In a televised press interaction on Wednesday in Kirandul, S.R.P. Kalluri, Senior Superintendent of Police, Dantewada, accused international humanitarian organisations Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) of helping the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) and promised to investigate both agencies.
Formed in 2004, the CPI (Maoist) is a guerrilla organisation committed to overthrowing the Indian government through armed revolution.
In footage screened by local cable channels, Mr. Kalluri claimed that MSF and ICRC were providing Maoist cadres with medical prescriptions and treating Maoist fighters injured in police ambushes.
“They come in the name of the poor [but] help the Naxalites,” said Mr. Kalluri. According to a transcript provided by a local television channel, Mr. Kalluri also said he had alerted the state government and administration and had initiated an investigation.
However, Director General of Police, Mr. Vishwa Ranjan, said no such investigation was underway. “ICRC is still in the process of signing an agreement with the government to operate in Chhattisgarh,” said Mr.Vishwa Ranjan, “We are not investigating either organisation for supporting the Maoists”, and attributed Mr. Kalluri’s comments to confusion amongst the local press.
Representatives of both organisations expressed surprise and dismay at Mr. Kalluri’s accusations.
“These allegations, as I understand them, are not true. MSF has worked in Chhattisgarh for quite sometime. We are very transparent and provide medical care to the entire population,” said Martin Sloot, who heads the MSF mission in India.
“We are not a political organisation, we are medical organisation. We believe in the principles of impartiality and neutrality and that healthcare is a right,” said Mr. Sloot, adding that they did not allow armed people into their health centres. MSF, or Doctors without Borders, currently runs a hospital and mother-and-child healthcare centre in Bijapur district and mobile clinics in Dantewada district. Set up in 1971, MSF operates in conflict zones across the world and won the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize for its role in providing healthcare in crisis situations.
In 2006, the Collector of Dantewada had leveled similar charges against MSF, but the state government allowed the organisation to continue its work in the region.
“I am surprised by the comments,” said Mr. Yahia Alibi, Deputy Regional Head for ICRC, “We do not operate in Dantewada, but are running one primary health centre in Kutru, Bijapur, with the full support of the local administration and police.” Based in Geneva, Switzerland, the ICRC is one of the oldest and best known humanitarian institutions in the world and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1917, 1944 and 1963 for its work in international and internal armed conflict.
This is the second major controversy to emerge in the aftermath of one of Mr. Kalluri’s press conferences. On July 11 last year, Mr. Kalluri accused a journalism student, Mr. Lingaram Kodopi, of being a member of the Central Committee of the CPI (Maoist). In an emotional press conference held in Delhi, Mr. Kodopi denied the charges and said that he had been illegally incarcerated by the police in the past and was finally released on the directions of the Bilaspur High Court.
A recent article published in Sanhati.com quotes Mr. Kodopi’s aunt, Soni Sori, as saying that Mr. Kalluri had arrested her husband on trumped up charges and allegedly threatened to arrest her unless she handed over her nephew to the police.
Mr. Kalluri was not available for comment.