Jailer Varsha Dongre is the latest to enter the list of suspensions for disclosing abuse of human rights by the security forces in the insurgency-hit Bastar region of Chhattisgarh. She put up a post on Facebook on April 26 where she laid bare the various forms of torture that tribal women are put through by security forces active in the area.

“I have seen 14-16-year-old Adivasi girls being stripped naked in police stations and tortured. They were given electric shocks on their wrists and breasts. I have seen the marks. It horrified me. Why did they use third degree torture on minors?” wrote Dongre in her post which she deleted after it went viral on social media.

This caused a stir in the state apparatus and a preliminary investigation was ordered by the Chhattisgarh police against Dongre who was found violating the Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1964.

“Ms. Varsha Dongre has been suspended and charge-sheeted after it was found in a preliminary inquiry that her conduct was in violation of service rules and other rules,” Giridhari Nayak, the Director General of Police, Jail administration, Chhattisgarh police, told The Hindu.

Dongre was suspended by Deputy Inspector General of Prisons KK Gupta for committing two offences — “making irresponsible statements and citing false facts as well as staying away from duty without approval”.

Dongre had written the post following the Sukma attack against the security forces by the Maoists where 25 CRPF jawaans were killed. She wrote, “Our constitution and law system do not allow such inhuman torture. It’s time for us to introspect and the truth will come out. The people getting killed on both sides (during the Maoists-Security forces conflict in Bastar) are Indians. The capitalistic system is being forced into Bastar, villages are being burnt, and tribal women are being raped. Is it really being done to end the Maoism?”

Dongre’s view was not biased towards the tribal people and shows a clear balance of thought where she was found condemning the on-going war between the government and Maoists.

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“No charge sheet was given to me,” Dongre said to Scroll. “Instead, within a day of my response, my suspension order was issued, which is unfair.”

“I can be responsible for my posts and, therefore, liable to respond to that and not to posts of friends who edit posts in accordance with their notion and conviction,” Dongre added.

After Dongre was suspended from Raipur jail and was transferred to Ambikapur jail on May 10, activists like Medha Patkar, Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, Shankar Singh, 2017 Green Nobel winner Prafulla Samantra, Arundhati Dhuru, Kavita Srivastava, Binayak Sen and many others, under the banner of the civil society collective National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) wrote a letter to Chhattisgarh governor Balram Das Tandon and chief minister Raman Singh defending Dongre’s right to freedom of expression.

Having seen her posts, we are convinced that not only the views she put forth, but the manner in which she conveyed them were also well within the constitutional limits. Varsha has also raised very pertinent questions about the ‘developmental approach’,” the letter said, as reported by The Wire.

They called out on the “arbitrary” nature of the suspension order and expressed concern over the fact that she was actually punished for expressing her views against the state apparatus.

Picture credit- BBC