Degree Prasad Chouhan
The state is continuously trying to establish a fake connection between naxals and me. I have been targeted by the state and non-state actors because of my sustained activism and my work against the feudal society, where the marginalized communities are suppressed and evicted, deprived of their human rights. This is branding and stigmatisation of Human Rights Defenders in India.
On 31 August 2018, at a press conference, the Maharashtra police read out a fake letter allegedly written by Sudha Bharadwaj, which purports inter alia that “comrade Degree Prasad Chouhan, who was sent into the interiors by me, has returned on successfully completing the said operation. As promised, he has to be paid his reward now.” This is a clear attempt that the state is trying to draw a false link between me and the Bhima Koregaon violence cases. Sudha Bharadwaj through her lawyer has refuted this and expressly stated that the said allegations against me are baseless.
On 06 November 2013, with a women’s group, we were investigating a murder and possible rape case of a woman. Meanwhile, I was detained in the railway station till late at night. The allegation was that I have ‘naxal’ literature in my bag. I was searched and police didn’t find any such type of suspicious things on me. I was forced to give a statement by the police. Since no case could be made out, I was released.
On 26 August 2015, when I was not at home, three policemen visited my home in Raigarh and told my wife that they had received a complaint against me. The next day after receiving repeated calls from the police, I went to the police station. The allegation was that I had ‘naxal’ literature and attended their meetings. When I asked the basis of the allegation, the police showed me an anonymous letter. I was not arrested or the police didn’t register a formal complaint against me. I was asked to stop my work only.
I have been actively involved in fighting against the illegal takeover of indigenous land – assisted in filing over 100 cases- trying to establish that dispossession of dalits and tribals from their land without their consent is a crime under Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention Of Atrocities) Act, an Indian law. I have been working on the issues of human trafficking, bonded and migrant labours in Raigarh, Saraguja and Jashpur district area, which is located in an area adjoining Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Jharkhand states. As a result of these efforts, 11 persons including the local traffickers and placement agents were arrested, 7 tribal girls and around of 60 bonded labours including 19 minors have been rescued. I have filed about 20 dalit atrocities cases of Raigarh region before the National Human Rights Commission in india. I have also filed a petition in the Supreme Court of India on the extrajudicial killing of eight civilians including three children of Bastar Division.
Degree Prasad Chouhan is a dalit and has been associated with the People’s Union For Civil Liberties, Human Rights Law Network, Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan, Adivasi Dalit Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh. For the past 15 years, he has been working on issues of Dalit atrocities and tribal land rights, massacres and extra judicial killings, human trafficking, bonded and migrant labourers’ issues, custodial deaths and police torture, attacks on minorities, at the grassroots level all across the state of Chhattisgarh. This is done in a democratic way: organizing meetings and demonstrations, filing cases in the courts, participating in various fact finding teams, writing articles and reports.
It is notable that during these struggles, he has been suffering from fabricated cases since a decade. The state has registered fake cases against him under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, he have been detained, arrested and had languished in prison for months. The Court has acquitted him in all these cases. He thinks, the Indian society is based on caste injustice and gender inequality. He works to break feudal structures and rebuild society.