Two Mumbai-based theatre artistes, who went to Jagdalpur jail for research on a play on tribal rights campaigner Soni Sori, were ‘detained’, and then released, by police after questioning for more than five hours on Friday.
The incident occurred when Shivam Sharma, a theatre actor, and Ramneek Singh, an actor and director, went to interview alleged Maoist Nirmala Akka in Jagdalpur jail with the permission of officials concerned.
“We were interviewing Maoist Nirmala Akka inside the jail in front of police officers at around 12 noon for our play. Suddenly, some of the officers picked us up and brought us to Jagdalpur police station. They started questioning us and alleged that we were pro-Maoists. They interrogated us but I managed to use my phone and sent a text on WhatsApp. When the cops started getting calls from everywhere, they released us at 5.30pm,” said one of the detained artistes.
However, defending the police action, Jagdalpur SP RN Dash said, “Routine checking is carried out by every police station of Jagdalpur every day in which anyone coming from outside is scanned and their criminal records or any other information is gathered.”
During the detention, a post on a messaging app read: “Me and @ramneek Singh have been detained at jagdalpur police station (next to jagdalpur jail) in chattisgarh because we interviewed an alleged Maoist named nirmala akka in jail. This was a lawful interview taken at the jail so nothing unlawful. We applied and got permission from the jail itself. We are here to research for a play and Soni Sori is our contact here. We have been traveling with her getting to know stories. We have been detained for a chat here. No alarms yet. Just that my preservation instincts told me I should let public know while I still have my phone. I will post here by the end of the day if all ends well. I am just a bit paranoid so putting up this status. Y’all can always Google jagdalpur police station and call to ask for our well-being.” (sic)