May 25, 2017
Earlier this week, the Chhattisgarh High Court ordered the authorities to produce Podiyam Panda in a habeas corpus petition filed by his wife. The press release sent by the Sukma Police to various WhatsApp groups following the production and testimony of Panda illustrates the impunity with which the Chhattisgarh police not only maligns and intimidates advocates seeking accountability for police excesses, but also resorts to actions amounting to contempt of court.
On May 12, Podiyami Muiye, the Sarpanch of Chintagufa in Sukma, along with her family, approached us, the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group. She sought legal representation as her husband Podiyam Panda had been picked up by the police on May 3 and had not been heard of since. It is not routine for Adivasis in Bastar to come to Bilaspur seeking legal help, and this case was no different. Legal intervention was only resorted to after having exhausting all possibilities of negotiation with the police and the district administration.
Muiye had gone to the police station several times demanding an audience with her husband, but the police denied having any knowledge of his whereabouts. She had visited members of the state administration and the higher police authorities of Sukma along with other members of the CPI, of which Panda had been a member, to no avail. On May 10, she went to the Sukma Kotwali Police Station once again, accompanied by other family members. The police maintained their stand that they did not know where Podiyam Panda was, but accepted clothes for him, reassuring the family that they would reach the intended recipient.