Wife of arrested journalist-activist explains how he was framed
Ranchi, Jharkhand: More than a month after the arrest of independent journalist and activist Rupesh Kumar Singh, his wife Ipsa Shatakshi has come out with a series of allegations against the police, claiming that Rupesh has been framed.
Rupesh has been lodged at Sherghati jail in Gaya district, Bihar. Ipsa is Rupesh’s only link to the world outside, and Rupesh’s version of how the events unfolded is in stark contrast to the official version by the police.
According to the police, Rupesh, 33, lawyer Mithilesh Kumar Singh, 45, and his driver Mohammad Kalam, 42, were arrested by the Cobra Battalion of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Bihar Police in a joint operation on June 6. They were arrested on their way to Aurangabad from Ramgarh, near Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand).
However, the date of arrest of the trio is conflicting. Rupesh told Ipsa, “We were taken in police custody on June 4, the day we left for Aurangabad.” But First Information Report (FIR) as per police record has been registered on June 6.
According to the press conference organised by Gaya Assistant Superintendent of Police (Naxal) Navin Kumar Singh and Deputy Superintendent (DySP) of Police Ravish Kumar on June 6, “huge consignment of detonators and gelatine sticks were recovered”. Police also seized “Naxal literature”, which included books by Vladimir Lenin and Karl Marx.
After meeting Rupesh in jail, Ipsa quoted Rupesh as saying, “Police kept explosives in our car in front of us.”
On June 10, Ipsa shared a Facebook post with the chronology of events related to Rupesh’s arrest. According to her post, Rupesh was arrested on June 4 around 9.30 am. Intelligence officials were involved in his arrest, who took them over forcibly and blind-folded them when the trio had stopped their vehicle to urinate, claimed Ipsa.
She said Rupesh was mentally tortured and interrogated by Cobra battalion. “He was intimidated and asked not to write against the system. Rupesh was also asked what the reason was behind him being sympathetic towards tribals. Policemen also advised him that since he was a well-educated man, he should be concerned about raising his family,” wrote Ipsa.
When policemen were loading explosives in Rupesh’s vehicle, he had resisted, said Ipsa. But the DySP Ravish said, “Arre Rupesh ji, aapko pakde hain toh aise hi chod denge! Apni taraf se case ko majbut bhi toh karenge.” (Oh Rupesh ji, we have arrested you, how could we leave you so easily? We will put our best of effort to strengthen the case against you)
Rupesh also told Ipsa about the questions asked to him during interrogation. “Police repeatedly asked him why he is so angry against the government. Why he is so keen about tribal affairs. They also mocked him saying, why was he so concerned about Jungle and Zameen,” said Ipsa.
She also said Rupesh was advised to write about the policies of the government and stop “negative journalism”. According to Ipsa, police told Rupesh, “His writings encourage Naxals.”
The trio was booked under sections 414 and 120B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), along with section 3 and section 4 of Explosive Substances Act and sections 10, 13, 18, 20, 38 and 39 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
On June 20, the Court of Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate (ACJM) rejected Rupesh’s bail plea, considering the nature of charges. According to ACJM’s order, “It appears that [the] petitioner is named accused and direct allegations have been levelled against him. Seizure of Naxal supporting documents and other illegal articles including instruments used in explosive has been made from posts of [the] petitioner. So, considering the nature of [the] offence, the petitioner does not deserve bail. Accordingly, the prayer for bail stands rejected.”
Police after me: Ipsa
Ipsa also claimed the police had placed a Global Positioning System device along with a camera—which she later destroyed—in her car. She also feels intimidated as she is the only person who shares information about the whereabouts of Rupesh to the outside world for now.
She feels that her inclination towards left ideology and the fact that she is the only person who is constantly travelling for legal aid for the arrested trio could be reason enough for the police to frame her.
DySP Ravish Kumar refused to comment on the allegations levelled against him by Ipsa. He said it is up to her to say whatever she wanted to say and they cannot comment on that.
Rupesh’s lawyer Brahma Nand Sharma said he would be filing a fresh bail plea at Gaya Civil Court in the coming week. He is hopeful of securing bail for his client. “We will present all the defence in court, including the one that police arrested Rupesh and his colleagues on July 4 and registered an FIR with the date of July 6,” he added.
He added stated that many people like Rupesh are being implicated in false cases all over the country.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Defenders Alert (HRDA)—an International Human Rights Organisation—has appealed the Bihar and Jharkhand Human Rights Commissions and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar along with other dignitaries for urgent intervention in the matter.
Henry Tiphagne, Honorary National Working Secretary for HRDA, in his letter on June 20, urged for a transparent and time-bound investigation, action against police officials, legal assistance to the accused and senior criminal lawyer be appointed to handle their case. He stated that medical treatment should be ensured and in all circumstances, the physical and psychological integrity should be maintained. Above all, the international organisation has demanded the immediate release of Rupesh and Mithilesh.
Various civil society and activist groups such as Rihai Manch, Ambedkar Chhatra Sabha, All India Students Organisation too have organised protest marches demanding the release of the trio.