New Delhi: Two days after the assistant jail superintendent of Raipur central jail, Varsha Dongre, was suspended on disciplinary grounds, she has come out in protest. Action against Dongre was taken after she highlighted multiple incidents of sexual abuse of minor Adivasi girls by security personnel inside Chhattisgarh’s prisons on Facebook. The government saw this post as a violation of service rules.
Taking to social media again, she expressed surprise over her suspension and vowed to fight the state government’s decision in “a constitutional way”.
She alleged that the decision to suspend her and move her to Ambikapur central jail was taken by the state government unilaterally without giving her the time and space to explain her views. She said that she had filed a 376-page reply within two days and has attached various government reports and judicial decisions which point towards state-perpetrated atrocities against Adivasis of Bastar with her reply. While suspending her, the police authorities had said that she had not responded when asked for a reply.
Although her full reply is not available to The Wire at present, it is clear that she protested against her suspension on the grounds that none of the information that she shared on social media was either new or unknown. She also alleged that the preliminary investigative officer K.K. Rai, who got seven days to probe her post, gave her only two days to file a reply.
Regarding the charge that she was absent from her duty without permission, she said that she has been recovering from an illness for the last five days and had emailed her office saying she would not be coming.
Her full Facebook post is as follows (translated from Hindi):
After having recovered from an illness, I joined office at the Raipur central jail on May 8. I was given a photocopy of my suspension letter and was told that the original copy of it was sent to my home in Kawardha. However, no such letter has reached my home until today.
I saw the suspension order stuck at the door of my official residence. However, it appears that it was torn after the newspapers published the order. Some parts of the letter still remain on the door.
The charges against me in the order is the following:
“Miss Varsha Dongre, assistant jail superintendent, Raipur central jail is suspended with immediate effect for irresponsibly spreading wrong and misleading facts in media and remaining absent from her duty in an unauthorised manner. She is entitled to a salary as per official suspension norms and will be posted at the Ambikapur central jail during her suspension.”
Director-General of Police (Jail Administration)
It is a matter of great surprise that the preliminary investigative officer Mr K.K. Rai was given seven days to probe my social media post but Mr Rai, who handed over a 32-page notice to me, gave me only two days to file my reply. I have, however, sent a 376-page reply to him.
It is again a matter of grave surprise that my social media post was treated as wrong and misleading even before the preliminary investigative officer filed his report or I sent my reply.
It is clear from the above that without taking into account Supreme Court’s judgement, Central Bureau of Investigation’s report, National Human Rights Commission’s report, India’s official gazette, expert group of planning commission’s report etc., which are attached with my reply, my act was regarded as “irresponsibly spreading wrong and misleading facts in media”… and I was suspended and ordered to go to Ambikapur central jail.
I will protest my suspension in a constitutional way. I will still humbly request the central government that constitutional provisions in the fifth schedule should be implemented in Adivasi-dominated areas.
I thank all of you from my heart for your support and help.
#Salute #LongLiveConstitution #LongLiveIndia”
Dongre highlighted gross human rights violations in Bastar by the state and had asked state officials to “introspect” at a time when the government was using the April 24 Maoist ambush, in which 25 CRPF personnel were killed, to advocate a purely military strategy to stem the Naxal conflict and also target human rights activists.
The Wire had earlier reported that Dongre’s suspension clearly indicated two different standards from the state government when it comes to taking action against erring officials. While Dongre was suspended for “indiscipline” and violation of “service rules”, not so long ago the government had shown unusual leniency towards senior police officer S.R.P.Kalluri and Sukma’s superintendent of police Indira Kalyan Elesela.
Kalluri had used severe expletives on social media and is known to target human rights activists, lawyers and critical journalists who have often reported on state atrocities against Adivasis in Bastar. This had prompted the state government to send him on medical leave, only to appoint him at the police headquarters within a week. In March, he was also issued two show cause notices and one warning letter on grounds of indiscipline. Yet neither a probe was initiated nor any suspension order was issued by the Chhattisgarh government.
Similarly, Elesela, at a private function, declared that human rights activists should be “crushed on the highway using advanced motor vehicles”.
Dongre’s case seems to indicate the preferences of the Chhattisgarh government, which has selectively used “service rules” to suspend a whistleblower like Dongre and ignore them conveniently to protect officers known to be close to the establishment.