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#India -Tribal Activist Soni Sori- Can the State drown the fight for justice for women ? #Vaw

: Q&A with Indian tribal rights activist Soni Sori

By 

In a crowded auditorium at a conference on gender-based violence in Delhi this month, a frail woman sits, silently listening as lawyers and activists take turns to speak. When the discussion shifts to atrocities on adivasi (tribal) women, she takes center stage. When she speaks, the crowd listens in silence. Soni Sori, a schoolteacher, speaks about the fate of women in Chhattisgarh, an Indian state that has been engulfed in violence and conflict, with tribal civilians caught in the crossfire between Maoists and government security forces.

Within this mineral-rich Indian state, the genesis of conflict has been complex. It is a mix of deep neglect of the poor and also, some would say, lopsided development plans. But beyond simplistic explanations of conflict, undeniable is the loss of lives and brutality unleashed in the name of counterinsurgency and fighting for the poor. For years, women and children have born the brunt of this cruelty.

In 2013, at least 1,380 rapes were reported in Chhatisgarh, according to India’s National Crime Records Bureau. The controversial and now-disbanded Salwa Judum, a self-protection force formed with local civilians and later declared illegal and unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2011, face at least 99 counts of alleged rape since its inception in 2005.

It was against this backdrop that Soni Sori, all of 35, was arrested in 2011 and accused of being linked to the Naxals, an armed, left-wing extremist group that has waged war against the Indian state for decades. She was sexually tortured in custody. Human rights activists worldwide campaigned for her release. Amnesty International declared her a “prisoner of conscience,” turning the spotlight on atrocities she’d been subjected to. Now out on bail, Sori spoke to me about the inhumane sexual torture she endured, the dismal state of women’s prisons in Chhattisgarh, her fight ahead, and her optimism on women’s rights.

Indian tribal rights activist Soni Sori speaks to Amnesty International India about her case and thanks the organization for its support in advocating for her release. (Amnesty International India)

Priyali Sur: It’s been almost three years since you were first taken into police custody. Do you remember every detail?

Soni Sori: It was past 10 at night. I was asleep when the cops came and woke me up, saying the superintendent of police wanted to meet me. The superintendent, Ankit Garg, asked me to sign documents that would confirm I was involved with the Maoists. I refused. He then asked the lady constables to leave, warning them that what happened inside the police station that night should not be told to anyone.

The police officials started abusing me, calling me a whore and saying I indulge in sexual acts with Maoists. They stripped me naked, made me stand in an “attention” position and gave me electric shocks on various parts of my body. I still didn’t relent. They then shoved red chili powder inside my vagina. By now, I was losing consciousness, but I refused to sign the documents. The cops started inserting stones into my private parts. Many stones—so many that they started falling out. I finally collapsed.

The next morning, I could barely move when I was taken to court. My biggest complaint is that the magistrate didn’t even see me once and sent me to prison. In the days that followed, I was admitted to the hospital, where they chained me to the bed. When I asked why, they said it was procedural. Due to the stones, it was difficult and painful for me to even urinate. Only after I wrote to the court was I taken for treatment.

Sori was ultimately referred to the NRS Medical College and Hospital in Kolkata, where stones were removed from her vagina and rectum. But her torture and humiliation in the prison continued. In April 2013, a group of human rights organizations wrote to the Chhattisgarh chief minister, demanding the end of ill treatment of Soni Sori and other inmates in Jagdalpur, the central jail. They said Sori was being subjected to a psychiatric evaluation to declare her mentally unsound and create doubts over the veracity of her complaints of sexual torture.

PS: How long were you in prison and what is it like for the women inmates inside jail?

SS: I spent two and a half years in all, and spent time in four jails [Tihar, Raipur, Jagadalpur, and Kolkata]. The plight of girls and women is deplorable inside the Chhattisgarh jail. There is an urgent need for proper health care and sanitation. During their menstruation, women inmates are not given any sanitary pads. They have just one piece of cloth, which they wash and reuse as a pad. At times, due to the unavailability of pads and clean cloth, many even have blood trickling down their knees. It is extremely humiliating. Due to such unhygienic conditions, most women suffer from vaginal discharge, problems like “safed paani” [vaginal discharge] and foul-smelling urine. Women keep waiting to visit a doctor, but they are only taken after a very long wait.

The way women inmates are treated is inhuman. They are themselves made to clean the toilets and if anyone complains, the cops beat her up and put her in an isolated cell. No woman is allowed to keep more than one sari. If families send them more, the cops burn the extra sari. They are made to do hard labor but given a poor diet. If a mother dares to ask for more for her crying child, she is beaten up.

PS: Are the inmates also sexually abused by the police?

SS: The inmates are mentally tortured and harassed. A naked drill is a common thing. I was tired of being asked to strip again and again and again. They would strip me and accuse me of being a Maoist. …  They would then humiliate me by inspecting my breasts with their batons and forcing me to spread my legs. It’s a mental torture. Not just me, but they do this to other women inmates as well. There are many minor girls as well inside, but they are falsely recorded as majors in the files. Many 13- to 14-year-old girls are brought in and accused of being Naxals.

According to Himanshu Kumar of Vanvasi Chetana Ashram, an organization working for tribal people in Chhattisgarh, grave human rights violations are taking place in the prisons of Chhattisgarh. Himanshu has been fighting for justice for Sori. He says that the International Committee of the Red Cross has access to all the prisons across the world to carry out human right audits, but has been denied access to Chhattisgarh prisons. The state has been seen as the epicenter of Maoist conflict for a long time.

In February, after almost two and a half years in jail, Sori was finally granted bail by the Supreme Court of India. She is free to go anywhere but has to report to the nearest police station every Monday, regardless of the location. Sori now wants to work from Chhattisgarh, along with a human rights lawyer, to help other women who have been falsely accused and are languishing in prisons. According to the National Crime Records Bureau report of 2011, Chhattisgarh was one of the states that reported the highest number of female convicts (242) in its central jails. The women’s prisons here are overcrowded, with almost 150 percent occupancy. But along with this, Sori’s priority is also her children—her two daughters and one son.

PS: Now that you are out on bail, do you worry about separation from your family again?

SS: My children refuse to let go of me at all. They say this year they will stay with me since they don’t know when I might be taken to jail again. Every other day, jeeps packed with cops come to my house and question my children at gunpoint, but my children are strong and aren’t scared. My children say, “Let the police come, we can handle them.” Everything that they have been through has made my children strong.

When I was in jail, my husband passed away. I wasn’t even allowed to come for his last rites. I appealed to the court to let me go home to see him for one last time, but they didn’t permit me. One week later, they said I could go and visit home. I refused, saying it was too late.

During India’s recent general elections, Sori ran from her region. She says her decision to join politics is so she can challenge and change the system that treats women mercilessly. She remembers how the jail officials mocked her, saying that once she was out, her spirit would die. She says joining politics is an answer to all those people who challenged her.

Sori lost the election by a huge margin.

PS: You entered politics—are you disappointed that you lost?

SS: Not at all. I believe I have won, and my fight has just started. My fight was not to occupy the chair, but to get the support of my people. Today, there are many who will come and stand by me. The rulers always rule from their chair. I am fortunate that I will get to work at the grassroots level. My politics is not about ruling, but about fighting for the rights of my people.

PS: Is it difficult to stay motivated and focused on your mission?

SS: There are days when my children have nothing to eat. I don’t have a job today while Ankit Garg, who has been accused of brutalizing me, has been awarded with the president’s Police Medal of Gallantry. But it’s my children who give me the courage to fight. They are all I have today. My fight is not about caste or religion but about the rights of all women.

I know there are many who are waiting for me to die for this fight to end, but I want to tell them that if Soni Sori dies the fight will not end. There will be a hundred more Soni Soris who will emerge. Can they drown the fight for justice for women? Can they kill each one of us? In the end, victory will be ours.

Read more here- http://www.womenundersiegeproject.org/blog/entry/the-long-and-lonely-fight-qa-with-indian-tribal-rights-activist-soni-sori

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Sayabasachi Panda’s Arrest in Odisha : A Different Perspective

By Sudhir Pattnaik,

Sayabasachi Panda-whether you agree with his politics or not was a fearless fighter- who was with the masses for a long time with total commitment. Had he worked over ground he would have proved to be one of the outstanding pro people politicians of the state. Today’s global political situation which has globalized the coercive/violent power of the state will never allow any attempt to overthrow or even challenge a system which could be treated as violent.

Most of the left radical outfits refuse to recognize this nature of the state which has become increasingly violent. What one needs today is a proper and ‘non-violent’ strategy even in the face of substantial state violence or violence by dominant forces. Violence in today’s situation will breed more violence and all at the cost of the common men.
I have never seen this fighter even during his student days. I have heard a lot about him and therefore have got admiration for him though I don’t accept his politics and strongly feel that he would have been more effective had he chosen politics over ground. I must thank CM Nabin Pattnaik for not deciding to eliminate him. Had Modi been in his position we all would have heard the news that, “Sabyasachi Panda was killed in an encounter when he fired at a police squad”.

I would request the CM to treat him with dignity as the Courts will take care of the trial process.Sabyasachi, as he gradually became desolate, physically weak and diseased, perhaps he realized what he needed to pursue a particular path which he could not afford now. This was the time for criminals in uniform to catch him and present him before the media hungry public that a big fish has been caught. I am told a fight is going on among Odish’s police officers while settling claims for the credit. Now they may even try to book him for the 9/11 attack on World Trade Center or for 26/11 attack in Mumbai’s Taj Hotel.

The writer is a senior journalist and activist based in Bhubaneswar. This note is taken from his Facebook wall. 

 

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Support pours for G N Saibaba , arrested DU professor beyond borders

Letter to the Chief Justice : Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC)

www.campacc.org.uk

saibaba-main

Your Honour,

We the undersigned would like to express our concern over the manner in which the government is increasingly resorting to the indiscriminate use of custody. In particular, the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act 2008 (UAPA) is being abused indiscriminately to harass, intimidate and dissenting voices. This is part of the escalating effort to impede free speech and even thought, contrary to the Constitution of India as well as International principles of Human Rights. Such actions become pernicious in the context of the wide-ranging powers and impunity that have been available to the police and paramilitary forces under this Act. This is illustrated by the fact that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has reportedly issued instructions that persons and organizations who raise issues of human rights violations in Maoist areas must be targeted and arrested.

The recent abduction of Dr. G. N. Saibaba was particularly shocking. Dr. G N Saibaba, Asst. Professor with the Department of English, Ram Lal Anand College, Delhi University, was arrested by the Maharashtra Police on 9 May 2014 for his alleged links with Naxal leaders. He has been an active member of the Delhi University community, a very popular and respected teacher, and an important voice on democratic norms within and outside the university. He has been a vocal and important critic of the Indian state’s policies with regard to its paramilitary action in Central and Eastern tribal areas, commonly known as Operation Green Hunt. Along with other intellectuals, he has drawn attention to the blatant human rights violations of the Adivasi peoples of these regions. In particular, he has pointed out the enormous financial stakes in claiming the region for private industrial and commercial development at several national and international forums. Along with other intellectuals, he has criticized such models of “development” and their usefulness for the local populace in any participatory democracy. His sustained critique has earned him the ire of the powers that be. For some time now, they have been looking for a way to silence this very significant voice.

Dr. Saibaba is wheelchair bound, suffers from 90% disability and post-polio residual paralysis of both lower limbs. He poses no flight risk whatsoever. He is also a heart patient with blood pressure issues. Furthermore, he suffers from chronic and intense back pain as a result of the disability and being wheelchair bound. He has always cooperated fully with the investigation and did not need to be arrested. The National Human Rights Commission has already issued notice to the Maharashtra and Delhi police forces for violation of Dr. Saibaba’s rights in the course of the earlier investigation.

Saibaba is being kept in a highly unsanitary, solitary cell, in darkness and with inadequate facilities. The denial of medication has resulted in constant pain and deterioration of health. Moreover, he is experiencing great difficulty, pain and indignity while using the toilet since it is impossible for him to use the Indian style commode that is provided in his cell. Given his fragile medical condition, we are particularly concerned for Dr. Saibaba’s well-being, and are apprehensive that, given his fragile medical condition, he may collapse physically in police custody.

We also understand from news reports that the Chattisgarh Police has expressed a wish to interrogate him. We suspect that several such requests will come from the police of various states and remote corners that he has not even visited and where legal aid is very difficult to find, only to intensify the torture on him. The present Master Case will be vastly multiplied to tie up the life and resources of the family in litigation. Consequently, the family will become increasingly financially vulnerable.

Your Honour, we are deeply concerned about the methods being adopted now by the police to silence voices of dissent. There are thousands of political prisoners languishing. There is a dire need for a more compassionate criminal justice system that will encourage the participation of the people in proving their innocence. There is also an urgent need to level the playing field, which is at the moment hopelessly prejudiced against the individual. Such an intervention can come only from a Superior Court. We look to you for justice and for the judicial protection of all such critical voices. We further appeal to you to intervene in the increasing criminalisation of voices of dissent and critique.

On the matter of Saibaba in particular, given that he clearly poses no flight risk whatsoever, we ask you to initiate a judicial investigation of the matter and to issue an interim order immediately releasing him from judicial custody and back to his family.

Sincerely,

Les Levidow, Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC), UK
Estella Schmid, CAMPACC, UK
Saleh Mamon, CAMPACC, UK
Prof. Bill Bowring, Professor of Law, Birkbeck University School of Law, and President of the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights (ELDH), UK
Michael Goold, Barrister at Garden Court Chambers, Joint Secretary of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, UK
Melanie Gingell, barrister, Doughty Street Chambers, UK
Margaret Owen OBE, human rights lawyer, UK
Matt Foot Solicitor Birnberg Peirce and Partners, UK
Russell Fraser, barrister, secretary of Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, UK
Frances Webber, human rights lawyer, UK
Desmond Fernandes, author and genocide scholar, UK
David Morgan, historian and journalist, UK
Jonathan Bloch, author, UK
Dr. Andy Higginbottom, Associate Professor, PG Programme Co-ordinator, International Politics and Human Rights, UK
Sara Kellas, Solicitor, UK
Nick Hildyard, policy analyst, UK
Richard Haley, Chair, Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC), UK

16 June 2014

 

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Sudhir Dhawale, Dalit activist and editor of Vidrohi magazine, released after 40 months

Written by Sukanya Shetty | Mumbai | May 23, 2014 12:40 am

SUMMARY

Dhawale, a Dalit activist and editor of Vidrohi magazine which openly criticised the state over cases of social inequalities, was arrested on January 2, 2011.

Forty months spent at Nagpur prison in the company of over 60 tribal and Dalit youths, all booked in various cases of alleged Naxal activities, Sudhir Dhawale wants to pursue his unfinished dream — To relaunch a well-networked agitation against caste atrocities in the  state.

Dhawale, a Dalit activist and editor of Vidrohi magazine which openly criticised the state over cases of social inequalities, was arrested on January 2, 2011.

Police said Dhawale was involved in Naxal activities in Maharashtra.

He was, however, acquitted last week by Gondia’s sessions court after  police failed to produce substantial evidence against him.

Most of the books seized from his residence in Byculla were available online or in the market, the court observed.

 “I was under police scanner since 2006, in the post-Khairlanji phase, where activists and intellectuals came together and questioned the state. It was after a long time that Dalits had begun organising. Our agitations resonated in the remotest areas. They began arresting us (Dalits) in false cases,” claims Dhawale. In the Khairlanji massacre on September 2006, a Dalit family was wiped out by dominant caste villagers.

Dhawale had launched a political front, Republican Panther, on December 6, 2007. The front’s mandate was to construct a commonpolitical platform for Dalits.

“We had decided to intervene in every case of atrocity across the state. Agitation and protesting was not enough, our aim was to build a mass base and ensure the government was held responsible each time a Dalit basti was burnt, a Dalit youth was killed or a Dalit woman was sexually assaulted,” Dhawale said.

Dhawale’s release comes at a time when the incidents of caste-related atrocities have increased greatly in the state. Last month, a 17- year old Dalit boy was killed in Ahmednagar for falling in love with a girl from a dominant caste. A Dalit sarpanch was killed in Jalna district for allegedly opposing political activists from dominant caste.

“But dissenting voices are stifled. We rarely see the oppressed caste fight back. Sustained agitation that we saw post-Khairlanji is no more a common sight. Many of us who participated in protest rallies then (post-Khairlanji) have been booked in cases. We were labelled as ‘Naxals’. I want to go back to those activists, youths, and relaunch our struggle,” Dhawale said.

Dhawale was booked for conspiring and waging war against the nation. However, later he was tried only under the conspiracy charge.

In an over-100 page judgement delivered by sessions judge R G Asmar, the judge has pointed out discrepancies in the investigation and lack of substantial evidence.
[email protected]

 

Read mor ehere –  http://indianexpress.com/article/india/regional-india/40-months-on-court-acquits-naxal-activist-sudhir-dhawale/

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Professor G.N. Saibaba: A Prisoner Of Conscience

By Shobha Aggarwal & Dr. Paramjit Singh Sahni 

18 May, 2014
Countercurrents.org

 

“The Nuremberg Trials : The Doctors Trial

The Doctors Trial considered the fate of twenty-three German physicians who either participated in the Nazi program to euthanize … physically disabled or who conducted experiments on concentration camp prisoners without their consent.  The Doctors Trial lasted 140 days.  Eighty-five witnesses testified and almost 1,500 documents were introduced.  Sixteen of the doctors charged were found guilty.  Seven were executed.”

[http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/nuremberg/nurembergdoctortrial.html]

The above quote depicts the treatment meted out to hundreds of thousands of people who were physically challenged under the Nazi Germany regime; and how eventually Nuremberg trials brought to justice the doctors, the police men (SSS men) and those administering the concentration camps. Professor G.N. Saibaba – teaching English at Delhi University’s Ram Lal Anand College – was arrested on May 9, 2014 from with in the University campus by the Maharashtra police for his alleged Maoist links and is presently lodged in a Nagpur jail.

His plight is jail is comparable to that of physically challenged in concentration camps during the Nazi rule in Germany. He is lodged in a solitary, dark cell with no attendant. It means that if he wishes to answer the call of nature he has to crawl like an animal. In any case he cannot use the conventional toilet seat. Saibaba suffers from 90% disability afflicted as he is from Post Polio Residual Paralysis (PPRP) of both the legs since age 5. He also has weakness of upper limbs. Besides he suffers from high blood pressure; and has severe low backache. He is wheel chair bound and needs assistance for his everyday activities. Reports indicate that he is not even provided medicine for his high blood pressure. There is a very real risk of his getting a heart attack or a brain hemorrhage; the latter episode could leave him half paralyzed and speechless. The untreated high blood pressure could damage his kidneys. It may be recalled that Jayaprakash Narayan’s kidneys were damaged while he was incarcerated in jail during Mrs. Gandhi’s Internal Emergency years, 1975-77. He was heading the Sampoorna Kranti Andolam (Movement for Total Revolution). Not being provided with an attendant for help could lead to complications like loss of bowel and bladder control due to spinal cord compression – a sort of punishment being inflicted with in the jail premises which is worse than capital punishment. And Saibaba is just an accused!

Earlier in September 2013 the police had raided Saibaba’s residence and took away what was alleged to be ‘incriminating evidence’. Saibaba has since been assisting the Maharashtra police in its probe whenever it descended in Delhi. A charge sheet was filed in the case in February, 2014 as reported in a section of the print media and a non-bailable warrant procured against Saibaba. He was eventually arrested. As Prof. Saibaba was cooperating in the probe there was no need for his arrest during the trial period. Ironically he has been arrested under various provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 [UAP Act] as amended from time to time. Under this law anticipatory bail is expressly prohibited. Even the regular bail gets denied underthe Act if the court on a perusal of the case diary or the report prepared by the police is of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accusation against such person is prima facie true. This goes against the fundamental principles of granting bail to an accused. It is ultra vires the Constitution as the liberty of the accused is unnecessary curtailed. Some of the sections under which he has been charged include S. 13, 18, 20 and 39 of the UAP Act. The investigating agencies have gone to ludicrous lengths in using these sections against him.

Prof. Saibaba has always stood up for the rights of the dispossessed. He is pro-people. The mighty Indian State has undertaken a crackdown on Prof. Saibaba and those who share his views. The reason why the police arrested Prof. Saibaba appears to be to keep him in judicial custody/police custody for over 48 hours or more and then use this as a pretext – under cover of Govt. service rules – to suspend him from job as has been done on 15 May, 2014. Later the family would be asked to vacate the Govt. accommodation. All this would intensify the mental, psychological and social pressure on Prof. Saibaba. In ordinary circumstances had Saibaba been not wheelchair bound and afflicted with polio of both the legs he could have been shown to be escaping during transportation and eliminated in a false encounter. Since Prof. Saibaba is already paralyzed in both legs the authorities may not like to resort to break his legs or use the roller-coaster method – practices which are in vogue in many police stations.

We are living in an era where the biometric information of every citizen of India viz. pattern of iris, finger prints of both hands and the facial profile is available with the Ministry of Home Affairs. A misuse of this data could lead to any citizen being incriminated in any crime. Besides one does not need to be a computer whiz to appreciate how data can be added or deleted even from anexternal hard disk of a personal computer to incriminate people whom the Indian State deems to be dangerous to wit those sensitive persons who have the interest of the poorest of the poor at heart.

It is ironic that the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 has the statement of Objects and Reasons of Bill tabled in Lok Sabha on 26 August, 1995; the statement includes inter alia the responsibility of the State towards protection of rights and provision of medical care; and to counteract any situation of the abuse and the exploitation of persons with disabilities. The Indian Constitution guarantees by Article 14 Equality before the Law and Equal Protection of the Laws; however the blind social stigma attached to physically incapacitated persons cannot be overlooked. It is patently obvious in Saibaba’s case. Someone has to have an I.Q. well below that of a congenital idiot to be missing Saibaba’s physical incapacitation. Those involved in investigating the matter for the last eight months failed to inform the higher authorities that a person with 90% disability is being arrested clandestinely from Delhi and airlifted surreptitiously to Nagpur or whereabouts in Maharashtra. The judge who remanded him to custody failed to order appropriate arrangements for him in the jail as befits a physically challenged person. The jail doctors and the jail administration, too violated the Disabilities Act by not making arrangements for ramps within the jail premises where Prof. Saibaba is lodged in a solitary, dark cell. As mandated by the provisions of the chapter 8 section 46 of the Disabilities Act the jail authorities failed to get adaptation of toilet for wheel chair users. As the problems faced by Prof. Saibaba have been highlighted by the media, the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities appointed under the Disabilities Act could have taken steps to safe guard the rights and facilities that needed to be made available to Prof. Saibaba. The Chief Commissioner has the power to take suo motto action in case of deprivation of rights of persons with disabilities and to take up the matter with appropriate authorities. The Chief Commissioner, for the purpose of discharging his functions under this Act has the same powers as are vested in a court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. Every proceeding before the Chief Commissioner is a judicial proceeding. Why has the Chief Commissioner under the Act or the State Chief Commissioner (based in Pune) not acted pro-actively so far in Prof. Saibaba’s case? Those who are physically challenged or differently abled in any way constitute the second largest minority community in India, second only to Muslims. It is shocking that twenty years after the passage of the Disability Act, State institutions including jails continue to deny basic rights and dignity to people who are differently abled. The Indian Government’s attitude becomes highly condemnable since India has also ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 1 October, 2007.  Article 14 of the Convention states:

“Liberty and security of person

1. States Parties shall ensure that persons with disabilities, on an equal

basis with others:

(a) Enjoy the right to liberty and security of person;

(b) Are not deprived of their liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily, and that any deprivation of liberty is in conformity with the law, and that the existence of a disability shall in no case justify a deprivation of liberty.

2. States Parties shall ensure that if persons with disabilities are deprived of their liberty through any process, they are, on an equal basis with others, entitled to guarantees in accordance with international human rights law and shall be treated in compliance with the objectives and principles of the present Convention, including by provision of reasonable accommodation.”

Prof. Saibaba is a political prisoner. In view of the facts and circumstances of the case he needs to be given bail on emergent basis and the accusations against him withdrawn.

[Shobha Aggarwal is an advocate and Dr. Paramjit Singh Sahni is a qualified orthopedic surgeon. Both are members of Public Interest Litigation Watch Group. Email: [email protected]]

 

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DU professor GN Saibaba arrested by Maharashtra police #WTFnews

Last Updated: Friday, May 09, 2014, 17:52
Zee Media Bureau

New Delhi: Delhi University professor GN Saibaba was picked up by the Maharashtra Police’s anti-naxal unit on Friday for his alleged links with Maoists.

The English professor with Delhi University has in the past been questioned on a number of occasions for his alleged links with the banned outfit.

Earlier this year, a police team from Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district, hotbed of Maoist activities, quizzed Saibaba for several hours after it had conducted a forensic analysis of his computer seized in mid-September last year.

The name of Saibaba cropped after the arrest of a Jawaharlal Nehru University student Hem Mishra who had claimed before the probe agencies that he was acting as a courier between the professor and banned cadres of Maoists holed up in Abujmad forests in Chhattisgarh.

The sources said some of the documents recovered from the computer them had been shown to the professor and used to question him about his association with cadres of the banned outfit.

Accused of acting as an overground worker for the banned outfit, police has alleged that the professor runs an organisation which was acting as a front for CPI-Maoist, a charge denied by Saibaba.

Police had claimed that besides Mishra, two other arrested Maoist leaders Kobad Gandhy and Bacha Prasad Singh had named Saibaba as their contact in the national capital.

The police action against Saibaba has come under criticism from his colleagues in the past.

(With Agency Inputs)

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Maoists apologize for deaths of civilians in Chhattisgarh attacks

Maoists say attack on bus near Kutru of Bijapur was a serious mistake
Maoists apologize for deaths of civilians in Chhattisgarh attacks

Seven members of a polling team and five CRPF men were among 14 persons killed on 12 April when Naxals had struck twice in a gap of less than an hour, blowing up a bus and an ambulance in Bijapur and Bastar districts of Chhattisgarh. Photo: AFP
Raipur: The Communist Party of India (Maoist) has apologized for the death of nine civilians, including 7 polling personnel, in landmine blasts triggered by their cadres in Chhattisgarh over the weekend and termed it as a “serious mistake”.
PLGA cadres attacked a bus near Kutru of Bijapur suspecting security personnel were travelling in it. It was a serious mistake on our part and we apologise for it publicly,” spokesperson of Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee of Maoist Gudsa Usendi said in press release circulated to local media.
People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) is the military wing of CPI (Maoists). The committee is an arm of the banned outfit whose members are active in Chhattisgarh, parts of Odisha and Maharashtra.
“We express our condolence to the families of the slain polling personnel as well as other civilians (an ambulance driver and a paramedic),” he said. “It’s an irreparable loss and we know asking for apology wouldn’t bring them back. But I want to clarify to their family members that they were not our enemies and they fall under our “friends category”. They died due to our carelessness and mistake,” Usendi said.
“We appeal to the family members of those killed or injured, teachers and employees (polling staff), people and human rights organisations to realise we did not deliberately attack them. It was a mistake and it shouldn’t be seen as violation of human rights,” the spokesman added.
He asked government employees and journalists not to travel with police or in their vehicles, and told private vehicle operators to desist from ferrying security personnel in the conflict zone.
Seven members of a polling team and five CRPF men were among 14 persons killed on 12 April when Naxals had struck twice in a gap of less than an hour, blowing up a bus and an ambulance in Bijapur and Bastar districts of the state.
The Naxals had attacked the polling team near Ketulnar village under Kutru police station limits of Bijapur when it was returning after voting in the region on 10 April. In the second incident, the extremists blew up an ambulance carrying CRPF personnel near Kamanar village under Darbha police station in Bastar. Five CRPF men, the ambulance driver and a paramedic technician were killed in the raid.
Read more here — http://blog.livemint.com/Politics/ZJf6cNuz0ykGetUNlX748I/Maoists-apologize-for-deaths-of-civilians-in-Chhattisgarh-at.html

 

 

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Soni Sori – a voice emerges from Bastar’s margins

Under threat from the Maoists, and jailed by the police, AAP‘s Soni Sori plunges into the election for all she holds dear

Aman Sethi  |  <news:geo_locations>Geedam (Chhattisgarh

 Last Updated at 00:25 IST
Soni Sori

Soni Sori
Soni Sori awakens in a half settled house on National Highway 16, slips on a brown kameez and black slacks, tames her shoulder length hair with a banana clip, jumps into a Mahindra Scorpio piloted by her brother, Ramdev, and careens down to the Kuakonda police station in South BastarChhattisgarh, to sign the following handwritten affidavit: “In accordance with the bail conditions set by the Honourable Supreme Court, applicant Soni Sori is required to present herself at this police station. The most respected officer is requested to take the trouble to record the applicant’s presence.”

“I have to report to a police station every Monday morning,” says Sori, as she stashes her copy of the affidavit into a many-zippered brown leather handbag, “Had I missed it, bas, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate would be back in jail.”

Bastar – one of India’s poorest and least developed constituencies – goes to polls on Thursday, April 10. From 7 am to 4 pm, thousands of heavily armed troopers will guard 1,797 polling booths from the guerilla army of the Communist Party of India (Maoist). The rebels have called for an electionboycott, a call their cadres are well capable of enforcing, and the local press reports that a re-arrangement of polling centres has meant that Adivasis from parts of the remote Narayanpur district shall have to walk 70 km each way through undulating forest to vote. (BEHIND THE BAR)

Dinesh Kashyap, the incumbent from the Bharatiya Janata Party, is expected to narrowly defeat Deepak “Bunty” Karma, his closest contender from the Congress. Yet, all the attention is focused on the AAP candidate, Sori, a 39-year-old Adivasi school teacher, with Rs 1 lakh in fixed deposits and no assets, who has become a symbol of the tragic repercussions of the war between the Maoists and the state.

‘Police abuses never raised in Bastar polls’
In October 2011, Sori was arrested for allegedly ferrying money from Essar Group to the Maoists in a deal to protect the company’s assets in rebel-controlled territories. The allegation was denied by Essar Group, Sori and the Maoists.

She fled Chhattisgarh, alleging the state police had tried to kill her in a fake encounter, was subsequently arrested in Delhi and transferred back to a prison in Chhattisgarh. In letters smuggled out of prison, Sori accused the police of torturing her in the course of interrogations, and went on a hunger strike in prison to protest against the poor living conditions there and the alleged withholding of medical assistance by prison staff. A medical report by the NRS Medical College in Kolkata lends credence to some of her claims.

The Chhattisgarh police has denied Sori’s allegations. On Republic Day in 2012, Ankit Garg, a policeman who allegedly oversaw her torture, was awarded the Police Medal for Gallantry for his bravery in anti-Maoist operations. Garg has also denied Sori’s claims.

In February this year, nearly two-and-a-half years after her arrest, Sori was granted bail by the Supreme Court and was declared the AAP’s Lok Sabha candidate from Bastar in March.

“The issues of human rights violations and police abuses have never been raised in a Bastar election,” said a senior journalist from Jagdalpur, “For Sori to stand for elections and say, ‘I am not a Maoist, I am an Adivasi from Bastar and this happened to me’, is a very big step.”

Prior to Sori’s candidature, the Communist Party of India was the only political force that consistently spoke of human rights violations in Chhattisgarh. In 2007, CPI leaders Manish Kunjam and Kartam Joga filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court to halt the controversial Salva Judum movement in which adivasis Adivasis in Chhattisgarh were evacuated from their villages and put in fortified camps protected by the State police. The petitioners have accused Judum mobs of burning villages, attacking villagers and molesting women. Since then, the CPI’s ground network has crumbled under a sustained assault from the Maoist and the state police. Kartam Joga himself was accused of supporting the Maoists and arrested in 2010. He was acquitted in January 2013.

Having marked her presence at the police station, Sori heads out to meet her family. “I should be campaigning right now but my daughter has just finished school and has returned from her hostel. She keeps calling me and asking me to come.”

It will be a miracle if Sori wins this election. Bastar is an enormous and inaccessible tract of sal forests and iron-veined hills threaded by walking trails, and the Maoist boycott forced all campaigning on to the state and national highways rather than the interior villages that might be more receptive to her key messages. The BJP has thrown its weight behind their candidate – the party’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, addressed a rally here in March and Chief Minister Raman Singh flew down this week to rally the troops.

Soni’s campaign, by contrast, consists of 15 cars criss-crossing an area the size of Kerala. Campaign posters arrived four days before polling day and her campaign teams have been plagued by requests for money.

“Villagers ask for money to our faces and we have to explain we are different,” said Sukal Prasad, an Adivasi leader who spent 15 years in the BJP and another 15 in the Communist Party of India, before joining Sori’s campaign this year, “The Bastar election is managed by village-level coordinators who ensure their party delivers goats, chickens and liquor a few nights before polling. We don’t believe in that.”

Sori’s ancestral village of Palnar, on the edge of the forest 15 minutes by car from the Kuakonda police station, is one place teeming with posters of Sori’s sombre countenance alongside AAP convenor Arvind Kejriwal’s beaming visage.

‘I dreamt you were dead’
Madru Ram, Sori’s father, and Ashu, her youngest child, wait for Sori on a low wooden bed in the airy veranda of their house at the entrance to the settlement. In June 2011, the Maoists attacked Madru Ram’s house in Bade Bidme, a neighbouring village, and shot him through the leg. The fracture is yet to heal.

“It doesn’t matter if she wins or not. It is really important she fights so people can learn the truth of Bastar,” Madru Ram said, “I was shot and looted by the Maoists. My daughter was imprisoned and tortured for being a Maoist.”

Ten-year-old Ashu runs up to Sori and wraps her arms around her mother’s legs, Sori hugs her: “Have you been a good girl? What were the nightmares you told me over the phone.”

“I dreamt you were dead.”
In 2010, a Maoist party attacked the Kuakonda police station and raided the house of Congressman and civil contractor Avadesh Gautam. Gautam escaped but two people were killed and a stray bullet injured his young son. In an FIR recorded after the incident, Gautam said he recognised 67 people who participated in the attack, including Sori and her husband Anil Futani.

Futani was arrested straight away and Sori was declared an absconder despite the fact that she continued to teach at her village school a few kilometres away and the school administration faithfully recorded her daily attendance.

The police, Sori alleges, would occasionally call her, remind her of the vulnerability of her children and her pending warrant and threaten to arrest her if she did not work for them as an informant. The Avdesh Gautam case collapsed in 2013 – every single accused was acquitted, including Futani who, Sori said, was beaten to the point of partial paralysis. He died soon after.

“I was in prison when he died. I missed the funeral,” Sori says, crying now. “People ask me why I haven’t taken off my bangles – I can’t. I still can’t believe I am a widow. If I take them off, I will break.”

Sori and her small team of volunteers have assembled a 21-point manifesto for a campaign, many of which allude to her party’s focus on decentralisation and devolution of powers and elimination of corruption. Yet in her speeches, Sori talks of her “natural battle” for the truth, for security, for the dignity of Adivasis and the rights of prisoners and undertrials – many of whom, she says, have been jailed on trumped up charges.

Nowhere else in the country is a campaign being fought on prisoners’ rights.

In 2012, Chhattisgarh’s jails were overcrowded by 253 per cent – or 14,780 inmates were crammed into cells intended for 5,850 prisoners – compared to the national average of 112 per cent, according to the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group.

From 2005 to 2012, an astonishing 95.7 per cent of all cases ended in acquittal of the accused, compared to a national average of 38.5 per cent. However, cases are increasingly taking longer to be decided and undertrials are spending more time in prisons. In 2005, nearly 75 per cent of all cases were disposed off in less than two years. By 2012, that number had fallen to 60 per cent and a significant number of cases ended after six years.

“I lost everything when I was sent to jail,” Sori explaining why she raised this issue, “They destroyed my life.”

It’s a little past lunchtime; she is headed back to Geedam with Ashu to the house that she and Futani once shared, when her cellphone rings. “I will come, I will come, I will come,” she says and hangs up, “I really should campaign but my son, Deepak, has just finished school and wants to leave his hostel as well. My children worry they will never see me. They say, ‘first you were in jail, now you have become a neta’.”

On the last day of campaigning Sori feels like an examination aspirant confronted by Bastar’s vast syllabi: Her father will canvass for support in Palnar, while she will first drive 100 km east to Sukma, campaign for a few hours and then drive another 160 km dead west to Bijapur before returning to 50 km back to Geedam to spend the night with her children.

Cars have been readied; in a rare display of professionalism, drivers have gone to get their stepneys checked. “Tell the drivers to hurry up,” Soni is dressed in a lilac kameez, a white dupatta, brown and black chequered cloth moccasins. She is raring to go when her cellphone rings. It’s her father, calling her 13 km away to the Madhuban hotel in Dantewada.

Spies and informants of all stripes haunt the Madhuban, Dantewada’s sole motel with attached restaurant. The Maoists, police, state intelligence, central intelligence – everyone is believed to have their people employed there, a charge the staff hotly deny. Sori and her family sit in a Mahindra Bolero parked on the hotel premises and speak in whispers.

Thirty minutes pass, and then an hour. Finally her father holds her close, she emerges from the vehicle and waves goodbye. Is everything ok?

“Nothing is ok,” she replies, “The Maoists held a meeting near Palnar last night and sent a message: They will wait till this election is over and then they will kill me.”

She makes a few phone calls, she tells the driver she is not going to Sukma, or Bijapur. Her campaign teams continue to move from village to village, slipping white hats onto all they meet. “Vote for Soni Sori,” they say, “Our party is not like the other parties.”

Read mor ehere – http://www.business-standard.com/article/elections-2014/in-a-two-way-race-a-voice-emerges-from-bastar-s-margins-114041000153_1.html
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Ruffled by leader’s surrender, Maoists issue diktat on live-in relationships #WTFnews

RAHUL PANDITA

NEW DELHI, March 5, 2014
Updated: March 5, 2014 01:58 IST
 
Maoist leader G. V. K. Prasad and his wife Santhoshi Markam at a press meet after their surrender in January. Photo: Mohammed Yousuf
Mohammed_Yousuf The HinduMaoist leader G. V. K. Prasad and his wife Santhoshi Markam at a press meet after their surrender in January. Photo: Mohammed Yousuf
 
 

G.V.K. Prasad and his partner gave themselves up in January

The statement from the Maoist spokesperson Gudsa Usendi that selected journalists received on March 2 was against a man who till two months ago was Gudsa Usendi.

Usendi was a guerilla who died in a police encounter in Chhattisgarh in 2000.

Every appointed spokesperson of the party’s main guerilla zone, Dandakaranya Special Zone Committee (comprising Bastar in Chhattisgarh and Gadchiroli in Maharashtra), has since been called Gudsa Usendi.

From 2006 till he surrendered before the Andhra Pradesh police in January this year, senior Maoist leader G.V.K. Prasad was Gudsa Usendi. It was he who accepted responsibility for the May 2013 Darbha Valley attack in Chhattisgarh that resulted in the death of senior Congress leaders.

But after his surrender along with his partner Santoshi Markam, Prasad became a “renegade” overnight for the party. Prasad cited serious differences with the Maoist leadership for his surrender. In his first statement, the new Gudsa Usendi accused his predecessor of “political and moral degradation.” Usendi said Prasad had a “live-in” relationship with Santoshi and that the party did not allow cohabitation without marriage.

Usendi’s latest statement is a sign of how the Maoist leadership is failing to read the writing on the wall: with increased security operations and disillusionment with the party policies, many rebels are finding solace more in love than in revolutionary praxis. It is also an indictment of an ideology that promised emancipation of the masses, especially women. Considering that many women in States like Andhra Pradesh choose to join the Maoist fold to escape feudal and patriarchal setups, the party’s new Khap-like take on relationships will only lead to further desertions — especially since at least 40 per cent of the cadre are women.

In the past also, the Maoist leadership has not taken kindly to such surrenders.

In December 2012, senior Maoist commander in Gadchiroli, Shekhar was accused of being a degenerate who “refused to rectify his mistakes” after his surrender.

In several instances, the Maoists accuse their erstwhile comrades who choose to surrender of sexual misbehaviour with women cadres.

“When we say women cadres are sexually harassed, the Maoists dismiss it as propaganda,” said a senior police officer involved in anti-Maoist operations in Andhra Pradesh.

“But just see how many of their comrades they have accused of such practice in the last few months.”

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#India – 16 alleged Maoist cultural wing activists arrested

Suvojit Bagchi, The Hindu, Dec 6

At least 16 Muria Gond tribals have been arrested in the last 48 hours in Bijapur district of south Chhattisgarh for allegedly acting as cultural activists of the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist). The arrested alleged activists are aged between 18 and 22 years and were influencing the locals against the administration through song and dance, a release from Bijapur police said.

Local courtAccording to the district SP Prashant Agarwal, the activists have been produced in a local court.

The alleged activists belong to the Chaitanya Natya Manch (CNM), the cultural wing of the CPI (Maoist). The police release said the first group of 11 activists were arrested on Wednesday, while they were performing near Bidiyabhumi village under Bhairamgarh police station in Bijapur.

Second groupThe second group of three boys and two girls were picked up from Kondapal village under Mirtur police station.

Both groups were arrested during a searching operation carried out by the district force.

Drums, musical anklets, green clothes, red head-bands and Naxal literature were confiscated, the release said.

Mass arrestNo Maoist version regarding the mass arrest of CNM activists was available till late evening.

This is the first major arrest of cultural wing activists in the recent years.

TribalsThe CNM activists are normally recruited from the local tribals who have a natural flair for song and dance.

While a section of the CNM activists later join the party or its armed wing, many members leave the cultural wing as they grow up.

The CNM activists are unarmed and never given any training in arms, unless they join the party.

Armed wingMr. Agarwal said the CNM members were not carrying any arms and were not connected to the party’s armed wing, the Peoples Liberation Guerrilla Army.

 

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