Ms. Bela Bhatia, Dr. Jean Dreze, Ms. Soni Sori
HRDA has issued an urgent appeal to the National Human Rights Commission of India on May 24, 2021, regarding harassment, misuse of law and illegal detention of Ms. Bela Bhatia, Dr. Jean Dreze, Ms. Soni Sori and others by police and administrative officials of Chhattisgarh. Ms. Bhatia is renowned HRD and independent researcher, Dr. Dreze is an eminent economist and Mr. Sori is a well-known activist and HRD.
Three Adivasis were killed and several got injured after police lathi-charged and open fired on protesting Adivasi on May 17, 2021. They were peacefully protesting against a security camp that was being set up near Silger village, Sukma district.
Mr. Dreze and Ms. Bhatia tried travelling to the village on May 19 by a motor bike but were stopped by CRPF officials and were asked to seek permission from Superintendent of Police for the visit. Both the HRDs then tried to meet the injured Adivasis in the hospital on the same day but were denied permission by the administration for not having a negative RT-PCR report. They could only meet the injured victims on May 20, but weren’t allowed to talk freely after they met the district collector. They were again stopped by the CRPF officials on May 21 when they were traveling to the village and were escorted to the district collector’s office by the police officials. On the other hand, Ms. Sori was served notice asking her to refrain from travelling outside her village.
The harassment and denial of permission to HRDs to travel to village for a fact finding amounts to violation of freedom of speech and expression and right to assemble peacefully enshrined under Article 19 in the Constitution of India. It also violates UN declaration on Human Rights Defender adopted by UN General Assembly.