However, associates and family members question police action

The Chhattisgarh police have arrested six men in Dantewada in connection with the July 6 attack on Congressman Avdesh Singh Gautam's house in the district's Kuakonda block in which two men were killed and two persons injured.

The accused have been identified as Channu Ram Mandavi, Anu Futane, Sudru Ram Kunjam, Andha, Harish Podiyam and Ramu Bhaskar.

At a press conference, the police said the six were arrested on Sunday and four “Bolero” jeeps and a motorcycle were also confiscated.

However, associates and family members of those apprehended have raised questions over the arrests.

“The case against Sudru Ram Kunjam is completely false and baseless,” said the former CPI MLA of Konta, Manish Kunjam. “Sudru is part of the Communist Party of India and member of the Dantewada district panchayat. He is innocent and has no connection to the July 6 attack.”

Channuram Mandavi is a former member of the block-level panchayat of Kuakonda. His wife, Bhimebai Mandavi, told The Hindu that her husband is a Congress worker. “He is innocent, I don't know why the police arrested him,” she said.

“The police picked up Sudru at 8.45 a.m. on Friday [July 9],” said Ediyaram Kunjam, Sudru's brother, “They did not tell us why they were arresting him or where he was being taken.”

If true, Ediyaram's account suggests that the police detained Sudru for 56 hours before making his arrest public. Further, if Sudru was indeed picked up on July 9, his arrest would violate Section 57 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which mandates that the police produce the accused before a magistrate within 24 hours of the arrest.

Bhimebai Mandavi also said her husband was picked up at noon on July 10, and not on Sunday. “They came about 11.30 in the morning and took him from our house,” she said.

In their release, the police also claim to be investigating the role of “Javed” — who the police identify as “Javed, formerly associated with the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram (VCA) in Kawalnar, Dantewada” — in allegedly videotaping the July 6 attack at the behest of Maoists.

Javed Iqbal strongly denied the police's assertions. “While I did stay at the VCA in the past when I was a freelance journalist, I didn't even visit the site of the July 6 attack for my story,” said Iqbal. “I interviewed the wounded at the hospital in Jagdalpur,” he said.

This is the second time the Dantewada police have targeted Iqbal. On May 17, 2009, he was assaulted for taking photographs of the demolition of the residential quarters of the VCA, a Dantewada-based NGO.

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