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Bela Bhatia

Bela Bhatia


It is our right to expose the truth, ask some hard questions, mobilise the masses, inspire them to break their silence and protest within the democratic limits. Any healthy democracy must not take away this freedom from its citizens.

Bela Bhatia is a human rights defender, independent researcher, writer and presently Honorary Professor at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. In January 2016 and November 2015, Bela Bhatia brought to light two instances of gang rape and sexual assault by security forces conducting anti-Maoist operations, and provided assistance to the victims in filing complaints with the police in Bijapur. The human rights defender has participated in the preparation of many fact-finding reports and served on a Planning Commission-appointed panel to examine challenges to governance in areas of the Maoist rebellion. Bela Bhatia did her PhD at the University of Cambridge and she wrote a thesis on the Naxalite movement in Bihari. She has also conducted research on marginalised groups such as the Adivasi and the Dalit.

Human rights defenders in India face a diverse range of attacks and harassment for their wor defending the rights of others, including killings, torture, ill-treatment, enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, smear campaigns, and judicial harassment. People defending the rights of marginalised communities are targeted by state and non-state actors alike. Armed groups and private companies also target HRDs and community leaders for work related to economic development projects and their impact on the local communities or the environment. HRDs have also been labelled as "insurgents" or “Naxalites” (Maoists), in an attempt to discredit their work and justify their targeting.