Indian freelance journalist Rupesh Kumar Singh has been detained since July 2022, and faces three investigations under various laws, including the anti-terror Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, for alleged Maoist activities.
Ipsa Shatakshi, Singh’s wife, told CPJ by phone that she believes authorities targeted Singh in retaliation for his reporting 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 in Jharkhand’s Ramgarh district arrested Singh following a nine-hour raid on his home, 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, which accuses multiple individuals and a person only identified as “Rupesh” of alleged Maoist activities in violation of various laws, including the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, according to a copy of the police report, which CPJ reviewed.
Shatakshi told CPJ that this was the first time that authorities informed Singh about his involvement in this case and the accompanying warrant.
Shatakshi said that on July 23, authorities moved Singh to a dilapidated and abandoned building in the jail complex, where he was effectively in solitary confinement, before transferring him on September 12 to Jharkhand’s Birsa Munda Central Jail and holding him in a solitary cell for an additional week with no access to clean water or sunlight.
In early August, authorities presented Singh with two warrants, which ordered that he appear for police questioning regarding two additional cases relating to alleged Maoist activities, 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, 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.
The other case, filed by Bihar state’s Rohtas police station on April 26 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, in violation of various laws, including the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, according to The Wire.
Shatakshi said that the journalist was in Nagpur, Maharashtra state, from April 10 to 17, to participate in a political event. Singh flew to Nagpur on April 10 and returned by train on April 17, according to Shatakshi and copies of the tickets, which CPJ reviewed. Singh can also be seen in a live broadcast of the event on April 13, which was published on the organizer’s Facebook page.
NIA spokesperson Nitesh Kumar did not respond to CPJ’s request for comment sent via text message. CPJ also emailed the Ministry of Home Affairs, which oversees the NIA, but did not receive any reply.