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#Sundayreading – From the Pen of the Resistance : The Lalgarh Uprising

[This is a book review, written by Bernard D’Mello, that was published in EPWFor obtaining a copy of the book, please contact us : communications [at] sanhati [dot] com -Ed]

Letters from Lalgarh by the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities, edited and translated by Sanhati (Kolkata: Setu Prakashani in collaboration with www.sanhati.com), 2013; pp 182, Rs 70.

The Letters from Lalgarh contains a set of six dispatches written by the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) to various organisations and intellectuals in Kolkata over the period March-September 2010, during the occupation of Jangalmahal by the Joint Forces of the West Bengal and union governments. One might like to read these letters as a testimony of the repression and resistance that Jangalmahal witnessed over these months, as the Sanhati editors put it, in the Introduction. One might also consider these letters as part of the documentation of the Lalgarh uprising, a task that the Sanhati Collective has engaged in with a sense of dedication and commitment its activists can legitimately feel proud of.

Have All of ‘Us’ Become Maoists?

Upon the completion of 10 years of underground work (the long, patient organisational work that precedes the firing of the first shots, as Ho Chi Minh would have put it) amongst ordinary adivasis and moolvasis in the Lalgarh and surrounding blocks of the district of West Midnapore in West Bengal, in a dramatic flash, the Communist Party of India (Maoist) – CPI(Maoist) – lit a prairie fire there. On 2 November 2008, when the then Chief Minister of West Bengal, Buddhadev Bhattacharjee, along with two central government ministers and a host of officials, was returning after a foundation stone-laying ceremony at the site of a proposed steel plant by the Sajjan Jindal business group at Salboni in the district, Maoist guerrillas detonated a landmine that narrowly missed its target.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPi(M))-led Left Front government had allotted 4,500 acres of land to the project even as the government’s land reform programme of allotting pattas (formal rights) for cultivable forestland and forestland under cultivation to the poor tribal peasants was kept in cold storage. The deeply felt resentment of ordinary adivasis and moolvasis only grew. The demands of India’s big bourgeoisie (the project had even been given the status of a special economic zone, bestowing a whole host of fiscal and other concessions to it) were more important than the needs of these ordinary people whose political consciousness was being sharpened by the Maoists slowly but surely since 1998.

The provincial intelligence bureau knew this and the police unleashed a reign of terror in the Lalgarh area just because the people there were deemed to be sympathisers of the Maoists. Even schoolkids were beaten and charged with “waging war against the state” among other things. But worse was to come. In a mid-night swoop on 6-7 November 2008, in the villages in Lalgarh block, the police kicked and beat – with their lathis and butts of their rifles – a number of women, among whom were Chintamani Murmu and Panamani Hansda who were badly injured, Chintamani in the eye and Panamani suffered multiple fractures in the chest. The adivasis, over here, the Santals, have been subject to police oppression over generations, but now, with the Maoists around, their sense of dignity could no longer be crushed. 7 November was the Russian Revolution anniversary day – the establishment- Left led by the CPi(M), masqueraded as a “revolutionary force” in a big show of strength, even as, here in Lalgarh, the real thing was brewing with the tribal people outraged at the CPi(M)-led government’s sell-out of their “ancestral land”.

At first more spontaneous, by mid-November 2008 the PCAPA was formed to lead the mass struggle in Lalgarh and the adjoining areas. (Apart from Lalgarh, the uprising spread over Binpur, Jhargram, Belpahari and Jamboni blocks over the first month since the outbreak on 7 November 2008.) A 12-point charter of demands was drawn up, among which was that the superintendent of police of the district and those responsible for the atrocities on the women should hold their ears and crawl with their nose facing the ground in apology and that the chief minister too should also tender an expression of regret. Significant on the list, apart from the call for the removal of police camps, was the demand for the withdrawal of the false cases and charge sheets filed since 1998 against people who had been framed as Maoists.

But what was really heartening were the direct forms of people’s democracy in practice – each village now had a gram (village) committee with five women and five men in it. Two persons, a man and a woman from each village were a part of the central coordinating committee; the utterly democratic manner of taking and ratifying decisions; making officials sit on the ground on hand-woven mats on equal terms to negotiate with the committees. All this brought into sharp focus the contrast with the practice of rotten liberal-political democracy by the mainstream political parties in India.

The other aspect was that, in Jangalmahal, the CPI(M)-led Left Front had abysmally failed on the “development” front – the public distribution system had collapsed, the primary health centres were almost non-functional, even potable water was not easily accessible – while the PCAPA-led mass movement, with the meagre resources at its command, was able to run health posts with doctors from Kolkata coming in once a week, construct and repair embankments, dig ponds, set up tube wells, teach the local language in some schools, a lot of all this through shramdaan (voluntary labour).

With such modes of direct participatory democracy, the movement spread further – to Goaltore, Salboni, Nayagram, and even to Garbeta, a CPI(M) stronghold. Students came out in solidarity. But the traditional local leadership of the Santals, the Majhi Madwa, and Jharkhandi political parties, who came to take advantage of the mass outrage to convert it into a vote bank, were asked to back off. The CPI(M)’s “divide and rule” tactics failed, but the party repeatedly made the charge of Maoist involvement to justify what was on the anvil – state and state-sponsored terror. Nevertheless, the spread of the struggle, the roadblocks and the bandhs, the attacks on CPi(M) offices, and so on ultimately forced the government to remove the police camps – the camps had occupied school buildings among other places.

Very soon, within a month, 10 of the 12 demands were met. Even the chief minister was forced to apologise. But the two main ones, the apology of the superintendent of police and his men who had committed the midnight raids and the excesses remained, as also the demand for the dropping of the cases/charge sheets filed against so-called Maoists since 1998. The struggle thus went on, and indeed, practically the entire state machinery was kept out of operation in the areas of struggle for months. In keeping with the changing dynamics of the situation, the PCAPA and the CPI(Maoist) together, in tandem, for a while, seemed to have struck an astute balance between political mobilisation, armed actions, and social welfare/“development” activity.

But the situation was on edge. In progressively taking over CPI(M) strongholds, the Maoist leadership was working towards banishing the ruling Leftists from the area. However, in doing so, it was precipitating a crisis of the state. That moment came on 14 June 2009 when the target was the “White House”, the “palatial” (in sharp contrast to the deprivation all around it) house of Anuj Pandey, the CPI(M) zonal secretary. He was in control of Dharampur, whether it was getting work in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, below-the-poverty-line ration cards, deciding who would be the beneficiaries of welfare programmes like the Indira Awaas Yojana, he was in the saddle, and, of course, locally he directed the CPI(M) harmads – armed goons who enforced the party’s writ. That is why the Maoists chose to destroy the “White House”, for it was a symbol of the “Ancien Régime”. The grand finale was when the Maoist leader Bikash, an AK-47 slung over his shoulder, made a public declaration that, indeed, the Maoists were leading the movement.

Perhaps the CPI(Maoist) knew of the impending entry of the Joint Forces, as a result of a joint decision of the Congress Party-led government at the centre and the CPI(M)-led West Bengal government. The occupation of Jangalmahal by the Joint Forces brought about a sea change in the Lalgarh movement, especially in the balance between mass political mobilisation and alternative development activity, on the one hand, and armed resistance, on the other. With the entry of the Joint Forces in the manner of an occupation army and the conduct of the CPI(M) harmads in the manner of local collaborators, the CPI(M) began recapturing its territorial strongholds. But even as the Maoist guerrillas and the Sidhu-Kanhu militia (the latter, of the PCAPA) resisted the Joint Forces and the CPI(M) harmads, even carried out ambushes and landmine explosions, the tempo of mass political mobilisation and social welfare/development activity by the PCAPA became a real challenge to sustain.

In fact, the resistance took a fresh turn with the Maoists’ People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) raid on a camp of the Eastern Frontier Rifles at Silda (in West Midnapore district) on 15 February 2010. Condemnation of the Maoists in the commercial media assumed hysteric proportions. Three months later, the Gyaneshwari Express train was sabotaged on 27-28 May leading to its derailment, and with an oncoming goods train hitting the loose carriages, nearly 150 passengers died, and predictably, the Maoists were blamed,1 this to buttress the “discourse of counterinsurgency”. Disease metaphors – “deadly virus” and so on – of colonial vintage had a field day, for both the West Bengal and the central governments did not seem to want the public to know the truth.

Voice of Jangalmahal

During the occupation, the media dutifully published the versions fed to it by the police in Midnapore and Jhargram, and so, these letters of the PCAPA need to be read to understand how ordinary adivasis and moolvasis felt about the repression, and the manner in which they valiantly resisted. As the Introduction by Sanhati says, the letters, written in a uniquely “earthy tone”, put forth “cogent arguments”; they were the “voice of Jangalmahal” in those dark times. More important, “(i)t is telling that nearly all the signatories of these letters have been killed or are in jail”. Indeed, a month before the first letter was penned, Lalmohan Tudu, the president of the PCAPA was cold-bloodedly assassinated on 22 February 2010 (as per a statement of the PCAPA) when he went to meet his daughter who was to appear in the state board examinations scheduled to begin the next day. Sidhu Soren, who led the Sidhu-Kanhu militia, and four of his comrades were killed on 26 July 2010 while they were asleep in the jungles of Metala (again, according to a statement of the PCAPA). Umakanta Mahato, a member of the central committee of the PCAPA, falsely accused in the sabotage of the Gyaneshwari train, was cold-bloodedly assassinated by Joint Forces personnel, accompanied by CPI(M) men, on 27 August 2010, in the forests of Parulia while returning home (according to the testimony of Sabita Mahato, the wife of Umakanta Mahato). It seems as if it was the implicit policy of the West Bengal and central governments to annihilate the leaders of the PCAPA.

The letters give the reader a glimpse of the pathetic role of the judiciary at the local level, the role of the harmads as collaborators of the Joint Forces in the occupation, the PCAPA’s attempts to continue the implementation of its development programmes in the midst of the occupation, as also, their mass mobilisation in the form of rallies and meetings, and, of course, the role of women in the resistance. The latter, for instance the 35,000 women entering Jhargram on 20 July 2010 “demanding punishment of the perpetrators of the rapes in Sonamukhi” (p 111), the formation of the Nari Ijjat Bachao Committee (Committee to Safeguard the Dignity of Women), women leading a campaign to demolish liquor shops in Ramchandrapur, Chandabila, Nekradoba, Piyalgeriya, Barodehi and other villages, all this in the midst of the occupation is remarkable.

Incorrect Handling of Contradictions

Interestingly, in the course of the first four letters, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) is “identified as part of the ruling clique responsible for sending the Joint Forces into Jangalmahal” (Introduction, p 7), but, towards the end of the fifth letter (pp 140-41), dated 9 August 2010, upon Mamata Banerjee taking the initiative to organise an “anti-terror forum” and a rally to take place in August in Lalgarh to oppose the CPI(M) and its harmads, the PCAPA softens. Letter five says:

We shall remain steadfast with the anti-terror movement-struggle which has been formed with the initiative of the Trinamool leader Mamata Banerjee, intellectuals and human rights organisations (p 140).

Indeed, it was the PCAPA that made Mamata Banerjee’s rally in Lalgarh a success. It was here that she made all the tall promises – to withdraw the Joint Forces, punish the harmads and the police officers responsible for the atrocities committed, and institute enquiries into the killings – that eventually won her the Jangalmahal seats in the state assembly elections. What followed, as we now know, was the formation of TMC’s own harmads, the Bhairav Bahini, a strengthening of the intelligence serving the counter-insurgency, and the capture, brutal torture and assassination of the Maoist politburo member and the party’s main leader of the Lalgarh uprising, Kishenji.

What explains the terrible blunder committed by the Maoists and the PCAPA in allowing Mamata Banerjee and her TMC to gain a foothold in Jangalmahal, which ultimately led to a severe setback for the resistance over there? Surely, temporary, conditional alliances have to be made at certain junctures in the course of a “protracted people’s war”. In such politics, one has to utilise a conflict of interests, even if temporary, among one’s adversaries. The question however relates to the handling of a whole set of contradictions in the course of an alliance with a temporary, unstable, thoroughly unscrupulous and conditional associate.

On Jangalmahal, during the occupation, the whole set of contradictions can be demarcated into three subsets – (1) differences within the revolutionary consensus (between the CPI(Maoist) and the PCAPA, and within each of these entities); (2) disputes with progressive intellectuals and parties who opposed the revolutionary consensus regarding the strategic path to “new democracy” or “people’s democracy” (the other Naxalite parties/factions, some civil liberties and democratic rights organisations, and independent-Leftist public intellectuals); and (3) conflicts with those beyond the pale (the provincial CPI(M) in power in Jangalmahal and in West Bengal, the Congress Party, the TMC, other non-Left parliamentary parties, and “public intellectuals” serving the interests of their political patrons). In our view, handling criticism, difference of opinion, contention and opposition with those in (1) and (2), without clashes, by presenting the facts, reasoning things out, and persuading one’s contenders through resort to reason, is an essential part of “correct” practice of the leadership principle of the “mass line”. As regards (1) and (2), the revolutionaries were essentially handling contradictions among the people, that is, to the extent that the parties in (2) were expressing the will of at least a section of the people through their political practice.

The social-democratic CPI(M) – even though it was in power in the province and was acting as a close collaborator of the “occupying forces” in Jangalmahal – was (is) not beyond reform, unlike the TMC, which is unambiguously in (3). The “social fascist” characterisation of the CPi(M) by the CPI(Maoist) is ridiculous. In Jangalmahal, however, the CPI(M) was acting as a collaborator of the Joint Forces, and thus its contradictions with the CPI(Maoist) and the PCAPA were rendered antagonistic. Nevertheless, even in the civil-war like situation then prevailing in the area, the Maoists could have made the distinction between harmad combatants and CPI(M) non-combatants, and refrained from unleashing political violence on the latter. The alleged excessive killings of CPI(M) non-combatants seem to have unnecessarily escalated the already antagonistic contradictions between the CPI(Maoist) and the CPI(M) to a multiple of what they might otherwise have been, and ultimately, the TMC took advantage of the situation to steal a march over the CPI(M) in Jangalmahal in the state assembly elections of April-May 2011.

Indeed, as regards the TMC, the PCAPA should never have accepted the leadership of Mamata Banerjee when the TMC joined the “anti-terror forum”. Conceding the leadership to Mamata Banerjee gave the TMC the opportunity to wean away some of the PCAPA’s cadre and mass base. And, given the track record of parties like the TMC as regards the sharp contrast between their electoral manifestos (promises) and their conduct as soon as they come to power, a party like the CPI(Maoist) and its mass organisation, the PCAPA, whose cadre and leaders risked their precious lives, should never have had any positive expectations from the TMC. Nevertheless, peace talks, if these could have been forced on the TMC-led government that came to power, would have been beneficial to the people, to the extent that some concessions for the people could have been extracted from the mouth of the tiger, the Indian state, and would have given the resistance movement time to recuperate and reorganise in Jangalmahal.

The PCAPA letters do not give the reader even a clue about whether the CPI(Maoist) was in effective control of the PCAPA or not, or about the nature of the relationship between the leadership of the party and that of the PCAPA. But yes, Letter four does express outrage about the Joint Forces personnel carrying the dead bodies of young Maoist guerrillas, killed while they were asleep in the jungles of Ranjja in June 2010, hung animal-like, hands bound, legs tied, from bamboo poles, the security-force jawans conveying the bodies just like colonial hunters coming back from a shikar once did, with their prized dead game. Letter four says:

Those who were killed were our sons and daughters; they turned Maoists to resist (the) atrocities of (the) harmads. The way their dead bodies were carried after hog-tying them puts any civilised society to shame (p 106).

For those public intellectuals who highlight the crimes and cruelties alleged to have been committed by the Maoists, they ought to learn from Marx, whose response to the “crimes and cruelties alleged” against the “insurgent Hindoos” of 1857 was to set out an account of the daily violence “in cold blood” of British rule in India. The dispatches of the PCAPA show that not much seems to have changed in this respect in independent India, even as we are in the 21st century.

Note

1 The Maoists investigated whether renegade factions had been behind the sabotage, but have found that this is not the case (Maoist Information Bulletin, 20 October-November 2010).

 

– See more at: http://sanhati.com/articles/9313/#sthash.qo4NY49W.dpuf

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#India – Living n the shadow of Police State #Torture

HARISH NAMBIAR

Returned to life But who will compensate the time and honour lost for Nambi Narayanan, Mathew Samuel and Arun Ferreira?
Returned to life But who will compensate the time and honour lost for Nambi Narayanan, Mathew Samuel and Arun Ferreira?

Indian criminal law is a colonial relic, with little sympathy for the citizen. We need our own version of Miranda rights

 On the eve of Martyr’s Day, Arun Ferreira was finally exonerated of all charges levelled against him. This is yet another instance of how law enforcers try to cover their backs for making false arrests by adding an element of treason to criminal cases. Ferriera had spent five years in prison.

Bureaucracy is a giant mechanism operated by pygmies, as Honore de Balzac said, and therefore it is particularly vital that individual citizens of a free state be protected against the wiles of the system.

Indian criminal law, a colonial heirloom, is, not surprisingly, less sympathetic toward the citizen.

Though many colonial biases have been shed since Independence, the bureaucrats administering the law continue to have their own prejudices. Joseph K. in Kafka’s indelible portrait of the individual victimized by law rings true in Ferriera’s case.

In a country of India’s size, poverty and illiteracy, the most vulnerable groups tend to be singled out. But that does not mean the rest, like us, are safe. Sometimes, even scholars from Princeton are left scarred.

When Arun Ferreira was finally exonerated on January 29 of all charges foisted on him by the state for his Leftist leanings that were construed as Maoist sympathies, he had spent close to five years in Nagpur Central Jail.

Spy alarm

In 1994, a story broke from Kerala that a spy ring in the Indian Space Research Organisation had been exposed. It eventually turned out to be a false alarm but it destroyed the career of a scientist who had joined the organisation under the tutelage of ISRO’s founder Vikram Sarabhai in 1966. The scientist, with a PhD from Princeton, had refused a job offer from NASA, choosing to head India’s liquid fuel rocket technology quest.

In 1998 the Supreme Court exonerated S Nambi Narayanan of all charges and directed that an enormous sum be paid to him in reparation for the miscarriage of justice.

Ironically, it was the CBI that exposed the conspiracy against the scientist involving the Congress-led Kerala government and the Intelligence Bureau to serve narrow interests that had little to do with space, science or national interest.

In 2001, a dramatic sting operation by a magazine exposed the way cash and sex could seal million-dollar defence deals for India and had television audiences dropping their jaws in shock. It cost the president of the opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party, his job and landed him a jail term.

However, it devastated the life of the reporter who accomplished the audacious mission for his editors.

Mathew Samuel has been a haunted man since. His magazine withered away under governmental excesses and he was stuck in cases with the army, the CBI and the Central Vigilance Commission as a prime witness with no financial sustenance.

In an interview, Samuel said the CBI gave him ₹25 as lunch allowance on the days he was to depose before them as a primary witness, while parking charges for his car were ₹50 .

And he has found it nearly impossible to find a job.

Ferreira’s story

On a blazing May afternoon in 2007, the police picked up Arun Ferreira from Nagpur railway station. Ferreira was an activist of the Naujawan Bharat Sabha, a Leftist organisation that worked among the poor and the destitute to create political awareness and mobilise them to demand their dues from the government.

A citizen of Mumbai, he had been close to the organisation that was part of Datta Samant’s textile strike in Mumbai of the eighties, and had moved to the hinterland after years of working with slum dwellers in the metropolis.

He was taken a week later to the central forensic laboratory in Kalina, Mumbai, and administered a narco analysis test. In September he was subjected to another test in a Bangalore civil hospital. Both were done without his consent, though the law now requires consent.

However, the tests hardly helped shore up the case against him. Ferreira was in jail on charges that included murder and attack on police stations, and was slapped with cases from various parts of Gadchiroli and Chandrapur, the Naxalite districts of Maharashtra where he worked with the rural poor.

The court acquitted him of all eight cases foisted on him and he was released in 2011, when the police re-arrested him and threw two more cases on him. He spent another three months in jail before being exonerated from one and bailed out of the other.

Ferreira was finally cleared of all charges, but what about compensation for the lost years?

Destructive actions

These three cases illustrate how the State can destroy an individual’s life.

We must remember that each of them had a wife and children, and they as well as their extended families, were equally affected.

Though Indian law does not admit a confession as evidence in court, except under special laws, it relies heavily on the admissions of those charged with a crime.

After being hit, punched, abused and humiliated for a few hours, most human beings would sign whatever paper is presented to them. These papers constitute the majority of remand applications of law enforcers across the country.

Though an individual being arrested is required under law to be told of the charges brought up against him/her, there is no clear communication of rights or the risks of his/her actions under arrest, as spelt out by the Miranda rights in the US.

The Miranda rights came into being in the late sixties in the US when Ernesto Miranda’s conviction for kidnapping, rape and armed robbery was overturned by the US Supreme Court which ruled that criminal suspects must be informed of their right against self-incrimination and their right to consult with an attorney prior to questioning by police.

India’s vast and varyingly under-educated citizenry would benefit hugely if something equivalent to the Miranda rights were to be included in the police procedures. Our courts still depend largely on confessionary statements, especially in the early stages of cases that drag on for years, without ever examining the element of self-incrimination.

The little less than one-third of aspirational Indians whose brush with the law has not taken them into the dungeons of the Indian state would do well to read Kafka. Or they could imagine themselves in the shoes of Nambi Narayanan, Mathew Samuel or Arun Ferreira.

(The writer is author of ‘Defragmenting India – Riding a Bullet through the gathering storm’)

Read more here — http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/in-the-shadow-of-a-police-state/article5722858.ece

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Arun Ferreira – Torture and Human Rights Violations of Political Prisoners

 

Vivek BendreArun Ferreira after his release from Nagpur Central Jail on February 4.

ARUN FERREIRA was neither a firebrand activist nor a rabble-rouser. Rather, he was known for his work among the poor and the marginalised. So his arrest in 2007 on the charge of being a Maoist shook Mumbai. It seemed improbable that Ferreira, the convent-educated and middle-class man next door who lived in a well-heeled suburb of the city, could be a naxalite.

There were protests and petitions following Ferreira’s arrest, but to no avail. From all accounts, it seemed to be another case of gross injustice and violation of human rights where the victim was falsely implicated and branded anti-national to suit some hidden agenda. Investigations and interrogations yielded little, and in spite of the absence of proof to incriminate him, Ferreira continued to languish in Nagpur Central Jail.

After almost five years allegedly suffering relentless torture and fighting what seemed a losing battle, on February 4, Ferreira became a free man. For lack of substantial evidence, he was acquitted in all 11 cases against him.

“My case is really nothing special,” Ferreira told Frontline. “The real issue is the way political prisoners are treated and the blatant violation of human rights of prisoners.” According to Ferreira, he was in Nagpur in 2007 when many people were being arrested for naxalite activities. Even Dalits who were distributing literature and mobilising people after the Khairlanji massacre were taken into custody and branded naxalites. “I think the police had to show the numbers and we were easy targets,” he said.

Ferreira was arrested under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 2004, which is applied to people the state believes are terrorists. Seven charges were slapped on him, the main accusation being that he was a naxalite involved in a conspiracy to mobilise the naxalite movement.

The police said they had been tipped off that Ferreira along with Dhanendra Bhurule, a journalist recognised for his writings on social injustice, and Naresh Bansode, an activist, were meeting senior naxalite leader Ashok Satya Reddy alias Murali in Nagpur to organise a secret meeting of members at Deekshaboomi on May 8, 2007. The police had been tracking Murali’s movements and believed that the three were part of the conspiracy.

A police official said on condition of anonymity: “Ferreira was definitely a naxalite sympathiser. Perhaps he shouldn’t have been arrested, but they had evidence that he was working with people in the naxalite belt.”

Ferreira said he was beaten, tortured, humiliated and kept in the dreaded “anda” cell, meant for hardened criminals. “More than the brutal, claustrophobic aesthetic of the anda, it’s the absence of human contact that chokes you. If you’re in the anda, you spend 15 hours or more alone in your cell. The only people you see are the guards and occasionally the other inmates in your section. The horrors of the anda are well known to prisoners in Nagpur jail, and they would rather face the severest of beatings than be banished to the anda,” he wrote in his diary.

“They wanted me to disclose the location of a cache of arms and explosives or information on my supposed links with Maoists. To make me more amenable to their demands, they stretched my body out completely, using an updated version of the medieval torture technique of [the rack]. My arms were tied to a window grill high above, while two policemen stood on my stretched thighs to keep me pinned to the floor. This was calculated to cause maximum pain without leaving any external injuries.”

Ferreira also writes about the police concocting evidence, the endemic delays in the justice system, and the living conditions in the barracks, including the nexus between prisoners and jailors.

After months of interrogations and two rounds of narcoanalysis, the authorities still had nothing substantial on Ferreira. He, along with 12 other inmates, went on an indefinite hunger strike demanding an end to their isolation, to stop arresting social activists branding them naxalites, and not to force undertrials to wear uniforms. In September 2011, he was eventually acquitted of all charges and released. The court said it found the evidence supplied by the police contradictory.

However, as Ferreira exited the jail premises and was walking towards his waiting parents and wife, a posse of plainclothes policemen ambushed and bundled him off in an unmarked vehicle. He was once again arrested and charged with naxalite activities. This time it was over his alleged involvement in a police-naxalite encounter near Jafargarh under Korchi tehsil in Gadchiroli district in April 2007.

Once again he faced the cycle of torture, bail applications and trial days. However, unlike the first arrest, this time the public outcry against the injustice was massive. The court finally granted him bail in January 2012.

Ferreira’s case should highlight the need for the implementation of police reforms, said Father Cedric Prakash, a human rights activist. “The brutal and violent methods used against prisoners need to be addressed.”

Ferreira has filed a Rs.25 lakh suit against the Maharashtra government for the injustice meted out to him. He says he will continue his social work among the tribal people and the poor. While in prison, he began studying for a degree in law, which he hopes to complete in the next three years.

Anupama Katakam

 Read more here — http://www.frontline.in/the-nation/free-at-last/article5698848.ece

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Tribal Activist – Soni Sori’s Torture By The Chhattisgarh Police #Justice4sonisori #Vaw

This Video Testimony Of  Will Send Shivers Down Your Spine!

 February 19, 2014

By Sanika Prabhu:

On February 7th 2014, the Supreme Court of India, after keeping Soni Sori on interim bail for over two months on charges of being an alleged conduit to Maoists, awarded her permanent bail. A school teacher, tortured and sexually assaulted in prison, given bail after suffering inside prison for well over 2 years. Ironically, by the time the bail has been granted, she has already been acquitted in 5 of the 7 cases against her.

But once you move past government propaganda, you can see a tale of bravery and self-determination. Of courage and conviction. On one end of the spectrum there’s a state, which has all the power in its might to dictate and dispose off lives at will. On the other end, there is a small dream, a dream long deferred, a dream that quarreled its way to our doorstep, with just one humble request – Do not to look away. Not this time.

Indeed we have been looking away for centuries. What did we know – us city folk – of the rape and murder in the name of development? We grow without context, like the cities we live in.

So to set the context to Soni’s tale, we have to roll back to the year 2000, when in the heart of India a battle for tribal self-determination was fought and the state of Chhattisgarh was carved out of Madhya Pradesh. Chhattisgarh, with its 40% tribal population wanted control over its own natural resources. It was thought that by this way, people of Chhattisgarh could truly have a say over their lands and lives. But neo-liberal democracies do not follow such naïve briefs. It wasn’t long before the development junkies found out what the mineral rich tribal land was worth. By 2003-4 secret MOUs were signed to plan the mining activities across the state, and the rest, as they say, is history. And what a terrifying history it has come to be.

In the 14 years since the formation of Chhattisgarh, the state interests and corporate interests have gotten into bed together, moving on from a one-night stand to a proper live-in relationship. The state is constantly at war with the Maoists, who comprise the left-leaning guerilla resistance. Along with the state forces, there was Salwa Judum – a vigilante militia denounced by the Supreme Court as “body outside of constitution”, constantly denied of existence by the state, but with definite links to both the state and corporate.

The corporate cartel that entered the state riding on the high horse of “development” has broughtdisplacement, dispossession, humiliation and deaths to the tribal Chhattisgarh.

In between all these players, it is the regular citizens, the tribal community that has to pay the heavy price that this war inevitably brings. Just as in Kashmir and Manipur, the stories of rape, tortures, fake encountres, imprisonment under false charges, midnight frisking and combing operations have become routine. It’s a life under constant surveillance and the price to stepping out of line is usually death. To live or at least try to live a normal life itself has become a crime. If you side with the police, the Maoist swill kill you. If you humour the Maoists, the Police will term call you an insurgent and put you in jail.

Soni Sori, a school teacher and Linga Kopdopi (her nephew), a journalist wanted to be neither. They wanted what was theirs, by law and by the constitution: equal rights as every citizen and rule of law in their land. They wanted their home back from the jaws of crony contractors and corrupt police-politician nexus. They wanted to live away from the clutches of corporates and the Maoists. They put up a tenacious fight to get the minimum wage of the tribals raised; made noise about senior police officials benefiting from corrupt teak trade (which on official paper was called “Jungle Clearing” to counter the Maoist movement). These assertions didn’t go unnoticed. After Lingaram’s refusal to join Maoist resistance and their persistent fight with the state for their rights, both faced the inevitable fate of “troublemakers”.

Soni Sori was arrested in October 2011, almost a month after Lingaram, on charges of being an alleged conduit for the Maoists in a plot to extort money from Essar Steel. Lingaram Kodopi was implicated in the same case. Both were subjected to unspeakable torture in jail. Soni was raped, sexually assaulted and mentally tortured. While the whole country exhausted its quota of tears over Nirbhaya and roads of Delhi overflowed with candle-enthusiasts; not a single tear was shed for Soni in the middle-class drawing rooms of our cities. SP Ankit Garg who ordered the chilling torture of Soni quietly went on to be awarded President’s Gallantry award. With that, India failed Soni. With that, India failed its women.

But Soni kept her dream alive. She did not let her fate break her. In Jagdalpur jail, she organized hunger strike for better prison conditions and better medical conditions. Even now, after her release on February 7th 2014, she remains resolute in her plans to fight for the release of other women who continue to be falsely imprisoned and tortured in custody.

The story of Soni Sori is the story of entangled interests of the state, the corporates, the mining industry through the complex web of lies and falsehood spread systematically by the state. It is the story of thousands of women who, picked up under false allegations of seditious activity, are languishing in Indian prison. It is the story of a state at war with its own people. But it is also a story of incredible integrity and moral courage.

As Soni tries to return some semblance of sanity to her life now, we should make up for the time lost. We should help fulfill her dream, by reminding the state of its constitutional promise of fair-play and justice. It is important that we keep her story alive. Hell, it’s our duty as citizens of this country to keep it alive

Read more here — http://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2014/02/video-testimony-soni-soris-torture-police-will-send-shivers-spine/

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Tribal Teacher Soni Sori speaks on #Chhattisgarh #Vaw after her Bail

Want to work for women who have faced police atrocities: tribal activist Soni Sori

All India | Written by Ketki Angre | Updated: February 08, 2014

Want to work for women who have faced police atrocities: tribal activist Soni Sori

Soni Sori, a tribal teacher from Dantewada in Chhattisgarh, wants to return to her hometown.

New Delhi Soni Sori’s father was shot by suspected Maoists, her husband incarcerated for allegedly supporting them. But Sori, a tribal teacher from Dantewada in Chhattisgarh, wants to return to her hometown despite the threats she says she faces.

“I want to go to Chhattisgarh and work for those women who have faced similar police atrocity. My Janmabhoomi (birthplace) could end up being my kabr (grave), but I will still go back. I know I could be killed there, but I want to keep fighting”, she says.

In October 2011, she was arrested after being accused of being a conduit for Maoists. In spite of getting discharged from five other cases foisted by the police, it took her more than two years to get bail in this one case.

Fearing ill-treatment by Chhattisgarh police, she had sought the help of courts and police to avoid being sent back. However, after her arrest in Delhi, she was sent right back.

“I was given electric shocks, forced to strip, and verbally abused by Ankit Garg. He supervised as police inserted stones into my private parts to force me to give false statements implicating activists (like Himanshu Kumar, Medha Patkar and others). Is this how they expect to solve the Maoist problem?” says an angry Soni Sori, adding, “Today, the same Ankit Garg gets a gallantry award! What did I get in return? Abuse and humiliation.”

Ankit Garg, who Soni Sori accused of supervising police torture, received the police medal for gallantry from the President in 2012 for being part of an anti-Maoist operation in 2010.

Lingaram Kodopi, Sori’s nephew was also given bail along with her by the Supreme Court. “When Badru (a naxal) surrendered, he got a house and compensation from the government. He may have killed hundreds of innocents but all that is forgotten. Instead the government is putting us through such torture, literally forcing us to take up arms.”

Soni Sori is determined to return to her roots despite of the threats. On seeking protection, she has this to say: “Who will give me security? The same police who abused me?”

Read more here – http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/want-to-work-for-women-who-have-faced-police-atrocities-tribal-activist-soni-sori-480988

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#India- Custodial Death of a Bangladeshi youth in illegal detention

 

6th February 2014

 

To

The Chairman

National Human Rights Commission

Faridkot House

Copernicus Marg

New Delhi– 110001

 

Respected Sir,

 

We hereby lodge this complaint in the matter of the victim Mr. Prabal Chandra Roy (deceased), aged about-26 years, Home Address- village-Kazal, Police Station-Biral, District-Dinajpur, Bangladesh. Our attached fact finding report revealed that the victim was reportedly murdered inside Berhampore Central Correctional Home, Murshidabad, West Bengal and the involved persons are still at large. The victim was detained in the said correctional home as Jan-Khalash (a person who is detained in jail custody even after expiry of his sentence period).

 

It is a matter of fact that the victim suffered custodial death but there has been no enquiry by judicial magistrate in compliance of the provisions of Section 176(1-A) of criminal Procedure Code to ascertain the cause of the death of the victim and identify the persons involved therein. Section 176(1-A) of Criminal Procedure Code mandates enquiry by judicial magistrate in case of custodial death.

 

We condemn the incident and seek your urgent intervention against the perpetrators involved in this case i.e. the Superintendent of Berhampore Central Correctional Home and other involved personnel of the said correctional home. Our fact finding revealed that the victim was reportedly murdered inside the correctional home and the involved persons are still at large.  

 

We demand your urgent action in this matter in the following manner:-

·         The whole matter must be investigated by one neutral investigating agency.

·         The provisions of Section 176(1-A) of Criminal Procedure Code must be complied with immediately in this case and the enquiry by judicial magistrate shall immediately be conducted in this case. 

·         The role of the Superintendent of Berhampore Central Correctional Home and Sub Divisional Officer, Berhampore (Sadar) must be neutrally investigated into and punished accordingly if found guilty for acts leading to the custodial death of the victim and for intentional non-compliance of Criminal Procedure.

·         We also demand that a criminal case under Section 302 of Indian Penal Code should immediately be registered in the matter of the victim and the investigation of the case should be handed over to any neutral investigating agency.

 

Thanking you

Yours truly

 

 

Kirity Roy

Secretary, MASUM

&

National Convener, PACTI

 

Name of the Victim:- Mr. Prabal Chandra Roy (deceased), aged about-26 years, Home Address- village-Kazal, Police Station-Biral, District-Dinazpur, Bangladesh.

 

Names of the perpetrators:- 1) Co-detenues of Berhampore Central Correctional Home, Murshidabad; 2) Mr. Arindam Sarkar, the Superintendent of Berhampore Central Correctional Home, Murshidabad 3) SDO, Berhampore  (Sadar) Murshidabad.

 

Place of the Incident: – Inside ward no.29 of Berhampore Central Correctional Home, Murshidabad. 

 

Date & time of the incident: – On 16.1.2014 at 9 PM.

 

Fact Finding Details:-

 

It is revealed during the fact finding that about two and half years back the victim was apprehended by Border Security Force personnel at Indo-Bangladesh Border area of North Bengal for illegally entering into the Territory of India without any valid papers. Later the victim reportedly confessed his guilt and he punished to serve sentence under the Foreigners’ Act at Jalpaiguri Central Correctional Home.  Reportedly about six months ago he was shifted to Berhampore Central Correctional Home, Murshidabad for custody. At that time he was detained in the correctional home as Jan-Khalash because he already completed his punishment as pronounced by the court for his guilt but he was not repatriated to his home land Bangladesh.

 

In Berhampore Central Correctional Home he was detained in ward no.29 he was detained with other inmates and some of them were belonged to his home country. On the day of the incident i.e. 16.1.2014 at about 9 pm when the victim was in his ward he was reportedly implicated himself in a scuffle with the other inmates on the issue of ongoing political unrest in Bangladesh. The scuffle soon turned into violent shape and the victim was brutally assaulted by the other inmates. It is reported that the victim was grievously hurt by sharp cutting instruments. Soon thereafter Mr. Somnath Bhowmick-the Chief Warder; Mr. Sattaki Sarkar – the Chief Controller-II; the Chief Discipline Officer and other staffs of the Correctional Home rushed to the spot and took the victim to in-house hospital of the correctional home, but he died there at about 9 pm. In spite of that he was taken to Berhampore Medical College & Hospital, Berhampore where he was declared brought dead.

 

Our fact finding team conducted a detailed fact finding by visiting Berhampore Medical College & Hospital, Berhampore and talking with the hospital staffs, jail staffs and police personnel of Berhampore Police Station. The police personnel told our fact finding team that one unnatural death case has been registered vide Berhampore Police Station U.D. Case no. 34/2014 dated 17.1.2014. Mr. Kollol Bhattacharjee, being one Executive Magistrate in the district conducted the inquest (Surathal) on the body of the victim inside the campus of Berhampore Medical College & Hospital, Berhampore. At that time the body of the victim was laid on a trolley covered with one blanket just inside the main gate of the aforesaid medical college. Our fact finding team was present at the time of the inquest done by the aforesaid Executive Magistrate and our fact finding team came to know from him that he was conducting the inquest on the instruction of his superior authorities. When our fact finding team informed him about the provision of Section 176(1-A) of Criminal Procedure Code he left the place with car and conveyed “Thank You” to the team. But after about half-an-hour he again came back and started inquest over the dead body. Then our fact finding team also brought to his notice about the initiation of judicial inquiry as per the provisions of Section 176(1-A) of Criminal Procedure Code as the victim had a custodial death, but he replied that he was conducting duty as per the instruction of his superior officers. At the time of inquest our fact finding team noticed that beside other injuries the victim had deep cut injury on his throat. After that the post mortem examination of the victim was conducted at Berhampore Police Morgue. Reportedly there has no judicial inquiry to ascertain the cause of death and the persons involved for causing death of the victim in custody till date. The incident was covered in leading Bangla News Paper i.e. Bartaman on the issue dated 18.1.2014 and also The Statesman leading English newspaper published the news http://www.thestatesman.net/news/35037-bangladeshi-dies-in-murshidabad-jail.html  

Inline images 1


Kirity Roy
Secretary
Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha
(MASUM)
&
National Convenor (PACTI)
Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity
40A, Barabagan Lane (4th Floor)
Balaji Place
Shibtala
Srirampur
Hooghly
PIN- 712203
Tele-Fax – +91-33-26220843
Phone- +91-33-26220844 / 0845
e. mail : [email protected]
Web: www.masum.org.in

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“We called for help and they killed our son”: Out-of-control police overreach meets extreme secrecy

 

“We called for help and they killed our son”: Out-of-control police overreach meets extreme secrecy

Many watchdogs believe the police are killing more innocent Americans than ever. But here’s why they can’t be sure

“We called for help and they killed our son”: Out-of-control police overreach meets extreme secrecy (Credit: Reuters/Philip Andrews)

On January 4 in Boiling Spring Lakes, North Carolina, Mark Wilsey called 911 because his stepson Keith Vidal, 18, was threatening his mother with a small screwdriver. Vidal, a schizophrenic, had no history of violence, but in this case his family needed help. Two police officers used a taser to subdue Vidal, who weighed 90 pounds. The situation, says Wilsey, was under control. But a third officer, Bryon Vassey, showed up and quickly—within 70 seconds—shot him. “We called for help and they killed our son,” said Wilsey.

The killing recalls last month’s killing of Dixon Rodriguez, a mentally ill man whose mother had called 911 in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. In recent months, the police have injured or killed a notable number of people. Some were suspects; others posed an alleged threat to police. Some were armed; others weren’t. Only a few hours into 2014, Chicago police had shot four in two different incidents. On January 7th in Philadelphia, Darrin Manning, a 16-year old black boy, had emergency surgery for a ruptured testicle after a stop-and-frisk by two white officers: Thomas Purcell and a woman the department hasn’t identified.

If it seems to you that the police are becoming more violent, you may be right. In 2011, Los Angeles County police shot to death 54 people, some 70 percent more than in 2010. Between 2008 and 2013, the number of people shot by Massachusetts police increased every year. In 2012, police in New York City shot and killed 16 people, nine more the previous year and the most in 12 years. In 2012, Philadelphia police shot 52 people—the highest number in 10 years.


But whether these statistics reflect a national trend is, at this point, an unanswerable question.

That’s because many of the country’s 17,000 police departments don’t release information on use of force by police, and the federal government makes no serious effort to collect it. While the government gathers and releases extensive information about violence by citizens, it conceals information about violence by police.

Excessive force by police is one of the big problems,” says Brigitt Keller, executive director of the National Police Accountability Project, who cites as causes the militarization of the police, persistent impunity, and a mythology that exaggerates the dangers police face and deters public officials from challenging them. “I believe the problem is getting worse,” Keller says, “but it’s hard to say for sure without comprehensive information.”

A credible national database on use of force by police is a longtime goal of criminologists and reformers. A 1996 Bureau of Justice reportnotes that, “For decades, criminal justice experts have been calling for increased collection of data on police use of force.”

“We don’t have a mandate to do that,” William Carr, a FBI spokesperson told the Los Vegas Review Journal. “It would take a request from Congress to collect that data.” Carr’s claim is false: the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act instructs the Attorney General to “acquire data about the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers” and to “publish and annual summary of the data acquired.” Yet 20 years later the data dearth persists.

Many, if not all, police accountability activists believe the police are wounding and killing more people than they were five or ten or twenty years ago, and that a higher percentage of the incidents are unjustified. The trend, they say, is all the more alarming because it has accompanied an overall decline in violent crime.

But in their effort to place the issue on the national agenda, they lack the capacity to make definitive statements. They have to rely on anecdotal evidence and words like “seems” and “suggests.” While transparency shouldn’t be mistaken for progress, it can be an important means to it. Consider how prison reform advocates have used incarceration data in their increasingly successful push for change.

And the lack of information is an excuse that police chiefs and public officials can hide behind to avoid the problem. Human Rights Watch’s1998 analysis is no less relevant today:

[T]he lack of national data has served to perpetuate a situation in which local and national officials can claim that there is neither a continuing nor a nationwide problem… Moreover, the lack of information supports the federal position that the problem is “local,” because the national government has no useful knowledge about it. And knowledge about the problem on a national scale is, of course, essential to the formulation of policy.

Information on police violence exists. Every time a cop fires a gun or otherwise uses force, details about the incident go into a case file. What’s missing is an effort to consolidate the information, much less analyze it. Keller attributes the lack of will partly to the identity of the victims, who tend to lack political power. “People who are white and middle class, who are not mentally ill or homeless, don’t see this is a problem that affects them,” she says.

There’s no question that a disproportionate number of those shot by the police are racial minorities and/or people with mental illnesses. In 2012, for example, Chicago police shot 57 people; 50 were black, and 2 were white. In 2011, the Portland Press Herald reported that 42 percent of the people shot by the Maine police since 1990 were mentally ill.

Yet recent victims of police violence include people who don’t fit the profile. Like Karl Anders Peltomaa, a 50-year-old white New York City resident whose chin needed stiches after his wife had called 9-11 because he was having a bad reaction to medication. And Kang Wong, an 84-year-old man bloodied by New York City police officers after he’d jaywalked.

But data about the victims of police violence, like all data about police violence, is elusive. While some departments are relatively transparent—the Las Vegas police department actually posts on the internet names of officers who fire weapons—others disclose no information on police violence, and federal collection efforts, such as they are, offer only snapshots. The FBI, through its Uniform Crime Reporting Program, captures data about killings by police, but this has a fatal flaw in that it relies on the voluntary participation of police departments. The Bureau of Justice survey asks about use of force in its Police Public Contact Survey, but this is done only every three years and, for obvious reasons, weeds out those killed or seriously injured by the police.

“All the federal government would have to do is say [to police departments], provide this data or you won’t receive funding,” says criminologist David Klinger, a former police officer. But the administration, like previous ones, isn’t inclined to do so, and while a bipartisan group in Congress seeks information about people killed by the U.S. military, there’s no comparable effort to uncover information about people killed by the U.S. police.

Klinger isn’t waiting for the federal government to act. Last year, the Los Angeles Police Department hired him to oversee a study of shootings by the police going back to 1998. The study is capturing a range of information, including whether the target of the shooting had a weapon and whether the police department deemed it justified.

“I can’t think of a more important priority in a republic than knowing the facts about when agents of the state put bullets in people,” Klinger says.

The study is the brainchild of Assistant Chief Sandy Jo MacArthur, who has 15 people in the department working part-time to help gather and input data. “We needed information deep enough to allow us to recognize meaningful trends and connections,” MacArthur says. “The purpose is to draw evidence-based lessons that we can put into training, so that we can prevent officer-involved shootings.”

The study, projected to last two years, will produce a data base accessible to the public, although names of the police officers will be excised. The department will input information as it comes in. “I can’t find anything like it anywhere,” says MacArthur, who reached out to Klinger in part because of his research on shootings by police in St. Louis and in part because she’d known him thirty years ago when he was an officer in South Central Los Angeles.

Klinger is a reform-minded ex-cop but an ex-cop nonetheless. He believes shootings by the police are rare, and that his data may reveal restraint on their part. In any case, he hopes the political sensitivity of this data won’t deter police departments from becoming more transparent. “Let’s get the data, then we can have the arguments,” he says.

MacArthur also has ambitious goals for the program, which she sees as model for other departments and the seed of a national database. “This is extremely important for the future of law enforcement,” she says.

A serious weakness of the LAPD study is that it’s not collecting demographic information on people shot by the police. Because of the disproportionate impact of police violence on people and communities of color, information on the race of victims is essential—and often closely guarded. In 2009, a State Supreme Court judge ordered the New York police department to reveal the race of people shot by the police. The NYCLU had sued because the NYPD had stopped disclosing this information after four white officers killed Amadou Diallo—the infamous 41 shots.

The lack of information on police violence is a matter of not just transparency and public safety but also civil rights. We need more studies, more legal action, and, above all, more pressure from the public.

 

Read more here — http://www.salon.com/2014/01/28/%E2%80%9Cwe_called_for_help_and_they_killed_our_son%E2%80%9D_out_of_control_police_overreach_meets_extreme_secrecy/

 

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Letter from Prashant Rahi from Nagpur prison on Torture, and Appeal for Campaign Against UAPA

By Prashant Rahi

Authors note: ALL QUERIES ABOUT MY LEGAL ISSUES AND NEEDS BE DIRECTED TO MY ADVOCATE SHIV PRASAD SINGH, WHO IS AVAILABLE AT : Tel. +918303481839; Email : [email protected]
– PRASHANT RAHI

Dated : January 07, 2014

Dear friends,
Heart-felt greetings at the onset of yet another tumultuous years of struggle for civil and democratic rights, which are increasingly threatened the world over by police atrocities perpetrated here as a normal course, and there as barbaric exceptions, in a setting of the yet retained post- 9/11 anti-terror laws in India and other parts, even though the U.S. imperialists seem to be back-tracking on their aggressive invasions in Iraq and Af-Pak! We, Indian activists, remain vulnerable, with none of the Parliamentary political forces even bothering to promise to repeal the 2008 and 2004 amendments in our Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act – UAPA of 1967, which was indeed superfluous with the colonial Indian Penal Code (IPC) already draconian enough to stifle any serious political dissent. My arrest and torture in custody, as also that of Hem Mishra, the J.N.U. student of Chinese, which so many of you have cared to express concern about, according to newspaper reports, could be just the tip of an ugly iceberg. Even so, you might need to be apprised of the facts of our cases, and those of my ongoing Uttarakhand post-torture trial, so as to direct the raging passions in more effective ways.

It is with this view that I am putting across the following facts regarding what befell us:-

1. Aheri, where our case is registered as a Criminal Case No. 3017/2013, with the charge-sheet yet to be submitted and not likely to be served until 6 months after our arrest, owing to the 2008 insertion of Section 43 (d), with its Sub-section-2, in the UAPA, is a backward and remote interior of Gadchiroli, where the state, with its heavy deployment of specialized police and paramilitary forces and helicopter squadrons, appear to have got an edge over the Maoist People’s Liberation Guerilla Army, well entrenched in expansive forests of South Chhattisgarh among the adivasi (aboriginal tribes) peasants, across the Maharashtra-Chhattisgarh State border. Part of Gadchiroli district is officially notified as a Police District, whereby the usual District Administration, Judiciary and “Development Activities” are controlled by police officials, who in turn move around in the towns and roadside villages like an occupation army, the citizens compelled to finance their pay packets, enhanced 150 percent as incentive, in addition to out of turn promotions and other allowances, and overriding powers to lord over the populace.

The “free press”, even correspondents of reputed dailies, is a mere subservient tool of the security forces, eager to serve the propaganda and psychological needs of their war against “left-wing extremists”, also called Naxalites or Maoists, a war wherein the people’s guerillas seldom come face-to-face with the security forces, the latter victimizing the villagers, among whom the former mingle, feed and organize; compelling retired and weakened guerillas to defect (referred to, more often, as “surrender”). The funds, another largesse borne by the citizens, at the disposal of the police are enormous. Aheri, where we were forcefully and illegally brought to by this very police force, is one of the bases of Gadchirdi’s famed counter-insurgency operations, which, in the wake of our arrests, was lauded at a meeting of State Police Chiefs, chaired by the Union Minister of Home Affairs, Sushil Kumar Shinde, as a “role-model” for combat forces engaged in anti-Naxalite “area domination” tactics for the country. My arrest hardly 10 days after Hem’s may appear to many as a well-scripted drama, climaxing in the conferring of that status upon Gadchiroli, after news of “Maoist supporter” from afar being implicated here had set the pace.

One would tend to believe that the Congress-led Governments of New Delhi could have found it convenient to co-ordinate tacitly with police forces in Uttarakhand and Maharashtra, both having Congress-led State Governments, as also with some coverts, or semi-coverts, within apparently friendly forces, to forcefully lead me or carry me to this part of the country, which could not have been on my itinerary at this conclusive and crucial stage of my 2007 Uttarakhand case, Criminal Case No. 3222/2007, Sessions Trial No. 83/2008, registered at Nanakmatta Police Station in Udham Singh Nagar district of that state. That too when I was awaited for the hearing of this trial on September 2, 2013, and due to head for Uttarakhand!

2. At Aheri, I was first produced in a Magistrate Court on precisely that day, the 2nd of September by the Investigating Officer (IO) of Cr. Case No. 3017/2013, Suhas Bawache, a Deputy Superintendent of Police.

3. I was shown arrested in the neighbouring Gondia district of Maharashtra State.

4. Actually, I have never been to Gondia district, nor seen the spot of arrest, as is claimed. Indeed, I had been abducted in the most innocuous circumstances, far beyond, the State of Maharashtra, well before September 2 (the claimed date of my arrest in Gondia); forcibly thrust into a dark-coloured van bearing fake number plates and shaded glass for its windows; and forced to travel with my abductors who turned out to be employees of the Maharashtra Police. They had transgressed their specified area of jurisdiction, with orders from their superiors to facilitate my fake arrest, in gross violation of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr. P.C.) and specific directions on procedure for arrest issued by the Supreme Court of India. I was driven over a full day and night, straight to Aheri Police Station, with no one else being arrested along with me, having crossed several district and State borders.

5. The IO, Suhas Bawache knowingly hoodwinked the Courts so that cognizance be taken of my fake arrest and his allegations against me about a criminal conspiracy (Section 120B, IPC) to commit some unlawful acts (Sec.13, UAPA), as member of a terrorist organization (Sec. 20, UAPA), eliciting support for the CPI (Maoist) (Sec. 39, UAPA).

6. Subsequently, at the end of November, 2013, around 90 days after my arrest, Suhas Bawache submitted an interim report of his investigations to the learned Court of the Principal District and Sessions Judge at Gadchiroli, in a successful bid to seek extension by a further 90 days of the period for submitting a charge sheet against me, failing which I could be entitled automatically for release on bail under section 167, Cr. P.C. The learned Judge heard my contention that the investigation was being delayed deliberately on spurious grounds, my arguments having been given as written ‘Say’ filed among the case record. However, the provisions under Sec. 43(d) 2 of UAPA gave the IO the right to prolong my detention over a period of 180 days without being served a charge-sheet.

7. The IO pleaded in his interim report that it was taking long to study, and gather some incriminatory evidence against me, from the contents of a 16 GB memory card allegedly seized from Hem Mishra, and from 4 Terra Bytes of data from the hard disc and other storage devices allegedly seized in the second week of September from the residence of Dr. G.N. Saibaba, an English Associate Professor at University of Delhi. He also sought time to apprehend some alleged “absconders”, such as Dr. Saibaba; two persons alleged to have travelled, as Hem did and allegedly intended to, some months ago; one Maoist leader named as Narmada Akka to whom Hem was allegedly intending to deliver the 16 GB memory card; and the General Secretary of the CPI (Maoist), to visit whom in the Abujhmaad stronghold of the Maoist, Hem and I were allegedly “sent by Saibaba”, in connection with this case.

8. A similar 90 days extension had been permitted by the same Court to submit a charge-sheet against Hem Mishra and his two alleged escorts, Pandu Naroti and Mahesh Tirki, residents of a Gadchiroli village, all three having been shown arrested at Aheri Bus Stand on August 22, 2013. The interim investigation report submitted to the court by Suhas Bawache in support of this extension plea was identical, in fact a true copy of that submitted in my case a week later.

9. Thus, effectively, the IO has secured time until February to prepare his charge-sheet against us, following which, as per the only modicum of safeguards guaranteed by the UAPA, the sanctioning authorities of the Maharashtra State Government and/or the Government of India would have to conduct a review of the investigation, independent of Suhas Bawache and his superior authorities of or above the rank of Deputy Inspector-general of Police, before granting sanction in order to prosecute us. Once this procedure is completed according to the specified process, and a valid Case Diary is prepared by the IO, recording the procedure followed, even a higher court would be obliged, as per the 2008 insertion into UAPA under its Section 43 (d), Sub-section 5 to take an adverse view of our bail petitions.

10. Should bail be denied, the circumstances of trials being conducted by the Gadchiroli Sessions Court of incarcerated alleged extremists, meaning UAPA detenues, are such that the chances of a fair trial would only be slim and exceptional. This is so because of the current practice of conducting trials by video conference, whereby the accused persons do not normally get a change to interact with their defence counsel, least of all interact with her/him with the due freedom and confidentiality.

11. The prevailing system of prisoners being visited by their lawyers, relatives and friends is so full of hindrances and disturbances, far more so for UAPA detenues, that it violates the very essence of the Maharashtra Prison Act, which provides for considerable freedom and space to interact with and receive a wide range of visitors, as would be necessary to overcome our anxieties and tensions and maintain a normal and balanced state of mind.

12. Incidentally, it would be far from the truth to state or presume that I and my co-accused were not badly tortured by the IO, Suhas Bawache. All of us accused were tortured in the most inhuman manner. Mr. Bawache personally used brute force against me and the others, violated our minds and body, abused us, tormented and harassed us all through the days and nights over several weeks of our PCR, i.e. Police Custody Remand. Hem, Pandu, Mahesh, who were actually picked up from different places at Ballarshah in Chandrapur District of Maharashtra within the railway station premises on August 20, where badly mauled during 2 days of their illegal custody prior to the stipulated 24 hour period within which accused persons are required to be presented before a judicial court.

13. None of the accounts of our interrogation during illegal and legal custody of the police carried by the newspapers are true and complete. We did not get any opportunity to freely and sufficiently interact with journalists. Not even The Times of India could get free and sufficient access to talk with me.

14. Apart from the Deputy Superintendent of Police, Suhas Bawache and his subordinates who physically and mentally tortured me, Hem and the others, senior officials like the Deputy Inspector-general of Police, Ravindra Kadam; and an Inspector-general who called himself Anup Kumar were directly responsible for the entire episode and for implicating me unlawfully and for showing our arrests incorrectly and falsely.

15. There is not even an iota of truth in the claim that Vijay Tirki from Kanker District of Chhattisgarh received me at Raipur in that State, and thereafter escorted me up to a certain Devri–Chichgadh T-junction in Gondia, Maharashtra, enroute to Abujhmaad.

16. The fact is that Vijay Tirki was arrested separately, somewhere in Raipur, and he had no plan to escort me, nor did I approach him to be escorted to any destination. The first time that I met a person by this name from Kanker District of Chhatisgarh was several hours after I was dumped into the Aheri Police Station around midnight of 1st/2nd September 2013, when he too was thrown inside. As has already been reported, I was engaged in professionally translating some case papers for a lawyer; after meeting another lawyer who was my source for those papers, I was to collect some more papers from him shortly after the time of my abduction, and before proceeding to return to Uttarakhand to be present at an important hearing of my ongoing trial in Udham Singh Nagar District on September 2, 2013.

17. It was precisely on the basis of the above factual truth that I could withstand all the coercion by Suhas Bawache and his superiors to make out a fake confession about the imagined journey to Abjuhmaad, as per their will and desire.

18. I am not aware of any personal or organizational relationship between Hem Mishra and Dr. G.N. Saibaba, as is alleged. However, as far as I am concerned, there was no such relationship between the English Professor or his mass organization and me that he would “send” me somewhere, and I would agree, or that he or his comrades would depute me with couriering, or any task for that matter, and I would agree. In fact, the allegation that I saw him a couple of days before my formal arrest is absolutely baseless. I consider him and Hem mere acquaintances, not even friends of any significance that would lend credibility to any police claims.

19. With that, let me come to my Uttarakhand case, and torture in 2007. As is well-known I was living and working in Dehradun since 1991, and so was I all of the 2 or 3 months prior to my arrest in December, 07. On the 17th of December, I was picked up from a prominent street in broad daylight, close to Ara Ghar, after being attacked by several men all of a sudden, manhandled, blindfolded and carried away in a speeding car, first to a forest in the neighboiring Haridwar district, beaten up with sticks all through the first night, after which I collapsed. The next day, I was shifted to a Provincial Armed Constabulary campus of the Uttarakhand Police in Haridwar in a restricted part of Roshanabad, brought to a “PAC Conference Room”, where the blind-folding was first removed on the 18th night. There, I was tortured and harassed continuously till the 20th in various devious and inhuman ways, which I am omitting here to save space and for decency’s sake. On the 20th morning, I was again blindfolded, put into a car and driven several hours to be brought to Udham Singh Nagar, and hidden in a room of the residential quarters within the premises of Nankmatta Police Station, some 350 km. to the east of Dehradun. There, I was tortured by a different set of police personnel, until they could make up a story to show my arrest on the 22nd. Till the 5 days and 5 nights that elapsed after I had been picked up and illegally confined, I had not been allowed even a wink’s sleep. After informing my daughter Shikha Rahi, based in Mmbai, of my arrest on the 22nd evening, I was produced at a Magistrate’s Court on the 23rd.

20. The arrest story was that I was accosted in the forests near Nankmatta during a combing/search operation by a police party for a Maoist training camp, as reported in a F.I.R. lodged on the 20th, around the time I was brought to the police station premises from Haridwar, which 4 others, who were with me, fled the scene. Later, I allegedly helped recover a broken laptop, a pen drive and some printed material from the same forest (which I had never seen before, nor was I taken out there then), and the IO wrote out other cock and bull descriptions about an imagined 3-month long CPI (Maoist) military training camp, and now all the cadres and military trainers with their equally imaginary arms and ammunitions had vanished – all except me (who was already in their custody on the date of filing the FIR)!

21. A case was made out under the IPC Sections 121 (waging war or abetting the waging of war against the state), 121A (conspiring against the state), 124A (sedition), 153B (threatening the preservation of the nation’s unity and sovereignty), 120B (committing the above offences as part of a criminal conspiracy), and under the UAPA Section 20 (member of a terrorist organization).

22. I could get bail only after 3 years and 8 months, that too, only because the UAPA invoked against me and my co-accused was the 2004 version, not the 2008 one. The others who were subsequently arrested from home, a court premises and one from a railway station a year or so later, were respectively, Gopal Bhatt, Dinesh Pandey and Chandrakala, all well-known social activists of Uttarakhand. 3 others were proclaimed as absconders. All the 3 who were arrested after me were released first, and then I too was released on bail on August 21, 2011.

23. The case with Cr. Case No. 3222/2007 was taken up for trial 8 months later, as S.T. No. 83/2008, and the trial has not yet concluded. Had I not been framed up in another case, the Uttarakhand case could have ended (in acquittals) latest by the end of 2013.

24. Ever since my incarceration at Central Prison Nagpur, I have not been able to attend any of the trial hearings in Uttarakhand. The Maharashtra Police refuses to provided me the necessary escort to travel to Uttarkhand, this being one of the main reasons for the trial being held up these past 4 months. It is likely to be so for an indefinite or uncertain time period.

25. There would be calculations and speculations on the part of both the police IOs, and indeed their superiors, as to how one case could be made use of to lend weight and credibility to the other. On the basis of the above series of facts, circumstances and observations that are humbly placed before all of you, I would urge you, friends, to direct your energies and passions now at the basic causes of the above tribulations, rather than expecting the officials of the Indian state to take any serious cognizance of your appeals not to torture Hem and me, to ensure a fair trial, or to punish the officials responsible for my/our torture in Maharashtra or in Uttarakhand State. Even if the issue be primarily of the nature of civil and democratic rights, in other words, human rights, the targets, in accordance with the basic causes of such adverse occurrences, ought to be socio-political. It is the anti-people nature of the Indian state, and its various organs that ought to be brought into question. As the country goes to the polls to reconstitute its parliament, would it not be pertinent to ask as to why no vote-garnering political campaign, not even that of the “common man’s” Aam Aadmi Party has an agenda to dimilitarize the state’s operations against its own people, and to reverse this trend of the last 8 to 10 years, which has led to the incarceration of not less than 3000 alleged Maoists, an overwhelming majority of them framed up with fabricated charges and brutally tortured and inhumanly treated in both police and judicial custody.

With these concerns, it would serve a larger cause if the thousands who have reportedly expressed moral support to me and Hem Mishra would bombard the powers -that- be in New Delhi, Mumbai, Dehradun, Raipur, Ranchi, Patna, Kolkata, Lucknow, Chandigarh, Bhopal, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Bangaluru, Bhubhaneshwar, Chennai, Thiruvananthapuram and Guwahati with millions of letters and slogans to :-
1. Repeal the U.A.P.A. or at least withdraw its 2008 and 2004 amendments.
2. Withdraw the ban on organizations which are attempting to lend a voice to the impoverished and deprived lot, irrespective of whether they resort to counter-violence against state repression.
3. Redefine terrorism! Get out of the nomenclature imposed on the world by the likes of Bush and Obama, and Putin and Angela, and Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi! Do not equate revolutionary violence with terrorism!
4. Release all the alleged Maoist prisoners incarcerated as a result of the draconian laws and amendments, and all other innocents framed up for political reasons and as part of the conspiracies of intelligence agencies, the bosses of ATS’, IBs and the NIA!
5. Stop forthwith government sanctioning of all prosecution of persons accused under UAPA, especially those not active in combatant roles and common villagers, adivasis and dalits, and ordinary women.
6. Ensure speedy trials for all UAPA accused. Summon prosecution witnesses without delay.
7. Ensure production of all UAPA accused in their cases pending in courts of various States and districts. Stop using “security reasons” as the excuse to delay and deny trials.
8. Accord political prisoner status in all States on the lines of the West Bengal Correctional Services Act.
9. Amend Jail Manuals in all States on the lines of the West Bengal Correctional Services Act.
10. Do not adopt video conferencing as the means to conduct court trials. Stop the practice forthwith, wherever in force.
11. Stop erecting barriers in the form of wire meshes, glass panes, etc. in visitors’ enclosures in prisons in the name of security. Let jail interviews be held in a humane manner. Allow UAPA accused the right to access the Press.
12. Implement forthwith the provisions of the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights, on Prisoners’ Right, and on Detention Centres.

Let this be an open-ended campaign, and do keep me informed, please.

In Solidarity,
Prashant Rahi
Address for correspondence:
PRASHANT RAHI
UNDER TRIAL SECTION, BARRACK No. 8,
CENTRAL PRISON, NAGPUR-40020

 

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Irom Sharmila: 10 reasons why we should support her #AFSPA

by Sonam Mittal

“If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything”- Alexander Hamilton

Irom Shormila

Irom Shormila

1. Irom Sharmila has been on hunger strike since November 2000, surpassing other fasts undertaken by Mahatma Gandhi or Anna Hazare. M. K. Gandhi undertook 17 fasts in his lifetime, longest one lasting for 21 days. Anna Hazare, who has taken more than 15 fasts, hold a record for 12 days. Irom Sharmila has not eaten a morsel of food for the last 13 years.

2. Irom Sharmila is on hunger strike to protest against and to repeal the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act – AFSPA. This controversial Act, imposed in Manipur, J&K and few other Northeast States gives impunity (exemption from punishment) to the Armed Forces. Many fake killings, kidnappings, rapes & encounters have been reported (up to 1500 cases reported as per some figures). Most of the cases didn’t get approval from the Army as they are covered under the said act while few others are still lodged in the courts and waiting to be heard.

3. Irom Sharmila was arrested by the Government of Manipur in 2000 and was charged with ‘attempting to commit suicide,’ a criminal offense under Indian Law. Labelling her peaceful protest as ‘suicide attempt’ is a serious attempt to move attention away from the core reason of her protest. Her only demand is to repeal the draconian and undemocratic law like AFSPA

4. India, the world’s largest democracy has imposed AFSPA in Manipur since 1980. This Act came into existence during British rule, gives the armed forces a statutory right to kill on mere suspicion. Irom Sharmila began her fast shortly after some members of Assam Rifles shot dead 10 civilians waiting at a bus stop in Malom, Manipur. None of the officers were punished, nor would they ever be.

5. RTI filed by the Save Sharmila Campaign revealed that the National Human Rights Commission never paid any visit to Irom Sharmila or to the victims of AFSPA in the first 12 years of her fast. Their first visit was conducted in October 2013. A failed attempt to believe in ‘Out of sight, Out of mind’ concept, our Government has shown the same insensitivity in dealing with Irom Sharmila’s peaceful protest of 13 years as it has shown to AFSPA victims

6. Irom Sharmila is being detained in a security ward, JLN Hospital in Imphal, Manipur. There is no judicial mandate for enforcing isolation, which India’s National Human Rights Commission has also acknowledged. Each day she spends in custody is a bleak reminder of the status of our country’s human rights records.

7. In Feb 2012, Supreme Court of India, in association with the Ram Lila Maidan case, observed that hunger strikes is ‘historically and legally accepted form of protest’. In a country which preachesthe values of nonviolence to the world, Irom Sharmila is being force-fed a diet of liquids through her nose.

8. Attempting to commit suicide is a bailable offense in India, with a maximum punishment up to one year imprisonment. Irom Sharmila has religiously declined bail, as she believes she has done no offense to seek bail. Every year, after completing a year in judicial custody, she is released only to be re-arrested as she continues her fast.

9. Compared to the fasts conducted in our national capital, Irom Sharmila has been largely ignored by Indian media and Govt. She has, however, received a lot of international attention, further distorting our nation’s crumbling image in human rights records. Manipuri Mothers and Shirin Ibadi (Nobel Peace Prize Winners) have also extended their support towards Irom Sharmila. No major political party has extended their support yet.

10. “I  will fast until the AFSPA goes. I have not wasted 12 years of my life to back off. Either my people live with respect or I don’t eat,” – Irom Sharmila, on completing 12 years of her fast.

About the writer-

Sonam Mittal is an environmental campaign working with a leading campaign group in Bangalore. From her school days she has actively been part of social causes in her native city of Bombay.

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Scars of Sri Lanka

Scars of Sri Lanka
Despite government claims of peace, torture and abductions continue to be used to stifle ethnic and political dissent.

The civil war in Sri Lanka ended in 2009 with the victory of President Rajapaksa‘s forces over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), but there are claims that abduction, torture and even rape of suspected former fighters or sympathisers continues today.

In November 2013, Commonwealth leaders, including British Prime Minister David Cameron, converged on Colombo for the bi-annual heads of government meeting. It was a big moment for Sri Lanka, signalling its emergence from post-war turmoil and acceptance as a functioning democratic state on the international stage.

But the government remains under strong international pressure to hold a credible inquiry in to claims that thousands of civilian Tamils were killed in the closing days of the war when government troops are accused of firing artillery into civilian no-fire zones. The government denies this occurred and accused Tamil Tiger fighters of holding civilians as human shields.

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Tamil groups also claim thousands of Tamils, including many who surrendered or were arrested at the end of the war, are still unaccounted for. The government insists most of those detained have been released. Travelling to the north of Sri Lanka, we meet civilians whose loved ones are still missing after surrendering alive at the end of the war.

In Jaffna, the LTTE’s stronghold for much of the war, we also meet Ananthi Sasitharan. Her husband, Elilan, was an LTTE political wing leader who surrendered for questioning during the post-war amnesty and has not been seen again. Ananthi leads a group of “war widows” who are demanding to know what happened to their men, all of who disappeared at the hands of the military. We follow her during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) as she tries to get progress on the missing.

Since the end of hostilities four years ago, the government has been keen to prevent a future Tamil insurgency, and stands accused of continuing to question and detain those suspected of harbouring LTTE sympathies. Those who do emerge from the detention centres speak of the routine use of torture and sexual violence against men or women.

In a report earlier this year, Human Rights Watch documented 75 cases of alleged rape and sexual abuse that occurred from 2006-2012 in both official and secret detention centers throughout Sri Lanka. Many of these abuses occurred after the hostilities ended in 2009 and include victims who had returned to their homeland to visit family or rebuild their lives in the new and peaceful post-war country.

In the north, we speak with a Tamil girl who claims she was repeatedly sexually molested by soldiers and police during questioning. We are given first-hand testimony by a woman who says she became pregnant after being raped by soldiers this year and hear that there are many similar cases.

Whilst Tamils make up the largest number of human rights abuse complainants in Sri Lanka, the government is now accused of cracking down on dissent in the majority Sinhalese population too. We talk with the brother of a high-profile newspaper editor shot dead in 2009 and hear how threats and abductions have driven 23 journalists from the country in recent years.

Journalists say that the freedom of the press has suffered badly with intimidation, abduction and murder of journalists who are critical of the government. According to Amnesty International, at least 14 Sri Lankan media workers have been killed since the beginning of 2006. While those who speak to journalists about their grievances with the government or military can be subject to intimidation afterwards.

One senior military official in the north admits the army is keeping a close eye on Tamils with foreign contacts but insists the claims are fabrications by Tamils trying to live in foreign nations. President Mahinda Rajapaksa told CHOGM that Sri Lanka is investigating claims of war crimes and has a legal system to investigate any claims of human rights abuses. Activists tell us they have been unable to successfully prosecute any cases of alleged torture through that system.

After 26 years of bloody civil war, how does Sri Lanka answer for its human rights records? @AJ101East #ScarsofSriLanka

Read more here http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/101east/2013/12/scars-sri-lanka-2013122492410187367.html

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