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Patna: Jharkhand police, on July 17, arrested Jharkhand-based independent journalist Rupesh Kumar Singh and charged him under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) as well as the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
According to his family members, Saraikela Kharsawan district police searched Singh’s house in Ramgarh for over nine hours before arresting him. Singh’s wife, Ipsa Shatakshi, told The Wire, “The police force knocked on our door at 5:25 in the morning and served us a search warrant. We cooperated with them.”
The 10-member search team of the police was headed by deputy superintendent of police (HQ) Chandan Kumar Vats.
“The two lady police searched our kitchen. They checked if there were suspicious things in the rice, flour etc.,” Shatakshi said.
“Police searched for nine hours but didn’t disclose that they had an arrest warrant, too. Only five minutes before the arrest, the police showed us the warrant,” she alleged.
According to the warrant, Singh was arrested in the connection first information report (FIR) no 67/21 of the Kandra police station.
FIR no 67/21 is the same FIR under which Prashanth Bose (alias Kishan Da), one of the top leaders of the CPI (Maoists); his wife, Sheela Marandi; Gurucharan Bodra; Raju Tudu (alias Nikhil, Bapu); Krishna Bahangda (alias Heven); and Birendra Hansda (alias Jitendra) were arrested in November, 2021.
All of the above were charged under IPC Sections 420, 467, 468 and 471; Sections 10 and 13 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act; and Section 17 of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act.
While they were wanted in a variety of cases, the police did not disclose the specific cases in which they were arrested. When The Wire tried to search for the FIR online, the portal denied access to a copy of the FIR, saying ‘the case is sensitive.’
Bose is known to be a top Maoist leader and had been operating from the Saranda forests in Jharkhand. He was named as an accused in the murder of MP Sunil Mahto and Ramesh Singh Munda around 15 years ago.
All sections, including those of the UAPA, which have been invoked against Singh are similar to those slapped on Bose and the other accused.
From Singh’s house, the police seized a bed sheet, a nine-page notebook, a tax invoice for a motorcycle, two mobile phones, one hard-disk, the retail invoice of a car and two laptops.
“They searched for a few hours normally. We were with them when suddenly, a call came and after that, they sent us outside the house and locked the door from the inside,” Shatakshi claimed. “They searched for around half an hour this way.”
She also mentioned peculiar behaviour on the part of DSP Vats, who was leading the search operation. “We had kept the trunk covered with an old bed sheet. The DSP told us he liked the bedsheet so he will take it with him. We were surprised, but allowed it.”
The Wire called the superintendent of police (SP), Saraikela Kharsawan and the SP (HQ), but they didn’t respond. This story will be updated as and when they reply.
Who is Rupesh Kumar Singh?
Singh (37) has been working as an independent journalist since 2012, writing on Adivasi issues in various media platforms. During his college days in Bhagalpur, he was associated with the student wing of the CPI (Leninist). In 2014, he married Shatakshi and moved to Ramgarh.
Singh was arrested by Gaya Police in June, 2019 for alleged connections with Maoists. Police had claimed that gelatin sticks and other explosive materials were recovered from his car. At that time, too, he was charged under various sections of the IPC as well as the UAPA.
Both Singh and Shatakshi have claimed that the police’s account was false and that they had planted explosive materials in his car in order to frame him.
Since the Gaya Police failed to file a chargesheet in the case against him, he was granted bail in December, 2019. The case had been at a stand-still since.
Singh a potential target of Pegasus
The Wire, in the Pegasus Project, a global investigation into Israeli spyware Pegasus, had found three mobile numbers belonging to Singh on the list of potential targets for surveillance.
At the time, Singh had told The Wire that he suspected that his phones were being tapped as he observed suspicious disturbances when talking to anybody.
Singh and Shatakshi had even filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking directions to the Union government to put forward materials “with respect to all investigation, authorisation and/or order(s) pertaining to the use of Pegasus on the petitioner”.
Shatakshi alleged that Singh’s pro-people writing has made the government uncomfortable and that is why he was being targeted. “He had recently visited Giridih and reported on how industrial pollution has made local people’s life miserable,” she said.
“He tweeted a video of a local girl who has developed a tumour and is unable even to move,” she continued. “The video had gone viral. Some doctors and (actor) Sonu Sood’s team reacted to the tweet and offered help to the girl.”
Is the government afraid that Rupesh is becoming a hero by raising peoples issues, and the government is becoming a villain? Or is the government afraid because he had filed a case about Pegasus in the Supreme Court?” she asked.
“We appeal to all justice-loving citizens to raise their voice against his arrest,” she said.