A First Information Report was filed against two journalists in Chattisgarh’s Bastar on Friday for posting and sharing a message on social media and through WhatsApp about interactions between former Inspector General SRP Kalluri and Maoist fighters. Kamal Shukla and Prabhat Singh have been charged with defamation, insult to provoke breach of peace, public mischief and disturbing religious enmity.
The complaints against them were filed by two social groups Andhra Samaj Bastar and Sarva Dharm Samaj after Shukla wrote on Facebook about Kalluri holding a meeting with some Maoist leaders of Andhra origin in Jagdalpur’s Andhra Bhavan. Arms were allegedly handed over to the fighters at the meeting, the post said. Singh later shared Shukla’s post on a WhatsApp group titled Yuva Sangh Chhattisgarh.
The post cast doubts on the secrecy with which the meeting was conducted and also questioned the disclosure soon after the meeting, of an imminent attack by Maoists, which was shared on the same WhatsApp group by members close to Kalluri.
Shukla sought a high-level enquiry into the gathering. In the post, he commented on Kalluri’s inability to keep himself away from illegal mining activities, timber trafficking and corruption involving police officials working closely with Maoists.
Kalluri was transferred from the Bastar range in February after a series of attacks on academic and activist Bela Bhatia by a civil vigilante group allegedly supported by the police. The men threatened her with dire consequences and gave her a 24-hour deadline to leave. Bhatia had faced violence and threats in the past, in particular about her involvement with the National Human Rights Commission’s efforts to gather depositions from women who had survived rape and sexual assault at the hand of security forces in the region.
Several activists and journalist have faced trouble in Bastar for their reports and work that has questioned authority figures in the area. In January, 2016, effigies of Aam Aadmi Party leader Soni Sori were burnt. On February 4 last year, leaflets were thrown into Sori’s house in Geedam, warning her against returning to Bijapur. After repeatedly being harassed, Scroll.in contributor Malini Subramaniam left Jagdalpur. Later, a group of lawyers for the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group had to leave the town after an imminent threat of arrest.