Indian freelance journalist Rupesh Kumar Singh has been detained since July 2022, and faces four investigations under various laws, including the anti-terror Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), for alleged Maoist activities. He was being held at Adarsh Central Jail, Beur in Patna as of late 2023.
Ipsa Shatakshi, Singh’s wife, told CPJ by phone that she believes authorities targeted Singh in retaliation for his reporting and activism on human rights issues affecting India’s tribal communities, including forced displacement, state militarization, environmental degradation, and alleged extrajudicial killings.
On July 17, 2022, police of Jharkhand’s Seraikela Kharsawan district arrested Singh following a nine-hour raid on his home in Ramgarh district, multiple news reports and Shatakshi said. Police seized the journalist’s two mobile phones, two laptops, a hard drive, and other personal items, before arresting him on the basis of a five-month-old warrant, those sources said.
The warrant cites a November 2021 case filed by Jharkhand’s Kandra police station in Seraikela Kharsawan district, which accuses multiple individuals and a person only identified as “Rupesh” of alleged Maoist activities in violation of various laws, including the UAPA, according to a copy of the police report, which CPJ reviewed. Shatakshi told CPJ that police claimed Singh was arrested because he appeared in a video retrieved from alleged Maoist activists.
Shatakshi told CPJ that this was the first time that authorities informed Singh about his involvement in that case and the accompanying warrant.
In August 2022, authorities presented Singh with another two warrants, which ordered that he appear for police questioning regarding two additional cases relating to alleged Maoist activities in Bokaro and Chaibasa, Shatakshi said, adding that this was the first time that authorities informed Singh about those cases.
One of those cases, filed under the penal code by Jharkhand’s Jageswar Vihar police station on June 30, 2022, does not list Singh as an accused, but authorities said his name came up while investigating other suspects, according to Shatakshi, The Wire, and a copy of the police report, which CPJ reviewed.
A fourth case, filed by Bihar state’s Rohtas police station on April 26, 2022, and which is under the jurisdiction of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), alleged that authorities received credible information that Maoist party leaders, allegedly including Singh, collected dues and recruited cadres in the area on April 12, 2022, in violation of various laws, including the UAPA.
The journalist was in Nagpur, Maharashtra state, from April 12 and 13, 2022, to participate in a political event, according to Shatakshi and his travel documents reviewed by CPJ. In an email shared with his close friends before his arrest, which CPJ reviewed, Singh also claimed that he has never been to Rohtas in his life; however, he had reported from neighboring Kaimur district on a protest against a planned tiger reserve in the area on March 27, for news website Jan Chowk. Singh also can be seen in a live broadcast of the event on April 13 2022, which was published on the organizer’s Facebook page.
According to Shatakshi, Singh has been granted bail in the investigations initiated by Bokaro and Chaibasa police stations, and charge sheets have been filed in Seraikela Kharsawan and Bokaro districts’ and NIA’s cases. As of late 2023, trials had not begun in any of the cases, Shatakshi said.
The NIA did not respond to CPJ’s email sent in late 2023 requesting comment. CPJ also emailed the Ministry of Home Affairs, which oversees the NIA, but did not receive any reply.