Bastar: In further evidence of the targeting of activists associated with the insurgency-prone region of Bastar in Chhattisgarh, activists, lawyers and human rights defenders claim to have received a string of abusive and threatening messages purportedly from phone numbers belonging to the region’s senior most police official, SRP Kalluri, reports NDTV.
Their ‘crime’: sending messages of concern to Kalluri regarding the hounding of the activist Bela Bhatia. On Monday Bhatia, an independent researcher, was threatened by a mob at her home near Bastar, virtually forcing her to leave, supposedly because she was part of an effort to uncover alleged human rights abuses by security forces.
Activists have long suspected that these mobs have the tacit backing of the police, specifically Kalluri, who has a controversial record of using strong-arm methods.
NDTV reviewed SMS and WhatsApp exchanges between at least nine activists and three phone numbers belonging to Kalluri.
In one of the messages Sandeep Singh, an activist on 24th January wrote, “This can’t go long. You are not above the constitution. Don’t sell your conscience for money.”
In response he received a message from Kalluri’s number saying “Maoists and their dogs like you will be stoned out of Bastar. Beware.”
A Supreme Court lawyer, Pyoli Swatija sent a similar message to the police official on January 24 in which she wrote “Please ensure Bela Bhatia is not hounded out of her residence.” This got the following reply from Kalluri: “Naxals will be kicked out of Bastar.” When she asked, “What does your answer have to do with my query?” the message in response was, “F U.”
Another message sent to Kalluri by Vani Subramanian, a film maker and an activist again sought to ensure the safety of Bela Bhatia in which she asked “Do citizens of India not have the right to residence in Chhatisgarh?!” The reply from Kalluri’s number read “Yes, we are taking strong action. Very soon, Maoists and their dogs will be thrown out of Bastar.”
When we called to check with Kalluri on one of the numbers from which these messages had been sent, he said he “only has a few seconds” to spare. As we began reading out the messages he said “this was all false and we are conducting an inquiry into it.”