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#India Elections – 50 villages boycott polls, demanding forest rights, in Gadchiroli

Date:Mar 30, 2014

Separate Aheri district, basic facilities are other demands

Samna Vijja Uike, KoindvarshiSamna Vijja Uike of village Koindvarshi says people in his village have been waiting for years for pattas under FRA and no one knows what is the status of their applications“We have land, but no sense of secure ownership,” says Samna Vijja Uike of village Koindvarshi, located near the MaharashtraChhattisgarh border, 80 km from Etapalli in the heavily naxal-affected southern part of Gadchiroli district. “We have been waiting for years for pattas (titles) under the Forest Rights Act (FRA), but we have no idea what happened to our applications,” says Uike.

Koindvarshi is one of the 50-odd villages in Etapalli tehsil where people have decided to boycott the Lok Sabha election to protest against government neglect of their long-standing demands. The most important demand put forward by the villages, united under the Rashtriya Janahitvadi Yuva Samiti (RJYS), Etapalli, is the demand for rights under FRA. Village residents say that because of lack of land rights they are not able to avail benefits under various government schemes for agriculture.

FRA claims in limbo

RJYS founder, Suresh Barsagade, says that hardly any real work has been done in the four southern tehsils of Gadchiroli district, namely Etapalli, Aheri, Bhamragadh and Alapalli. Before the 2009 national Elections, some 40,000 individual claims were filed from the four tehsils under pressure from officials who were themselves under pressure to perform. “Out of those claims, less than one-fourth were cleared, while the rest were summarily rejected,” he says. Some 2,500 claims were granted in the Etapalli tehsil out of roughly 10,000 filed.

Around the same time, the district administration on its own, also issued a large number of community claims to villages under provisions of Section 3 (1) of FRA, most of them for public utility spaces or for nistaar needs like grazing and fuel-wood collection. “All these claims are also on paper,” says Barsagade. “People are aware of claims given for community purposes such as temples or burial grounds, but they don’t even know that nistaar claims exist.”

Since then, repeated representations by forest dwellers and citizens’ groups to re-examine the rejected individual claims have fallen on deaf ears. As of now, just 200 of a whopping nearly 30,000 claims have been processed and are due to be forwarded to the district committee, he informs. The department has also not taken any initiative to initiate the process of issuing community forest rights (CFR) claims, despite the fact that more than 800 claims have been issued in the northern tehsils of Gadchiroli district. Twenty CFR claims submitted by villages with help from RJYS way back in 2011 have not even been processed, he says.

“Since we have no land ownership documents, we can’t avail of agricultural loans or any government schemes to improve our income from farming,” says Uike.

Carve out Aheri district

Vijja Sukru UikeVijja Sukru Uike of Naitalla village says one visit to Gadchiroli takes three days and it takes at least three to four trips just to get a caste certificateThe second major demand put forward by villagers besides rights under FRA is that the four southern tehsils of the Gadchiroli district be given the status of a separate Aheri district. Distances from the district town of Gadchiroli are too great for convenience, they argue.

“From my village, I have to either walk or cycle 15 km to get to the nearest bus station, another 80 km by bus to Etapalli, and then again another 150 km by bus to Gadchiroli,” says Vijja Sukru Uike of village Naitalla, “One visit to Gadchiroli is a three-day affair, and at least three to four trips are needed to get a caste certificate.”

Since most of the residents of these four tehsils belong to the educationally backward and highly vulnerable Madia tribe who rarely travel out of their own area, the process becomes too difficult to handle. “In my village,” says Rainu Juru Noroti of Besewada, 50 km from Etapalli, “there are just three or four people who have visited Aheri in their lives.”

Rainu Juru Noroti, BesewadaRainu Juru Noroti of Besewada village says there are just three to four people he knows who have travelled even as far as Aheri. Most residents of the four tehsils belong to the highly vulnerable Madia tribe who rarely travel out of their own areaBarsagade says that due to the remoteness, government orders take at least a month to travel from Gadchiroli to the concerned village. “The demand for a separate Aheri district has been a long-standing demand of the Madia population, but administration has ignored it altogether till date.”

Fight for water, electricity, education, health

Most of the 50 villages that have passed a boycott resolution are lacking in the most basic facilities. Electricity is non-existent, in summer water is a major source of tension, and because of lack of irrigation facilities, people depend on a single paddy crop for sustenance, reveal villagers.

“My village has no roads and the terrain is very hard,” says Ulge Muka Dorpeti of village Tadguda. “If there is a patient, we have to carry him in a stretcher for 10 km to the nearest primary health centre. Serious patients hardly ever make it to Gadchiroli alive.”

Ulge Muka Dorpeti, TadgudaUlge Muka Dorpeti of Tadguda village says serious patients hardly ever make it to Gadchiroli hospital in timeEducation remains a distant dream because of distances and inaccessibility. District officials never bother to monitor if the schools are functioning. “In my village the school master runs the school according to his own whim,” says Noroti. “Only a few people like me can speak a little Hindi or Marathi, and there is no one who can read a Marathi communication from government. We have to take letters 10 km to be deciphered.”

Boycott to be lifted only on written assurance

The boycott decision at last stirred the district administration, and a few days ago, district collector Ranjeet Kumar visited Etapalli tehsil to listen to the grievances of people. “The collector assured us that demands that can be handled at the district level will be addressed and the rest will be forwarded to government for action,” says Barsagade. Village residents, however, have refused to retract their boycott decision unless a written assurance is given. “We want a written document from the collector, saying the process of issuing land pattas will be initiated immediately after elections,” says Dorpeti.

Sources at the district collectorate say that a communication to this effect will be dispatched shortly.

Read mor ehere — http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/fifty-villages-gadchiroli-boycott-polls-demanding-forest-rights

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Maharashtra – ‘truth’ behind an encounter

KORCHI (GADCHIROLI), March 31, 2014

PAVAN DAHAT

On the night of February 17, the Maharashtra police claimed to have killed seven Naxals “in a retaliatory fire” after they fired at the team patrolling Betkathi in the Korchi division of Gadchiroli district.

But Pappu alias Vijay Prakash Gupta, who runs a dhaba (a roadside eatery) at Korchi, said it was he who took the seven Naxals to the police after which they were shot from a close range.

The Gadchiroli police deny Mr. Gupta’s claims.

Mr. Gupta told The Hindu: “I have been supplying basic stuff to Naxals to get their confidence. At times, the police would help me provide the material to Naxals. In the past two years, I managed to win the trust of Naxals, and they started frequenting my dhaba.”

Narrating the sequence of events, Mr. Gupta said: “On the night of February 17, seven Naxals, including two women, came to my dhaba, and their leader Lalasu asked me to drop them in Kotgul village.”

Mr. Gupta, who said he had been working as a police informer for more than 10 years, used his black Tata Sumo Gold to ferry the Naxals to Kotgul, but claimed to have informed Deputy Inspector-General (Gadchiroli Range) Ravindra Kadam of it.

“Kadam told me that he would send a team and asked me to come towards Betkathi village. Around half-a-km before Betkathi, seven policemen, led by inspector Tiwari of the Chichgad station, were standing near their vehicle. I stopped my vehicle right in front of them, and they opened fire on the Naxals,” Mr. Gupta said. He managed to hide near the steering wheel of his vehicle.

According to Mr. Gupta, he had asked five Naxals to keep their weapons under the back seat, and only Lalasu, sitting on the front seat, had his AK-47 with him. “Six Naxals were killed, but Lalasu was alive and put his gun to my head. I managed to push him out, and the police shot him dead.”

After the killings, the police repaired his vehicle and offered him Rs.10 lakh, he said.

The Gadchiroli police never disclosed that the Naxals were trapped in a vehicle and killed. But, the news spread in Korchi that it was Mr. Gupta who helped the police trap the militants. Since then, Mr. Gupta has been running for his life.

“Now the Naxals know that I was a police informer, and they are out to eliminate me. The police have refused to give me security,” said Mr. Gupta, who owns three restaurants and five vehicles.

Mr. Gupta said he was a patriot and never worked for money. “Naxals are anti-nationals, and I supported the police so as to eliminate them. But the police use people like me and abandon us when their purpose is served.” He decided to approach the media so that the police would protect their informers.

Police deny charges

“The encounter was based on intelligence inputs, and no one exposes his informers. I have no idea what Mr. Gupta is telling the people. But we are ready to provide him security if he needs it,” Mr. Kadam said.

Read  more here — http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/an-informer-reveals-truth-behind-an-encounter/article5852032.ece

 

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#India – IO probing Hem Mishra and Prashant Rahi case gets over 20,000 letters from across the world

Vivek Deshpande : Nagpur, Thu Jan 02 2014,

The investigating officer (IO) in cases pertaining to Hem Mishra and Prashant Rahi, arrested by the Gadchiroli police in August-September last year, has received over 20,000 letters from across the world declaring the alleged Naxal couriers “innocent activists” and pleading for their release.

The continuing flood of 40-50 letters a day has given Suhas Bawche an opportunity to collect stamps of various countries. “Initially, it bothered me since I used to get 300-500 letters every day. Now, I am trying to get over it by comforting myself with the thought that it is actually an opportunity to collect stamps of so many different countries,” the IO said.

A majority of the mail has come in from Europe and the US, with the Netherlands sending 60 per cent. Some letters are from China, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The flow has reduced since, and now 40-50 letters come daily. “The contents are the same. The writers say the two (Mishra and Rahi) are innocent and honest activists. They say Rahi was arrested in 2007 and was tortured in jail. The writers have urged me not to harm him in custody,” Bawche said.

The source draft of the letter posted on online  urges people to write to Bawche. “Detained journalist Prashant Rahi at risk of torture in India”, says a headline on the site with an ‘Amnesty International’ byline under it, and calls on people to urgently write to the IO.

Bawche has replied to only two of the letters — one from Amnesty and the other from NHRC. “We have explained we have ample evidence against the two and they are being treated fairly in custody,” he said, adding, “Rahi has said in a newspaper interview that he has been treated well.” Asked why there was a deluge from Netherlands, Bawche said, “We have no clue.”

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PRESS RELEASE- Arrest of Hem Mishra and Prashant Rahi – Silencing voices of dissent

COORDINATION OF DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS ORGANISATION – (CDRO)
Press Statement – 4th September 2013
Arrest of Hem Mishra and Prashant Rahi:
Silencing voices questioning violation of fundamental rights

The CDRO strongly condemns the arrest of Prashant Rahi and Hem Mishra, accusing them of Naxal links. Though the exact date of Hem Mishra’s arrest is yet to be ascertained, he was most probably picked up by the police around around 15th August. Prashant Rahi was on the other hand was arrested on the 2nd September. The allegation against both of them is that they were carrying some documents/ literature. Both have been charged under the notorious Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act [UAPA]. Both are serving a long period of police remand without being provided a lawyer.

Hem Mishra had been active with a student organization in Uttarakhand before coming to Delhi, when he obtained admission at the Jawaharlal Nehru University. In the year 2007/08, a number of activists involved in organizing youth and the rural poor in Uttarakhand were arrested on the allegation of Maoist links. So potent was the terror unleashed, that few would dare to question the allegations or meet the arrested persons for fear of being implicated. Hem Mishra, handicapped in one hand, was the person who visited all the arrested in jail and helped them get legal support. One of the arrested at that time was Prashant Rahi.
Prashant Rahi (52 years) worked as a journalist in Uttarakhand. He was also passionately involved with a host of protest movements ranging from issues of forest-dwellers, and of rural labour, to the displacement by the Tehri dam. Arrested in December 2007, alleged to be a most-senior Maoist leader, Prashant was kept in solitary confinement through most his 3 year 8 month stay in the jail. Once released on bail, Prashant took upon himself to visit those imprisoned as Naxalites all over the country and to help them obtain access to a lawyer. To this end, he was regularly travelling to across the country collecting details of cases and reaching the same to lawyers.

That there is no real allegation of any crime against both Hem Mishra and Prashant Rahi, it is evident from the fact that both have been charged solely on the basis of the UAPA. For, it is this law that makes normal social and political activity into a crime solely on the whims and fancies of the police. Banning of political organisations and converting any association with such organizations and their opinions into a crime is what opens the gates to the law becoming an instrument of injustice.

In addition, the illegal, yet reasonably settled practice of the police of not registering a panchnama at the time of the detention, makes it difficult to ascertain the exact date, time and place of arrest. Such unlawful detention leaves much scope for abuse. It is ironical, in cases where UAPA is applied, courts have been less critical of the blatant violations of procedure, in the name of larger security concerns.

Thus while the alleged “crime” as well as the circumstances of the arrest remain suspect, a vilification campaign has been mounted by the police that masquerades as information in the newspapers. No doubt, that this has become the preferred method to silence those working for basic civil liberties and implementation of fundamental rights.

Another favourite practice of the police has been to foist new cases against accused, especially under the UAPA and its previous incarnations, when those accused are either released on bail or else when acquittal in the existing cases is at hand. This has been done ad nauseum to frustrate the bail or acquittal orders of the court and has not yet found serious criticism from the judiciary. In the case against Prashant Rahi too, no incriminating evidence has been found against him in the case in Uttarakhand and he would be acquitted soon.
We therefore demand the immediate dropping of all charges under the UAPA and the immediate release of those arrested.

KRANTHI CHETANYA (APCLC, ANDHRA PRADESH), PARAMJEET SINGH (PUDR, DELHI), PARMINDAR SINGH (AFDR, PUNJAB), PHULENDRO KONSAM (COHR, MANIPUR) AND TAPAS CHAKRABORTY (APDR, WEST BENGAL)(COORDINATORS OF CDRO).

  • #999; padding: 2px; display: block; border-radius: 2px; text-decoration: none;" href="http://www.kractivist.org/india-prashant-rahi-who-was-trying-to-help-cases-of-political-prisoners-arrested-wtfnews/" target="_blank"> #India – Prashant Rahi, who was trying to help cases of political prisoners arrested #WTFnews
  • #999; padding: 2px; display: block; border-radius: 2px; text-decoration: none;" href="http://www.kractivist.org/india-hem-mishra-jnu-student-sent-to-10-days-police-custody-in-gadchiroli-wtfnews/" target="_blank"> #India – Hem Mishra- JNU student and 2 others sent to 10 days police custody in Gadchiroli #WTFnews
  • #999; padding: 2px; display: block; border-radius: 2px; text-decoration: none;" href="http://www.kractivist.org/press-release-condemn-arrest-of-hem-mishra-and-witchunt-by-maharashtra-police-dsu/" target="_blank">Press Release- Condemn arrest of Hem Mishra and witchunt by Maharashtra Police – DSU
  • #999; padding: 2px; display: block; border-radius: 2px; text-decoration: none;" href="http://www.kractivist.org/crpp-statement-on-arrest-of-jnu-student-and-cultural-activist-hem-mishra/" target="_blank">CRPP Statement on arrest of JNU student and Cultural Activist Hem Mishra
  • #999; padding: 2px; display: block; border-radius: 2px; text-decoration: none;" href="http://www.kractivist.org/india-condemn-arrest-of-hem-mishra-a-jnu-student-and-a-cultural-activist-by-maharashtra-police/" target="_blank"> #India- Condemn arrest of Hem Mishra, a JNU student and a cultural activist by Maharashtra Police

 

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#India – Prashant Rahi, who was trying to help cases of political prisoners arrested #WTFnews

Prashant Rahi, who was single-handedly trying to help with the cases of political prisoners all over India, and visiting them in jail was arrested day before yesterday. He was picked up by Maharashtra ATS when he was in Raipur court to arrange for legal matters of some prisoners there. The Maharashtra police took him to Gadchiroli secretly, and charged him with the same case as Hem Mishra. They have also cooked up a story of arresting him from Gondia in Maharashtra.

After JNU ex-student, 2 more held for Naxal link

Soumittra S Bose, TNN | Sep 3, 2013,

After JNU ex-student, 2 more held for Naxal link
Rahi, alias Prashant Sanglikar, who had his schooling in Mumbai, was picked up from the Deori bus-stand in Gondia district on Sunday.
NAGPUR: Gadchiroli police have arrested 52-year-old Prashant Rahi, an Uttarakhand-based journalist-turned-activist and front organization member, and Vijay Teerki, of Chhattisgarh, for their alleged links with Naxalites. Rahi, alias Prashant Sanglikar, who had his schooling in Mumbai, was picked up from the Deori bus-stand in Gondia district on Sunday, while he and Teerki were “heading to Naxal-stronghold Abujmadh to meet a central committee (CC) member”, according to the cops.

Sources in Gadchiroli police said they learnt about Rahi’s mission from Hem Mishra who was arrested on August 22 from near Morewada village in Aheri, south Gadchiroli. Mishra, a former Jawaharlal Nehru University student and who is also from Uttarakhand, was arrested along with Pandu Narote and Mahesh Teerki. According to the police, the trio was carrying messages to senior Naxal cadre Narmada-akka, a divisional committee member, in Abujmadh. The Naxal HQ, which is on the Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh border, is about 80kms from Aheri as well as Deori.

Police said that Rahi too was carrying documents to a senior central committee member based in Abujmadh. His arrest may not be a big catch but it shows the increased inroads that Naxalites have made into urban areas. Earlier, Naxal cadre Kobad Gandhy was caught in New Delhi, Vernon Gonsalves and Shridhar Srinivasan in Govandi in Mumbai, and Sudhir Dhawale who used to reside in his wife’s nursing quarters in Byculla in Mumbai.

Rahi, who was one of the main campaigners during the Tehri dam protest in the ’80s and ’90s, attended school and college in Mumbai and then moved on to complete his engineering degree from Benaras Hindu University. His daughter Sikha assisted Aamir Khan in ‘Taare Zameen Par‘.

Sources in the Gadchiroli police department said that there was intelligence input about a senior-level meeting of the Naxalites to be held in Abujmadh for which several top rebel leaders were to assemble. The police and intelligence wing is now scanning through the Naxal literatures and other related documents found with Rahi and Teerki.

The two were produced before a Gadchiroli court which remanded them to police custody for 13 days after being slapped with charges under relevant sections of Unlawful Activities (prevention) Act. The court has also extended the remand of Mishra and two others for another 13 days. Mishra was also allegedly carrying a microchip to be delivered to Narmada. The cops have now ‘cloned’ the microchip to uncover the contents.

Police feel that information regarding the Naxalites’ plans and networks in the metros as a part of their objective to spread the rebel movement in urban centres could be retrieved from the documents and records seized from Rahi and Mishra. The Naxalites’ aim to combine jungle welfare with urban movement is now well documented. A senior officer said that the seized materials would help corroborate and bring forth many new facets regarding Naxalites’ plans.

Rahi, who originally hails from Nashik, had earlier served a three-year term in Uttarakhand after being arrested by the police in Dehradun in 2007. Later, his wife Chandrakala Tiwari too had been picked up. According to the police, the couple was actively working with the Uttarakhand Zonal Committee of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist). Rahi and Tiwari were released about 18 months ago.

DIG (Naxal Range) Ravindra Kadam said that Rahi has so far remained tight-lipped about his destination. “Rahi was accompanied by Vijay who claims to be a sarpanch from Beloda village of Kanker in Chhattisgarh but we strongly believe they have close links with the Naxalites,” said Kadam.

He added that the duo was set to enter Abujmadh on foot from Aldendi village after reaching there from Beloda on bike. It’s learnt that the cops had been trailing Rahi from Uttarakhand. He was pinned down through his mobile phone location in Delhi and Raipur before being finally trapped in Deori. “After nabbing Mishra, we knew that there was another person who would be heading towards Abujmadh accompanied by local guides. We also knew that he would be coming with important documents,” said Kadam.

Sources in the police department also claimed that Rahi worked with the front organizations like Forum Against War on People, Revolutionary Democratic Front (India) and Committee for Release of Political Prisoners.

Who is Prashant Rahi?

Grew up in Mumbai, studied at St Stanislaus School in Bandra, followed by Ruia College, Matunga.

Went on to study engineering at Banaras Hindu University in 1977.

At BHU, briefly met human rights activist Dr Binayak Sen and was inspired by his work in impoverished villages.

Was exposed to various youth movements and was involved in fighting for the rights of villagers in Uttar Pradesh. Was an integral part of the struggle against the Tehri dam.

Worked as a journalist with Himachal Times and the Statesman.

Arrested in December 2007, seven months after Sen was arrested on charges of sedition.

Spent three years and eight months in jails in Uttarakhand, including Haldwani, Udham Singh Nagar, Dehradun, Pauri Garhwal and Haridwar. Most of his prison years were spent in solitary confineme

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PRESS RELEASE- Fact Finding on six cases of encounters in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra #mustread

Coordination of Democratic Rights Organisations– PRESS RELEASE-

Six cases of encounters in Gadchiroli district have been reported in the press this year. A total of 26 persons have lost their lives in these encounters. People from the villages where the encounters took place have questioned the veracity of the police claims.The Coordination of Democratic Rights Organisations (CDRO), an all‐India body of civil liberties and democratic rights organisations in different states, alongwith the Indian Association of People’s Lawyers conducted a fact‐finding to ascertain the truth

A 23‐member team of seven organizations from Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Punjab, Maharashtra and Delhi toured Gadchiroli district from 23 to 26 August 2013. The team visited the villages where five encounters took place: Sindesur in Dhanora Tehsil, Bhagwanpur in Kurkheda tehsil, Mendhri in Etapalli tehsil and, Govindgaon and Bhatpar in Aheri tehsil. The team met the residents of these five villages, people’s representatives, media persons, representatives of political parties and police officials.

Following are the immediate findings of the team:

1. In all the five incidents, police was the first to open fire. In the two incidents at Bhagwanpur, and Govindgaon there was not even any retaliatory fire from those who were killed.

2. In all the five incidents, the police did not make any attempt to apprehend the persons. No announcement was made by the police to the alleged Maoists to drop their weapons and/or to surrender even though in the incidents at Bhagwanpur, Mendhri, Govindgaon and Bhatpar, the persons later killed had been wholly surrounded by the police force. 3. In the incidents, at Mendhri and Bhagwanpur, the killings were in cold blood. In Mendhri village, the six women Maoists had laid down their weapons and raised their arms to surrender before being shot. In Bhagwanpur the person killed was in the custody of the police at the time of the killing.

4. In the case of Bhagwanpur, Mendhri and Bhatpar, village residents were badly beaten up by the police. At Bhagwanpur, 10 persons were beaten through most of the night on the road. At Mendhri, one person was even shot at by the police when he tried to escape the beating and ill‐treatment. At Bhatpar, three people were detained and beaten at the police station of two days.

5. In all cases of encounter killings, it is a mandatory requirement that the crime be investigated by a police officer independent of the police station and the police force directly involved in the killing. To the best of our knowledge, this has not been followed.

6. The Superintendent of Police stated to us that a check on to ensure proper registration and investigation is provided for through an internal enquiry conducted by a Dy.S.P. level officer into each case of encounter killing. However, he confirmed that the reports of such enquiries into the incidents noted here are still awaited. Being internal enquiries, these provide neither transparency nor impartiality.

7. Magisterial enquiry into the encounters has been ordered into the incident at Mendhri. We did not find evidence of an attempt by a magistrate to record the statement of village residents. In any case, enquiries by executive magistrates do not provide the impartiality necessary in such enquiries.

8. At least two of the killings at Sindesur constitute what may be called “collateral damage”. The attitude of the police and the administration in this regard has at best been callous. The two young boys, both residents from the village, were killed in crossfire. No compensation has been received by the families and no state functionary has shared in their grief. In stark contrast, the government has promptly displayed large hoardings across the district claiming the doling out of Rs. 10 lakh to each family as proof of its “humanitarian concern”.

9. In Bhatpal village, one of the women killed was a resident of the village. Despite the parents pleading and the entire village gathering at the police station, the police refused to hand over the dead body for the last rites. This is condemnable. In other cases too, dead bodies remain unidentified for long, photographs are not published and parents are thereby denied the possibility of intervening in the post mortem process and in conducting the last rites. In the light of the above, the CDRO is of the opinion that the loss of life in the five encounters could have been easily prevented. Adhering to the established procedure incorporated in the Cr.P.C. that governs the actions of police and security forces would have been sufficient for the purpose. The opening of fire in the circumstances apparent from the village accounts constitutes neither “self defence” nor use of necessary force to apprehend accused”. In fact each of the above incidents is an abysmal failure in apprehending the accused and constitutes excessive and unauthorized use of force. The successive recurrence of the same pattern suggests that there is a policy at work: of not taking prisoners and killing those suspected of being Maoists. The same is reflected in at least one banner displayed by the administration at many places. Surrounded by the pictures of women Maoists shot at Mendhri, it says: samannya jantewar annyay karal, tar polisanchya bandukinech maral (If you commit injustice against common people , then you will only be killed by the gun of police).

A glimpse of the dangers of such a policy can be noticed in the trigger‐happy attitude it promotes, as displayed in the Bhagwanpur incident. Far from taking remedial measures, the SP Gadchiroli reiterated the police version, no matter how unbelievable, that a common village resident, not related to Maoists, fired at the police when asked to stop! Pursuing such a policy spells dangerous portents for the future. In four of the cases, the police version is at serious variance with our findings and the accounts of the village residents. It is shocking that the police reporting to the press and the FIR that forms the basis for investigation are based solely on the account provided by the police party that conducted the killings. This is contrary to all notions of civilized jurisprudence. The killer, the informant, the investigation and the judge need to be independent of each other. And this needs to be ensured in law and its practice.

In the light of the above, we demand:

1. That the practice of shooting to kill, of not taking prisoners and of causing maximum damage must be given up.

2. That an FIR for culpable homicide be registered against the police party responsible for the encounters in all the cases. The investigation of this should be entrusted to a police officer from a different district.

3. That a judicial enquiry be conducted into the incidents of Bhatpal, Mendhri and Bhagwanpur where persons have been done to death in cold blood.

4. That magisterial enquiries into each incident of encounter must be conducted by a judicial magistrate and statements from the eyewitnesses be taken at their home in an atmosphere free from duress and steps be taken to prevent future police harassment to such witnesses.

5. The two persons arrested at Bhagwanpur be released from custody without delay. 6. That compensation be paid immediately to the families of Devrao and Budhnath of Bhagwanpur village.

Issued by: Association for Democratic Rights, Punjab Association for the Protection of Democratic Rights, West Bengal Civil Liberties Committee, Andhra Pradesh Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights, Mumbai Indian Association of People’s Lawyers Organisation for the Protection of Democratic Rights, Andhra Pradesh People’s Union for Democratic Rights, Delhi

Village Accounts of our Findings – Short Version

1. Govindgaon, Aheri tehsil: On 19 January, an 11‐member group of Maoists held a meeting with the villagers from 7 p.m. During the meeting, the Maoists campaigned for stopping alcohol production and consumption in the village, stopping violence against women in the family, amicably sorting out fights and tensions between village residents, and stopping dangerous practices of hunting using live electrical wires. They also exhorted people to oppose the government’s small‐savings scheme, bachat ghat. After dinner at the village, the group had barely moved out of the village settlement that they found themselves surrounded by security force personnel who opened fire on them. Six persons were killed on the spot while the rest of the Maoists managed to escape. There was no retaliatory fire from the Maoists. Two of the deceased were women. Some people from the village were brought to identify the dead.

2. Bhagwanpur, Kurkheda tehsil: Around 10 p.m. on 16 July 2013, eleven people from the village went for hunting towards the forest. Eight of them started on 3 scooters followed a little later by three more on one scooter. The latter group carried with them one bharmar (country made gun), an axe, a knife and a head mounted torch. Close to the Mahatma Phule school at Karodi village on the main road, they spotted a C60 commando team on the road and decided to move away quickly. The police team in three vehicles followed and stopped them. The three tried to explain that eight of their companions were further down the road. While being subjected to beating, Anandrao was shot at by the police. Anandrao collapsed and died on the spot with two bullet wounds just below the ribs. Witnesses claim that the policeman who shot at Anandrao was previously known to him. Police personnel waited till the eight other persons returned who were subjected to beating which continued till 4 a.m. when two vehicles arrived to take the 10 villagers and the dead body to the Armori police station. There the two persons accompanying Anandrao, Devrao Rajarao Usendi and Budhnath Pandurang Tulavi were charged under sections 307 and 353 IPC. They are both presently lodged in Chandrapur Central jail. The rest of those detained were let off.

3. Sindesur, Dhanora tehsil: On the morning of 12 April, a group of seven persons from Sindesur village were collecting mahua flowers from the forest close to their field at the base of a hill. Some time later a group of four Maoists came to them and asked the two boys each around 20 years of age to fetch water for them from the village. When these boys were returning, the police suddenly appeared and opened fire. An exchange of fire ensued in which the two boys were trapped. Both of them, Mukesh Duru Hidco and Sukhdev Varlu Gawde were killed. At the end of the firing, one member of the police force and the four Maoists were dead. Compensation was announced for the death of the two village boys but it is yet to see the light of day.

4. Mendhri, Etapalli tehsil: On the early morning of 7 July, a group of Maoists comprising six women and two men were close to a stream just outside the village settlement. While the two male members had gone to the village to purchase tea and sugar, two of the women had gone to the stream for a bath and the rest were talking and sharing tea with a young village girl. Sighting a policeman hiding close by, the girl ran towards her house and some moments later firing started. The women Maoists ran with their guns leaving their bags on the spot and an exchange of fire ensued. Running out of ammunition, the women tried to take refuge in the village but were chased by policemen into an open field. More policemen appeared from the other side and finding themselves trapped, the five women Maoists threw away their guns and raised their hands in surrender. One of them threw her gun and climbed on to a large Mahua tree in the same field. The police then approached the women, killing the surrendered from close range and women and shooting down the woman attempting to hide in the tree. Over 10 village residents were dragged to the spot and beaten when they were unable to identify the dead. One of the residents was also shot at when he tried run away from the dead bodies.

5. Bhatpar, Aheri tehsil: On the evening of 3 April, a group of four armed Maoists held a meeting with the residents of the village. Later that night they left the village and stayed by the river, half a kilometer away. Two women from the village also accompanied them. Early next morning people heard the sound of firing and one of the women ran back to the village. Dead bodies of the remaining five were brought by the police from across the river. Villagers demanded that the dead body of Sunita d/o Kumma Tado be handed over to the family. Police warned people to stay away while they caught hold of three men from the fields, beat them up and took them along to the Dhodraj police station. The next day most of the village residents went to the PS to demand return of the dead body and release of the four villagers. They returned with the four. The dead body was never handed over to the family –

See more at: http://sanhati.com/articles/7907/#sthash.kzwdCekO.dpuf

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Press Release – JNU teachers, various student , cultural organizations and the protest, Hem Mishra’s arrest

Protest outside Maharashtra Sadan, New Delhi on August 26th, 2013

PRESS STATEMENT

In a press conference held earlier today (26th August) at the students union office in JNU, the teachers, students and an large number of student as well as cultural organizations of JNU along with the JNUSU, strongly condemned the arrest and profiling of Hem Mishra, who till very recently was a student in the Center for Chinese and South East Asian studies in SLL&CS, JNU. Hem is a known student and cultural activist who was arbitrarily arrested by the Maharashtra police, who is now showcasing him as a ‘prominent Naxal  Courier’ to the media. He is a known mass activist. He is physically challenged and he has undergone two major operations in his left hand in the recent past.

JNUSU General Secretary Shakeel Anjum said ‘On ebehalf of JNUSU, we condemn the fictitious and surreptitious arrest of Hem. He was here last week, before he left for treatment. This is clearly an act of state terror’.

Prof. K.J. Mukherji from School of Bio Technologysaid, “It is not just the case that he is our student, we are concerned how the police picks up people. The state has a way of labelling people and branding someone as a Naxalite, and then it seems as if his civil rights do not exist after that. We have high profile cases – like that of Binayak Sen. Even Soni Sori’s case is an example. Anyone cannot be arrested for his beliefs, as Surpreme Court has said. The police use the JNU label to say brand people in a certain way, since people here speak about progressive and revolutionary transformation of the society. We as teacher stand in solidarity with our student” Prof. D.K. Lobiyal also reiterated that this is a way of defaming JNU. He considered Hem’s arrest as a clear instance of state terrorism and expressed his solidarity for his release.Prof. Alone recounted how similarly the Maharashtra state has repeatedly arrested dalit activists protesting against the Khairlanji massacre whose cases are still pending. Mausumi Basu expressed deep concern about the safety of the persons arrested. “Just saying that he is in police custody is not enough. We know what all happens in the police custody. It is very very important that we should know when he was picked up.”

Hem’s brother Deepak was also present and stated that he got to know of his arrest yesterday from media reports. His family members were concerned as they had been trying to call him for the last three days. “He had come here to study, These are baseless charges. I had met his friends who also told me that they also could not get through him for the past 3 days.”

Student organization representatives ranging from AISA, SFI, AISF, Students Islamic Organization, Naga Study Forum, United Dalit Students Forum, Untouchable India, Krantikari Nawjawan Sabha – all unequivocally condemned the arrest of Hem. Several cultural organizations like RCF, Bahroop and IPTA, JSM also condemned the incarceration of Hem. They said, “It shows how the fascist forces are scared of people who speak of justice. Hem Mishra is one of us, he does what we also do – to make people aware through the medium of culture. If we raise our voice, the government is afraid of it. It is a shameful act. This is what has happened to Kabir Kala Manch activists, Jeetan Marandi and others too”. Noted poet Ranjit Verma was also present in the press conference and condemned the arrest.

The Students then were about to go to Maharashtra Sadan to protest. But shamefully the Delhi Police confiscated the bus and tried to stop people from going. But despite that students reached the venue and did a vibrant protest. In the demo too, everyone condemned this illegal and unjust arrest of Hem. A memorandum was submitted to the Resident’s Commissioner.

We are yet to know for sure from where and when was Hem picked up. We suspect that he might have been tortured or intimidated by various other coercive means by the police. We demand that Hem must be allowed to meet his lawyer as soon as possible. We appeal to democratic and progressive sections of the country and the media to raise their voice against this continued witch hunt of mass activists and stand by Hem. We demand his unconditional release.

  • #999; padding: 2px; display: block; border-radius: 2px; text-decoration: none;" href="http://www.kractivist.org/india-condemn-arrest-of-hem-mishra-a-jnu-student-and-a-cultural-activist-by-maharashtra-police/" target="_blank"> #India- Condemn arrest of Hem Mishra, a JNU student and a cultural activist by Maharashtra Police
  • #999; padding: 2px; display: block; border-radius: 2px; text-decoration: none;" href="http://www.kractivist.org/india-hem-mishra-jnu-student-sent-to-10-days-police-custody-in-gadchiroli-wtfnews/" target="_blank"> #India – Hem Mishra- JNU student and 2 others sent to 10 days police custody in Gadchiroli #WTFnews
  • #999; padding: 2px; display: block; border-radius: 2px; text-decoration: none;" href="http://www.kractivist.org/press-release-condemn-arrest-of-hem-mishra-and-witchunt-by-maharashtra-police-dsu/" target="_blank">Press Release- Condemn arrest of Hem Mishra and witchunt by Maharashtra Police – DSU
  • #999; padding: 2px; display: block; border-radius: 2px; text-decoration: none;" href="http://www.kractivist.org/crpp-statement-on-arrest-of-jnu-student-and-cultural-activist-hem-mishra/" target="_blank">CRPP Statement on arrest of JNU student and Cultural Activist Hem Mishra
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#India – Activist, PMRD fellow, being victimised in Gadchiroli mining row #TISS #WTFnews

Gadchiroli, June 25, 2013

Pavan Dahat, The Hindu 

The mining row, which saw a senior executive of a company and two others being killed by the Naxals last week, has taken a new twist with the police now targeting an activist and a Prime Minister Rural Development Fellow (PMRDF) for alleged links with the Naxals.

A team of the Gadchiroli police’s special anti-Naxal unit — C-60 — claimed to have raided a village, Kovunwarsi, in Etapalli tehsil of the district on June 20 and arrested Sunil Yeshu Hichami (27) and Paika Majhi Pungati (45) over the allegation of collecting funds for the Naxals.

Police also claimed that Mahesh Raut, a PMRDF, and Harshali Potdar, an activist from Mumbai, were present in the village when they arrested the Naxals.

A leading English newspaper on Sunday reported that Ms. Potdar and Mr. Raut had been booked under Sections 13, 39 and 40 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

But Aheri Additional Superintendent of Police Rahul Shreerame said that both of them were just questioned for some time and let off. Mr. Shreerame denied having registered any offence against Ms. Potdar and Mr. Raut.

Contrastingly, Superintendent of Police (SP) Suvez Haque said the police had, in fact, booked them under various offences “because they were found in the same village from where other two Naxals were arrested.”

However, Gadchiroli police PRO Dharmendra Joshi told The Hindu that both Ms. Potdar and Mr. Raut had been let off after some “preliminary questioning.”

A top district official of Gadchiroli told The Hindu on the condition of anonymity that the police had not registered any offence as reported by the English newspaper and as claimed by the SP.

This district official also questioned as to why both Ms. Potdar and Mr. Raut had not been taken into custody if the police booked them for such serious offences.

But Ms. Potdar and Mr. Raut (both alumni of Tata Institute of Social Sciences) and the villagers of Kowanwarsi had an entire different chain of events to narrate.

“As a PMRD Fellow, I often visit these interior areas. On June 20 also, I went to visit these villages one by one. Harshali, who is studying the environmental threat caused by the proposed mining projects in this area, also accompanied me to these villages. At around 9.00 a.m., we reached Kovunwarsi and decided to take a nap at the house of the village Patil. At 10.00 a.m., a team of C-60 came to the village and arrested some people. They asked for our identity cards and told us to proceed with our work,” Mr. Raut told The Hindu .

“When we were returning to Allapalli in the evening, the police stopped us and took us to the Pranhita Police Headquarters where they questioned us for more than 30 hours,” he added.

Police alleged that Ms. Potdar and Mr. Rauthad gone to Kovunwarsi village to meet senior Naxal leader Narmada Akka.

But Ms. Potdar, Mr. Raut and the villagers have denied these claims.

“They came to inspect village infrastructure. They were sleeping in my house when the police arrested some Naxals from another house,” said Joga Buklu Hedau, the village Patil.

Even the District Collector of Gadchiroli, Abhishekh Krishna, said that Mr. Raut often visited interior areas in the Aheri division for his work.

“His work has been the best among all other PMRD fellows who work under me,” said Mr. Krishna.

According to Amol Marakwar, a Zila Parishad member of Gadchiroli, Ms. Potdar and Mr. Raut were being targeted for their “visible opposition” to the proposed mining projects in Surajagad Gatta range.

“Harshali had very strongly raised objections to these projects in a public hearing in Allapalli last month. Now she has been harassed for publicly opposing it” said Mr. Marakwar.

Mr. Haque did question Ms. Potdar and Mr. Raut’s open opposition to the proposed mining projects in this area.

“How can they oppose the government’s projects despite being a part of the government?” asked the SP.

Ms. Potdar confirmed that the majority of questions addressed to her were related to mining.

“They even asked me why we had two CDs of Kabira Kala Manch and why I saved some of the contacts in my mobile phone as ‘Comrades’. They even had problem with some people greeting me with Lal Salam and Jai Bhim . They searched our house and our laptop is with them now,” said Ms. Potdar.

Presently, the police at Aheri headquarters calls the duo for questioning on a regular basis. Some times Ms. Potdar is asked to come to the police station even after 6.00 p.m.

The duo has not been told if they have been booked or not.

“They asked us to sign on a blank paper, but we refused” said Mr. Raut.

Mr. Marakwar called the police exercise “an attempt to destroy roadblocks against the proposed mining projects in the area” and a “blatant violation of Human Rights.”

 

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#India – “Tribal autonomy answer to Naxalism’’ #Maoists

May 29, 2013 12:30:50 AM | By Pramod Chunchuwar

Mumbai : Killing Naxals is not the solution, says the Congress MLA from Gadchiroli, Dr Namdev Usendi, a medical practitioner.

On Monday, home minister R R Patil and Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray had demanded stringent laws and harsh action to crush the Maoists.

Strongly opposing the suggestion to kill Naxals by using armed forces, Dr Usendi said, “This will not end Naxalism. Till poverty and violation of fundamental rights of tribals continue, Naxals will manage to recruit villagers.’’

He also lamented that some decisions of his own government made tribals wonder whether the government was with them or with the capitalist forces. A case in point was the government’s decision about granting lease of forest land for mineral exploration.

‘’Autonomy in administration to Naxal affected area can ensure development and this will help curb Naxalism,’’ Dr Usendi said in an interview with the FPJ.

“Since 1978, twenty-two irrigation projects could not be completed due to the Forest Conservation Act. For these projects, a maximum of 1,500 hectares would have been used. But 6, 545 hectares were allotted to various corporate houses for iron ore exploration. Why does the Forest Conservation Act create hurdles in developmental projects and how this Act is not a problem for corporate houses? This has created a doubt in the minds of tribals in our district and they wonder whether the government is with us or with the corporates or capitalists?’’ Dr Usendi said.

“According to the constitution, Gadchiroli’s tribal dominated area falls under the Fifth schedule. According to article 244(1), the Governor has the authority to announce that any law will not be implemented or implemented with some modification or relaxation. We are demanding that the government should announce the relaxation of Forest Conservation Act which will help complete various developmental projects. This demand was made by us to Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan in the Tribal Advisory committee but nothing has happened,’’ the MLA said.

“The Tribal Advisory committee headed by CM and having more than 20 tribal MLAs as members should meet once in six months. But in the last one year, there was no meeting. In the last four years, the committee has met only twice,’’ Dr Usendi said.

“In North Eastern states, tribal dominated area have been accorded autonomy in administration. Like this, there should be two Zilla Parishads in Gadchiroli district. The main ZP will be elected by all voters and election for another will be only in tribal dominated area and only tribals will vote for their representative. These tribal representatives will suggest or design the developmental schemes or projects and the main ZP will implement it,’’ Dr Usendi stressed.

“Currently, there are 23 tribal members in the 51-member ZP of Gadchiroli. Non tribal members are influential and therefore all money originally meant for tribals development can not be spent. Unless tribals get autonomy in development administration, development can’s take place and till the development takes place, Naxalism can not be curbed,’’ Dr Usendi stressed.

Pramod Chunchuwar

 

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Maharashtra- Protest brewing in Red zone as another project proposed in the tribal land

Gatta (Gadchiroli), May 18, 2013

 

PAVAN DAHAT, The Hindu

  • Tribals of the project affected villages. No one wants the Jindal project here. Photo: Pavan Dahat
    The Hindu Tribals of the project affected villages. No one wants the Jindal project here. Photo: Pavan Dahat
  • Tribals of the project affected villages. No one wants the Jindal project here. Photo: Pavan Dahat
    The Hindu Tribals of the project affected villages. No one wants the Jindal project here. Photo: Pavan Dahat
  • Tribals of the project affected villages. No one wants the Jindal project here. Photo: Pavan Dahat
    The Hindu Tribals of the project affected villages. No one wants the Jindal project here. Photo: Pavan Dahat

Suklal Baldir Topo, a Tribal of Jhajawandi village in Etapalli tehsil of Gadchiroli district, is a concerned man these days.

Suklal is concerned about the proposed JSW ISPAT Iron Ore Mining project in Damkodvadavi hills, hardly a few kilometers from his village.

“I have seen my son grow up here and then his sons and daughters. Where would we go if this project comes here” asks Suklal.

Almost all the villagers of 17 villages in Gatta and Gardewada Gram Panchayats in Etapalli tehsil of Gadchiroli district share Suklal’s concern.

The JSW ISPAT Steel Limited has proposed an iron ore mining unit over 751.04 hectares of land on Damkodvadavi hills to produce 5.5 MTPA (Maximum Rated Capacity) of Iron Ore for which crushing and screening plant (3 x 250 TPH) will be installed in the mine lease area.

The JSW has been given mining lease for a period of 20 years. The produce of this unit will be used to meet the iron ore requirements of JSW Steel plant in Dolvi, Maharashtra.

A public hearing related to the environment impact of this iron ore mine project was held in Allapalli town on May 8 in the absence of the villagers from all 17 villages.

The Public hearing took place despite the Gatta Gram Sabha passing a resolution against the proposed project on May 1.

“The company or the government officials did not make available any information about the effects of this project directly or indirectly to all 17 villages in Madia language. The company carried out study of the area from the census document of 2001.But the proposed project requires approval of the concerned villages Gram Sabhas which was never taken. Forest is the mainstay of Adivasis living near the proposed project site and mining will badly damage water, soil, forest and air resulting in danger to our lives. Which measures will the company take to prevent this damage? The project will endanger the lives of birds and animals in this area and destruction of forest will result in the imbalance of environment. This area does not have skilled people to be given employment in this project. We don’t trust the company and the government to keep their promises. This Gram Sabha passes a resolution that we oppose the proposed public hearing of the project and the government should not give permission for this project and if it has given the permission, then it should be cancelled ” reads the resolution passed by Gatta Gram Sabha, a copy of which is available with The Hindu.

Etapalli and Gatta are known to be Naxal zone and the Naxal’s writ runs large in the area after Gatta village.

The public hearing of the project was conducted 70 km away in Allapalli town for “security reasons”, according to Gadchiroli District Collector Abhishek Krishna.

But Mr. Krishna refused to comment when asked how the project will be put up if even a public hearing has to be conducted 70 km away.

“The District administration’s job was to help the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board in conducting the public hearing and to send the proceedings to the government. The government will decide on the next course of action” said the Collector.

Hardly anyone in these villages knew about the proposed project until May 1, says Ravi Atram of Gatta village.

“There is something that this government is trying to hide. The advertisement of the public hearing was published in one English and one Marathi newspaper which hardly come to these interior areas” says activist Anand Dahagavkar.

“But the district authorities ignored the pleas of activists to postpone the public hearing in the absence of project affected people” said Amol Marakwar, the Zilla Parishad member of Gadchiroli who was present in the public hearing.

“The tribals depend on forest for their livelihood and this project, if granted permission, will destroy the tribal culture and life here. Everyone knows how much pollution an iron ore mine project causes” added Mr. Marakwar.

The Naxals have also jumped into the bandwagon and have made their opposition to the project clear.

According to some reliable sources, three days before the public hearing in Allapalli, the Naxals called a meeting of all the project affected villages and assured them the “CPI(Maoist)’s complete support against the Jindal project”.

Almost all the affected villages visited by this reporter in this area, do not want this project to come.

“We are happy with our life now. We will not leave this place even if they offer us Rs. 10 lakhs” says Madi Danu Hido of Kowanvarsi village.

According to activists, the JSW and the government have not said anything about the number villagers to be rehabilitated due to this project.

Rajan Malani of the JSW Ispat said “No village will be relocated. Everything is at an initial stage now. Just a public hearing has happened. And the public hearing was the administration’s lookout. They could have taken it in Nagpur. Our company is very strict about its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and we will do everything that can be done to help all these villages”.

“Mining does not cause much pollution. Our company and the government is very strict regarding this and all the environmental regulations will be followed strictly. And as far as security is concerned, again it’s administration’s responsibility. The government’s help will be taken for security” added Mr. Malani.

But Mr. Malani refused to comment on the resolution passed by Gatta Gram Sabha against the project.

The local MLA Deepak Atram who staged a token protest in Etapalli in protest of public hearing taking place in Allapalli says, “Whether we want it or not this project will come because the Jindal group is a strong group and they have government with them. They will put up CRPF camps if they decide to go ahead with the project”.

Mr. Atram does not have objection to the project but he expressed his displeasure over the way it is being brought.

“It will provide job opportunities to the educated youth of our region” says the MLA but has no answer when asked about the possible destruction of Tribal livelihood dependent on forest in this area.

But Mr. Atram as well as activists working in this area, are concerned about the possibility of an intensified conflict between the Naxals and security forces if the government remains adamant on bringing the project here “because the project’s proposed location is almost a Liberated Zone”.

 

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