Later, however, the villagers discovered the boys had been sent to prison on charges of rioting, criminal conspiracy and attempt to murder. The police claimed they had helped the rebels in laying an ambush on security personnel on August 21. An assistant platoon commander of the Special Task Force of Chhattisgarh police was killed in the ambush and a constable was injured.
The police has arrested Yadav on charges of rioting, criminal conspiracy, attempt to murder, association with terrorist organisation and supporting and aiding terrorist groups under the Chhattisgarh Public Security Act. The superintendent of police denied that Yadav's arrest had anything to do with the Bhadrimahu event. "He was under watch for a long time," said Ajay Yadav, Bastar SP. "His arrest is the consequence of the close links he had with the Naxalites."
Yadav contributed reports and pictures to several Hindi newspapers. As a stringer in Darbha, he was widely sought after for news from the region which had seen a Maoist ambush in May 2013 that left 28 people dead, including senior Congress leaders. Many more ambushes and attacks followed, despite the presence of security camps in the area.
Although Yadav's reports were much in demand, working in the area came at considerable risks. The Maoist conflict has left the region's journalists vulnerable as both the police and the Maoists suspect them of working as informers for the other side.
Last year, Yadav told this writer about the ordeal he faced in August, when he was called over from his home in the middle of the night by policemen. He was taken to the forest guest house opposite the police chowki in Darbha. He was asked to strip and made to sit for five or six hours inside the cell before he was released.
Hurt and embarrassed, Yadav informed the Jagdalpur office of Navbharat Times where he worked as a stringer. Confirming this, Manish Gupta, the newspaper's bureau chief in Jagdalpur, said: "Had this harassment persisted we would have looked into the matter, but Santosh did not revert with any further complaints."
Sympathetic to people: As a young man who had grown up in Darbha, Yadav found the rate at which the police made arrests and detentions in the area disturbing. Several of his adivasi schoolmates had been detained by the police. Earlier this year, he reached out to the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group, a collective of mostly women lawyers who fight cases pro-bono, to represent the case of an adivasi boy, Arjun Ram of Chandameta village. Ram had been picked up by the police while he was returning from selling his cattle in the local market on May 16.
*Name changed to protect identity