoist insurgency in Chhattisgarh. Access the district is controlled by either by the police and the local vigilante groups or the Maoists. Both Maoists and the police face accusations of rights abuses.