CCS has written the Prime Minister of India requesting his assistance in assuring safety for Dr. Bela Bhatia, a well-known academic, researcher and writer with a Ph.D. from Cambridge. Dr. Bhatia has been studying the Naxalite movement in India and in recent years has been involved in a fact-finding effort to document gang rapes and sexual assaults on Adivasi women by security forces. On January 7, the National Human Rights Commission report was released, documenting the rape of at least 16 Adivasi women by state police since October 2015. Thirty men broke into Dr. Bhatia’s house and insisted that she move, forcing her to sign a paper agreeing to such action. They threatened to burn her house down and kill her cat if she did not leave.
May 24, 2017
Mr. Narendra Damodardas Modi
Prime Minister of India
South Block, Raisina Hill, New Delhi-110011
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | email@example.com
Fax: + 91 11 2301 6857
Dear Prime Minister:
The Committee of Concerned Scientists is an independent organization of scientists, physicians, engineers and scholars devoted to the protection and advancement of human rights and scientific freedom for colleagues all over the world.
We write to express our grave concern for the safety of Bela Bhatia, a well-known academic, researcher and writer who has a Ph.D. from Cambridge University, and who is currently an Honorary Professor at Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai. She has extensively studied the Naxalite (Maoist) movement in India, and has in recent years been involved in fact-finding efforts in areas of Maoist rebellion in India, including documenting cases of gang rape and sexual assault of Adivasi women by security forces.
In January 2017, The National Human Rights Commission castigated the state government for its inaction with respect to repeated instances of sexual assault and held the authorities liable for the acts of the security personnel and demanded compensation. Bhatia accompanied the NHRC team to record the statements of the survivors of rape and sexual assault.
Shortly thereafter, according to reports, a group of 30 men invaded her home in Bastar district, Chhattisgarh, central India, accused her of being a Maoist sympathizer, and threatened to burn her house down if she did not agree to leave immediately, and had her sign a statement saying such. Local police reportedly took little action, and Bela Bhatia did agree to leave her home. However, after the men departed, she decided she would remain.
Such threatening behavior has been ongoing against Bela Bhatia and other human rights defenders in Chhattisgarh for over a year. This most recent incident came shortly after the January 7 release of a National Human Rights Commission report documenting the rape of at least 16 Adivasi women by state police since October 2015. Disturbingly, state police later suggested to Amnesty International India that they should “not interfere in the matters here”.
Bela Bhatia has an absolute right to pursue the legitimate and peaceful work she is doing. As defenders of the rights of scholars, we urge your government to prevent any further harassment of Bela Bhatia, and to take all measures the ensure that she is protected and allowed to peacefully continue her academic and human rights efforts. It is also vital that the ongoing harassment endured by Bela Bhatia and others be thoroughly investigated and that those found responsible for violent threats be brought to justice.
Thank you for your attention to this serious matter, and we look forward to receiving your response.
Joel L. Lebowitz, Paul H. Plotz, Walter Reich, Eugene M. Chudnovsky, Alexander Greer
Co-Chairs, Committee of Concerned Scientists
Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh
Raipur, Chhattisgarh – 492 001 India
Fax: 0771-2221306, 2331000
Ambassador H. E. Navtej Sarna
Embassy of India
2107 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington DC 20008
Phone: 202 939 7010 -OR- 202 939 7000
Fax: 202 265 4351