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
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.
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.
Address for correspondence:
UNDER TRIAL SECTION, BARRACK No. 8,
CENTRAL PRISON, NAGPUR-40020