22 May 2024 07:05 PM



Finding Maoists in Kitchens and Gardens

NEW DELHI: The attack on Bela Bhatia in Bastar in Chhattisgarh is tragically not an uncommon event, orchestrated by the police using special, extreme laws.

Bela's 'crime' was following up on a rape by the security forces. That for senior officers like IG Kalluri is not acceptable.

Maoists for the police are seen as anti-national criminals who deserve no mercy. And those who like Bela defend women from rape including from security forces, are included among the crypto-Maoists.

So processions are organised, including one a couple of days ago, demanding that inconvenient activists like Bela leave Bastar. Why? Is Bastar not part of India? Bela has only tried to protect a woman's basic rights, which is completely Constitutional. Bela's commitment and deep analysis is evident from her brilliant articles in the Economic and Political Weekly on a wide variety of subjects.

The focus of attack was bound to shift to her husband Jean Dreze. Jean is an extraordinary economist, one of few who have done field research in the heat of summer riding on a bicycle. Instead of working in an elite institution he has worked in several more modest ones, their proximity to his area being his criterion. He has been a collaborator in books with Prof. Amartya Sen, and is close associate of outstanding economists like Prof. Angus Deaton and Nicolas Stern. He chose Indian citizenship because of love and interest for this country. This is how the Bastar police treats his wife and him.

The special law in Chhattisgarh provides a cover for the police and instigated crowds to harass those unblemished activists who are trying to make the lives of the oppressed better. This is a brave and humane effort. It should be applauded, not misrepresented.