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PRESS RELEASE— IADHRI Demands Freedom for Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Contact: [email protected]

25 October, 2013

 lingaSONIS0RI3

 

On Monday, 28th October, the Supreme Court of India will take up the bail petitions of Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi, adivasi prisoners in Chhattisgarh who have been incarcerated for more than two years. The arrest and the subsequent torture of Soni Sori in October 2011 drew international condemnation [1]. Much less widely known has been the arrest the previous month of Sori’s nephew, Kodopi, who was also subjected to torture by the Chhattisgarh police [2].

False charges were subsequently foisted on both of them, with Sori being implicated in eight cases and Kodopi in two cases. Sori was acquitted in all but two of the cases and Kodopi in one of the two cases. Sori was also granted bail in one of the two remaining cases [3]. The one remaining case against both of them relates to allegations of acting as a courier between Essar, a business conglomerate with steel manufacturing operations in Chhattisgarh, and the outlawed Maoist Communist Party of India. Though two other accused in this case, the general manager of the Essar operations in the state and a contract worker, were granted bail within months of their arrest, the trial court and the state High Court have denied Sori and Kodopi bail earlier this year [4] and it is their appeal against this decision that the Supreme Court is expected to hear on Monday.

Sori was arrested on October 4, 2011 in New Delhi, where she had gone seeking legal help, and taken by the Chhattisgarh police to Dantewada. As detailed in her letters from prison, she was tortured in police custody and sexually abused. Her allegations were substantiated by independent medical examinations conducted in Kolkata under the directions of the Supreme Court. While imprisoned in Raipur, she continued to face abuse and denial of medical care from the police and the jail authorities until the Supreme Court ordered that she be taken to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences for treatment [5,6].

Sori’s husband Anil Futane died last August 2nd, soon after being released from jail [7]. He was arrested in July 2010 and accused of involvement in the attack on the home of Congress politician and contractor Avdesh Gautam. Sori, Kodopi and fourteen others were also falsely implicated in this case but all of them were acquitted. According to other jail inmates, Futane was beaten so severely in the prison that he was paralyzed. They attribute his death to health complications resulting from torture and the failure of prison authorities to give him medical care.

Kodopi himself has undergone serious abuse and torture since his detention without charges in 2009, when he was locked up inside a toilet in a police station for forty days. He was freed the following year only after the intervention of the Chhattisgarh High Court responding to a habeas corpus petition. Facing continued threats from the police and the Maoists, he went to Delhi where he studied journalism for a year. During his time in Delhi, he spoke out against the atrocities committed by the police on the Adivasi communities. Soon after he graduated from his journalism program in April 2011, he returned to Chhattisgarh where police and paramilitary forces had burnt down the villages of Morpalli, Timmapuram and Tadmetla, killed three people and raped three women. He documented the scenes of these crimes and recorded video testimonies of the survivors [8].

The cases of Sori and Kodopi are not isolated. Especially (but not exclusively) in Chhattisgarh, thousands of other prisoners are known to be held for years on spurious charges, some of them are not charged for many years and held as under trials for long periods of time. The draconian provisions of the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act enable the state police and other security officials to arrest and imprison anyone on dubious grounds, often to silence critical voices. Many of these prisoners are also known to undergo torture, sexual and other abuse at the hands of police and prison officials.

During her more than two years of incarceration, the Supreme Court of India has been the only institution from which Soni Sori has been able to get any judicial relief. We are hopeful, therefore, that this time too, the Supreme Court would decide in her and Kodopi’s favor and grant them bail. However, as we have pointed out many times and as corroborated by human rights organizations and groups such including PUCL, PUDR, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi deserve to be free. Now bereft of their father, Sori’s three young children need to be urgently reunited with their mother. Therefore, we reiterate our demand that the Chhattisgarh government

  • Drop all charges against Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi

  • Compensate them for all the suffering and cruelty inflicted on them,

  • Conduct an impartial and expeditious investigation of all the cases of prisoners in the state and release all those facing spurious charges, and

  • Punish the police and other officials responsible for carrying out torture and for filing spurious cases against them.

References:

[1] IADHRI Statement against the Torture and Politically Motivated Arrest of Soni Sori.

[2] They dared to speak up, but that’s not done in Chhattisgarh, Tehelka, 30 June, 2012. http://www.tehelka.com/they-dared-to-speak-up-but-thats-not-done-in-dantewada/

[3] Activist Soni Sori gets bail in one more case. The Hindu, 31 May, 2012. http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-newdelhi/activist-soni-sori-gets-bail-in-one-more-case/article4767974.ece

[4] Soni Sori, Lingaram Kodopi denied bail by Chhattisgarh High Court, The Hindu,  8 July 2013.http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/soni-sori-lingaram-kodopi-denied-bail-by-chhattisgarh-high-court/article4895096.ece

[5] The Government will kill me, Tehelka, 7 April, 2012. http://www.tehelka.com/the-government-will-kill-me/

[6] Reading Soni Sori’s Letters from Prison: An International Women’s Day Video Montage.http://iadhri.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/reading-soni-soris-letters-from-prison-an-international-womens-day-video-montage/

[7] Soni Sori’s Husband, Anil Futane, Passes Away, Tehelka, 3 August, 2013. http://www.tehelka.com/soni-soris-husband-anil-futane-passes-away/

[8] The very right of living in this country has been snatched from me, Tehelka, 4 May, 2012. http://archive.tehelka.com/story_main52.asp?filename=Ws040512country.asp

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#India – How to deal with Maosim, put poor behind bars #Chhattsigarh #WTFnews

Face to Face: Vrinda Grover

The conviction rate in Dantewada and Jagdalpur is one and three per cent. The entire objective appears to be to keep them in jail
Souzeina Mushtaq Delhi

The brutal assault on tribal school teacher Soni Sori by policemen led by an officer in Chhattisgarh, involving stones inserted in her private parts, had shocked the nation. Her continued imprisonment, after being branded a Maoist, on “false charges and fabricated evidence”, has been widely criticized by civil society and human rights groups in Indiaand abroad. Eminent lawyer Vrinda Grover, who is representing the case of Soni Sori and her nephew, Lingaram Kodopi, recently met them when they were brought to the court in Dantewada, and also in Jagdalpur jail, Chhattisgarh. Excerpts from an interview with Hardnews:

You met Soni Sori and her nephew, Lingaram Kodopi, in jail. What is the status of their cases?

I had gone to Chhattisgarh, particularly to Jagdalpur and Dantewada, to argue on behalf of Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi. Soni Sori was facing six cases; she has been acquitted in four of them, in one case she has got bail. This particular case is the last one, and is still going on. Lingaram Kodopi was facing two criminal cases. He has been acquitted in one, the other is pending.

It is important to underline that in all these cases, the chargesheets filed had serious criminal charges against both of them, such as attacks on an MLA’s house or burning of trucks or being part of a larger Naxal crowd that has attacked some place. The sections invoked in those chargesheets were of a very serious nature, including the Arms Act, the Explosive Substances Act, and serious sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). However, in all of the cases, they have been acquitted. The attempt was to project them as dangerous, dreaded Naxal leaders, and they were not given bail in any of them. Since there was no evidence against them, the court had no option but to acquit them.

However, they have been in custody since 2011. So, two years are over. In this particular case, the allegations were that a contractor, BK Lala, on behalf of Essar company, was paying off the Naxals not to disrupt their work. And that Soni and Lingaram were the conduits and they had come to take the money and pass it on to the Naxals.

Ironically, in this case, the seizure memo says that Lala was in possession of Rs 15 lakh; but he is out on bail. The Essar manager, who is alleged to have benefitted from this, is also out on bail. The only two people in jail are Lingaram Kodopi and Soni Sori, who stood to gain nothing in this entire so-called transaction. I am not even for a minute saying that the transaction is true; the whole case is totally fabricated and false.

Soni’s father, who came to meet her in the Dantewada court, was on crutches.  His right foot was severely swollen and he had tied a little rag around it. The foot was in a very bad shape. I am not sure, if, medically, his foot can be retrieved anymore. He received this injury because Naxals shot him, as he refused to become a Naxal informer. So that is the real story of this family which is playing itself out, and which actually illustrates the story of the adivasis in Chhattisgarh who are today facing multiple assaults by the State.

How do you call these cases false and fabricated?

Take this case as an example. Framing the charge is the first stage of a criminal trial. The two people who stood to gain from this so-called financial transaction are out on bail. They do not care if the case trials drag on. In fact, it is in their interest to delay and drag the case. The evidence, if at all, is against them. There is no evidence against Soni and Linga. So they are interested in delaying and protracting the issue before the court. The judge herself told me that, for the last one-and-a-half years, Lala and his counsel did not argue. Even this time, his counsel did not argue. He did not turn up. He put in some
medical application.

This incident happened in September 2011. By October-November, the chargesheet should have been filed. From 2011 to 2013, why have the charges not been framed? What is the explanation for this? Why is nobody in the entire legal system worried or concerned that two people are in jail for no fault of theirs?

The maximum punishment under the sections that they are being accused under in the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act is two years. In this case, they will get acquitted because there is no legal evidence against them. However, they have already served a punishment. What kind of legal system allows this? Why is the court allowing these kinds of delays to happen?  Why does the court allow these adjournments?

Why do you think this is happening all the time? Surely, Soni Sori’s case is not the only one…

This is a much bigger story. Perhaps the case of Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi reachedDelhibecause they happened to be here and know some people. But this is a story of a large number of vulnerable, poor adivasis inSouth Chhattisgarhtoday. To my mind, it is part of a State project, and it is extremely horrific that a democratic State deliberately allows this kind of State project in the name of controlling some Naxalite activity, which is an armed group, and is throwing a challenge to certain policies, particularly economic policies, land acquisitions, mining activities. The State wants to send a chilling message to the entire community that anybody who protests, anybody who dissents from the policy that the Centre and the State government have decided — which is only meant to profit certain private and other business houses — those people will be put away. This is what is happening. The most frightening part of the story is that this is actually playing out in front of the judiciary. The courts are seeing these cases before them. A court can make out that there is no evidence because the entire case is false and fabricated. Yet, the police and the prosecution continue to file such cases.  And courts are not discharging them, not granting them bail.

The entire chargesheet before the trial court in Dantewada does not have one single piece of evidence to show that either Linga or Soni have anything to do with Naxals. It is a perfect case for discharge. It is a story that has been concocted. The story was made up because they wanted to project Linga and Soni as dangerous Naxal leaders. Like all the other cases have collapsed so will this. Clearly, what the police, the prosecution, and the State are determined to do is to punish them through the legal process by incarcerating them.

I also want to point out that, invariably, the adivasis, who are jailed in all these so-called Naxal cases, are not even produced before the court because they are given ‘administrative excuses’ that vehicles or security guards are not available. Since they are branded in so-called ‘Naxal cases’, therefore, a larger contingent of CRPF, and so on, needs to accompany them. It is another matter that these cases collapse like a house of cards each time. I am told that Soni had to argue, request and plead with the jail superintendent of Jagdalpur to allow her and Linga to be taken to the Dantewada court. She had told them that her lawyer had come all the way fromDelhi. The jail superintendent made special efforts, contacted the police, and saw that Soni and Linga were produced before the court.

What is the condition of the adivasis in the area?

There are Naxals operating in some parts ofSouth Chhattisgarhand the State is not able to pick up most of the Naxal leadership. What they are doing is picking up large numbers of adivasis during search operations. They are nabbed, and thrown into jails; all kinds of totally fabricated cases are made against them.

In this particular case, for instance, they have also invoked other serious sections like waging war against the State, sedition, Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, Chhattisgarh Public Safety Act — all these are meant to over-awe the mind of the court when the judge considers a bail application or has to decide if this is an appropriate stage of discharge. The very fact that these are very serious sections would obviously have an impact on the court — although it should not. And the court should be able to see the deliberate, devious plan that the State is playing in order to keep these ordinary, very poor, marginalized, vulnerable people in jail.

Most adivasis in Jagdalpur and Dantewada do not have private lawyers. They cannot afford them. Legal Aid lawyers represent them. We all know and it is an established fact across the country that Legal Aid lawyers do not provide effective legal representation. For many of them, their families do not come to visit them because the jails and the courts are too far. They are also insecure. For instance, if someone from the village comes to meet them, they are abused, called names, picked up by the police, further harassed. They are told: ‘You are also Naxal informers; therefore, you have come to meet him.’ All this is happening very far away from the capital. Jagdalpur and Dantewada are faraway places. Nobody is going to see what is happening in these courts, what is the condition of adivasis in jail — why are they being incarcerated in jail for so many years?

I have been informed that the conviction rate in Dantewada and Jagdalpur is one and three per cent, respectively. So, the entire objective appears to be to keep them in jail for three to four years. Trials drag on for very long and eventually everybody knows that they will get acquitted. But who is going to compensate these people for their loss of liberty, for the agony that they are suffering, for the trauma that the family suffers, for the impact that their incarceration is having on the family? There is absolutely no accountability for this.

Why do the courts keep them inside prisons?

I think the answer lies in what the lady prosecutor said in a very brief argument in the court. Her argument was that all the offences were made out against the accused. Second, these were grave crimes. Third, it was a Naxal-affected area. As far as I see it, the first one is her legal opinion. The second one is a statement of fact. The third one is not a statement that can be made in a court of law. A statement saying this is a Naxal-affected area is a very underhand attempt to over-awe the judiciary. The judiciary of Chhattisgarh should not allow this State project of completely crushing the adivasis. It places a very huge responsibility on the judiciary.

Have the jail conditions improved?

When I met both of them, they looked much weaker. In Indian prisons, it is high time that we raise the issue of what kind of diet is given to the prisoners. To give a person, day in and day out, only one dal and one vegetable, it is obviously going to affect their health. However, it is not the fault of the jail. The diet that is permitted by law for undertrials and convicted prisoners is in itself a poor diet. That is what the law of this land is. I am saying the law is wrong. The jail manual is wrong. You have to have a better diet for people who are in your custody. Let us not allow the State to escape its responsibility by saying that these are poor people and at least they are getting two meals a day. These are hardworking people and they have multiple sources of nutrition when they are living on their own in their villages. They understand the vegetables and nutrition way better, which the jail manual completely loses out on. Therefore, everybody’s health condition is going to deteriorate inside the jail.

Has any action been taken against Ankit Garg, the police officer who has been accused in the alleged sexual torture of Soni Sori?

Yes. The President of India has awarded him a gallantry award for the sexual torture of Soni Sori. That is a statement of fact. The petition saying that torture had taken place has been pending in the Supreme Court for two years. The apex court has not thought of it as a matter that needs to be taken up urgently. Soni has said repeatedly that, under the directions of Ankit Garg, she was stripped, tortured in custody, and the torture was of a sexualized nature. It is perhaps the most heinous offence that can be committed against a woman. At a time, post-December 16, 2012, when the whole country spoke out about violence against women, it is extremely regrettable that the highest court has still not decided this matter. Ankit Garg’s President’s Gallantry Award should have been snatched away, at least while the matter is pending.

The issue was repeatedly highlighted by women’s rights groups; the National Commission for Women (NCW) conducted a jail visit. They went to Jagdalpur jail to see the condition of women prisoners. They met Soni Sori and others. But over maybe two years, the NCW report, despite repeated reminders, requests, meetings by women rights groups, has not been made public. They had talked to Soni, and Soni had told them about the kind of torture she had faced in Raipur. She and other prisoners would be stripped and searched; she narrated the humiliation they had to suffer. But NCW has till date not made its report public.

Is it true that women prisoners have organized themselves in jail?

Well, they have not organized themselves. They are seeking their rights as prisoners and undertrials. For instance, the food that they were being served earlier often had worms and other insects. So they went on a hunger strike and demanded that they be given a separate kitchen where they can cook their food. After they went on a hunger strike, the jail superintendent agreed to their demands.

Now there is a separate kitchen where they cook their own food. However, they still have complaints. The quality of the raw material, whether it is dal or flour, is bad; there are often worms and insects in it. Clearly, it is the responsibility of the jail authorities and the State to ensure that proper quality food is given to them.

How do Soni and Lingaram see their future?

When I met Linga, he asked me if he would be rearrested again after his release. Such is the future he is staring at. Here is an educated young man from the adivasi community who, if allowed, and if not persecuted and tortured by the police, can provide true leadership to the adivasi community. He has equipped himself to be a young voice from his community. But the State has targeted him.

It is the case with Soni as well. I do not understand why theIndianStateis afraid of such people who can bring about a positive change in their communities, in democratic ways, without taking up arms.

Pic: Joe Athialy

From the print issue of Hardnews

 

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#India – Two champions of people’s causes , both from Uttarakhand arrested in the name of Maoism #fabricated

hem

Sanjay Singh : Dehradun, Mon Sep 16 2013,

The two alleged Maoistcouriers arrested in Gadchiroli are both activists who have taken up various social causes in Uttarakhand.Prashant Rahi, 54, is an engineer-turned-journalist who hails from Maharashtra and whose daughter Shikha is a filmmaker, an assistant director for Taare Zameen Par. He was arrested in 2007, too, for alleged Maoist links and got bail thee years later. He participated in labour and other movements in Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh in the 1990s before settling in what is now Uttarakhand, where he worked as a journalist. He was working on providing legal aid to suspected Maoists — “political prisoners” — when he was arrested, allegedly while organising a Maoist training camp.

Hem Mishra, 30, cut his teeth as a student-activist in Almora before moving four years ago to JNU to study Chinese. The causes he took up included water, forest and land, and a shift of the capital from Dehradun to Gairsain. Every year, he would join a programme to pay tribute to those killed in the Rampur Tiraha firing incident in 1994 during the statehood agitation, say people who know him.

Mishra was arrested in August while allegedly couriering material on behalf on Maoists. The arrest of Rahi came days later, in September.

“As part of the Progressive Students’ Front, Hem used to participate in street plays and recite poems written by Girish Tiwari Girda,” says Shamsher Singh Bishta, himself an activist in Almora. “He participated in a padyatra in support of the demand for shifting the capital.”

Retired teacher Keshavdutta Mishra describes Hem, the youngest of his three sons, as “an intelligent boy who loves to participate in cultural activities”. Hem graduated from the SSJ campus of Kumaon University. “Four years ago, he was selected for MSc in mathematics and also for Chinese in JNU,” his father says. “He chose the JNU course… Yes, he is very social and a lover of music. But he has never carried home any literature that would suggest he is involved in Maoist activities.”

He says it is normal practice in Gadchiroli to describe any person after his arrest as a Naxal.

Rahi, 54, or Prashant Sangalikar — police also call him Navin and Mahesh — hails from Nashik. He won a B Tech from Banaras Hindu University in 1982, followed by an M Tech, and worked in a power company in UP’s Sonbhadra district, a left-wing extremism-affected area.

Intelligence sources in Uttarakhand cite a long history with movements — a labour movement in Maharashtra in the 1990s, work with youth organisation Purvanchal Nauzwan Sabha in UP, and a movement for rehabilitation of people affected by the Tehri dam project in what is now Uttarakhand. He had arrived in this region in 1993 and worked till 2000 as a journalist with a local newspaper. What raised suspicion that he was a Maoist sympathiser were his efforts to provide legal help to people arrested for spreading the Maoist ideology.

“Police got information in 2004 about the presence of Maoists in the forest areas near Saufutia. They found evidence suggesting training camps,” an intelligence officer said. This led to a watch on suspected sympathisers and Rahi was arrested from Nanakmata in December 2007. He was charged under the IPC sections for waging or abetting war against the state, sedition and other offences, and under UAPA for being a member of a terrorist organisation or gang.

Police claimed to have recovered copies of a magazine, Aamukh, with articles relating to the CPI (Maoist)’s expansion to Uttarakhand and suggesting it had set up a zonal committee.

His daughter Shikha, then 24, had fought a long legal battle for his release. In 2011, after his release on bail, she had told The Indian Express that the police had accused her father of having conducted training camps in villages.

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Mumbai Top Cop – Impose curfew, fine on villagers for helping Naxals, who are ‘ snakes ‘ #WTFnews

Impose curfew, fine on villagers for helping Naxals: Satyapal Singh

Mumbai police commissioner says the Naxals need to be searched, driven out or neutralised by putting ‘collective responsibility’ on villagers
Mumbai police commissioner Satyapal Singh says it is time to admit that the locals are not with the administration despite building roads, bridges and other infrastructure and it has led to little improvement in their quality of life. Photo: Indranil Bhoumik/Mint
Mumbai police commissioner Satyapal Singh says it is time to admit that the locals are not with the administration despite building roads, bridges and other infrastructure and it has led to little improvement in their quality of life. Photo: Indranil Bhoumik/Mint
New Delhi: Imposing curfew, slapping collective fine and taking to task Sarpanch and elders in villages found to be giving food and shelter to Naxals are some of the measures suggested by Mumbai commissioner of police Satyapal Singh to cripple the Naxal menace.
Calling Naxals ‘snakes’ for declaring a war against the state, he said, “They (Naxals) need to be searched, driven out or neutralised” by putting “collective responsibility” on villagers as even “passive neutrality” of locals is advantageous to the Maoists and an obstacle for security agencies.
In the latest issue of the Indian Police Journal (IPJ), a compendium of thoughts and comments of senior police and intelligence community officers brought out by the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD), the 1980-batch Maharashtra cadre police officer was critical about the state of affairs in dealing with Naxal violence, termed as the biggest threat to the internal security of the country.
He wrote that as far as anti-Maoist strategy in the country is concerned, the coordination among government agencies exists “mainly on paper”. He said it was time to admit that the locals are not with the administration despite building roads, bridges and other infrastructure and it has led to little improvement in their quality of life.
The commissioner, in the topic Fire in forest: Tackling Maoist menace, said the Maoist movement needs to be restricted “both physically and psychologically from the general population”.
“To further this, extremist and public movements should be regulated through the institution of collective responsibility meaning thereby that hosting the extremists by one in the village, attending the meeting of extremists, providing them food, etc., blocking the roads by felling trees should hold the entire village responsible. A collective fine for all village residents or curfew for two days may be thought of. Alternatively, the village Sarpanch, police patil and other village-elders should be punished.”
He said every member of a village, above 12 years of age, must be registered with the district administration and be issued an identity card.
“For all regulatory measures, government should consider the enactment of an appropriate law,” Singh wrote in his 20-page piece.
The BPRD, a department for development on policing subjects under the ministry of home affairs, brings out the publication every three months.
The IPS officer stated that while the notions of a ‘red corridor’ swamping large tracts of the country are “exaggerated”, Naxals have enlarged their base and areas of militancy.
“Not a day passes without any Naxal incident in the country. The problem is quite serious. What we see on the surface is the tip of the iceberg,” he said. Singh, who had dealt with the Naxal issue in his earlier stints, said, “The security forces are fighting a dynamic unconventional war against a very intelligent enemy in jungles, hills and sparsely populated terrains-mostly inhabited by tribal and other marginalised sections of society.”
The police officer said he would reply with a “big no” if someone asks that if pumping in huge amounts of funds has resulted in lessening of the Naxal problem or the locals becoming friends of the administration?
“The message is simple and straight. The locals are not with the administration and we should admit it. Even their passive neutrality is advantageous to the Maoist militants and an obstacle for security agencies. Building up roads, bridges and the electrification of villages, where our 70-80% of budget is being spent, has shown little improvement in the quality of life of the locals. We, in administration, perceive roads, bridges, electrification and telephone as symbols of development but the tribal and locals feel otherwise,” he wrote.
Singh, writing at length about the Naxal ideology of snatching power by the barrel of the gun, said this is an unconventional problem which cannot be solved through “usual bureaucratic approach and means”.
“We have to demolish the pillars of strength of the Maoist movement. Many may not agree, but it requires the same strategy that is being employed by the extremists themselves, with only one difference that we have to put the gears of their strategy in reverse order,” he wrote.
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#India – Do three more orphans matter? #Sonisori

Sunday, Aug 11, 2013, 13:43 IST | Agency: DNA

In “Have you been following the Soni Sori story?” my friend asked me on the phone one morning, a couple of days ago. Of course I had, and I knew that her husband had just passed away, leaving three girls under 13 unprotected. Soni, jailed and under trial on absurd charges, sent there by the Chhattisgarh government, was refused bail to cremate her husband and find a home or care for the girls, at a time when murderers, hooligans, rapists and worse get bail at the drop of a hat.

“We need to find homes for the girls. Can you help?”

Soni used to be a school teacher. She was put in jail with her nephew over a year and a half ago for allegedly helping the Essar group funnel money to Naxals. The two adivasis remain in jail. The Essar executives and the contractor who paid the money, and have paid money directly earlier as well according to the police complaint, are out on bail. Before this, Soni was an open critic of the human rights abuses meted out to the adivasis of her area, and therefore targeted as a thorn in the government and business’s flesh. Six cases were filed against her, five of which have been dismissed.

To target her further, her husband and his motor vehicle, their main source of earning, were made inoperative – the husband by being jailed for four foisted criminal cases, the vehicle by being confiscated. An otherwise healthy Anil Futane, Soni’s husband, suffered a massive stroke after over three years in jail, and was released a month later, totally paralyzed from waist down. Their eldest daughter, 13 and a bright student, was pulled out of school to nurse her father. When he died last week, the children, to all practical purposes became orphaned.

Many groups across the nation begged the courts to grant Soni bail but to no avail. After all they are only adivasis. And how does three more children being orphaned or one more family destroyed make a difference to the larger story?

We have become a cruel and wretched country to live in for many people – the poor, the displaced, the adivasi, the dalit, and women. And we don’t seem to care. At least, not most of those who are heard, and seen or read. What systems do we have in place for those whose lives are destroyed by our customs or mores or justice systems or our carelessness? Who will take in these three girls? Will they just fall into the cracks, be trafficked, raped, used, enslaved? Is this the end of their hope? Of their education?

There are so many NGOs and as many government schemes to protect the interest of various marginalized groups, but the delays in our justice system, and the cavalierish attitude and corruption of our police see that the marginalized are left even more vulnerable. Let me recount what has just happened in our family courts in Ahmedabad.

My maid’s daughter was thrown out of the house by her husband for giving birth to a girl child, four years ago. All negotiations to reconstruct the marriage failed and on my advice she went to the family court for a divorce. This is supposed to happen in six months. Three years and many visits to the court later (most of which the other side did not bother to attend), my maid was so fed up and fatigued that she decided to give up all claims of stree dhan of her daughter and any financial aid for the child just to finish the process and be freed of the constant ‘chakkar’ of the courts and the delays. She suffered, she lost. This is the normal outcome. Will anything ever change? Will we care enough to want it to change?

The writer is a noted danseuse and a social activist.

 

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#India- makes 10 billionaires at the expense of 10 million starving tribals #WTFnews

Govt’s inclusive growth

Tribal Affairs Minister V. Kishore Chandra Deo
Tribal Affairs Minister V. Kishore Chandra Deo
The Prime Minister’s model of economic growth has come under burning criticism from one of his own ministers who says it is one of the factors responsible for the spread of Maoist insurgency.Tribal Affairs Minister V. Kishore Chandra Deo has hit out at what he alleges is the increasing propensity within a section of the government to justify pervasive industrialisation as a step necessary to achieve a high growth rate.

“The Prime Minister has said many times that the UPA is for inclusive growth. (But) What does inclusive mean? Pushing up your growth rate targets by making 10 billionaires at the expense of 10 million starving, impoverished tribals…by exposing them to diseases and depriving them further?” stormed the minister who is known to be a close aide of Sonia Gandhi.

“I am against the growth of a crony capitalistic society at the expense of the most exploited and deprived,” Deo, a tribal himself, added, warning the authorities against treating the issue of Maoism as a “mere law and order problem”.

Deo has been a staunch advocate of banning mining activities in tribal areas, even if it means a lower growth-rate figure.

But this argument has been countered by several senior UPA ministers, who criticise the restrictions on development in key mineral-rich tribal and forest areas saying such an approach would prove detrimental to the country’s growth rate.

Without naming anyone, Deo came down heavily on the proponents of this argument, insisting that his stand was a “constitutional one”.

“I don’t know about them but I have taken oath on the Indian Constitution – first as a MP and then a minister – and I stand by its principles,” Deo said.

Tribal Affairs Minister V. Kishore Chandra Deo
Tribal Affairs Minister V. Kishore Chandra Deo

“If they (leaders within and outside the government) have taken some other oath, I don’t know. Otherwise, they too should take the same constitutional stand,” he added, in a veiled attack on Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

Ahluwalia has often been criticised for his “fetish” for economic liberalisation. Deo’s outburst is symbolic of a growing sentiment among some Congress leaders that the government’s capitalist policies were alienating their aam admi flank and would neutralise the gains of their pro-poor poll sops.

Talking about efforts to weed out Maoism, Deo said the government will soon get a first-of-its-kind accountability Bill that will track every penny of the thousands of crores of rupees allocated each year under various welfare and social sector schemes for Scheduled Tribes and other weaker sections.

The legislation is being jointly worked out by the Union ministry for tribal affairs and the ministry for social justice and empowerment. “At present, our ministries don’t have any idea about how the funds are utilised. This legislation will ensure accountability,” Deo said.

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Zakia Jafri Protest Petition Exposes Political Conspiracy by Narendra Modi

 

ishrat1

 

Archana Prasad

 

EVEN as Narendra Modi prepares to use the Gujarat model of ‘development’ to lure the Muslim minorities towards the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the hollowness of his claims has been exposed by the protest petition filed by Mrs Zakia Jafri and the Citizens for Peace and Justice (CPJ) in the Gujarat riots case. The petition, which was filed in the Ahmedabad sessions court in April 2013, challenges the closure report of the Supreme Court monitored Special Investigation Team (SIT). This report ignored several important facts and testimonies, and covers up the criminal conspiracy hatched by the chief minister, his administration and the frontline leaders of the VHP and the Sangh Parivar. The protest petition serves as a reminder and unveils this broader conspiracy by naming Narendra Modi as Accused No 1 and showing the crucial links between him and the inaction in the riots. In this sense the petition is an important political tool for countering the advance of Narendra Modi and his Hindutva brigade in national politics.

 

MODI GOVT AND VHP:

THE CO-CONSPIRATORS

At the outset, the protest petition provides ample evidence for concluding that the post-Godhra violence was pre-meditated and planned by the political leadership of the state government and the local organisers of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). Even before the unfortunate attack on the kar sevaks in Godhra on February 27, 2002, the state government had prior information on the volatile situation that was developing because of the provocative behaviour of the kar sevaks. Intelligence messages to the home department (in direct charge of Narendra Modi) in the aftermath of the incident also alerted the authorities about the possible communal flare-up. Within minutes of receiving this information, two successive calls were made by the chief minister was to Jaideep Patel, the secretary of the VHP. On the same day Jaideep Patel (Accused No 21) and Mr Kaushik (Accused No 19), a senior functionary of the VHP, accompanied the bodies of the kar sevaks to Ahemdabad on the behest of the district administration. They addressed the media saying that hundreds of kar sevaks had been killed in a terrorist attack and women had been molested. Intelligence messages on the public statements of these two leaders stated that the speeches were reckless and that no molestation of women or mass killing of kar sevaks had taken place. Yet many of these messages were ignored. In fact, for a full day after the incident took place and during the subsequent massacres, there were hardly any calls on the official numbers of the chief minister. The protest petition points out that the SIT has not questioned Mr Modi on the absence of his call records on the day when the Gulbarg society massacre took place.

 

Two other significant factors point towards the close cooperation between the VHP leaders and the state administration. The first is the fact that the bodies of the kar sevaks were handed over by the district administration to the VHP secretary, Jaideep Patel, on the evening of February 27, 2002. None of the investigating officers in the Gujarat riots investigated why the bodies of the kar sevaks were handed over to non-government persons who had a track record of making provocative speeches. Second, the post mortem was conducted in the railway yard itself without any proper procedures. During the process, two phone calls were received by the doctors conducting the procedure. What were these phone calls about and who had made them? The SIT did not bother to even ask such questions, much less investigate them, thus showing that the investigations were themselves biased in favour of the accused persons.

 

The actions of the state government also facilitated the leaders of the Hindutva brigade who were targeting Muslims in their ‘reaction’ to the Godhra incident. In this sense they had both the implicit and the explicit support of the political leadership led by Narendra Modi. Being in charge of the home department, the chief minister himself appears to be the chief conspirator who created the space for the targeting of Muslims by armed mobs of the Bajrang Dal and VHP.

 

ROLE OF GOVERNMENT

DURING AND AFTER RIOTS

The protest petition clearly points out that the SIT ignored, disregarded and discredited some crucial evidence that showed the role of Narendra Modi and his government in the riots of February 2002. The main example of this is of the nine affidavits filed by former police officer, B Sreekumar, who was then the additional director general of police, intelligence. In his affidavits Mr Sreekumar gave amble evidence of the messages recorded in his register which warned the government about the gathering mobs for welcoming and parading the bodies of the dead kar sevaks in different funeral processions. The messages also highlighted the demand for additional forces for controlling the mobs, but these forces were never sent to the areas where riots were planned.

 

Further, the protest petition also records the manner in which the calls for help from the victims of the riots were ignored. Survivors from Naroda Patiya made at least a hundred calls to the police commissioner, P C Pande, but his mobile was switched off. There was a similar callous response from most of the additional commissioners of police (CPs) and deputy commissioners of police (DCPs) of Ahmedabad city. In many instances, policemen even aided mobs in their lawlessness.

 

The preliminary report of the SIT also found that the former Ahmedabad joint commissioner of police, M K Tandon, in whose area around 200 Muslims were killed, was guilty of deliberate dereliction of duty. But far from punishing him after the 2002 riots, he was given one powerful promotion after another until he retired as additional DGP in June 2007. His junior, former DCP, P B Gondia, has also been found guilty of allowing the massacres. But instead of being penalised for his illegal actions, he today holds the powerful post of IGP of state CID. These actions of the Modi government clearly show that the latter was rewarding these police officers for cooperating with the political leadership during the post-Godhra violence. The final closure report of the SIT ignores and completely disregards this evidence. This also shows how Modi has influenced and tried to manipulate the SIT report even though it was prepared under the watchful eye of the apex court.

 

It must be emphasised that the home department that received these messages was headed by the chief minister, Mr Narendra Modi, himself. All the information received was also processed under his leadership. Therefore it can be inferred that he has been directly involved in the management of the riots and their subsequent cover-up. In this sense the protest petition of Mrs Zakia Jafri has unveiled and provided evidence for the way in which these riots were managed by the Sangh Parivar under the leadership of Modi.

 

Further, the timing of the petition and its daily hearings are important because they come at a time when the Modi mantra is being chanted by the BJP. By touting the Gujarat model as the best and Modi as the most popular leader, the BJP is trying to show that the Gujarati people, and especially the Muslims, have forgotten and forgiven the follies committed during the riots. Mrs Zakia Jafri’s protest petition provides a strong counterpoint to this discourse and reminds the nation that a fascistic leader like Narendra Modi must by all means be tried for his crimes. It reminds us that there can be no closure without justice. Like this petition, the Left and democratic forces need to popularise the political conspiracy behind these riots in order to counter and stem the advance of the apparently inevitable Modi juggernaut that threatens to roll on before the impending general elections.

 Source-  Peoples Democracy 

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#India -Chhattisgarh lawyer, client charged with #sedition walk free #goodnews

SUVOJIT BAGCHI, The Hindu, Raipur  June 28,2013

Advocate from central Chhattisgarh has been slapped with the same charges that of her clients

Rarely in judicial history has an advocate been slapped with the same charges as that of her clients. But such was the case of Rekha Parghaniya – a lawyer and a human rights activist from central Chhattisgarh. She was arrested and charged with sedition and put in the same prison with her client, Rashmi Verma, a middle aged housewife arrested for “excit(ing) disaffection towards the Government.”

Ms. Parghaniya was defending Ms. Verma and her husband Bhola Bag, a contractual worker, who was booked with sedition as well. All three of them were also charged under Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005 (CSPSA) for allegedly abetting the outlawed CPI-Maoist. They were acquitted by the district court of Durg on Wednesday.

Bhola Bag and Rashmi Verma were arrested on basis of a statement made by Sarita, an alleged Maoist cadre. She, in her statement to the Sarguja district police, allegedly claimed that she stayed with Mr. Bag and Ms. Verma while working for the underground party. The couple were arrested in February, 2009 and eventually charged under an 1860 Act of Indian Penal Code (IPC) for “excit(ing) disaffection towards the Government” and Section 8/1, 8/3 and 8/5 of CSPSA, 2005 for helping an ‘unlawful organisation.’

“What triggered the arrest of Ms. Parghaniya was the arrest of her husband in Kolkata,” said one of her lawyers, Sadiq Ali. Ms. Parghaniya’s husband, Deepak, was arrested in Kolkata earlier in 2012 for allegedly helping a unit of the Maoists to manufacture small arms. Maoist Central Committee did acknowledge Mr. Parghaniya as one of their “comrades” in a release issued on March 2, 2012. “Ms. Parghaniya was arrested just for being the wife of Mr. Parghaniya whom she last met several years ago,” said Mr. Ali.

A team of CPI (ML)’s women wing, AIPWA visited Ms. Parghaniya in Durg central jail and questioned the arrest. “…incriminating documents seized by the police from Rekha’s house include literature by Bhagat Singh, Marx, Engels and Bertolt Brecht, as well as some folders on the history of the workers’ movement,” said the AIPWA release. “The AIPWA team led by Lakshmi Krishnan was severely interrogated before they were allowed to talk to the women who were projected as big time Maoist guerrillas,” said State secretary of CPI (ML) Brajen Tiwari.

The couple were implicated as Mr. Parghaniya, ostensibly, arranged for some contractual work for Bhola Bag in Bhilai Steel Plant before he left Durg. “Allegedly, they were consolidating the urban network of the Maoists,” said Mr. Ali. While all three were booked by police under same sections of IPC and CSPSA, Ms. Parghaniya was kept out of sedition when charges were finally framed. “Since the permission was not sought by police from home department before slapping 124/A,” said Mr Ali.

The judgment said that the evidences were not sufficient to convict Mr. Bag and Ms. Verma. Ms. Parghaniya was acquitted as the two main witnesses were not present during the seizure, which was the important evidence against her. “Even the investigating officer said there were hardly any incriminating documents, other than few leftist magazines,” said Mr. Ali.

Rekha Parghaniya walked free on Wednesday night and managed to win freedom for her clients as well.

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#India – The Naxal, the Tribal, and the Doctor

naxalarea

June 19, 2013 ,

 Recent news reports state that the Chhattisgarh government has asked International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to suspend its operations in the Bijapur district where it had operated for the past two and a half years. ICRC had been providing medical help to violence hit people in the tribal dominated area. This order of suspension raises important questions about (a) the duty and ability of the state to provide medical services to the tribal population in that area, and (b) the willingness of the state to allow medical services to affected people in an area affected by Maoist violence.

 

Bastar district is a predominantly tribal area, with more than two-thirds of the population belonging to the Scheduled Tribes category. Ninety percent of the population is rural, more than 87% of the population is employed only seasonally, and literacy levels are among the lowest in Chhattisgarh. Two thirds of the Village Reports, or Jan Rapats prepared by the villagers themselves (Jan Rapats are prepared by all villages in Chhattisgarh, and reflect the needs and views of the villagers) state that health facilities in these areas are very poor.

“Most villages emphasise that the availability of medicines, appointment of health personnel, improvement in the quality of health care, Government aid, and the availability of clean drinking water are areas that require attention.”

 

Though 6.25% of Chhattisgarh’s population is based in the Bastar district, the area had 3 hospitals, no dispensaries, and 57 Primary Health Care centres as of 2001. Forty percent of the population had no access to toilet facilities, safe drinking water, and electricity as of 2001.

(Human Development Report Chhattisgarh, 2005. Available here.)

 

Bastar has also been in the news recently owing to the naxal attack on Congress’ Parivartan Yatra convoy on May 25, 2013, during which senior Chhattisgarh Congress functionaries and security personnel were killed.

ICRC first expressed its willingness to enter Naxal affected areas in Chhattisgarh in 2008, and was welcomed by Chief Minister Raman Singh (Sourced from here):

“Certainly, ICRC plays a vital role in mitigating the sufferings of people in conflict zones across the globe. With the kind of resources and expertise ICRC has at its command, its presence will benefit the poor tribals of the region where a huge population is suffering and hundreds of children have been orphaned in the conflict…”

Interestingly, he went on to say,

“We have no problem even if such organisations provide medical assistance to Naxalites injured in encounters with security forces…We also do the same thing. Whenever Naxalites are injured, they are hospitalised so that they can be punished by a court of law for their crimes.”

 

Since 2010, ICRC has run a Primary Health Care centre, mobile clinics, and a hand-pump rehabilitation programme to ensure safe drinking water for the tribal population. According to another Times of India story, international agencies have helped play a crucial role in providing essential health care facilities in the region:

“Last year, when a diarrhoea epidemic broke out in South Bastar, killing nearly 100 people, Bijapur administration had enlisted the support of MSF and UNICEF, apart from calling doctors from other districts. But in Dantewada, in the absence of such an intervention, and in the face of an acute shortage of doctors, a large unknown number of people died without medical support.”

Then why the order of suspension?

The order of suspension has ostensibly been given by the district administration because “…ICRC is yet to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with the state government” regarding its work in the region. State government sources have said that since ICRC is an international organization, it needs “certain clearances from the centre” for carrying out its operations.

If ICRC has operated in Bastar since 2010, how was it able to function without obtaining clearances from the central and state governments for almost three years? How was it able to bring in medical equipment, and (presumably) foreign personnel into a security sensitive area, and operate without the required permissions for all this time? Does the state and district administration seriously expect people to believe that they allowed ICRC to work in a Naxal dominated area for close to three years without the proper paperwork?

 

News reports indicate that other reasons may also be at play here. In 2011, the police in south Bastar and Dantewada had alleged that ICRC, along with MSF (Doctors Without Borders) which had been operating there since before ICRC started working there, was facilitating the treatment of Maoist rebels. Two Maoist rebels who had been arrested claimed that they were being treated by ICRC and MSF.

“These two organisations are deliberately going to Maoist camps and spending weeks. The foreign doctors should know what they are doing. I am from an enforcement agency and can’t welcome them having extra love for Maoists, but not for people injured in Maoist brutalities.” – Senior Superintendent of Police, Dantewada (Sourced from here)

 

According to him, people from the two organisations could be prosecuted under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act that prohibits direct or indirect contact with Maoists.

 

The recent order of suspension, coming soon after the Maoist attack on May 25 can then also be seen through the lens of an overzealous state and district administration irked by the fact that ICRC is treating Maoist rebels. If in fact this is the case, several questions beg to be asked: What prevents doctors from treating Maoist rebels injured in conflict, especially after the Chief Minister himself expressly stated that he would be fine with such treatment? Does the duty of a doctor to treat injured people depend on whether a person is suspected of being an insurgent or terrorist? Does such treatment in itself make a doctor an accomplice in the crimes the injured is suspected of having committed? If yes, should lawyers representing suspected terrorists also be made accomplices to crimes committed by their clients?

 

The central government has repeatedly touted its plan of combining development with improving law and order as a solution to Naxalism in these regions. ICRC is one of the most reputed health care agencies operating in Bastar, an area with a clearly documented lack of health care facilities. The administration at all levels clearly needs to reconcile its twin goals of development and security enforcement in a transparent, and rational way. Essential health care for tribals in a conflict-ridden area, and the work of doctors cannot be left to the alternating prioritization of security enforcement and development. This is especially so when the Jan Rapats reveal how miserably the state has failed in meeting the expectations of the local population.

SOURCE- http://polityinindia.wordpress.com/

 

 

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#India – From war to peace #chattisgarh #Maoists

 
By Binayak & Ilina Sen
Story Dated: Saturday, June 15, 2013 , The Week
Illustration: Bhaskaran

The horrific killings of Congress leaders by armed Maoist guerillas that took place at Jiram Ghati in Chhattisgarh on May 25 have drawn the world’s attention. The latest victim was Vidya Charan Shukla, who succumbed to his wounds on June 11, at the age of 84. The victims included Nandkumar Patel and his son Dinesh, who were shot in cold blood after being led away. The bodies were found with their hands tied behind their backs. Sixteen of the victims were unarmed Congress workers, who were returning from an open political rally organised by the Congress in preparation for the coming Assembly elections.

In a statement issued after the incident, the Maoist spokesperson regretted the loss of lives of the unintended victims, in an argument that chillingly echoed the justification provided by the government for the killing of eight unarmed civilians, including four children, by CRPF commandos at Edesmata a week earlier. The militarisation and existence of dual state power have transformed political discourse into a hall of mirrors.

Many today recognise and accept the legitimacy of the resistance of tribal communities against the forcible acquisition of land, water, minerals and other natural resources by the state for handing over to large-scale corporate interests in the current climate of neo-liberalisation. Displacement and dispossession in the course of these developments have become a threat to the very survival of these communities, dependent, as they are, on their access to common property resources. Many would also accept that in case of widespread militarisation of state intervention in campaigns like Salwa Judum and Operation Green Hunt, these targeted communities had the right to defend themselves and their interests.

However, the reduction of the terms of discourse to military resolution only precludes any other points of view from being articulated. What we would also like to emphasise is that the so-called ‘collateral damage’ of battle is actually the main product of violent conflict, a huge proportion of which is paid for by women, children and other vulnerable sections of society. Thus, while much of the discourse centred on this confrontation is about the legitimacy or illegitimacy of different components of this violence, perhaps it may be more productive to shift our focus on ways and means to get past this current impasse and concentrate instead on the possibilities of inducting a discourse that is centred on the restoration of peace and well-being of the communities that live in conflict areas.

We are more than conscious of the fact that such declarations of peaceful intent are greeted in most circles with raucous laughter. However, people who are thus amused should remind themselves that those opting for a scaling up of conflict have little to show for the strategies they have advocated. Political declarations made by the ruling elite, as well as the advocates of revolutionary violence, that have been made after the Jiram Ghati incident, as a necessary step to ensure justice, do not give much hope for the possibilities of peace. Perhaps, that is why, at this juncture, it is more necessary than ever for those who believe in peace and the possibilities of a strategy based on peace, to declare themselves and commit to work towards creative alternatives.

[email protected]

 

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