Two days after controversial police officer SRP Kalluri, who has had a running battle with civil rights activists and the media in Bastar region, was attached to the Chhattisgarh Police headquarters, a vigilante group, AGNI, which had allegedly attacked activist and researcher Bela Bhatia, was dissolved by its founder members.
Another vigilante group, Bastar Vikas Sangarsh Samiti, was also dissolved by its members. A message in this regard was circulated by members of the groups on social media on Thursday evening.
Officials in Raipur believe the step was taken after the government made it clear that it will not tolerate any nuisance in Bastar now.
On February 7, Bastar’s inspector general of police Kalluri was ordered back to the police headquarters in Raipur with “immediate effect”.
Sources said that after Kalluri was attached to the PHQ, members of AGNI convened a meeting and decided to dissolve the group.
Sources further said that the members were trying to call a Bastar bandh, but no administrative or police officer supported them.
Talking to Hindustan Times, AGNI founder Anand Mohan Mishra said, “We formed AGNI to make people aware about anti-Maoist movements and to support police but false charges were levelled against the organisation.
“Many people allege that AGNI was formed at the behest of police, which is not correct,” Mishra said.
On January 23, nearly 30 men barged into Bela Bhatia’s house in Parpa village in Jagdalpur, and threatened to burn it down. They ordered her to leave Bastar or face the consequences. The group AGNI was accused of being behind the incident.
Later, chief minister Raman Singh, along with senior officials, met Bhatia and assured her of security and even provided her a government allocation.
Bhatia, who has been working for tribal rights for over a decade, had faced similar intimidation in 2015 when she had raised the issue of rape of tribal women by security personnel.
Reacting to the government’s decision, AGNI protested and demanded security for its members also.
“It was only when the members of AGNI protested against the government after Bela was provided security that they invited trouble. Later, when Kalluri was removed, there was no option left for these vigilante groups because they were working on the behest of some police officers only,” said a senior police officer, preferring anonymity.
However, human rights activists and journalists believe that they will form another vigilante group in the next few days.
“They change names, earlier they dissolved Samajik Ekta Manch and formed AGNI and now they will come up again with some other name,” said a journalist working in Bastar.
But, another senior police officers said AGNI has “no protection mechanism now. They very well know that they will be booked under law and hence they dissolved the group”.