Lingaram Kodopi

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Police said they arrested Kodopi, 25, in a public market in Dantewada district as he was accepting a bribe from a representative of a steel company wanting to operate in a Maoist insurgent-controlled area, local news reports said. The journalist denied the accusation and said the police had targeted him because he had refused to work for them under a program to recruit tribal youths to defeat the insurgents, the New Delhi-based newsmagazine Tehelka reported.

Police accused Kodopi of being a “Maoist associate.” He was charged with anti-state activities under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the Chhattisgarh Public Security Act, and the Indian penal code, Tehelka reported. He had not been brought to trial by late year, and the total penalties he faced were not clear.

Local human rights activists and journalists said authorities wanted to prevent Kodopi from publicizing the role of police in recent violence in the state. In April 2011, the journalist had documented the destruction of houses during an anti-Maoist police operation in three Dantewada district villages and “recorded on video precise narrations of police atrocities,” Tehelka reported. Himanshu Kumar, a local human rights activist, told the Indian Express that Kodopi had evidence of government involvement in the burning of three villages.

Kodopi told journalists he had fled police harassment in 2010 to study journalism and work as a freelancer in New Delhi, the Indian Express reported. While he was there, Dantewada police accused him of being a senior Maoist commander and masterminding an attack against a politician in Chhattisgarh. Kodopi denied the accusations at a press conference in Delhi, the Indian Express said, and he was not taken into custody at the time.

Police in Dantewada would not explain whether Kodopi was believed to be a low-level Maoist “associate,” as alleged in the 2011 case, or a senior commander, as they said in 2010. “We are still ascertaining his role,” District Police Superintendent Ankit Garg told Tehelka.

Kodopi had not received bail by October 2012, according to Kumar, who met with CPJ in New York. The journalist was subjected to torture while in prison, according to Kumar and the Association for India’s Development and the South Asia Solidarity Initiative.