Case History: Malini Subramaniam
On 18 February 2016, human rights defender and journalist Ms Malini Subramaniam and her family were forced to leave their home in the Bastar region after the owners of their rented accommodation were threatened by police. Two weeks earlier, the home of human rights defender Ms Malini Subramaniam in Jagdalpur city was attacked by unknown assailants. The attack follows months of harassment of the human rights defender by the government and police authorities of Chhattisgarh state.
Malini Subramaniam is a journalist and correspondent for the news website Scroll.in, actively reporting on human rights violations taking place in the Bastar district of Chhattisgarh state. During the last year, Malini Subramaniam has conducted investigations into arrests and torture of journalists by police, as well as allegations of sexual violence by security forces.
On 20 February 2016, Ms Shalini Gera and Ms Isha Khandelwal of the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group (JagLAG) were forced to vacate their house and the office of JagLAG in the Bastar district of Chhattisgarh state as a result of police intimidation of their landlord. On 18 February 2016, human rights defender and journalist Ms Malini Subramaniam and her family were forced to leave their home in the Bastar region after the owners of their rented accommodation were threatened by police. All three human rights defenders have suffered increasing intimidation in connection with their human rights work in recent months.
On 18 February 2016, Malini Subramaniam's landlord was summoned by police, temporarily detained at a local police station, and threatened into issuing her and her family with a notice of eviction, before being released. He subsequently requested that she leave her home as soon as possible. Earlier on the same day, the human rights defender's domestic worker was also taken to a police station and questioned, under the guise of investigating attacks which took place on the house of Malini Subramaniam on 8 February 2016, before being released.
She had also been detained temporarily twice the previous day, 17 February 2016. On 18 February 2016, the landlord of Shalini Gera and Isha Khandelwal was temporarily detained by police and forced by threat to request the human rights defenders to leave their house and the JagLAG office within two days. The eviction of the three human rights defenders, which follow months of police harassment and intimidation, mark the most recent in a string of persecutory acts targeting human rights defenders in the Bashar region of Chhattisgarh.
On 8 February 2016, the home of human rights defender Ms Malini Subramaniam in Jagdalpur city was attacked by unknown assailants. The attack follows months of harassment of the human rights defender by the government and police authorities of Chhattisgarh state.
After the attack, Malini Subramaniam spent several hours at one of the local police stations in Bastar district in an attempt to file a complaint for the attack on her home. The complaint was eventually accepted, however the chief police officer of Jagdalpur city, Mr Deepmala Kashyap, refused to accept the First Information Report (FIR) on the incident provided by the human rights defender. He claimed that no FIR could be filed without approval of the district chief police officer, who was not in his office on that day. As there was no officially approved FIR, the police took no action to investigate the case of Malini Subramaniam or to ensure her protection.
Early in the morning of 8 February 2016, Malini Subramaniam's home in the Jagdalpur city was attacked by unknown people, who threw stones at her house, shattering the window glass of the human rights defender's car which was parked outside.
In the evening of 7 February 2016, another incident of harassment of the human rights defender took place. A group of approximately twenty people gathered in front of her residence, shouting slogans accusing the human rights defender of being a supporter of the Naxalite–Maoist insurgency and demanding that she be put to death. The mob's aim was to agitate neighbours of Malini Subramaniam against her, and provoke an attack by them on the human rights defender. Malini Subramaniam identified several participants in the protests as representatives of local political groups and government agencies, as well as members of the Samajik Ekta Manch, a Jagdalpur-based forum formed to counter Naxalism, a radical movement of the far-left in Bastar and support the work of the police in the area.
Late on 10 January 2016, representatives of the Samajik Ekta Manch visited Malini Subramaniam at her house, and subjected her to multiple rounds of questioning concerning her work as a journalist. Police have also interrogated the human rights defender on many occasions, both at her home and at police stations. Scroll.in has tried to take these instances of intimidation of Malini Subramaniam to the attention of the Chhattisgarh Chief Minister, Mr Raman Singh, but he has never provided a formal response and only threatened the human rights defender.
The harassment of Malini Subramaniam is part of a larger crackdown on activists, lawyers and journalists standing up against abuses committed by police in the Bastar district. Previously, investigations into human rights violations in the area were rare, as a result of significant restrictions on people's freedoms imposed in view of the long drawn-out military confrontation between government forces and Maoist rebels in the region.