Chhattisgarh police raided the residence of Jaipur-based human rights activist Kavita Srivastava early on Monday morning in search of a fugitive woman Moist from that State.
Ms. Srivastava, general secretary of PUCL Rajasthan, was not present at the house on Kisan Marg in Shanti Niketan Colony when men in uniform and plainclothes came looking for one Sumit Sodi.
The police team, comprising commandos from Chhattisgarh and personnel of Special Task Force of Rajasthan, created a commotion outside the joint family's residence as the men swept in. The raid took place between 6.30 and 7 a.m. “This is an outrage. We are angry to say the least. This is scandalous and an attempt at intimidation,” said Kavita Srivastava, who talked to the media in the afternoon in the presence of social activists, members of the Rajasthan University Women's Association and representatives of the Left parties. The activists and legal experts termed the “raid” and the modalities taken by the police “illegal.”
“The police came with a truck load of STF personnel. They said they were on the lookout for a ‘khatarnak' [dangerous] Naxalite. My family members were shocked by the severity of the assault. My father is 82 and is on a pacemaker,” said Ms. Srivastava. Her residence is a well-known address which activists and people with grievances from villages visit almost on a daily basis.
Ms. Srivastava felt that her visits to Chhattisgarh in connection with the arrest of activist Binayak Sen in February this year must have put her on the police radar. “I know no Maoist. We are public outreach workers. I am a human rights defendant,” she said.
According to her, she had enough reason to believe that the raid had the ‘tacit support' of the State government. “I am being targeted by the Congress government here. The reason could be the recent initiatives by the PUCL in exposing the role of the administration and the police in the killings of innocent Muslims in Gopalgarh.”
“The warrant did not have a name but our residence address. The Chhattisgarh police were accompanied by personnel from the Bajaj Nagar station where they know my address. I talked to City Police Commissioner B.L. Soni on the mobile when informed of the raid. He told me that he had sent Dy.SP of our area, Rajendra Singh Shekhawat. That was no help as he [Mr. Shekhawat] himself was found to be leading the team,” Ms. Srivastava said.
The police also went to the PUCL office in the locality. Ms. Kavita's elder sister — they are six sisters — on her way to Delhi by car was stopped a few metres from the house. She and her European friend were detained on the road for almost an hour. “The Chhattisgarh party was led by one Mr. Memon, who was in plainclothes. We do not know his rank. He carried the papers from a court saying that my house has to be searched,” Ms. Srivastava said.
“I demanded to see the search warrant. They did not show it initially but some 15-20 men forced themselves into the house,” said Komal, another sister of Ms. Kavita who was at home then. “The men opened drawers, bureaus and intimidated our maids who are from Cooch Behar [West Bengal],” she said. “We don't know what all the police took away from our place. They did not show us what they carried before leaving the place.”
“This was a well-planned operation carried out with the connivance of the Rajasthan police,” charged Prem Krishna Sharma, president, PUCL Rajasthan. “This is an attempt to turn Rajasthan into a Chhattisgarh.”