Protect human rights defenders at risk in Chhattisgarh
“He used to face a lot of threats because of his work. I used to tell him to be careful and once even told him to find another profession. But he always told me he was helping others and was not afraid of anyone. He has been framed by the state police.” Poonam Yadav, Santosh Yadav’s Wife.
Santosh Yadav, a freelance journalist based in Bastar, was arrested by the Chhattisgarh police on September 2015 for allegedly being part of the banned Communist Part of India (Maoist) armed group. Santosh Yadav reported on abuses by security forces and Maoist armed groups in the region. He was a local stringer for regional and national newspapers. Santosh Yadav’s reports put a spotlight on the harassment of Adivasis by the state police. It was his refusal to toe the state line that eventually led to his arrest.
He is being held under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act – both of which violate international human rights standards – and other laws.
Santosh Yadav is not the only journalist to be arrested; three other journalists have been arrested for criticizing the Chhattisgarh government. Journalists and Human rights defenders are under assault as this central Indian state state cracks down on media and civil society.
Even as security forces are accused of carrying out human rights violations, including large-scale sexual violence against women from Adivasi (indigenous) communities, journalists have been arrested on trumped up charges, often under abusive laws.
Lawyers and activists have been harassed and intimidated. Some have been physically assaulted, or pressured to leave their homes by self-styled vigilante groups, simply for expressing dissenting views. This has led to a near total information blackout.
Your signature matters. Let the government of Chhattisgarh know where you stand. Urge authorities to end the crackdown, protect journalists and human rights defenders in Chhattisgarh.