A petition was submitted to the Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh, Union home minister Rajnath Singh, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Arun Jaitley and Minister for Tribal Affairs Jual Oram, on Friday.
Some 160 journalists and members of civil society from across India have appealed to the central government and to the Chhattisgarh state government to release two journalists in jail in the state, on charges of supporting Maoists. Santosh Yadav, a resident of Darbha and a journalist for Hindi publications such as Dainik Navbharat and Dainik Chhattisgarh, and Somaru Nag an Adivasi journalist and stringer for Rajasthan Patrika were arrested by the state police in September and July this year.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A petition was submitted to the Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh, Union home minister Rajnath Singh, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Arun Jaitley and Minister for Tribal Affairs Jual Oram, on Friday.According to the petition, under the Indian Penal Code and the Arms Act, Yadav has been charged under the Indian Penal Code, the Arms Act, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the Chhattisgarh Public Security Act (CPSA). The petition adds, “there is no clarity as to the charges against them, or the evidence which the police hold about their alleged involvement with Maoists.”Media reports and the July edition of People’s Union for Civil Liberty bulletin said that Yadav was first called to a police station in June 2015, where the police told him a warrant for his arrest had been issued. The police then took him to the lock up, stripped him off his clothes and was about to, according to the bulletin, start beating him when Yadav told him that he was a journalist who would report everything they did to him. Only this stopped the police hand, something that Yadav told the bureau chief at Dainik Chhattisgarh, Harjit Singh Pappu, according to a report on the media watchdog journal The Hoot.The police pressure on Yadav started when he was first on the scene to report on the Maoist attack that killed Congressman and Salwa Judum founder Mahendra Karma, in May 2013. Apparently, to the police that was a sign that Yadav was in cahoots with the Maoists.According to the petition, Yadav has been dragged into a case that charged 18 villagers with an encounter in August that killed a Special Police Officer. Nag has been named in a case, for keeping a lookout on police movements as a group of people “burnt a crusher plant employed in road construction in Chote Kadma on 26th June”.The PUCL bulletin recounted how the police had been pressuring Yadav to become their informer, by trying to give him five lakh rupees to catch Naxals, which Yadav refused.Yadav and Nag are hardly the only people to be harassed by a state police long infamous for the number of adivasis it picks up and jails on trumped up charges, where they languish for years as undertrials. According to the NCRB data, Chhattisgarh’s jails are 260 percent overcrowded, and human rights lawyer Vrinda Grover stated previously at a press conference in New Delhi that the actual conviction rate in Chhattisgarh for undertrials is 1 per cent to 3 per cent.