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Whistleblower Who Wrote About Sexual Abuse of Minors By Chhattisgarh Police is Suspended

Officials said Varsha Dongre was suspended because her Facebook post alleging human rights violations by the state was in ‘violation of service rules’.

Suspended Chhattisgarh jail official Varsha Dongre. Credit: Facebook/Varsha Dongre

Suspended Chhattisgarh jail official Varsha Dongre. Credit: Facebook/Varsha Dongre

New Delhi: Citing ‘indiscipline’, the Chhattisgarh government on May 6 suspended state prison official Varsha Dongre, who had posted on Facebook about gross human rights violations by the state. The deputy superintendent of Raipur central jail, in a Facebook post which she deleted later, had alleged that state security personnel indulged in widespread torture and sexual abuse of minor Adivasi girls inside prisons.

At a time when the April 24 Maoist attack on Central Reserve Police Force personnel stationed in Bastar’s Sukma had focused political and media attention on the need for a purely military strategy to handle the conflict in Adivasi-dominated Bastar, Dongre’s allegations set off alarm bells in Raipur and Delhi.

She called for “introspection” on the part of state authorities and had raised critical questions about government’s role in handling the conflict between Maoists and the state.

While the video news agency ANI first tweeted about her suspension, state officials later confirmed the government’s decision.

“Ms. Varsha Dongre has been suspended and charge-sheeted after it was found in a preliminary inquiry that her conduct was in violation of service rules and other rules,” Girdhari Nayak, the director general of police (jail administration) was quoted as saying in The Hindu.

Immediately after Dongre’s social media post, the state police had ordered a probe under DIG (Jail) K.K. Gupta.

Gupta, who confirmed her suspension, said that Dongre was asked to provide an explanation for her social media post within two days but had failed to do so. He also said that she remained absent from duty without taking permission to go on leave.

He said that Dongre had violated the state government’s directions, which prohibits all officials from sharing personal opinions on state policy.

Twenty-five CRPF personnel were killed in the Maoist ambush on April 24, which drew heavy criticism from all sides. However, the government has since then used the incident to target human rights activists.

In this context, Dongre’s post, which made serious allegations of human rights violations by the state in Bastar, may have riled the government. Her post said (translated from Hindi):

“I believe we all need to introspect and the truth will come out. In any incident, those who are getting killed on either side are our own people. They are all Indians. And that is why, whoever is killed, it hurts all of us.

But the capitalist system is being forced in Adivasi areas. Entire villages are burnt and women are raped to push the tribals out of their land and to take control of the forests. If tribal women are suspected to be Naxals, their breasts are squeezed to check if they are lactating.

In the name of tiger projects, tribals are being strategically forced out of their lands and forests even when the constitution’s fifth schedule prevents the military government from taking control of their tribal lands. Is this being done to end Naxalism? Not really.

The fact is that the forests are rich in natural mineral resources and in order to sell them to industrialists and capitalists, the forests need to be vacated.

But the tribals will not vacate them because it is their home. They too want Naxalism to end but the way the protectors of the country rape their daughters, burn their houses and send them to prison in false cases, who do they turn to for justice?

The CBI says it, the Supreme Court says it. This is the reality. If any human rights activist or journalist attempts to find a solution, they are implicated in false cases and thrown in jail.

If everything is fine in the tribal areas, why is the government so afraid? Why is nobody allowed to go there to find out the truth?

I have witnessed 14- and 16-year-old tribal girls being stripped naked in police stations and tortured. They were given electric shocks on their wrists and breasts. I have seen the marks. It horrified me to the core. Why did they use third degree torture on minors? I have given directions for their treatment and necessary action.

Our constitution does not allow anyone the right to harass or torture someone. We must wake up. The fifth schedule must be implemented in the state. A particular kind of development must not be thrust upon the Adivasis.

The Adivasis are preservers of nature. We too must become protectors and not destroyers of nature. Understand the two-faced policies of the pimps of capitalism. Farmers and jawans are brothers. Killing each other will neither bring peace nor development. The constitution is for everyone and everyone must get justice.

I too fell victim to the system but fought against injustice. They tried to break me with their conspiracies. They offered bribes. One may see para 69 of the decision dated 26.08.2016 by Hon’ble Chief Justice of Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh. But their plans were foiled and the truth won. It will always win.

We still have time. But if we fail to stand for truth, the capitalists will use us as pawns and efface all humanity from this country. Let us vow neither to carry out injustice nor to tolerate it. Long live the constitution. Long live India.”

Though the state government has suspended Dongre for ‘indiscipline’ and violation of ‘service’ rules’, it has been lenient towards other state officials, notably senior police officer S.R.P. Kalluri, whose controversial and unauthorised use of social media prompted the Chhattisgarh government to send him on medical leave in February, 2017  but not suspend or charge-sheet him. In March, Kalluri was served two showcause notices and one warning letter on grounds of indiscipline for attending a private company’s event in Jagdalpur and subsequently posting messages on social media that were allegedly a violation of the state government’s social media policy. This was the same event where Kaluri’s colleage, Indira Kalyan Elesela, who is the Sukma superintendent of police, said that human rights activists should be “crushed on the highway using advanced motor vehicles”.

Neither Kaluri nor Elesela have been suspended, suggesting that when it comes to enforcement of service rules, the Chhattisgarh government has one policy for those who are whistleblowers and expose official wrongdoing, and another policy for those who condone or advocate the violation of law.

  • kujur bachchan

    As expected the administration strikes back. It applies Service Conduct Rules to silence an official who dares to go public with her claims that she has witnessed the security and jail officials resorting to sadistic physical torture of teenage tribal girls to extract information. But the same administration does not find it fit to apply the same service conduct rules on Kaluri and Elesela, who have no qualms in violating the rule of law.

    Can those poor unfortunate victims of torture ever expect justice from such a brazen administration? Most definitely, NEVER. Unless the civil society and the media voice their outrage in unison. But are we up to it? Do we have any empathy with the tribal communities of this country and their lives?

  • Anjan Basu

    This had to happen. Because, this is how the state always seeks to get its back upon those who have the temerity to call out the state’s coercive, repressive policies and practice. But we salute Varsha Dogre. She had the courage of her convictions and demonstrated it in a manner that puts most of us, mute spectators of the carnage going on all around us in many parts of India today, to everlasting shame.

  • Anjan Basu

    I agree whole-heartedly. Can we do something, say, join in a signed petition to the state CM and another to the GOI? Also raise a corpus of funds to aid Varsha, provided, of course, that she agrees to accept such help? Let each one of us give their suggestions about how we can do something. For do something we must, if we are to remain true to our conscience.

    • Ashok Akbar Gonsalves

      I am all for whatever help we can give. What kind of help might she need? And can she be contacted so that she may be asked directly?

      • Anjan Basu

        I really don’t know. But through the excellent ‘public’ platform that The Wire has come to be recognised us, let us appeal to all who happen to share your anxieties and concerns to suggest ways and means whereby we could make it known to Varsha Dongre that we stand with her in her unequal struggle with the state. I will also appeal to The Wire’s editorial staff to try and help us get in touch with Varsha. The Wire’s many readers together are bound to prove to be a significant voice in Varsha’s favour.

        • Ashok Akbar Gonsalves

          Yes, a direct request to The Wire to help us get in direct touch with her may be useful. Also perhaps we could post a message of support on her FB page….?

          • Anjan Basu

            Yes, why not? I will proceed to write something on her FB wall straight away, if she happens to be on FB. I will request other sympathetic readers also to follow Ashok Akbar Gonsalves’ very helpful suggestion. I am also writing a mail to The Wire’s editors with the appeal to help us in this modest effort.

          • Ashok Akbar Gonsalves

            Thanks, sir. If you could kindly let us know if and when you have been able to post on her FB wall, we could then follow you….THANKS!

          • Anjan Basu

            Please see Vivek’s input given above. We may take this as the starting point. My mail to The Wire has yet to elicit a response, maybe because of privacy concerns.

    • kujur bachchan

      She now faces departmental inquiry. Therefore, we should not do anything which might weaken her defence. I am somewhat familiar with departmental disciplinary proceedings. The department may accuse her of canvassing if we we make an appeal to the state authorities.

      • Anjan Basu

        Thanks for the feedback! Surely we must not do anything that may add to her already substantial difficulties. But we should let her know that there are many in India who admire her courage and her commitment to public interest. I am somehow unable to locate her on Face Book. Maybe she closed her account there. I have requested The Wire’s editorial staff also to help us reach out to her. Meanwhile, if any of our reader-friends of The Wire can think of any means whereby we could help, or at least reach, her, I will be very grateful.

  • Anjan Basu

    Thank you so much for the help! I am sure the community of The Wire’s readers will take note of this information