New Delhi: The Chhattisgarh police have dropped murder charges against Delhi University professor Nandini Sundar, JNU professor Archana Prasad and four others, almost three years after registering a case against them at the Tongpal police station of Sukma district.
In a chargesheet filed on February 7 in a local court, the police said its investigations did not find any evidence against “Nandini Sundar and other four in Tongpal murder case”. “The statements of the villagers were taken which suggests that they were not present at the time of the murder. Hence, we have taken back the cases against them,” the chargesheet says, according to the Hindustan Times.
Apart from Sundar and Prasad, the four others who were booked include Vineet Tiwari of the Joshi Adhikari Institute of Social Studies, the Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s Chhattisgarh chief Sanjay Parate, local sarpanch Manju Kawasi and a villager, Mangla Ram Verma. They were booked in November 2016 for the murder of Shamnath Baghel, a resident of Nama village in Sukma district.
The charges against the six included murder, criminal conspiracy and rioting, as well as charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the Arms Act. The basis for the case was a statement given by Baghel’s wife, Vimla. In a video interview to NDTV soon after, she denied having given any names to the police in her husband’s murder case.
Sundar said the police had finally done the right thing by acting on the basis of evidence rather than “continuing to concoct absurd theories”. “It was clear that the initial charges were vindictive, coming almost immediately after the CBI chargesheeted special police officers (SPOs) for violence in Tadmetla,” Sundar told the Hindustan Times.
Sundar is the lead petitioner in an ongoing public interest litigation at the Supreme Court on human rights violations in Chhattisgarh and it was because of her PIL that that CBI, on the court’s orders, indicted the SPOs for their role in the burning of Tadmetla village and the killing of adivasis there.
Speaking to The Wire, she said she hoped that “all the others who are being falsely framed – from the activists arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case to the thousands of adivasis filling the jails of central India – also get justice, sooner rather than later”.
“I would also like to thank our supporters and lawyers – Nitya Ramakrishnan, Ashok Desai and Rahul Kripalani – for alerting the Supreme Court to this vindictive action by the police and thus preventing our arrest on these false charges.”
In Tadmetla, the Chhattisgarh police are accused of killing three people, sexually assaulting three women and torching about 300 houses in an alleged anti-Maoist operation.
Disclosure: Nandini Sundar is married to one of the founding editors of The Wire