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Archives for : Prison

Rats In Pants, Made To Drink Urine, Called A Terrorist

 The Shocking Abuse Of Rafiq Shah In Police Custody

How the police completely botched up the 2005 Delhi serial blasts case.

Rafiq Shah with his family.

NEW DELHI — Barely three weeks after the serial bomb blasts in Delhi killed 67 people and injured over 200 in October 2005, Mohammed Rafiq Shah was picked up by a joint team of officers from the Delhi Police Special Cell and Kashmir Police’s Special Task Force. Later, Shah would recall how the officers barged into his Srinagar home around midnight, beat up his family members, and bundled him into a police car.

Police Torture

“I was forced to drink urine instead of water, kept naked and forced to suck private parts of body (sic) of other co-accused,” he told the court in 2008, when he was being charged with planting a bomb in a DTC bus on 29 October 2005. “Rats were poured into my trousers. Police officials were laughing and taking my naked photographs with their mobile phones.”

“I was forced to drink urine instead of water, kept naked and forced to suck private parts of body (sic) of other co-accused.”

Shah, then a masters student of Kashmir University’s department of Islamic Studies, repeatedly told the police officers and the court that he was in fact attending classes in Srinagar at the time the blasts took place in Delhi. Despite his attendance record submitted by four of his professors, the case went to trial, and Shah stayed in jail for 11 years until he was acquitted by a trial court in Delhi on 16 February, 2017.

“When I was crying for help, they used to tell that (sic) every Kashmiri is a terrorist,” Shah told the court.

“To shake my religious sentiments, (sic) small pig was brought in got my whole body touched with it. After that I was locked along with the small pig in a single cell,” Shah told the court.

Crucial ‘Loss’ Of Evidence

The local police, in its investigation, relied on a witness who had apparently provided a physical description of the man who planted the bomb in the DTC bus, and had even helped the cops draw a sketch of the accused. However, the witness told the court that he had only seen the bomber’s back, and could not identify the person. The portrait too, disappeared from the police file, and was never shown in court.

“When I was crying for help, they used to tell that (sic) every Kashmiri is a terrorist.”

The Delhi Police Special Cell claimed they never saw such a portrait even though the case file was transferred to them within a couple of days after the blasts. The police did not try to conduct a ‘test identification parade’ (TIP) through this witness either, where the witness could have picked the accused from a lineup of suspects.

The police did try to conduct a TIP through another witness who claimed to have seen the bomber, but his description of the man he saw was completely different from that of the other witness. Shah refused to be part of the TIP, alleging that the police exposed him to this witness several times so that he could ‘correctly’ identify him, a common technique in police procedure in which the witness is sometimes tricked into believing that he has seen the suspect before.

Shoddy Investigation

At the same time, despite statements by Kashmir University professors who said Shah was attending his classes in Srinagar when the blasts took place in Delhi, one of the police investigators told the court that he did not know Shah was a student there. Shockingly, the cop had actually written a letter to Kashmir University asking for Shah’s attendance records, as revealed in court.

The police never followed up on this line of investigation, which established that Shah was not present in Delhi at the time of the crime and was one of the main reasons why he was acquitted last week. The court called the police’s explanation for not following up on his alibi “rather lame to say the least”.

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Israeli torture of Palestinian children ‘institutional’ #WTFnews

Confessions by Palestinians who have been tortured are regularly accepted by Israeli judges, rights groups say.

Methods of torture reportedly include slapping the head and forcing a handcuffed individual to squat against a wall for long periods of time [Abid Katib/Getty Images]


Ben White is a freelance journalist, writer and activist, specialising in Palestine/Israel.



Coercion, violence and threats: Torture, Israeli-style

A recent article published by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz has confirmed the extent to which Shin Bet interrogators subject their prisoners to torture.

Methods include slapping the head “to hurt sensitive organs like the nose, ears, brow and lips”, forcing a handcuffed individual to squat against a wall for long periods of time, and placing the suspect bent backwards over a chair with his arms and legs cuffed.

The interrogators’ accounts echo what Palestinians and Israeli human rights groups have long documented. Prisoners’ rights NGO Addameer said that such practices “are known to be routinely and systematically used against Palestinian detainees”. Other torture methods used against Palestinians include sleep deprivation and threats against family members, an Addameer spokesperson told Al Jazeera.

READ MORE: Palestinians forever changed by Israeli torture

Rachel Stroumsa, the executive director of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), said that her NGO was aware of hundreds of complaints and allegations along these lines.

In addition to interrogation being used to gain information about future acts, “our experience is that torture is also used to obtain confessions regarding past acts”, Stroumsa told Al Jazeera.

In its annual report last year, Amnesty International found that Israeli forces and Shin Bet personnel had “tortured and otherwise ill-treated Palestinian detainees, including children, particularly during arrest and interrogation”, with methods including “beating with batons, slapping, throttling, prolonged shackling, stress positions, sleep deprivation and threats”.

A representative of Defence for Children International – Palestine told Al Jazeera that the group’s research had shown that almost two-thirds of Palestinian children detained in the occupied West Bank by Israeli forces had endured physical violence after their arrest.

Interrogators use position abuse, threats and isolation to coerce confessions from some children, and Israeli military court judges seldom exclude these confessions.

Ayed Abu Qtaish, accountability programme director at Defence for Children International – Palestine

“Palestinian children are regularly subjected to coercive and violent interrogation techniques intended to extract confessions,” said Ayed Abu Qtaish, the group’s accountability programme director. “Interrogators use position abuse, threats and isolation to coerce confessions from some children, and Israeli military court judges seldom exclude these confessions.”

Torture and ill-treatment are so rife, human rights campaigners say, that convictions of Palestinians for “security offences” are fundamentally unreliable, not least because the abuse is part of a wider lack of due process.

According to one study, as many as 91 percent of Palestinian detainees interrogated by the Shin Bet in the occupied West Bank are held incommunicado for either part or all of their interrogation. Stroumsa says this practice is “an enabling element for torture”.

In the military court system, which has a 99 percent conviction rate, Palestinians can be held for 60 days without access to a lawyer – compared with the United States, where the average length of interrogations producing false confessions is 16 hours.

“As Palestinian children continue to experience systematic ill-treatment and denial of due process rights, it becomes evident that military courts have no interest in justice,” Abu Qtaish said.

In addition to the torture and lack of access to counsel, Palestinians are asked to sign confession sheets in Hebrew, which they often do not understand. All of this “creates a coercive environment which results in confessions made under duress”, Addameer noted.

A recent example is the case of Mohammad el-Halabi, a Gaza-based employee of World Vision who was charged by Israel with funnelling money to Hamas. Halabi, who is being tried in a Beer Sheva civilian court, has protested his innocence, saying that he was tortured by his interrogators. These claims were also made by his lawyers, who Halabi was prevented from seeing for three weeks after his arrest.

The new Haaretz report draws attention to a topic that is not often in the limelight. In November 2015, a video of the interrogation of 13-year-old Ahmad Manasra sparkedoutrage, while Israel’s appearance at the United Nations Committee Against Torture last May – which referred to “coerced evidence” being used in courts – also gained coverage.

But many other events fly under the radar. An academic study published in November 2015 in a peer-reviewed medical journal revealed dozens of cases of sexual torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners detained by Israel.

Activists on the ground say that an international spotlight on Israel’s torture practices is urgently needed, not least because of the institutionalised nature of the problem.

Although an Israeli Supreme Court ruling in 1999 prohibited “physical means” of interrogation, Shin Bet agents were effectively given impunity for torture and ill-treatment by the so-called “necessity defence” or ” ticking bomb” exemption.

According to anti-torture campaigners, this exemption has served as a green light for torture ever since. Since 2001, hundreds of formal complaints have been made against Shin Bet interrogators, but not a single criminal investigation has been opened.

“I think international pressure is essential, and has on some issues proven its efficacy,” Stroumsa said.

“It is also the duty of the international community to speak out on abuses, given the massive economic and political support for the State of Israel from abroad.”

Source: Al Jazeera

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India – Kabir Kala Manch Songs to mend the spirit


“I think they’re just waiting to rearrest them,” jokes Jyoti Jagtap, a member of Pune’s Dalit-Left cultural troupe Kabir Kala Manch (KKM), to the small group of people waiting in the visitor’s courtyard of Navi Mumbai’s Taloja jail. We’ve been here for over an hour now, awaiting the release of KKM members Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor on bail after four years in prison for alleged links to Naxalites, when Jagtap notices a group of plain-clothes cops standing next to the jail’s imposing blue gate. A passing policeman tells us they’re from the Intelligence Bureau. Gaichor’s sister looks on in concern as the rest of the group trades stories they’ve heard of people being bundled into waiting police jeeps as soon as they step out of jail. The mood is one of anticipation, but with a strong undercurrent of tension and worry.

“You know when you’re returning from a vacation and you’re close to home, it feels like time has slowed down,” says a middle-aged woman — a lawyer — who has travelled with the group all the way from Pune. “It’s like that. We’re all just waiting for the moment we can finally see them.”

That moment arrives half an hour later. Gorkhe and Gaichor walk out of the blue gate with big smiles plastered on their faces, their eyes searching the courtyard for their families and comrades. Gaichor is immediately smothered by hugs from his sister and his wife Jagtap. A few steps behind, Gorkhe is reunited with his wife (and KKM member) Rupali Jadhav, while fellow KKM members Deepak Dengle and Siddharth Bhonsle pat him on the back. On the road outside the jail’s main gate, the two pose for pictures in between phone calls to their parents. Their friends hand out sweets to passers-by, including the jail officials who walk up to congratulate them on their release. Once things settle down a bit, the group relocates to a nearby chai-stall, where Gorkhe and Gaichor regale us with jokes and stories about their time inside. The sense of relief all around is palpable. Their six-year-long nightmare is finally ending.

Founded by college students in 2002 as a response to the Godhra riots, the KKM is a troupe of cultural activists who rose to prominence in Maharashtra with their songs about caste oppression and workers’ rights. In 2011, Dengle and Bhonsle were arrested by the Maharashtra Anti-Terror Squad for their alleged links to Naxalites. The rest of the group went into hiding, resurfacing only when Dengle and Bhonsle were let out on bail in 2013. Bombay High Court Justice Abhay Thipsay wrote in his ruling, “It is surprising that highlighting the wrongs prevalent in the society and insisting that there is a need to change the situation was considered as evidence… of them being members of the Communist Party of India (Maoist).” Emboldened by the ruling, former KKM president Sheetal Sathe and her husband Sachin Mali — the two have since left the group citing ideological differences — courted arrest in April 2013, and the rest of the group followed in May. Sathe, pregnant at the time, got bail three months later. Gorkhe, Gaichor and Mali — who were lodged in Arthur Road jail — would have to wait for almost four more years.

“I wake up in the middle of the night and look around, just to make sure I’m not back in the barracks,” says Gorkhe, when I meet him and the rest of the group a week after his release. We’re sprawled on the living room floor of his small flat in Pimpri Chinchwad, discussing the difficulties of adjusting to life outside prison. Gorkhe speaks about being stuck, unable to go past the haze of prison memories. Yesterday, he finally sat down to watch Sairat, but five minutes into the film he was staring at the wall, lost in thoughts. “There’s a negativity in prison that tries to break you,” adds Gaichor, who has been silent and pensive. “The feeling of being completely under someone else’s control, being unable to make even the simplest choices for yourself. The people who control you, they don’t look at you like you’re a human being. You’re not even an animal, they’re better with cats and dogs. So you have to fight that negativity with studying, writing, creativity, or you will go insane.”

Gorkhe and Gaichor thought they were well prepared for prison. A day in Arthur Road’s overcrowded and filthy general barracks quickly disabused them of that notion. Around 250 inmates were packed into a space meant for 80. There was no space to sit, and inmates were sleeping on their sides in tightly packed rows. Three of the four bathrooms had broken doors, and only one working tap between them. The food was so bad that they barely ate for the first few days.

The two were later shifted to the high-security section in Taloja jail, which also houses those booked under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) as well as terrorism-related cases. The situation was a little better there, they had their own room with a functioning fan and 24-hour water supply. But life in the anda cell brought new challenges. Locked away in their rooms for most of the day, unable to even see each other, the inmates struggle with loneliness and depression. Events of the day would swim in their head all night, conversations replayed over and over in a state of anxiety. Sleepless hours would be spent thinking about their homes and families. Gorkhe was so disturbed he went to the prison psychiatrist for medication, but that only made him vomit. He eventually took to meditation to deal with the stress.

“Also in the anda cell was a policeman held for a fake encounter and he used to scream at night. A couple of people tried to kill themselves,” interjects Dengle. When Dengle was picked up outside his workplace in 2011, the police allegedly tortured him for a day in lockup before registering an arrest. Gorkhe and Gaichor’s high-profile status as political prisoners at least protected them from the beatings meted out to less-fortunate prisoners. But there were other little ways to harass inmates — verbal abuse, interception of private letters, confiscation of books and reading material. Both men were also upset that their wives and comrades were harassed by the police and even — in one instance — assaulted by the ABVP. They kept their spirits up by engaging in political analyses of the burning issues of the day, filing RTIs, helping other inmates with paperwork and once organising the inmates to protest against the terrible prison food.

What also kept them going was their art — the two not only wrote over 100 songs, they also worked on plays and books of poetry. They would perform the songs they wrote to other inmates and sympathetic jail officials, or constantly sing them to each other so they wouldn’t forget the tune before they found a way to put it down. “It really helped us cope,” says Gorkhe. “We knew we couldn’t do anything physically but at least we could work with ideas.”

While they were in prison, they say their families struggled with police harassment and the social stigma attached to the ‘Naxalite’ tag. Their parents and siblings, they allege, continue to be regularly visited by the police, who intimidate and occasionally pick someone up for a few hours of interrogation. When the group was still in hiding, one policeman allegedly visited Jadhav’s mother, showed her a picture of a woman killed in a police encounter and claimed it was her daughter. The mother had fainted on hearing this. When Jadhav took up a job as a receptionist, the police started turning up at her office to investigate her. Meanwhile, Gorkhe’s neighbours and extended family started a social boycott of his parents. “Their water was turned off, their electricity was switched off,” remembers Gorkhe. “They had to deal with constant taunts from their neighbours. Eventually, they had to shift out of that basti, despite not having any money and no jobs.”

Legal experts have warned us for years about the flagrant abuse of anti-terrorism laws like the UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) to target activists and non-violent dissidents. Over 77,000 people were arrested under its heavily criticised predecessor TADA, with thousands of them spending long stints in jail as their trials dragged on. Only 725 were ever convicted, at a conviction rate of one per cent. Similar data for UAPA cases is not available, but a report last year by The Tribune indicated that not much has changed. According to the report, over the last seven years, a 100 UAPA cases in Punjab have led to only one conviction. The pattern — of the trial as punishment — repeats itself.

In its order granting bail to Gorkhe, Gaichor and Mali, the Supreme Court noted that the State had told the court last July that the trial would be completed in six months. But till January 2017, not even one of the 147 proposed witnesses had been fully examined. At that rate, they would have spent a lifetime in jail waiting for the trial to end. This is by no means an anomaly. In a recent article for DailyO, political activists Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves explain how such delays are the result of “a deliberate dalliance between police and prosecution to postpone service of summons, hold back witnesses, neglect bringing the muddemaal or physical evidence to court and other such means to ensure that the trial process is effectively paralysed.” The end result is a de facto “sentence” that keeps “the undertrial rotting in jail without the hassle of obtaining a conviction.” The chilling effect — other activists censoring themselves to avoid state harassment — is a nice bonus.

Both Ferreira and Gonsalves are speaking from experience, having spent years in jail on Naxalism-related charges. They add KKM to a long list that includes Binayak Sen, Sudhir Dhawale, Soni Sori, Laxman Madavi and, most recently, seven members of a Telangana Democratic Front fact-finding mission to Bastar.

Back at the chai-stall, after a round of tea and omelette pav, Gaichor breaks out into a song that he wrote in prison. Gorkhe taps out a rhythm on the plastic table. A full-on jam session breaks out, with everyone joining in on the chorus as they pick up the words. The woman who runs the stall stops her work to applaud when the song ends. Gaichor and Gorkhe make their way through more songs, in both Hindi and Marathi. The performance ends with a dedication to lokshahirs Annabhau Sathe and Vilas Ghogre. Despite the six-year ordeal, their revolutionary zeal remains intact. There is a lightness to their step, an eagerness to put their jail time behind them and get back to work. As we walk to wards my car, I ask Jagtap what is the first thing they’ll do once they’re home. “We’re going to Camp,” she says with a mischievous smile. “Beef khayenge.”

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Condemn State Repression and Arbitrary Arrests of the West Bengal Government





FEBRUARY 6, 2017


WSS stands with the struggling people of Bhangar against the severe repression unleashed by the state in order to establish a power grid and high power transmission lines across the area by force. In the course of this struggle:

  • Two people have died as a result of bullet wounds inflicted by the police and armed goons while several more people have been beaten and injured.
  • On 22 January 2017, K. N. Ramachandran, General Secretary of CPI (ML) Red Star, was overpowered, blindfolded and abducted as he arrived at Howrah station. He was detained for twenty six hours by the police without being produced in court or any information provided to his family before finally being released without the money in his pocket with which to proceed to the location of the protests.
  • On the evening of 25 January 2017, Sharmishtha Chowdhury (a member of WSS), Shahnawaz Mandal and Pradip Singh Thakur have also been picked up by the police around 6:30 pm from Panapukur in Bhangar area. A staggering array of false charges have been slapped on her and 35 other people including other members of WSS, under sections of the IPC for allegedly inciting violence, instigating people, destruction of public property and various sections of the Arms and Explosives Acts, in FIR No. 339/17 dated 18.01.17.
  • On 18.01.17. itself, 11 persons including 2 juveniles were arrested, of which the two juveniles have obtained bail as of 25.1.17.
  • Since then, Sharmishtha Chowdhury, Shahnawaz Mandal and Pradip Singh have been held for eight days in police custody during which they were not allowed to meet family nor even allowed to take essential medicines which their families brought for them.
  • Finally, attempt is being made to add sections 18 and 19 of the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for which we await the next hearing.


Let us look into the struggle waged by people of Bhangar and why they are opposed to the setting up of the power grid by the West Bengal government. Without obtaining the consent of the people of Bhangar, an area consisting of thickly populated areas and fertile farm land, the government’s Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (PGCIL) has attempted to set up a 440/220 KV power grid consisting of a Rajarhat sub-station and 450 MW double circuit power transmission lines. People from the villages Khamarait, Machhi Bhanga, Tona, Gazipur, etc. have been very agitated over two issues: one is the forcible acquisition of land two years ago to set up the substation on 16 acres of fertile agricultural land in Khamarait, as well as more forcible acquisition of land in early 2016 for installing transmission lines on agricultural land instead of the roadside as promised. The other important question was of the range of health hazards posted by the electromagnetic field which will be generated by the transmission lines as well as the extremely strong greenhouse gas SF6 (Sulphur hexafluoride) used in the substation which leaks from most high voltage equipment and settles in low-lying areas. This gas has anaesthetic properties, and in high enough quantities can also lead to asphyxiation by displacing oxygen in the lungs. The electromagnetic field that could be generated depends on the configuration of the wires but at this high voltage it can even give electric shocks to those walking with an umbrella or any other electrical conductor under or near these lines. A report by Nisha Biswas, scientist and WSS member, lays out all of these concerns for not just human health but also the health of livestock and crops, their scientific validity, and the response by the government in detail. The people constituted an Anti Grid People’s Movement led by Jami, Jeevika, Bastutantra O Paribesh Rakshya Committee, and raised these questions to the local Trinamool Congress (TMC) as well as to PGCIL authorities.


One continuing trend in the government’s handling of this situation has been one of betrayed promises. The villagers were initially deceived into thinking that a small power house would be built, not a power grid, for which land was forcibly acquired in 2015; later they were told that the power lines would not run across their fields but across the road, and finally, transmission towers were set up on their fields with neither intimation nor any compensation; eventually compensation far below stipulated guidelines was given but people were still not informed that the transmission lines would extend beyond the local area through more areas of West Bengal until Bihar. People have not been informed of how waste will be disposed off from the power station and they have also been notified that they will be solely responsible for any accidents resulting from carrying conducting metal rods near the power lines. In the absence of any response to their concerns, people’s demonstrations have continued and have only been met with state repression. On November 3rd, 2016, the police arrested 6 people, including 3 women. Tens of thousands of people came out on the streets of Kolkata on 22nd December 2016, and when they planned to mobilize again in Khamarait on December 28, the administration imposed Section 144 for the villagers but not for PGCIL employees.


These tactics are strongly reminiscent of the way the Singur movement was suppressed; and the same TMC that came to power on the back of the Singur protestors has not only been using the same tactics but has actively organized meetings duping protestors into thinking it is supporting the agitation, but where they have supported the PGCIL work. PGCIL authorities have promised to meet protesters but have been absent on the scheduled date. On 11th January 2017, almost half a lakh people, half of whom were women, participated in a road blockade and the DM’s emissaries had promised that a meeting would be organised soon to listen to their demands until when construction would be stopped. The same was reiterated by the DM in later meetings, yet people have been attacked by the police and armed goons. On 18 January, an FIR was filed targeting several organizers and the police opened fire on people, killing two and injuring 6 people; several people including women were beaten and injured. The protests continue, with almost 10,000 people protesting on the 25th of January, and instead of responding to its people, the state government has picked up protestors and subjected them to over a week in police custody. Coming just before Republic Day, it makes one wonder whose government this is? Who does the Republic stand for?


WSS demands the West Bengal government to:

1 ) Ensure an end to state violence and repression of any kind against the villagers and activists

2)  Ensure that democratic dialogue with the people which had been initiated with the District Magistrate is resumed and their concerns and apprehensions properly addressed.

3) Charges against the activists are immediately dropped.

4) Judicial enquiry into the police who perpetrated the firing upon unarmed protestors and the abduction of Com KN Ramachandran with due punishment for their arbitrary and unlawful actions


Bittu Kondaiah, Ranjana Padhi, Nisha Biswas, Rinchin and Kalyani Menon

(National Coordinators – WSS)


Contact email id: [email protected]


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F U Kalluri: Going, Going… Gone?

A look at a decade of the Kalluri model of policing in Chhattisgarh
Exchange of SMSs between Kalluri and advocate Piyoli upon demanding security for Bela Bhatia / DailyO

On 2nd February, IG SRP Kalluri wrote on a Whatsapp group, “Bela Bhatia wins.” He has been asked to go on “long leave” by the Chhattisgarh State government. It appears that the reign of Kalluri may be coming to a belated, but surely ignominious, end. In light of this, it is important to look at the hallmarks of his career as a police officer who embodied blanket impunity, and flaunted it. At a time when police officers across the country are bent on imitating the reign of terror unleashed by the likes of Kalluri and his cohorts, we need to remind ourselves of what the decade long career in Bastar entailed.

Ledha Bai’s statement  against SRP Kalluri in 2007. Ledha Bai is an adivasi woman who was raped in police custody and threatened with death after the police killed her husband in front of her for, alleging he was a Maoist.

“When I reached the Shankargarh police station, I saw Kalluri sahib who, upon seeing me, asked if I knew who he was. Then I said, “You are Kalluri Sahib. I made my husband surrender before you and you got him shot.” Then Kalluri slapped me twice. I was carrying my daughter. I fell on the ground with my daughter. Kalluri asked me to take off my clothes. When I refused, two policemen twisted my father’s arms and made him stand up, and started beating him. They beat my father mercilessly. Then Brijesh Tiwari unfastened my saree and took off all the other garments. When I was resisting the taking off of my clothes, they started hitting my father forcefully. I took off my clothes. They completely stripped me. They stripped me. My child was wailing uncontrollably on the ground. Then Kalluri said, “Take her inside the room, I will interrogate her.” In my nude condition, they took me inside the room in the police station. Then Kalluri raped me inside the police station.”

Soni Sori in a letter  from appealing for justice in 2011.

“On the night of 8.10.2011, from 12 midnight to 2:30 am, SP Ankit Garg called me into a room in the police station, gave me electric shocks (current shock), took my clothes off and severely tortured me”

Aman Sethi‘s article  in the Hindu in 2012:

“On Republic Day, officer Ankit Garwas awarded the Police Medal for Gallantry for his role in a counterinsurgency operation in October 9, 2010, in which about 250 members of the State’s Special Task Force and district police ambushed Maoist guerrillas in Mahasamund district […] Mr. Garg was subsequently appointed Superintendent of Police of Dantewada when Ms. Sori was arrested in October 2011 and accused of acting as a Maoist courier.”

icf 2.jpgChattisgarh police burning effigies of activists in Bastar / CatchNews

According to an article  in the Tribune in April 2015, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said:

“We have decided to give them [security personnel] the gallantry award. We have also finalised other facilities to be given (to their family members).”

Shreya, an activist interviewed by Scroll  in January:

“Why is it that it is talking only about compensation and not about disciplinary actions for allowing these crimes to happen?” said Shreya, who was a part of one of the civil society fact-finding teams that brought to light the rapes, which occured in 2015 and 2016.

The Action Group of National Integration (AGNI) on “white-collared Naxals”, quoted in Scroll :

While Kalluri was speaking to the media, in another part of the city, a civil vigilante group called AGNI said it would step up its actions to stop “white-collared Naxals” from creating hurdles to Bastar’s development. They were referring to human rights activists and others who have criticised violations by the security forces in the region.

icf 3.jpg
Kalluri with AGNI members / CatchNews

Kalluri, in an interview  with NDTV last year:

“Activists are enemies because they incite people against democracy, and question the sovereignty and universality of India. We oppose their anti-national brigade.”

In an article  from the National Herald on Mission 2017:

“[Kalyani Menon] Sen had earlier pointed out that “Defying strictures by the Supreme Court and the NHRC, Kalluri publicly announced the launch of “Mission 2017”, an all-out vendetta against all those who were calling the state to account.”

The following response  from Kalluri is one of a series of abuses and threats hurled at activists and human rights defenders via text messages when they expressed their concern about the hounding of activist Bela Bhatia:

“Maoists and their dogs like you will be stoned out of Bastar. Beware.”

icf 4.jpg
SRP Kalluri / Arya Sharma, Catch News

In 2013, SRP Kalluri was conferred the President’s Police Medal for Meritorious Service, just like Ankit Garg, another officer who was given the Gallantry Award despite being accused of rape in Soni Sori’s case. These instances of abuse of power under Kalluri’s regime in Dantewada, and other districts in the Bastar division, paints a picture of callous disregard for law and order and zero accountability for his actions. Let us not forget that the Kalluri model of policing was supported by the structures of the state and had allowances from the highest corridors of power. Today, when we dare to rejoice his removal from positions of authority in Bastar, we need to simultaneously demand that each instance of abuse of power be investigated and the guilty held accountable. Else, several such Kalluris are bound follow the model and enjoy the impunity that the system permits in the name of democracy.

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Songs of freedom: Jailed for 4 years, Kabir Kala Manch members are now ready with new music

“We were performing at the Ambedkar statue in Mumbai. We sat there for almost 3-4 hours, spoke to the press. No one turned up to arrest us. Later, the leaders from the Kabir Kala Manch Bachao Samiti who were with us, took us to meet the then home minster RR Patil. We were formally arrested by the ATS (Anti-Terrorism Squad) only after the meeting. After four years, we are out on bail. We are finally able to breathe freely and can sing our songs without any censorship.”

This is what Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor — members of the Kabir Kala Manch, who were arrested by the ATS for their alleged connection with Naxals — have to say. The Supreme Court granted them bail on 3 January 2017, four years after their arrest. They are now ready to get back to the streets with their new songs.

Kabir Kala Manch (KKM), a Pune-based cultural group, was formed in 2002 after the Gujarat riots. It was later branded as a ‘Maoist front’ by the state ATS. The ATS accused KKM artistes of being in contact with Naxals and working as per the instructions of Angela Sontakke and her husband Milind Teltumbde, as an urban sleeper cell for the Naxalite movement. The charge sheet against the KKM artistes states that they had allegedly participated in arms training with 150 Naxals in the jungle areas of Gadchiroli in Maharashtra between November 2011 and April 2012. The ATS booked Sheetal Sathe, Sachin Mali, Ramesh and Sagar along with eight other members of KKM under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). Sheetal and Sachin staged a satyagraha in Mumbai and surrendered themselves to the police in 2013. Sagar and Ramesh, who were then on the run, decided to appear in public after Sheetal and Sachin’s arrest. They staged a protest at the Ambedkar statue near the Mumbai Sessions Court and were later arrested by the ATS.

Members of the Kabir Kala Manch after their release from prison

Members of the Kabir Kala Manch after their release from prison

“We never surrendered. When you are accused of being Naxals, the word ‘surrender’ has a different meaning. We had never committed any crime. So the question of ‘surrendering’ simply doesn’t arise,” they say. “When the police started arresting members of the KKM, we decided to go into hiding out of fear. We were on the run for more than six months. We were not able to find a way out. Then we came to know about the Kabir Kala Manch Bachao Sangharsh Samiti. We met Anand Patwardhan ,one of the members of the Samiti, and then consulted a lawyer. They suggested that we should follow the procedure of the law and face the prosecution,” Sagar adds.

“After our arrest, we were taken to the Arthur Road Jail. We were strip searched and sent to the barracks. First they kept us in one of the barracks along with many other jail inmates. Some of them were smoking, some of them were spitting, It was dirty, filthy — something we were not used to. This could’ve easily broken our morale. Later, we were shifted to the ‘anda cell’ in Taloja jail. It was a small, 6 x 12 room. It would get very lonely. They used to lock us up for most of the day. We could communicate with only the 12 people in the nearby barracks when we were allowed to go out for few hours. It was the struggle with the system and also the struggle within. We were still trying to come to terms with the fact that we had to spend time in this environment,” Sagar recounts.

Ramesh says in prison, they found some respite in practising their art: “We are artists. So the obvious form of expression for us was poetry. That is how we wrote our first song — it was about our condition inside the jail. It provided some relief, so we decided to keep writing.”

Even then, there was a barrier presented in the form of censorship. “Our only sources of information were the letters from our friends and the newspapers we read. But these were censored too… An officer in jail used to read the newspapers and cut out the part that he felt prisoners shouldn’t read. But letters from friends provided information, based on which we wrote the songs. We used to send these songs back to our friends through letters. But once an officer read one of the songs while examining our letter. The officers were told that we might instigate people through our songs. So he simply refused to send it — without any logical or legal reason. That was when we realised that our songs were going to get censored too. But we had to keep writing and find ways out to send them so that our troupe could perform,” says Sagar. These songs were later published as a book — Gajanadchi Sangharshagatha, meaning ‘songs of struggle from prison’.

When the High Court rejected their bail plea twice, the KKM members started to lose hope. Their lawyers, however, were optimistic and approached the Supreme Court.

The Kabir Kala manch artistes are happy to be back, with an opportunity to perform their songs without censorship

The Kabir Kala manch artistes are happy to be back, with an opportunity to perform their songs without censorship

“It was a routine day. We only knew that our bail plea would be heard in the Supreme Court. So we kept waiting for the update. We were told by a constable that according to news on television, Sachin Mali had been granted bail. We enquired if he knew anything about our case, but he didn’t. We had asked one of the prisoners who was taken to court to check if there was any update. He came back but didn’t tell us anything. We thought our plea was either rejected or not heard, as it was a separate application. Sagar was feeling restless and kept trying to communicate with the prisoner. But he simply ignored us. It was only after some time that he turned to us and calmly told us that bail had been granted. He wanted to dramatise it! Everyone burst into laughter after hearing this,” says Ramesh.

They were released by the jail authorities after completing the necessary legal procedures. Their friends were waiting for them outside the jail premises. “We went to a nearby tea stall with them and started singing. We were performing outside the prison walls, without any censorship or tension. No one was going to stop us. We were back with our team,” say Sagar and Ramesh.

They were released after spending almost four years in prison. The Supreme Court observed that the investigating authorities had presented only one witness in court — out of the 147 witnesses mentioned in the charge sheet. This was cited as the prime reason for granting bail.

Ramesh and Sagar are set to perform again, under the KKM banner (the group has split, with Sheetal and Sachin forming their own troupe). They want to perform the songs they have penned during their jail term. But the struggle is far from over.

“We are invited for performances, only to be told that it has been cancelled. Being branded as Naxals has ruined our lives,” Sagar and Ramesh say. Sagar had to drop out of the final year of his BA Sociology course, while Ramesh — who was working as a professor at a Pune college — was forced to quit too. “Getting our jobs back is simply a dream for us. But we want to keep performing. Our new songs are ready. People can understand only when we simplify things for them. This is why we have decided to explain and criticise the decision of demonetization through our new songs. Songs on other topics are ready too,” says Ramesh, while Sagar adds, “We will keep fighting for justice. But we will continue to sing too.”

“People’s art is a weapon for liberation.”

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Bombay HC’s order in Mohsin Sheikh case rewrites jurisprudence of provocation in dangerous ways. It must spur review of bail law

By- Faizan Mustafa

“The fault of the deceased was only that he belonged to another religion. I consider this factor in favour of the applicant/accused. Moreover, the applicants/accused do not have criminal record and it appears in the name of religion, they were provoked and have committed murder,” observed Justice Mridula Bhatkar in her six-page order while granting bail to three main accused in the killing of Mohsin Sheikh, an innocent young IT professional of Pune, who was returning after dinner on June 2, 2014 and was wearing what the judge has recorded as “pastel green colour shirt and had sported a beard”. With this order, India cannot anymore complain against the hate crimes committed against Indians in Australia and America.

Provocation must be given by the deceased and he must have said or done something which would have provoked a “reasonable man”. Provocation cannot be claimed against anything which is lawful — to be Muslim, to wear a green shirt or sport a beard has not yet been made unlawful in India. Moreover, provocation cannot be voluntarily sought. Here, the accused, out of their own free will, went to listen to hate speeches at the Hindu Rashtriya Sena event. The order is shocking and dangerous as it rewrites the jurisprudence of provocation.

Archaic Indian law on bail, due to the concept of pecuniary “surety”, already had a class character wherein for the rich, it is bail and for the poor it is jail. Justice Krishna Iyer in the Moti Ram case, where a poor labourer was asked for a surety of Rs 10,000 in 1978, was pained to observe that “the poor are priced out of their liberty in the justice market”. Is religion the new class?

The law of bail is an old one. It seems Plato in 399 B.C. sought Socrates’ release on bond. The law of bail is a big “cobweb” — it is a web encompassing the issues of personal liberty, public concern and interests of justice. The term “bail” has not been defined under our laws. The law merely makes a distinction between “bailable offences” and “non-bailable offences” with “bail” as a right in the former and at the discretion of the judge in the latter. The classification is not based on any definite test or criterion. But generally, offences which are punishable with three years or less imprisonment are considered bailable and others as non-bailable.

The judicial discretion in granting bail is not too wide and cannot be used in an arbitrary manner. Sound discretion is guided by law; governed by rule, not by humour and cannot be arbitrary, vague and fanciful. The judge must keep in mind the enormity of the charge, severity of punishment, nature of evidence in support of the accusation, age, sex and status of the accused with reference to the victim and witnesses and the probability of the accused committing more offences on bail.

The bail cannot be granted “on parity”, that is simply because the co-accused were granted bail does not entitle the accused to get bail. This author is for the grant of bail in most cases as denial of bail impinges on the “presumption of innocence” of the accused and makes innocent family members of the accused suffer. Moreover, the accused denied of bail cannot prepare for his defence. Bail is basically security for the appearance of the accused pending trial or investigation. While I have no objection to the grant of bail to the three accused in the Mohsin murder case, we must recall how bail was denied in several more genuine cases.

Binayak Sen was denied bail for years though he had not killed anyone. The charge against him was that he was allegedly a courier between jailed Naxal leader Narayan Sanyal and businessman Piyush Sinha, because he met Sanyal 33 times, each time with due permission from the jail authorities. The evidence against him was a postcard written by Sanyal about his health and legal case duly signed by the jail authorities; a book on unity between the CPI and the Maoist Communist Centre and a letter by Madanlal Banerjee to him. Finally, the Supreme Court granted him bail.

The Bombay High Court itself had denied bail to the Delhi University professor, G.N. Saibaba, who has 90 per cent disability and moves in a wheelchair. Even his temporary bail was withdrawn. All the co-accused of Saibaba too were granted bail but the principle of parity was not accepted in his case. Similarly, members of Kabir Kala Manch (KKM), a cultural organisation founded in Pune, which fights against inequalities in society and for the promotion of democracy and had not committed any violent crime, were denied bail on charges of supporting Naxalites through their songs. Bail was similarly not given to Mohammad Aamir Khan, who was accused of 19 terror charges and had to spend 12 years in jail. When his father died and mother suffered a paralytic stroke, he moved several bail applications with the medical records of his mother and acquittal order in other cases, yet the judge refused to grant bail as it was “too sensitive” a case. Eventually, he was acquitted in all 19 cases. Sanjay Dutt on the other hand got hundreds of days’ parole even after conviction. BJP leader and former Gujarat minister, Maya Kodnani, too got bail even after conviction in riot cases. The Madras High Court last year had given bail to a rape accused so that he can mediate with the victim. The Patna HC did give bail to notorious criminals like Shahabuddin.

Let us use this controversial order to revisit our law of bail. Two-thirds of prisoners are undertrials. Let the bail law be liberalised to make bail a rule, jail an exception.

The author is vice chancellor NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad. Views expressed are personal 

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“I couldn’t sleep at night. Had I sent them home to their deaths?” – An ex-asylum officer tells all

Asylum officerMihoko Takata

Some of the details described below may be upsetting.

I worked for the UK Border Agency (UKBA) for 10 years, three of which were spent reviewing asylum applications.

It was my job to review the cases of people coming to Britain in fear of their lives, and work out whether they were telling the truth or not.

There are plenty of reasons why people lie about seeking asylum. They might be trying to make a better living for themselves, or simply trying to join their family. They think they won’t get in on an immigration visa, or they can’t afford to pay for one – so they try to convince us that they need protection from persecution.

It was my job to differentiate between them, and those whose lives depended on me believing them.

Some of the stories I heard have been impossible to forget.

There was one lady who had been caught up in the Russian-Chechen war in the 2000s. She’d been taken prisoner and was raped repeatedly for 18 months. She told me she’d had several abortions, carried out by the other women in her cell.

When I questioned how an abortion could be performed in a cell, she told me, “You take one of the bedsprings from the mattress, and you use that.”

For so many of these cases, you sit someone down in a room and essentially say, “Tell me about the worst thing that ever happened to you, in detail, and I will try to prove that you are lying.”

This lady had to sit there in that room as two men, the interpreter and I, spent four hours asking her the most appalling, intimate questions, trying to disprove her story.

By the time we’d finished, I felt absolutely wretched.

However, there are some stories that stick in the mind for other reasons.

Under the European Convention of Human Rights, you cannot send anyone back to their own country if they might face the death penalty. So, when a known terrorist came to us from India, we didn’t grant him asylum, but we couldn’t send him back, either.

He’s now a taxi driver living somewhere in England.

For three years, I made judgements on cases like these, interviewing maybe five or six people per week. There are people who are living in the UK today because I spent a few hours in a room with them and supported their case.

Equally, I’m sure there are people who have been wrongly sent back because of me, and God alone knows what’s happened to them. The responsibility can feel truly overwhelming.

I always tried to keep in mind what it would take to uproot your whole life, leaving your home and your country, leaving everyone and everything you know, and travelling halfway across the globe to a strange place. What would really make you do that?

Some of my co-workers, however, seemed to think that their job was to refuse people wherever possible. I remember one caseworker complaining that her village was now, “full of Pakis”. When I asked her if she thought she was in the right job, she replied, “Yes, because I’ve got the chance to stop more coming in.” I found that incredibly disturbing.

In some cases, I was instructed to refuse a person because they didn’t meet the rules. I would go home and think, “Have I just started the process of sending someone home to die?”

There were nights where I couldn’t sleep.

Eventually, I moved off asylum interviews and started work on what we called the ‘backlog’: people who had applied for indefinite leave to remain(which would give them the right to stay in the UK without time restrictions), and whose cases had fallen through the cracks.

Some applicants had been waiting for a response for nine or 10 years. Many had already left the country, or died.

Consequently, we were under a lot of pressure to get these sorted as quickly as possible, and I felt like my ability to make sound judgements was compromised.

When you’ve not got the correct information to hand, you’re meant to write to the applicant and clarify it. But when an application is 10 years old, the chances of the person still living at the given address is slim. So we’d write to them, they wouldn’t respond, and because we couldn’t track down the necessary information, they’d be refused.

They’d still have the right to appeal that decision. But they’d often run out of time, and be forced to go home before they had a chance to do so.

I left UKBA in 2011, when the rate to apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK was £950. Today, people pay up to £1875.

I recently spoke to someone who fled here from Zimbabwe, and is waiting for a response to his application for indefinite leave to remain. While it’s considered, he’s not permitted to work or to claim benefits. His passport is with the Government while they review his application, and will have been stamped with, “no access to public funds” – so he’s living on credit cards and handouts from friends.

His story isn’t unusual.

Because you’re without your passport while your application is considered, this often means you cannot travel. This is usually decided on a case-by-case basis. I met a woman whose mother was severely ill, but she couldn’t go home to visit her, due to her documents being with the Home Office.

I spent 10 years doing this job. The number of times I’d sat in a room and had someone tell me either the most horrendous thing imaginable, or blatantly lie though their teeth, is countless. You get to a point where you think, “actually, I can’t do this anymore”.

I now work for a charity, where I help people get themselves out of debt. I’ve never looked back.

– James, UKBA employee 2001 – 2011

A Home Office spokesperson said:

“The UK Border Agency was disbanded and restructured in 2013 to improve performance and we are now consistently meeting service standards. Our officers’ commitment to fairness when dealing with asylum claims has also been noted by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration.”

As told to Catriona White

Illustrations by Mihoko Takata

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#SundayReading – How the Netherlands used Literature to defy the Nazis

Anne Frank house bookcase

A bookcase in the offices of Anne Frank’s father’s workplace concealed the family’s hiding place.

Seventy-two years after Anne Frank and her family were discovered and arrested in their Amsterdam hiding place, the plot of one of the Holocaust’s most tragic stories has thickened. Despite decades of suspicion that the family was betrayed, it turns out they may have instead have been found during an investigation for ration card fraud. The new theory sheds light not only on the fate of the Franks, but on the extent of Dutch resistance to the Nazis. Another way they resisted, writes Jeroen Dewulf, was through clandestine literature—a literature that, though little known today, illustrates just how Dutch people saw the German occupation.

“In no other country under German occupation during World War II was clandestine…literature more published than in the Netherlands,” writes Dewulf. These books and poems were highly illegal, but they sprang from a rich history of free-thinking on the part of the Dutch.

This history of free thought and expression was seen as intrinsically Dutch when the Germans occupied the country in 1940—so intrinsic that it became a rallying cry for Dutch people who felt their love of expression differentiated them from their oppressors. As a result, plenty of Dutch people flouted German authority, writing and publishing material that ran afoul of German cultural laws to works that outwardly challenged the Nazis.

A new theory sheds light not only on the fate of the Franks, but on the extent of Dutch resistance to the Nazis.

The quality of these clandestine works was often poor, writes Dewulf. Conditions deteriorated throughout the war, and many of the Netherlands’ greatest minds were persecuted, imprisoned, or killed. But despite the instinct of many of the Netherlands’ librarians and publishers to censor themselves, some refused to stop publishing material critical of the Germans.

The occupation was accompanied by an aggressive Nazification campaign aimed at elevating Nazi ideals and rooting out cultural content that was deemed as subversive. Central to that campaign, writes Dewulf, was the so-called “Dutch Chamber of Culture,” an organization whose membership was compulsory for anyone who worked in the cultural sector. But many Dutch people refused to join or simply pretended they had stopped producing cultural works.

And yet underground publishing houses flourished. Some sold poems and books to raise money for Jewish children in hiding. Others used their proceeds to support Dutch artists who had to go underground because of their subversive opinions. Clandestine publishers circumvented rationing laws, producing miniature works so they would not run afoul of paper restrictions, and small print runs were common.

Overall, Dewulf estimates that there were over 1,000 clandestine items. “…one could say that clandestine literature represented the product that catered best to the main activity of the Dutch population: waiting,” writes Dewulf. He refers to Anne Frank’s documented excitement whenever a new piece of reading material entered her hiding place as an example of just how starved Dutch people were for entertainment and solace. But that solace came at a price for some. “At least 700 men and women of the underground press would lose their lives during the occupation,” writes Dewulf—an occupation that was both relieved and defied by the Netherlands’ brave underground artists.

How the Netherlands Used Literature to Defy the Nazis

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India – How political dissenters end up languishing in jails without bail

Deliberate delays and denial of bail has amounted to sentencing without trial.


Activists of the Kabir Kala Manch, perhaps one of the best known progressive cultural troupes of Maharashtra, heaved a sigh of relief on January 3 when three of their members finally walked out of jail after three-and-a-half years. A Supreme Court bench granted bail to Sagar Gorkhe, Ramesh Gaychor and Sachin Mali.

The apex court’s bail order pointed out that though the state had told the Supreme Court in July 2016 that the trial would be completed within six months, it had, till January 2017, only partially completed the examination (leave aside cross examination) of just one of the 147 witnesses it proposed to examine. Such a rate of progress in trial would have meant a lifetime of waiting for its completion. The bench ordered their release.

Method in the madness of trial delays

While it has become customary to blame the backlog of cases in courts for these seemingly crazy delays in trial, there is at the same time a method in the madness that is quite clearly at work, particularly when in comes to political dissenters.

The delays are often the fruit of a deliberate dalliance between police and prosecution to postpone service of summons, hold back witnesses, neglect bringing the muddemaal or physical evidence to court and other such means to ensure that the trial process is effectively paralysed.

This strategy is deployed because the prosecution is aware that most cases against political detainees are weak and often falsely fabricated by the investigating authority and likely to end in acquittal. These “political” cases are normally instituted under harsher laws like the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and the Public Security Acts of various states. Such laws allow arrests on vaguely defined charges with insubstantial evidence. They also prescribe bail norms which render it difficult for courts to grant bail.

Inordinate delays then become the prosecution’s means for imposing a “sentence” of long years, which entails rotting in jail as an undertrial without bothering to go through the hassle of obtaining a conviction. Thus, though the accused are finally found to be innocent, the judgment offers small comfort for someone who has already spent almost the maximum possible sentence as undertrial.

Inordinate delays then become the prosecution’s means for imposing a ‘sentence’ of long years rotting in jail as an undertrial without bothering to go through the hassle of obtaining a conviction.

Protection for the perpetrators

Such tactics, while being criminal, neither hold consequences for the investigator or the prosecutor; nor are there any redressal for the victim. A classical case in this regard was related to the Akshardham Temple terror attack of 2002. Six accused in the matter remained in custody for 12 years before being finally acquitted in 2014 by the Supreme Court. The judgment, quoted then in DailyO, explained how the case had been fabricated and the accused framed through concocted statements.

The accused then filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court asking for redressal and compensation for the years lost. Despite the unequivocal observations of the 2014 SC judgment indicating that the accused had been falsely implicated, the same court refused to either punish the perpetrators or compensate the victims. If, in a case which the SC itself has held to be fabricated, there is not scope for recompense, there is obviously nothing much the judicial system can offer by way of righting such wrongs committed by the police-prosecutor combine.

Laxity of the courts

In fact it often seems that the bench too is, unwittingly or otherwise, part of a system that ensures that political dissenters are “punished” without trial. In the case of the KKM members too, though the SC granted bail, almost half of their period spent in custody was during the pendency of their application before the same court.

In another similar case of a political prisoner from Maharashtra, Sudhir Dhawale, editor of the magazine Vidrohi, the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court rejected bail, but ordered a timebound trial within a period of six months — only to extend this period three times over, while each time rejecting Sudhir’s bail. He was finally declared not guilty — but only after serving a “sentence” of 40 months as an undertrial.

Reluctance to grant bail

The irony is that, even where the duplicity of the investigating agency is prima facie quite apparent, the courts have been reluctant to exercise their power to grant bail. A recent case is that of the team of lawyers and human rights activists from Telengana who, in December 2016, were on a fact-finding mission to Chhattisgarh to probe accusations of police atrocities in Bastar. Though they were arrested in Telangana they were taken across the border to Chhattisgarh so that they could be charged under the severe Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act. The basis shown for arrest was the purported seizure of demonetised notes of one lakh, which they were allegedly taking to “help” naxalites in Bastar.

Despite the illogicality of the argument of lawyers carrying demonetised notes from Telangana to naxalites in Bastar, despite the notes being obviously planted and despite there being no law or rule in force prohibiting the possession of one lakh of demonetised notes, the bail applications of the team members were denied first by the magistrate’s court of Sukma and then by the sessions court of Dantewada. The Dantewada court felt that it was premature to grant bail.

The option of approaching the Chhattisgarh High Court in Bilaspur is not only cumbersome but also, considering the delaying tactics of the prosecution, likely to be long drawn out. The Telangana lawyers, research scholars and journalists who are part of this team will now have to prepare themselves to eke out a few months, if not more, in Bastar’s jails — a “sentence” being imposed without any realistic case at all.

Death sentence by encounter

But perhaps they should consider themselves lucky. In their very own state of Telangana, the police have taken the lead in taking this practice of delivering prison sentences to their logical conclusion. On April 7th 2015, five Muslim prisoners, who were on the verge of completion of their trial where they expected acquittal, were killed in cold blood while being taken to court. The Telangana police probably decided that they deserved not acquittal but the death sentence. They executed accordingly.

A similar dubious “encounter” killing of eight undertrial accused of the Students Islamic Movement of India whose trial was reportedly approaching acquittal was executed by the Bhopal police on October 31 2016.

Despite widespread protest by human rights organisations, the political establishment has indicated that those who have carried out these killings enjoy its support. Pehaps an indicator of the forms of justice delivery in the days to come.

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