Rahul Gandhi extends support to rights activist Bela Bhatia

RAIPUR: Congress Vice-president Rahul Gandhi came out in support of rights activist Bela Bhatia, who has been threatened by anti-Maoist vigilantes and asked to leave tribal Bastar, saying that violence cannot silence the truth.

Violence has never silenced the truth. I stand with Bela Bhatia and all those fighting for justice for the tribals of Chhattisgarh, he tweeted. Chhattisgarh Leader of the opposition in the assembly T S Singhdeo had tweeted on January 23 that convinced its being done with the approval of government, which is afraid of human rights violations being exposed.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International has reacted sharply to the incident of threat to activist Bela Bhatia in tribal Bastar region, saying that it revealed the state apathy in Chhattisgarh and the state needs to do much more to end the threats and violence faced by human rights defenders.

It is chilling to see the continuous intimidation of activists in Chhattisgarh taking place under the nose of the state police. The Chhattisgarh government should be embarrassed about failing to uphold the rule of law, said Aakar Patel, Executive Director of Amnesty International India.According to the Amnesty statement, when Amnesty International India asked the Superintendent of Police of Bastar if the state police would take any action against those who had threatened the activist, he said “People sitting in Bengaluru should not interfere in the matters here and disturb us from doing our work. If you want, come and take a statement here.”

On January 19 and 20, Bela Bhatia had accompanied a team from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to record the statements of Adivasi women who had registered complaints of rape, sexual assault and looting by security forces in 2015. Earlier in January, the NHRC had said that it found prima facie evidence of rape, sexual and physical assault by state police personnel in three separate incidents, including one in which Bela Bhatia had helped Adivasi women to register a complaint.