Nandini Sundar on – Media’s Need for Whipping Boys


Saturday, June 1, 2013

On the Media‘s Need for Whipping Boys

I am sick to death of TV panel discussions which ask whether human rights activists are soft on the Maoists, romanticise the Maoists and so on. Why doesn’t someone ask if our honourable politicians and security experts are soft on police torture and extra judicial killings?
Television is not interested in a serious discussion – all they want are whipping boys. The sight of Arnab Goswami mocking Prof. Haragopal for giving an “academic analysis” was especially nauseating, compounded by his showing off about “Emily Durkheim” (sic!). Why bother to have a panel at all, if only hysterical calls for the army to be sent in to wipe out the Maoists count as ‘analysis’, and every other viewpoint is seen as biased?
The media’s vocabulary is also very limited. I remember a particular excruciating interview with Binayak Sen where he said he “decried” violence and the anchor repeatedly asked him if he “condemned” it. As far as I know, the two words mean roughly the same thing. Nowadays, even before the media asks me, I start shouting “I condemn, I condemn.” I wake up in my sleep shouting “I condemn.” I am scared to use other words to describe complex emotions, because the media is unable to understand anything else.
The only reason why I agree to participate in any television discussions at all or give interviews to the media, is because I have such limited space to express my views. Most of the time the media is completely unconcerned about what happens in places like Bastar, and when there are large scale deaths of civilians, no-one runs non-stop news or panel discussions. Perforce “human rights activists” have to speak in unfavourable circumstances, because that’s the only time when the media is interested in our views; and that too, not because they want to hear us, but because they need a “big fight” to raise their ratings. That’s what is called ‘balance’. One can almost see visible disappointment on the anchor’s part when panelists who should disagree actually agree on many issues.
Since May 25th I have been inundated with calls from journalists asking for my views. But when I want to write, there is little space. A leading national newspaper refused to publish me on the killing of Mahendra Karma, till they had enough pieces which promoted a paramilitary approach. Even when I do get published it is under strict word constraints. I wrote the first opinion piece ever written in the national media on the Salwa Judum in 2006, but was given 800 words, under the fold. In the first year of Salwa Judum, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of articles on Salwa Judum. I personally met several editors and showed them photographic evidence; and begged TV editors for panel discussions, but no-one was interested. If they had been interested then, perhaps things would not have come to such a pass.
I am unable to write my own book on Salwa Judum because of the court case and all that it takes. I have been wanting to write on it since 2005 because I am, above all, an anthropologist. In any case, my mental space is so clogged by the media noise and the strain of being confined to “opinion pieces” that keep saying the same things because no one is listening, that I can’t write. I am almost glad the IPL has taken over again, and we can all forget about Bastar and the Maoists till the next major attack.
I reproduce below an extract from my article, Emotional Wars, on the public reactions to the death of the 76 CRPF men in April 2010. This was published in Third World Quarterly, Vol. 33, No. 4, 2012, pp 1-17:
“Government anger was directed not just at the Maoists but at their alleged ‘sympathizers in civil society’, whose verbal and written criticism of government for violations of the Constitution and fundamental rights, was morally equated with the Maoist act of killing in retaliation for those policies.[i] Within minutes then, given the government’s role as the primary definer of news,[ii] whether the alleged sympathizers had adequately condemned and expiated for the attack, became as critical to the framing of the news as the attack itself.
The largely one-sided government and media outrage – the targeted killings or rapes of ordinary adivasis rarely, if ever, invite direct calls upon the Home Minister to condemn each such incident – easily summon to mind Herman and Chomsky’s distinction between “worthy and unworthy victims” as part of what they call the media ‘propaganda model’.[iii] While news coverage of the worthy is replete with detail, evokes indignation and shock, and invites a follow-up; unworthy victims get limited news space, are referred to in generic terms, and there is little attempt to fix responsibility or trace culpability to the top echelons of the establishment.[iv]…..
…………..In times of civil war, the emotions performed by the state range from the inculcation of fear to a calculated display of indifference to the exhibition of injured feelings, as if it was citizens and not the state who were violating the social contract, and that the social contract consisted of the state’s right to impunity.

1. For example, after a Maoist attack in which 4 men of the Central Industrial Security Force were killed, the Home Ministry put out a statement asking “What is the message that the CPI (Maoist) intends to convey? These are questions that we would like to put not only to the CPI (Maoist) but also to those who speak on their behalf and chastise the government…We think that it is time for all right-thinking citizens who believe in democracy and development to condemn the acts of violence perpetrated by the CPI (Maoist).” Chidambaram slams Maoist sympathizers, Times Now, October 26, 2009, http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2009-10-26/india/28067149_1_maoist-sympathisers-cisf-jawans-chhattisgarh, accessed 12 November 2011
[ii] Hall, S. et al., Policing the Crises: Mugging, the State and Law and Order, London: Macmillan Education Ltd, 1978; Gans, HJ. Deciding What’s News, Northwestern University Press, 2004 (1979).
[iii] Herman, E. S. and Chomsky, N. Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of Mass Media, Pantheon Books, 2002, pp 37-86)
[iv] An enquiry was immediately ordered into the Tadmetla attack headed by a former Director General of the Border Security Force, EN Rammohan. He found several lapses in the leadership and functioning of the CRPF, including their failure to adhere to standard operating procedures. However, the commander responsible for this debacle, DIG Nalin Prabhat, while initially transferred, was given a gallantry medal a year later in 2011. Further, the government itself takes no responsibility for orchestrating this mindless war on its own people.

 

Remembering Mahendra Karma- Two Roads Parted In The Woods


Two Roads Parted In The Woods
Remembering Mahendra Karma, the founder of Salwa Judum, who was killed by Maoists on 25 May 2013
Himanshu Kumar in Tehelka

File Photo: Mahendra Karma, center, lawmaker and founder of Salwa Judum, the government-supported militia to combat Communist rebels known as Naxalites, is surrounded by bodyguards at his residence in Jagdalpur, in the central Indian state of Chattisgarh. Karma was killed when Maoist rebels attacked a convoy of cars of Congress party leaders and supporters , injuring several people on Saturday. PTI Photo

File Photo: Mahendra Karma, center, lawmaker and founder of Salwa Judum, the government-supported militia to combat Communist rebels known as Naxalites, is surrounded by bodyguards at his residence in Jagdalpur, in the central Indian state of Chattisgarh. Karma was killed when Maoist rebels attacked a convoy of cars of Congress party leaders and supporters , injuring several people on Saturday. PTI Photo

 

 

I first met Mahendra Karma in 1992. We had organised a training programme for farmers at our NGO, Vanvasi Chetna Ashram, in Kanwalnar village in Dantewada, which was still part of Madhya Pradesh then. Karmaji came over and spoke to the farmers. I became his admirer in my very first meeting with him. He was a very good orator. I have never heard anyone employ the Gondi language as powerfully as he did. I learned a lot from his use of the language.

At the time, Karmaji did not have an official position. He had a lot of free time. We spent a lot of our time together. He borrowed and read nearly every book in my personal library. He showed an immense interest in the working of our organisation. He often attended our meetings, too. Subsequently he became the head of the district panchayat. Our friendship deepened. Karmaji often called me to his office to seek my views on various matters of policy. When elections were called Karmaji became an independent member of parliament. Later he became an MLA and the jail minister in the cabinet of then Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh.

Meanwhile, a movement was launched to demand that Dantewada be made a separate district. Mahendra Karma was the chairman of the committee set up for the struggle and I was made its secretary. Later I piloted the programme where Dantewada was made a district. After that, the entire administration came down to our ashram. We had a meeting where we discussed all the then existing problems of Dantewada district and their likely solutions.

When Chhattisgarh became a separate state in November 2000 Mahendra Karma became its industry minister. My friendship with Karmaji was getting ever deeper. The administration would nominate me to every committee in the district. So much so that BJP leaders started calling me a Congress man.

In 2003, the BJP won the assembly elections. Karmaji became the leader of the opposition in the assembly. We were still friends as before. He would often talk with me about the BJP’s communalism. I gave him Prabhash Joshi’s book, “Hindu Hone Ka Dharma” (The Dharma of being a Hindu), to read.

As industry minister, he had told me that he was going to invite the industrial houses of Mittals and Jindals for mining in the Bailadila area to bring development. Karmaji told me that he would ask the industrialists to begin by building a township in Bijapur district, which is to the west of Dantewada, so that it, too, can develop.

In 2005 Mahendra Karma had a word with me when the Salwa Judum, a militia of the tribals to counter the Naxals, was being started. It was possibly only a coincidence, but a dangerous one nonetheless, that the Salwa Judum was to be started in the same Bijapur where licenses were given out for mining. Karmaji told me that tribal villagers were planning a rally against the Naxals and he was going to join it. He said that I, too, should participate in it. I told him that I am always in solidarity with the people and if they are against the Naxals then I would stand with them. But I said I would join the rally only if it was free of weapons because I just cannot participate in a movement that has weapons in it.

Mahendra Karma assured me that the rally would be without any weapons. I asked if his bodyguards would be there. Mahendra Karma had been given Z category security and 55 commandos were always with him. I know this figure because every time he visited our ashram I would be asked to count how many cups of tea needed to brewed. I had to count all the people with him.

Karmaji told me that his bodyguard would indeed be present with him and that Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh had said he would send the police to provide security at the public meeting. Upon learning that I declined to participate in the rally.

In a few days news of violence began to come in. I still kept quiet. Now various human rights activists and national and international journalists began visiting our ashram to investigate the role of the Salwa Judum. Binayak Sen, Balagopal, Nandini Sundar, Ramchandra Guha, Harivanshji and many others visited our ashram and subsequently published their reports on the Salwa Judum.

Mahendra Karma and I continued to meet each other. But we did not talk as openly as before. Although I hadn’t yet publicly spoken out against the Salwa Judum.

Around that time Vanvasi Chetna Ashram started working with UNICEF. That was when Salwa Judum men attacked our workers for the first time. They kidnapped our volunteers and thrashed them badly. That was when I spoke against the Salwa Judum for the first time publicly. By now, the tribal people had begun coming to us to seek help. Most incidents were about the police murdering tribals, or kidnapping and raping tribal women. We wrote to the government on these matters. But the government did not take any action. So we started approaching the courts. We had now begun speaking out against the Salwa Judum in the news media even though Mahendra Karma was its leader.

Karmaji, too, had now obliquely started attacking me. Any time we came face to face we still talked to each other but only about our children. He doted on my two daughters. His young daughters would often drop by at our ashram to play there. His wife, Devti, too, would visit often to meet with my wife, Veena. Karmaji continued to borrow books from me. But we had stopped talking politics altogether.

Then in 2009 the state government demolished our ashram. We tried to continue our work through a rented house. I wrote to the then Union Home Minister P Chidambaram and invited him to visit Dantewada to hold a hearing on the atrocities being committed on the tribals. This greatly troubled the state government and Mahendra Karma. The police began to put our workers into the prison, or threaten them with murder. On my last day in Dantewada one of my volunteers came to me and said that Mahendra Karma was sitting in the office of the district collector and screaming that he wanted freedom from Himanshu Kumar right away. The volunteer told me that I would be killed that night. Immediately thereafter that worker fled Dantewada with his wife and daughter. Within a half hour of that the police attacked his house and, among others, took away the motorcycle that the ashram owned and that was parked outside.

I thought about all this for long. I realised that if I died that night it would be of no profit to the tribals. My coworkers were in prison. I was fighting court cases on behalf of so many tribals. That night I jumped the wall in the backyard and escaped into the forest. The police had surrounded the entire house. I somehow reached the main road. A taxi was waiting for me there. I sat in it and left for Delhi. Since then I have not gone back to Dantewada that had been my home for 17 years.

Mahendra Karma’s killing today has revived my memories of the time I had spent with him. His ambition and his fears had forced him to get caught in a trap that Raman Singh had laid for him. In 2005 the police had been closing in on him over his alleged role in illegal sale of teak wood from the forests. He had faced imminent arrest. It was to escape that and the subsequent ignominy that he gave in to Raman Singh’s demand that he head the Salwa Judum. I may or may not have agreed with whatever Mahendra Karma did, but I must concede that he always impressed me with his intelligence and courage.

I am deeply saddened by his killing today. I bid farewell to my loving friend with a heavy heart.

(Translated to English by Ajit Sahi)

#India – Custodial Torture – Tailor, Farmer, Bootlegger, and many young men #mustread


The Hell Of Living Souls

A tailor. A farmer. A bootlegger. Often just young men going about their day. brutally tortured, then acquitted. G Vishnu captures the impunity with which this happens. And why society needs to react
G Vishnu

G VISHNU , Tehelka

1-06-2013, Issue 22 Volume 10

If the protector becomes (the) predator, civilised society will cease to exist… Policemen who commit criminal acts deserve harsher punishment than other persons who commit such acts, because it is the duty of the policemen to protect the people and not break the law themselves

- Supreme Court of India, 2010

Marked man Harak Chandra Chakma, who was arrested and tortured by the police for taking part in a tribal celebration in Tripura, ended up in hospital for 10 days

Marked man Harak Chandra Chakma, who was arrested and tortured by the police for taking part in a tribal celebration in Tripura, ended up in hospital for 10 days

On 14 May, police rounded up four men in Etah district of Uttar Pradesh, 260 km west of the state capital, Lucknow, in connection with a month-old case of murder. Three days later, one of them, a 33-year-old farmer named Balbir Singh, lay dead in a hospital in Lucknow. “The police gave him electric shocks and injected acid and petrol in his body,” says his brother- in-law, Sunul Kumar. “They forced him to sit on an electric heater that burnt his body horribly.” According to Kumar, Singh told him before dying that the police wanted him to confess his involvement in the murder.

So critical was his condition that Singh was moved to three hospitals in as many cities before he died. He named the policemen who tortured him in a dying declaration before a magistrate. The police were forced to register a case of murder. Five lowly policemen were suspended. No arrests are yet made. A sub-inspector is on the run. Devendra Pandey, who heads the police station of the alleged perpetrators, was merely transferred, though, according to Kumar, it was Pandey who gave Singh the electric shocks. Singh has left behind a one-year-old son and a pregnant wife.

The scourge of torture by police and prison officials is routine, random and vicious across India. On 18 May, Khalid Mujahid, 32, fell dead on his way back to a prison in Lucknow from a court in Faizabad. His death has generated unusual focus and political attention on the issue of police torture and custodial deaths. For the most part though, police torture hardly ever features as a red-button issue for Indians. First, there is a sense that torture only happens to the deserving. Second, there is a common perception that torture is the only — even if illegal — way of extracting crucial information from deadly terror suspects or mafia gangsters. Both these assumptions are false. Torture almost never yields accurate information. In fact, it is a security hazard as victims often confess in utter desperation to crimes they have not committed, while the real perpetrators roam free. Equally, torture is not restricted to rare cases. Often, it is perpetrated on those caught on trivial charges. According to the NHRC, over 14,000 people have died in police custody and in prisons in the decade ending 2010. This translates to a rate of more than four deaths a day. In the past three years, the NHRC has recorded 417 deaths in police custody and 4,285 deaths in judicial custody.

The story of Ratanji Vaghela is symptomatic of the sheer randomness of this brutality. On 27 April, Gujarat Police arrested Vaghela, a patient of depression and amnesia, for crossing the path of an official convoy in Gandhinagar. The family alleges torture, due to which he had to be hospitalised with severe wounds. “There are very few countries in the world where torture is as systematic and endemic as in India,” says New Delhi based campaigner Suhas Chakma. Rights activist Teesta Setalvad of Mumbai agrees: “Torture is not the exception, but the norm in jails as well as prisons across India.”

 Sarfaraz
‘At the station, the inspector forced my penis into my mother’s private parts. He kept shouting ‘rape her’ the whole time’
Sarfaraz A Mumbai domestic worker who was arrested when he went to report his wife’s suicide

Vaghela may still turn out lucky. On a plea from Chakma, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), an autonomous statutory watchdog, has ordered the state government to pay him an interim compensation of Rs 3 lakh and probe the allegation that he was tortured. But for the tens of thousands of citizens subjected to brutal torture across police stations and prisons in India, there is virtually no end to the tunnel.

“I have seen people beaten until they collapsed. I heard a prisoner was beaten until he died,” says Binayak Sen, a rights campaigner in Chhattisgarh, who spent two years in prison and was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2010 for sedition. “There is no question of natural justice. It is done with impunity. This is the everyday reality of torture in Indian jails.” Sen, whose incarceration became a global cause and who is on bail having appealed his conviction, says he was called crazy when he protested the torture of fellow prisoners. He says he never saw a victim of torture try to seek justice.

While the rest of the world is no stranger to torture by State agencies, India has the dubious distinction of sticking out as a sore thumb in the comity of nations. Along with half-a-dozen tiny nations such as Comoros and Guinea-Bissau, India is the only big country that has failed to ratify the UN Convention Against Torture, by outlawing torture and legislating punishment, despite signing it. An attempt to legislate to outlaw torture went into deep freeze in 2010 after rights campaigners pointed out howlers in the draft Bill and a parliamentary committee began to sift through it.

As a result, an architecture of torture dominates India’s law enforcement, and the judiciary turns a blind eye. “We have seen the courts demand action against the police, but in most cases, torture invokes only a verbal outrage on the part of the judiciary,” says Supreme Court lawyer Vrinda Grover, a long-time campaigner against torture. “It does not necessarily lead to effective prosecution of the perpetrators of torture.”

If ever a stink stirs judicial and quasi-judicial agencies, compensations are paid out, but any prosecution of the guilty drags forever. Stunningly, data from the National Crime Records Bureau, a government agency, shows there have been no convictions despite numerous cases filed against policemen and prison staff.

Activists reckon that most deaths emanate from torture, though, of course, officials always deny that. Most deaths are written off as suicides; very many are put down to illnesses and diseases. And the number of those who survive is exponentially larger and highly underreported. For most victims, torture begins a never-ending nightmare.

Mukesh Kumar, 21, was arrested on 24 January in Sheikhpura, a district in Bihar 120 km south of state capital, Patna, for bootlegging. According to a complaint he later filed with the State Human Rights Commission, Kumar was taken to the official residence of the city’s Superintendent of Police (SP) Babu Ram and thrashed. A baton was pushed into his rectum. (The police deny the charge.) Doctors at a hospital where he was brought four days later found his intestines had ruptured. He was told they might never heal.

 Naresh
‘When the policemen caned my soles, the pain shot up here (head). Three days later, I confessed that I had planted the bomb’
Naresh Sank Kujuri A tribal who was accused of planting a bomb in Gadchiroli that killed 12 CRPF personnel

Kumar’s relatives admit that, desperate to feed his family of five, he had taken to plugging moonshine. They were forced to bring him to the State-run All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi for surgeries that have already cost Rs 2 lakh. “He passes stool through a pipe and can’t walk to the toilet,” says Kumar’s uncle, Dhiraj Singh. “What do you do when the guardians of law commit such a crime?” After newspapers wrote of the torture, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar ordered the SP transferred out. “All the policemen involved in the case, including the SP, have been transferred,” says Sheikhpura’s new SP, Meenu Kumari. “I cannot comment further.”

With 11 crore people, Maharashtra has just over half the population of Uttar Pradesh. Yet, it tops the country in the number of cases of custodial deaths and torture by police and in prisons, beating even India’s most populous state. Recurrent bombings, supposedly by homegrown Islamic fundamentalists, and a Maoist rebellion in the state’s east have stoked the appetite for torture among the law enforcement agencies.

On 26 March 2012, a bomb exploded in Gadchiroli district, killing 12 members of the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force. It responded by raiding surrounding villages with the police, who arrested 11 men. “Every morning and evening, we were hung upside down and our feet, ankles and back caned,” Nanaji Chambrupadha Bapra, 28, told this reporter on a visit to his village. “After four days, the police stopped the torture but still won’t release us,” adds Shatrugan Rajnaitham, 18. The men were instead charged with waging war against the State. They were bailed after three months.

“There is no evidence against them but they were picked up because it was convenient,” says their lawyer, Jagdish Mishram. And fruitful. “When they caned the soles, the pain shot up here,” says Naresh Sank Kujuri, 26, pointing at his head. “Three days later, I told them I had planted the bomb.” The families of these men, all poor farmers, have run up debts of lakhs of rupees on legal and health expenses. Of course, the police reject the charge. “None of the men were tortured,” Gadchiroli SP Suvez Haque told TEHELKA. “We arrested them on the basis of evidence.”

Kujuri’s story illustrates how torture is entirely self-defeating. Bandhu Mishram, 46, a tailor in Nagpur district and a veteran of torture, describes how the police set about implementing their regime of torture. He has been arrested thrice in a short life: in 1984, 1996 and 2010. In his early years he was targeted, he says, for his trade unionism and activism to demand a separate state of Vidarbha in the east of Maharashtra. In 2010, the police named him a Maoist rebel and arrested him.

“They break you down scientifically when they want a confession,” he says. “They know how to make you feel hurt and anxious.” Mishram was hung upside down between a tyre and his feet were caned for an hour. They made him believe his wife and mother were being raped in the next room. For hours he heard screams as the policemen laughed. A fellow inmate told him his wife had been raped and killed, and her body chopped and dumped. “I wanted to kill myself. Thankfully, I saw my wife in the court the next day.” Mishram spent three months in jail before being bailed. In 2012, he was acquitted of all charges. He has filed a petition against his tormentors.

Does Indian law allow torture? Actually, no. Activist Arun Ferreira, who spent four years in Nagpur prison until January 2012 and was charged under the Unlawful Activity Prevention Act (UAPA), witnessed many fellow inmates suffer torture. “Even solitary confinement is illegal but every prison in India has cells for solitary confinement,” he says. “The State uses torture as a weapon. It is systemic for a reason.” He points to the hypocrisy of the State in an anti-torture Bill that the government rushed through Lok Sabha in 2008 and that, activists found, actually exempted torture in some cases.

‘At the 2008 UN Human Rights Convention, many countries asked India why it still hadn’t ratified the convention on prevention of torture. Then India had said it would legislate a domestic law. Five years later, there’s no law yet’

Vrinda Grover Human Rights Lawyer

‘Doctors ought to provide relief and recourse but medical services available to prisoners are inadequate. The medical staff treats them with disdain. By and large, doctors reinforce the messages imposed by jail authorities’

Binayak Sen Pediatrician and Public Health Specialist

‘Torture needs to be defined under the IPC. An amendment is pending in Parliament and that needs to be enacted. There is a proper definition of torture that is universally accepted, and it should be brought in as an offence’

Teesta Setalvad Civil rights activist

‘The worst thing is that courts don’t take notice of complaints. When undertrials are presented before them, they invariably complain about custodial torture. Courts brush aside these claims. They don’t pay any heed to such grievances’

SR Darapuri Former IG, Uttar Pradesh

 

Former Indian Police Service officer-turned-activist, SR Darapuri of Lucknow, has a rare insider’s perspective on torture. “The worst thing is that the courts do not take notice of the complaints. When these victims appear before the courts, invariably they make these complaints and the courts just brush them aside. Our whole system is infested.” As for the courts, although they have begun to take greater cognisance of torture by police and prison staff, they are still far from being in an overdrive to end the practice. A public lawsuit against custodial torture filed by lawyers Rebecca Gonsalves and Vijay Hiremath is gathering dust at the Bombay High Court since 2003. Over six years ago, the Supreme Court directed all states to set up a Security Commission as a watchdog for law enforcement to free it of political control. That is yet to happen.

“We must recognise that our criminal justice system has all but collapsed,” says the petitioner in that case, former Uttar Pradesh Director-General of Police Prakash Singh. “Even simple cases take three to five years.” Then, the society expects quick results. “Decent people have asked me why don’t we just take out criminals and terrorists. Torture is easy closure because they know justice won’t be delivered otherwise.”

Singh says reforms alone would make the police democratic and accountable and not dance to political masters. But says Supreme Court lawyer Grover: “More than reforms, we need accountability. The police have an institutional bias against minorities, the Dalits, the poor and the women. And the political class uses the desensitised police to push its agenda.” Mumbai lawyer Yug Mohit Chowdhry, who has represented several victims of custodial torture, says the police are understaffed, under-equipped, underpaid and stretched. “They have to manage everything from law and order to domestic disputes,” he says. “When we make them work like animals, they behave like animals.”

Actually, animals behave better.

When Naushad Sheikh, 45, accused of being a thief, died in custody in Navi Mumbai on 16 March, police said he had banged his head on an iron grill. The autopsy showed wounds across the body. A co-accused told the Maharashtra Police Criminal Investigation Department (CID) that Sheikh was subjected to “bhajirao”, a severe lashing with police uniform belts whose buckles caused deep wounds on his head. The co-accused also said Sheikh was hung upside down and beaten with a cricket bat.

“Custodial death is inhuman. Nobody should be subjected to torture,” Additional Commissioner of Police Qaiser Khalid told TEHELKA. “Let us wait for the CID findings.” But will a probe be impartial? Not in the experience of the family of Rafiq Sheikh, 35, a cosmetic company executive in Mumbai, who was arrested on 28 November 2012 in a fake currency racket. When his brother, Majhal, went to meet him on 2 December, Sheikh was dead. “The deepest wounds were on his legs. The soles of his feet had blackened from the beating,” says Majhal. “I want those cops to pay for what they did.”

In this case, too, a co-accused testified that policemen belted and caned Sheikh for hours. A judge of the Bombay High Court noted that the wounds appeared inflicted by others. When Sheikh’s family filed a criminal case, the police assigned the probe to a CID team that includes an officer who was himself once charged with the killing of an accused named Khwaja Younus in January 2003. Now Assistant Commissioner of Police, Praful Bhosale was known as an “encounter specialist”, who had killed 74 alleged criminals. Bhosale was suspended for four years and reinstated in 2010.

On 15 April 2011, police in the northeastern state of Tripura arrested Harak Chandra Chakma, a 32-year-old tribal, for taking part in a tribal celebration. He claimed the police attacked him with a blunt object. Photographs showed injuries on his thighs, back and below the knees. He was hospitalised for 10 days. Four days after the torture, the Asian Indigenous and Tribal People’s Network, an NGO, moved the NHRC. An inquiry proved Chakma’s torture by the police. What happened then to the guilty? One of the three named in the report was suspended. No action was taken against the others.

A hair-raising account of torture has come from a Bengaluru journalist, Muthi-ur- Rahman Siddique, who was released in February after being in prison for six months allegedly for a terror plot. In all, there were 14 accused in the case. “One was beaten, hung upside down, and had petrol poured into his private parts,” Siddique told TEHELKA. Another accused, Obaid-ur-Rehman of Hyderabad, had his finger broken. “Most were given electric shocks on their genitals.” The police deny the allegations.

Justice typically eludes victims of torture for decades. In 1989, a domestic worker named Sarfaraz went to the police in Navi Mumbai to report that his wife had hanged herself and died. Instead, the police accused him of being responsible for his wife’s death. They allegedly called his mother to the police station, stripped both of them, and forced them into sexual positions. “After some time, a constable took me into a room where my mother was being held,” reads Sarfaraz’ shocking statement to the court. “She was in the nude. I was forced to strip naked even as I begged them to let us go. An inspector took me to my mother and put my hands on her breasts. After making her lie down on a bench, he asked one of the constables to shake my penis. They tied me up and beat me again. I was untied after a point and they pushed me on my mother. The inspector was forcing my chest to her breasts and my penis into her private parts. The inspector kept shouting ‘rape her’ the whole time.” It is a narrative that Sarfaraz reproduces with a kind of clarity as though it happened yesterday. He was then paraded naked in his neighbourhood. After he was acquitted in 1991 of trumped up charges, he filed cases against the three policemen who were instrumental in making him suffer. It was only last year that the case was finally taken up by a fast-track court.

 
‘Every morning And evening, We were hung upside down and our feet, Ankles and back caned. The torture continued for four days’
Shatrugan RajnaithamA tribal from Gadchiroli who was charged with waging war against the State

Policemen long enjoyed impunity from prosecution because the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), a set of rules coded in 1973 to administer criminal jurisprudence, stipulates that officials cannot be prosecuted for acts committed in the discharge of their duties. The Indian Penal Code of 1860 had allowed sentences of up to seven years for a range of acts that can be considered as torture. But to prosecute cops under these laws has traditionally been next to impossible. Few victims are forensically examined. A lack of a witness protection mechanism deters the victims from taking on the guilty. Compensation is yet not a fundamental right. The courts have taken a minimalistic view on claims for compensation from acts of torture. As such, awards vary across India.

In 2005, an amendment to the CrPC mandated a judicial probe on the death or disappearance of a person or rape of a woman in custody. But it has hardly lessened the use of torture. Deaths from torture are almost always passed off as suicides. “What led them to the extreme act and how they commit suicide with strange objects like shoe laces, blankets, jeans, etc are (questions) never answered,” says a report by Asian Centre for Human Rights, an NGO that activist Chakma heads. “How the victims had access to the means like poisons, drugs, electric cables, etc in custody remain(s) unknown.” Many victims, who are healthy prior to their arrest, develop medical complications once in custody. “They are subjected to torture and murdered. With the acquiescence of the medical fraternity, the police are able to describe the death as medical complications.”

Internationally, it is becoming hard for India to escape censure. As early as 1997, the UN Human Rights Committee voiced anguish over the extensive use of torture by India’s law enforcement agencies. The Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 2007 and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2008 expressed serious concern over the impunity that India afforded to its men in uniform who tortured citizens in custody. In March, Henri Tiphagne, a leading global activist from the Geneva-based World Organisation Against Torture, joined a public hearing against torture at Madurai city in Tamil Nadu. “Torture is inflicted not only on the accused but also on petitioners and complainants,” he told the gathering. Of course, the government has long turned a deaf ear to domestic and international voices against the culture of torture. And unless it is shaken out of its complacence, tens of thousands more will continue to be brutalised by the men in uniform.

vishnu@tehelka.com

With inputs from Virendra Nath Bhatt, Nupur Sonar, Imran Khan and Ratnadip Choudhury

Asserting Freedom, Celebrating Resistance: New Year 2013 at Kudankulam #Videos


Anushka Meenakshi, a Chennai-based supporter and film-maker, has recorded 7 interviews with people who returned from Idinthakarai

 

#India-Villagers Wail Against Nuclear Power


Fishermen and their families protesting against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant. Credit K. S. Harikrishnan/IPSFishermen and their families protesting against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant. Credit K. S. Harikrishnan/IPS

KUDANKULAM, India, Jan 6 2013 (IPS) – Mahalakshmi, a housewife married to a farmer, is afraid for her family’s future. The fifty-two-year-old woman is also frustrated that Indian authorities have “betrayed” poor villagers.

A huge nuclear power plant under the control of the government-run Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) is the source of her woes.

The Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP), situated 24 kilometres from the world famous tourist town of Kanyakumari on the southern tip of the Indian peninsula, is likely to be commissioned this month.

Speaking to IPS, Mahalakshmi and dozens of women in Kudankulam, a village in the Tirunelveli district of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, charged that the energy project would ruin their futures, homes and livelihoods.

The plant is slated to produce an initial 1,000 megawatts of power, according to the NPCIL, no small contribution to a country saddled with a severe energy deficit.

But the proposed nuclear station has brought sleepless nights to scores of locals, who fear a disaster similar to the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan in March 2011, and the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe.

Locals have risen up in widespread protest over the proposed plant, which they claim has not been equipped with the best possible safety measures.

One of these protestors, Arul Vasanth, told IPS that politicians, scientists, and bureaucrats have made every effort to crush agitation against the potentially lucrative KKNPP.

“We, the poor, are at the receiving end of all false promises given by the authorities,” he said. “The risk has been put on our shoulders so the people will aggressively fight till the end.”

Indeed, the vast majority of those participating in the protests live below the government-declared poverty line.

Opposition to the energy project first began when India inked the KKNPP deal with the erstwhile Soviet Union in 1988.

Agitation gained momentum in 1997 when the country signed another agreement with Russia to revive the deal.

The controversial Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant. Credit K. S. Harikrishnan/IPS

Now, in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster, which drew the world’s attention to the horrific dangers of nuclear power, the people in Kudankulam have brought their fight into the open.

People from the Idinthakarai, Koottappalli, Perumanal, Koothankuli and Uoovri villages, located close to Kudankulam, fear health consequences arising from the plant.

Talking to IPS, well-known anti-nuclear activist K. Sahadevan questioned the efficacy of government measures to safeguard the health of local people living in the vicinity of the plant.

“Radioactivity-related health hazards are a major concern for the people residing near the plant,” he said, referring to a survey of houses very near to the Rajasthan Atomic Power Station, which revealed a high prevalence of cancer and tumors.

Dr. Binayak Sen, human rights activist and member of the Planning Commission’s Steering Committee on Health, said in a statement after visiting the site that the Kudankulam plant posed serious health consequences, not only for those residing in the immediate vicinity, but for inhabitants of the entire region.

Opposition to the plant has created deep cracks in the villagers’ daily lives. Frequent protests by farmers, fisherfolk, students and coastal dwellers have sent a strong message to the authorities but simultaneously interrupted income-generating activities.

Explaining the ground situation in the villages, Peter Milton, an agitation leader in Idinthakari, told IPS that people are worried and frustrated about their future.

 

  • Farmers say the government has failed to compensate them for large swaths of arable land that have now been declared part of the official “construction site”.

 

 

One small-scale farmer who has suffered many bureaucratic hurdles in claiming compensation for his land told IPS he favours other sources of energy – such as wind farms – over the proposed atomic power station.

A group of students at St. Annes Higher Secondary School in Kudankulam also expressed distress over a future lived in the shadow of nuclear catastrophe.

“A disaster in the plant will eliminate our dreams. That is why we are agitating,” the students, who wished to remain anonymous, told IPS.

Meanwhile, police and intelligence agencies are stepping up their suppression of protestors. “The threat of the police has put more strain on our lives. Even students and women are not exempted from the harassment,” said Milton.

According to media reports, 269 persons have been arrested in connection with the agitation. Agitation leaders claim the number is much higher, with pending cases running into the thousands.

T. Peter, secretary of the National Fish Workers Forum, told IPS that many people have been taken into custody under the charge of sedition. He alleged that the establishment is trying to “sabotage” the protest movement and crush it with an iron fist.

“The fisher folk residing in the coastal area of Kudankulam are (acutely) aware about the impacts of a nuclear (accident) at the KKNPP. People living in coastal areas between Thiruvananthapuram and Tuticorin will be (particularly) affected if a disaster occurs,” he added.

The Russian envoy to India, Alexander M. Kadakin, branded the anti-nuclear protests “gimmicks” and “games” while speaking to reporters in Chennai.

Regardless, India’s highest judicial bodies have expressed alarm about the lack of safety measures at the proposed plant, going so far as to halt the process altogether.

Litigations are now pending before the Supreme Court of India and the National Green Tribunal.

In November, the Supreme Court instructed the Union Government to deploy all necessary safety measures at Kudankulam.

“There must be no compromise on safety and rehabilitation. We are making it absolutely clear that all the guidelines and safety measures for handling disasters must be put in place before the plant is commissioned,” according to Justices K S Radhakrishanan and Deepak Misra.

Attempting to allay fears of a disaster, nuclear scientists have expressed satisfaction over the safety measures at the Kudankulam plant. Former Indian president and scientist Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam declared the plant to be safe, following extensive discussions with KKNPP officials and a thorough inspection of the plant’s safety features.

 

 

#India-“Give up KKNPP, go for solar and wind energy”- Adm.Ramdas


TIRUNELVELI, January 1, 2013, The Hindu

Staff Reporter

 

The Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project is totally unsafe and should not be commissioned, according to former Navy Chief Admiral L. Ramdoss.

With ample resources of renewable energy and over 300 bright sunny days, government agencies should tap the potential to generate wind and solar energy, instead of commissioning the high-risk nuclear energy project at Kudankulam, he said.

The technology for generating solar energy was very competitive and cheaper than nuclear energy. However, the existing grid system was not suited to tap such clean energy resources. While developed countries around the world had abandoned the nuclear energy option on grounds of safety, the Indian government was pushing ahead with the commissioning of the risky nuclear energy project, overlooking safety concerns raised by the people, especially the coastal population.

Admiral Ramdoss was addressing the media at Idinthakarai near Kudankulam on Monday.

“In my view no assurance on safety has been made by the Central government, the Russian government, NPCIL, Department of Atomic Energy or any expert from the Indian officialdom,” he noted.

In the past, experts had certified nuclear energy plants to be safe.

These included plants such as Three Mile Island in the US, Chernobyl in Ukraine and Fukushima in Japan. Yet these plants suffered accidents, he pointed out. Design of the equipment, natural causes beyond our control and human failure could cause accidents, Mr. Ramdoss warned.

“People have the right to protect themselves from the risks of nuclear energy, but all these rights have been scuttled. They have been told lies that the emerging nuclear plant is safe. It is time to give up this unsafe project and the government authorities should find alternative source of energy to safeguard the lives of the people in the vicinity of Kudankulam and protect their livelihood,.” he said.

Binayak Sen, national vice-president, People’s Union for Civil Liberty, said the judicial process had been misused and AERB norms were being flouted in the process of commissioning this nuclear plant.

The protest by the people against nuclear energy was being suppressed. The PUCL and human rights organisations had been engaged in the withdrawal of sedition charges levelled against the protesters.

Praful Bidwai, senior journalist, said fake cases had been foisted on the protesters. As many as 325 cases were filed against those involved in the agitation at Idinthakarai. Charge sheets were filed against 1,20, 000 people and 13, 350 were charged with waging a war against the State and criminal conspiracy.

As many as 8,456 persons were booked on sedition charges, 18,143 persons accused of attempt to murder and 15,565 persons charged with destroying government properties. Sixty-six persons were arrested and nine imprisoned. Forty-five persons were released on conditional bail.

Children performed cultural programmes on the eve of the New Year. S.P. Udhayakumar, convener, People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy, and members of organisations against nuclear energy from various States took part in the agitation. The agitation at Idinthakarai has crossed 500 days.

 

New Year breathes new life into anti-nuclear struggle at Kudankulam


 

Press Release: 1st January 2013

 

  • Activists, struggle communities along with other professionals from varied walks of life take midnight pledge to fight against the Nuclear plant and to fight the forces of death and destruction.
  • Trade Unions, environmental groups, human rights organisations, etc. extend solidarity to people’s struggle at Kudankulam
  • Scientists, senior activists, artists, film makers, lawyers & other professionals join the struggle on the eve of New Year 2013
  • Night-long celebrations at Idinthakarai beach reverberate the spirit of resistance, assertion, freedom and democracy

 

As 2012 came to a close and 2013 dawned, hundreds of people sang and danced together at the Idinthakarai coast, adjacent to the Kudankulam Nuclear Plant. Among the thousands who gathered were more than three hundred people who came from outside the region, to join the local people. They came to the coastal hamlets around Kudankulam to support the spirit of freedom, humanity, resistance and democracy represented by the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE). People’s movements from Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, West Bengal, Karnataka, Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu among other states along with activists, trade unions, professionals, artists, students and others have come to oppose the undemocratic imposition of a nuclear reactor within two kilometres of Idinthakarai. The local people have come from the coastal villages of Idinthakarai, Kudankulam, Vairavikinaru, Kuthankuzhi, Koottappuli and Perumanal.

 

The movement in Idinthakarai is representative of many people’s struggles in various parts of the country against the lack of local people’s participation in decisions that affect them and generations after them. With promises of dramatic changes for local people, mines in Jharkhand, thermal power plants in Odisha and hydro- electric plants are established. However, the experience of the local people show they are often left in the shadow of such development. This negligence of people has reached its peak with the bogus promise of electricity, energy, etc. taking the centre-stage on the issues around displacement and destructive development paradigm. This is demonstrated in the villages next to many thermal plants and dams in Jharkhand, Chhatisgarh, Odisha and places like Raichur. With corporations awaiting to grab the electricity generated at the Kudankulam plant, no different fate awaits the people of Idinthakarai, Kudankulam and even rest of Tamil Nadu.

 

31st December in Idinthakarai has turned out to be a memorable experience for the local people and those who came from different parts of India. The day began with children from all over India coming together to paint a mural against the nuclear reactor in Kudankulam. It was followed by a rally accompanied by music, song and dance through the coastal hamlets around Idinthakarai. The children took the lead to assert their right to live a life safe from the risks of nuclear radiation. With the beating of drums, the Janwadi Sanstrutik Andolan from Odisha opened the programme to welcome the people gathered in solidarity at the Idinthakarai Lourde Matha Church. Despite speaking various languages, they raised a joint voice against the proposed nuclear plant.

 

Hajirabi representing the people affected by Bhopal Gas disaster of 1984 highlighted how the people of Bhopal were continuing to live the tragedy despite all false promises of the government and Union Carbide (now Dow Chemicals). Many speakers highlighted how, when democratic people’s struggles were exercising their right to protest, they have faced difficulties, harassment, arrests and even death. The case of Sr. Valsa John was highlighted in Jharkhand, who was murdered when she was leading protests against the usurping of traditional forests of the Adivasi community for uranium mines. During this process of protests, they were labelled as traitors, enemies of the state and most recently terrorists, making it difficult to lead normal lives. Ashim Roy, General Secretary of the New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI is a national trade union of workers from varied sectors) affirmed that it is the duty of the new people’s movements to bring awareness to the old movements like trade unions, with regard to the assertive land protection struggles. He reaffirmed NTUI’s support to the struggle at Kudankulam.

 

Many speakers also highlighted how many villages across India were in a permanent siege, with many villages surrounded by the local police, the Central Reserve Police Force, the Rapid Action Force and other para military forces. In order to intimidate local resistance, thousands of fabricated cases are slapped onto protesters, who have to live with the constant threat of arrest. The experiences from Jagatsingpur (anti-POSCO struggle), Latehar (Jharkhand), Jaitapur (anti-nuclear plant struggle in Maharshtra), Chengara (land struggle in Kerala), etc. have not been different.

 

Selvam from the Tamil Nadu Eearkai Vyavasaya Sangam highlighted how the State has been painting a rosy picture for the people if they leave agriculture and other traditional livelihoods like fishing. However, speaker after speaker highlighted how various development projects have left them impoverished as lose access to their traditional livelihoods and at the same time cannot access the benefits promised by the State.

 

T. Peter from the National Fishworkers’ Forum highlighted the sacrifices the fishing community have made for the greater good of the country. It was the coastal villages and the fishworkers who sacrificed their land to establish the Thumba satellite launch station. But he asserted that for destructive developmental projects like the Nuclear project, the same fishworkers will give their life to protect land, livelihood and marine resources. It is a battle of life against the forces of death, he asserted. Peter also announced that fishworkers from across the country will hold January 21st as solidarity day in support of the people’s struggle in Kudankulam.

 

The day witnessed cultural programmes by Space theatre (Goa), Dynamic Action (Kerala), Delhi Solidarity Group, Susanta Das (West Bengal), children’s programmes from Idiantahkarai. The night witnessed songs, dances and cultural performances that lasted till the dawn of the first day of 2013. Eminent citizens and senior movement activists including Dr. Binayak SenAdmiral (Rtd) Ramdas, Achin Vinaik, Ajitha George, Adv. Colin Gonsalves, Adv. Clifton D’Rozario, Praful Bidwai, Gabriela Dietrich, Ashim Roy, Lalita Ramdas, Wilfred D’costa, Dr. Meher Engineer, T. Peter, Sr. Celia, Vilayodi Venugopal, Laha Gopalan, and others participated in the events held atLourde Matha Church premises at Idinthakarai. They were joined by eminent filmmakers, photographers, actors, singers, playwrights, scientists, and local movement representatives including Dr. S P Udayakumar, Mary, Malar Manickam, Inita Sahayam, Pushparayan, Milton and others.

 

During the evening, young activists from all over the country came together to share their dreams, hopes and aspirations of local people. They shared their hope that the development process would be more inclusive and participatory with local communities deciding on their common future. They highlighted their common dream of more democratic decision-making and a greater stake for local people in local development.

 

For details contact: Magline (09495531555), Bhargavi (09999563950) & Lakshmi (09791009160)

 

Press Release-Koodankulam Could Be Another Bhopal Disaster In Waiting: Noam Chomsky


Koodankulam Could Be Another Bhopal Disaster In Waiting: Noam Chomsky

Press Release By Koodankulam Solidarity Group

31 October, 2012
Countercurrents.org

Internationally acclaimed academician Noam Chomsky of Massachussets Institute of Technology of the United States has said that Koodankulam could be another Bhopal disaster in waiting. In a solidarity letter to the struggling people he said `Nuclear energy is a very dangerous initiative, particularly in countries like India, which has had more than its share of industrial disasters, Bhopal being the most famous,’ said Noam Chomsky. ` I would like to express my support for the courageous people’s movement protesting the opening of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant.’

Avram Noam Chomsky is internationally famous linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, logician, historian, political critic and activist. He has worked as a professor in the Department of Linguistics & Philosophy at MIT. In addition to his work in linguistics, he has written on war, politics, mass media and a many other areas. Chomsky was cited more often than any other living scholar from 1980 to 1992 and he was voted the “world’s top public intellectual” in a 2005 poll.Described as the “father of modern linguistics, he is most well known for his book called ` Manufacturing Consent’

`The support of Noam Chomsky is a major blessing to the fishing community of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka, who are unfortunately the first victims of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant,’ said T.Peter , Secretary, National Fish Workers’ Forum. `We hope more and more groups and individuals will flow now to support the struggle.’

`Chomsky is one of the most leading existing internationally reknowned left intellectuals today. It is surprising that while such a great personality has expressed support to the Koodankulam struggle, the left in India is still confused about their stand on the hazards of nuclear energy,’ said Civic Chandran , activist writer . Chomsky’s response came as a part of the efforts of the anti-nuclear activists to campaign on Koodankulam issue through the internet in a unique manner through a well known website http://www.countercurrents org The site has been publishing posters using statements in support of the the Koodankulam struggle from well known national and international personalities every day along with their photographs from October 11, onwards.

Mairead Maguire, the 1976 nobel peace prize winner and Irish peace activist also expressed her solidarity to the koodankulam struggle. She said the struggle is an inspiration to the world. She also said “I offer my solidarity with the brave people of Koodankulam, as they nonviolently resist the Koodankulam nuclear power plant in their community. The courageous villagers-men and women- who are risking their lives do so to safeguard the lives of their children, the livelihood of all their fishermen,and their environment.We support you all, continue to be brave, refuse to be silent, and you will overcome… your actions are in inspiration to many of us around the world and we join you in spirit…Shanti”

The campaign through posters on the net began with former Chief Minister of Kerala, V.S.Achuthanandan who said: `We do not need this nuclear bomb. The Central Govt. must immediately stop all activities regarding this plant. The Kerala Govt. must wake up with an understanding on the threat from this on the people and act immediately.’

While the stand of Achuthanandan on nuclear energy was being debated, some of the others who expressed their stand on the campaign are the following:

`What the poor people of Koodankulam is doing is what anyone would struggle for the protection of one’s own life and future. It is not surprising that the Government which has become a part of the nuclear lobby could not understand this. Let them learn from the widespread lessons of Chernobyl and Fukushima ‘ – Binoy Viswarm, Former Minster of Kerala & CPI leader.

` We fully support the courageous struggle against the nuclear power station in Koodankulam. In Denmark the resistance against nuclear power was strong and well organized and today Denmark is free of nuclear energy. Our resistance was able to close the nuclear power station Barsebäck in Sweden close to Denmark ‘ – Christian Juhl, Member of Parliament and spokesman, The Red-Green Alliance , Denmark .

`Koodankulam nuclear plant is a Fukushima in the making. It will be another genocide of the Tamils, Sinhalese and Indians waiting to happen. Sri Lanka is just a stone’s throw away from Koodankulam. We the Sri Lankan people, Tamil, Sinhalese and Tamil speaking Muslims oppose it tooth and nail, along side our brothers and sisters of Idinthakarai and Koodankulam – Siritunga Jayasuria, Former Presidential candidate, General Secretary, United Socialist Party, Sri Lanka

`We agree that electricity is needed for development. But the main question is whether we have used all safer options for the production of energy before we think of nuclear option. This question is leading to a lot of suspicions’ – Annie Raja, National Council Member, CPI.

`Public pressure is needed to break the power of the greedy nuclear lobby. Koodankulam struggle is vital and I will do my utmost to spread the word about your struggle within the trade union and anti nuclear movement in Europe ‘ – Reknowned politician Paul Murphy, Member of the European Parliament for the Socialist Party of Ireland .

`Socialist Alternative (SAV) Germany condemn the state terror unleashed on the peaceful protesters of Koodankulam. We demand the immediate withdrawal of the police force. We demand that the government heed to the sane voice of the anti-nuclear movement and immediately stop the killer project which is bound to put the people, flora and fauna, the fragile environment and the other species in irrevocable danger’ – Lucy Redler, Spokesperson of Socialist Alternative (SAV) Germany

` The government must immediately stop the brutal treatment of protesters and shut down the plant without further delay. The investment should be channeled to renewable energy production. All development should be people centric and not for the profits of the few. Tamil Solidarity campaign will continue to support the Koodankulam anti-nuclear struggle and will continue to build support internationally’ – TU Senan, International coordinator for Tamil Solidarity Campaign.

`I am totally in solidarity with people in Koodankulam and elsewhere protesting against nuclear reactors. This we do not need in the world. We do not understand the long term dangers and must ban all new installations’ – Mallika Sarabhai, Indian classical dancer and social activist

`Atomic power is against Humanity. Human beings have not evolved enough to handle atomic power. At source level atomic energy is no different from atomic weapon. Every Nation has a hidden agenda of producing atomic Weapon. Say NO TO ATOMIC POWER!’ – KAVIGNAR Thamarai .

`The Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project will have serious health consequences, not only for the local people, but also for the people of the entire region. This will be accompanied by large scale loss of livelihood for the fisher folk communities of the entire area. The long term risks of a nuclear accident are unpredictable’ – Dr. Binayak Sen, Member, Planning Commission’s Steering Committee on Health.

`Without a fully worked out disaster management plan, Koodankulam or any other nuclear reactor is a sure passport to disaster. This is an unwarranted risk. A nuclear reactor is potentially more dangerous than an ato bomb, because each 1000 MW reactor contains radio active materials equivilant to 200 nagasaki bombs’ – Dr. M.P. Parameswaran, Nuclear Engineer, KSSP.

`Stop Nuclear Menace in Koodankulam. Defend the Planet!’ – Anand Patwardhan, Film Maker .

`I stand in complete solidarity with the villagers of Idinthikkarai who are resisting Koodankulam reactor. I happened to be in Japan in March 2011 when the earthquake damaged the Fukushima reactor. After the disaster, almost every country that used nuclear energy declared that it would change its policy. Every country, except India ‘ – Arundhati Roy, Writer.

The campaign through http://www.CounterCurrents.org is generating more and more national and international support through face book, twitter, e-groups, websites and many other ways of internet sharing. ` The anti-nuclear activists have always used creative ways of campaigning and this poster campaign through the net is certainly a new step,’ said Subramanian, State Convenor of the Koodankulam Solidarity Group. ` What is most important is that we motivated Noam Chomsky himself to respond to this struggle which is situated in the other part of the planet. We are sure it will inspire many significant personalities and organizations to come out strongly against the nuclear power plant to defend life and environment’

Contact: N. Subramanyan :09497881489. nsubrahmanyan@gmail.com

K. Sajeed: 09496827652. sajeedacl@gmail.com

Geo Jose: 09446000701. geojoselily@gmail.com

 

# India – Dr Sunilam Farmer Leader Reaps Bitter Harvest #Madhyapradesh #fabricated


Social activist Sunil Mishra, who dared to fight for farmers’ rights in MP, gets lifer in a rioting case dating back to 1998. Prakhar Jainreports

Fabricated lies? Sunil Mishra, the founder-president of Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, was charged with murdering a fire engine driver and assaulting police officers in 1998

Photo: AFP

DAYS AFTER he spoke about State-led persecution of social activists at a public hearing on fabricated cases in Delhi, Sunil Mishra was sentenced to life imprisonment on 18 October by a local court in Betul district, Madhya Pradesh. He was found guilty in three of the 66 false cases filed against him in 1998.

Mishra, a noted social activist and founder-president of Kisan Sangharsh Samiti (KSS), has been charged with murdering a fire engine driver, attacking a police officer with the intent to take his life and setting an inspector on fire during the 1998 farmer’s agitation in Betul district.

On 8 January 1998, the KSS had organised a rally of nearly 75,000 farmers in Multai town of the district demanding compensation for crops destroyed in the winter.

Buckling under pressure, the district authorities announced a compensation of 400 per acre. However, this failed to satisfy the farmers and they decided to intensify their protest. On 12 January, more than 10,000 people laid siege to the Multai tehsil office. The police opened fire, killing 24 farmers and injuring 115 others.

Following the incident the Digvijaya Singh-led Congress government filed a series of false cases against Mishra. He was arrested and tortured for three days, ahead of being produced before the magistrate. He was later imprisoned for three months, before being granted bail on 27 March 1998. Of the 66 cases registered against him, most were withdrawn later. However, he continued to face prosecution in 16 cases.

The state government later ordered a judicial inquiry into the firing. The report is yet to be made public. Activists say requests made under the Right to Information Act have revealed that it is untraceable.

The same year, Mishra fought the Assembly election from Multai as the “people’s representative” and won by a margin of over 50 percent.

It did not take long before Mishra became an eyesore for both the ruling and the Opposition party and he has faced the consequences of raising his voice.

The kind of storm he has been able to generate can be understood by the fact that there have been eight attempts to take his life and he has been arrested more than 125 times with over 130 cases filed against him.

Following his latest arrest on 18 October, Mishra, in an open letter, has denied all the charges levelled against him.

“The judgment does not even record the cross-examination done by us. It is disappointing. We are going to appeal against it in the Jabalpur High Court,” says his lawyer Anuradha Bhargava.

Mishra’s conviction has taken the activist fraternity by surprise. Gautam Bandopadyaya, a water rights activist from Chhattisgarh, who has followed Mishra’s work for over three decades, says he is being persecuted for playing the role of an active opposition when political parties have turned a blind eye to the plight of farmers.

“For years, he has taken the issues of the streets to the Legislative Assembly and now false charges are being used to stop him from contesting next year’s election. We will reply to this politically by taking these issues to the people,” says Bandopadyaya.

‘What happened with Binayak Sen is being repeated with Sunilam,’ says Medha Patkar

THAT MISHRA, popularly known as Sunilam, still enjoys considerable support on the ground was evident by the fact that when the judgment was pronounced, the town of Multai suspended all business in protest.

The National Alliance for People’s Movements, an umbrella organisation of several NGOs, has strongly condemned Mishra’s conviction, saying, “This is nothing but a travesty of justice, since those who need to be punished are serving in the police force and have been promoted since then, while those who were struggling for the rights of farmers have been sentenced after 14 years.”

A strongly-worded protest note signed by activists such as Medha Patkar and Prafulla Samantra says, “The wrong sentence given to Sunilam is one thing, but one is left to wonder when the 24 farmers (who were killed) and their families get justice?”

“What happened with Binayak Sen is being repeated with Sunilam,” says Patkar. “He is a non-violent social activist and is being targeted because of his protest against some of the corporate projects. There are loopholes in the judicial process too and the higher judiciary would be approached for relief.”

Prakhar Jain is a Correspondent with Tehelka.
prakhar@tehelka.com

 

#India# Jharkhand # Tribalrights – Dayamani Barla:Gagged Again!


Gagged again!

Minutes after getting bail, tribal activist Dayamani Barla returns to life behind bars. Soumik Mukherjee reports

DAYAMANI BARLA, who was arrested earlier last week (State Ploy to Silence a Dissenting Voice?, 27 October), was rearrested in connection with the same case by the Jharkhand Police minutes after she was granted a judicial bail by a local court on 19 October. Barla’s arrest proves how a dissenting voice is shown little regard by the system, and how a state meant for tribals is safeguarding the interests of all, but tribals.

The police was acting on a separate FIR filed against Barla in 2006 in connection with the case that saw her arrest last week. Both the FIRs were filed after she led a protest outside a Block Development Officer’s office in Ranchi, demanding fair distribution of MGNREGS job cards. Interestingly, while the first FIR mentioned her name, the second FIR, on the basis of which she was rearrested, does not mention it; she was included under the ‘Others’ list.

In January, police questioned Barla for alleged Maoist links after she attended a conference in Ranchi where Binayak Sen and Telugu poet Varavara Rao had demanded the release of political activist Jiten Marandi. Barla’s colleagues term the latest arrest as “a shameless act” by the state authorities. Ranchi SSP Saket Kumar Singh refused to comment on the matter, saying: “Write whatever you want to. What difference will it make anyway?”

Barla has been at the forefront of land rights agitation in Jharkhand and one of the principal voices against State-sponsored atrocities against tribals. It is largely thanks to her efforts that steel companies such as Arcelor-Mittal were forced to stop acquiring large swathes of tribal forestland in Jharkhand.

Since land in Jharkhand is protected under the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act, 1908 and as most areas in the state come under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, farmland cannot be used for industrial purposes. But the government has been giving out farmland for industrial and urbanisation projects. Barla has ceaselessly stood up against these projects, constantly drawing the government’s ire.

At TEHELKA’s THiNK fest last year, Barla had drawn attention to the plight of the farmers and tribals in Jharkhand. Ironic that within a year of her rousing speech that was greeted with a standing ovation, this crusader finds herself all alone in her fight against the State’s excesses.

Soumik Mukherjee is a Correspondent with Tehelka.
soumik@tehelka.com