Human Rights groups are fearing an imminent threat of false charges being brought against Dalit activist and human rights defender, Degree Prasad Chouhan. The police have already implicated the defender by name in a fake letter produced by them on 31 August 2018, which they claim was written by advocate Sudha Bharadwaj.
It is feared that there is a clear attempt by the police to smear the human rights defender as a Maoist militant and draw a false link between Degree Prasad Chouhan and the Bhima Koregaon violence which took place in January 2018.
Chouhan, a law graduate in Chhattisgarh’s Raigarh District, is the convenor of Adivasi Dalit Majdoor Kisan Sangharsh, a community group set up by Adivasi villagers to respond to the alleged unlawful dispossession of their land by two companies. He also serves as Vice President of the Chhattisgarh chapter of the of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL).
At a press conference on 31 August 2018, the Maharashtra police read out a `fake’ letter allegedly written by Sudha Baradhwaj, which purports inter alia that “Comrade Degree Prasad Chouhan, who was sent into the interiors by me, has returned on successfully completing the said operation. As promised, he has to be paid his reward now”. Sudha Baradhwaj through her lawyer has refuted the claims of the Maharashtra Police and expressly stated that the allegations
Front Line Defenders (FLD) expresses grave concern regarding the smear campaign and attempts to falsely imply Degree Prasad Chouhan is a Maoist militant or terrorist, as it strongly believes that they are directly linked to his peaceful and legitimate work in defence of human rights. It urged the authorities to immediately cease any harassment against him, including attempts to smear his name through the media and to criminalise him.
It asks to ensure that Chouhan is protected within India and the Chhattisgarh state and permitted to continue his human rights work without hindrance or harassment.