Dr Binayak Sen denied permission to UN Rapporteur’s seminar #WTFnews


Kractivism in Actionp- Free Binayak Sen Campaign

Kractivism in Actionp- Free Binayak Sen Campaign

Suvojit Bagchi, The Hindu

His visit will compromise the internal security of the state, says court

Rights activist Binayak Sen has been denied permission to participate in an international seminar on health care in Kathmandu by a Raipur court. Dr. Sen sought permission to visit Kathmandu after confirming his participation to the seminar organisers and hence “the application is not bona fide” the court order said.

The court has also considered a reply by Chhattisgarh police that said Dr. Sen’s visit to Nepal “will compromise internal security of the state.”

Dr. Sen was invited by the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health to speak in an international two-day seminar on providing health care in conflict areas. Anand Grover, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, told The Hindu that he is “surprised and shocked” by the court’s order. He said the report of the meeting would be presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Hours before his departure on Friday, a court order restricted Dr. Sen from visiting Kathmandu. “It is evident from the application that the applicant has agreed to take part in the programme without the permission of this court. He sought permission on June 28 and accepted the proposal (to visit Kathmandu) on June 21,” Additional Sessions Court judge Alok Kumar Upadhyay said in his order.

“Dr. Sen agreed to attend the meeting (before June 21) before he sought a permission, so that the organisers could send him the accommodation and flight details and he could furnish those in turn (to court) with his application,” said Dr. Sen’s lawyer, S.K. Farhan. The details of accommodation and a copy of the air tickets to and from Kathmandu were attached with the application.

Earlier, the court sought a reply from the police about Dr. Sen’s application, to which Additional SP, Raipur, Lal Umed Singh replied that Dr. Sen’s visit is detrimental to the country’s security.

“Such foreign visits of Dr. Sen consolidate Naxal and Maoist networks. India’s internal security is also compromised,” Mr. Singh stated. “In view of increased Maoist violence, killing of security personnel and prominent political leaders, objection is raised against Dr. Sen’s foreign visit,” Mr. Singh told the court.

Dr. Sen was invited to speak on healthcare delivery and accessibility to people in remote conflict areas, especially focussing Chhattisgarh. His topic was broadly described in the draft agenda as ‘availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality of health facilities, goods and services — duties and responsibilities toward affected populations, obligations of non-discrimination and medical independence, Treatment of parties to the conflict cf. civilians.’ He was supposed to speak on the first day of the seminar alongside health care and human rights activists from Burma, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Jamshid Gaziyev, Special Procedures Branch, Katherine Footer of John Hopkins School of Public Health and International Committee of the Red Cross will be attending the seminar, according to the draft agenda.

In April 2011, a Chhattisgarh Court directed Dr. Sen to surrender his passport as a bail condition in line with the Supreme Court order. While it is not mandatory to have a passport to travel to Nepal, Dr. Sen needs permission from court for any overseas travel.

Earlier, he was allowed to travel abroad twice — to South Korea in 2011 and United Kingdom in 2012 — and on both occasions the Chhattisgarh court approved the travel.

 

#India – From war to peace #chattisgarh #Maoists


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

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

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

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

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

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

editor@the-week.com

 

Maoists deny links with Binayak Sen


Raipur, June 13, 2013

Suvojit Bagchi, The Hindu 

Human rights activist Binayak Sen during a function in Hyderabad. File photo
The Hindu Human rights activist Binayak Sen during a function in Hyderabad. File photo

Rebels term Shubranshu Choudhury’s book a “pack of lies, half-truths and scattered information”

For the first time, Maoists have denied links with social activist and paediatrician Binayak Sen.

The statement on Tuesday night came in the form of a rare rebuttal of a recent book, Let’s Call Him Vasu by journalist Shubranshu Choudhury. While Mr. Choudhury preferred to “stand by” his book, Dr. Sen said it is a “good development” for him.

Read review of Let’s Call Him Vasu.

Mr. Choudhury has also named other eminent activists of Chhattisgarh, who ostensibly are associated with the Maoists, in his book which deals with the day-to-day life of the rebels in the central Indian forest and the impact of the armed movement on the lives of tribals.

The State wing of the CPI (Maoist), Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee (DKSZC), called the book a “pack of lies, half-truths and scattered information.” The release said that “even the disseminated information is distorted… and true lies, especially, the episode on Dr. Binayak Sen and the so-called relationship between Jeet and Mukti [Guha Niogi] and our party.”

The party has also refuted the allegation that it has taken money from Essar Steel as claimed in the book.

Mr. Choudhury has quoted a courier, Anil, of a senior Maoist leader and claimed in his book that Dr. Sen, a respected doctor and social activist, who was arrested for his alleged links with the Maoists, was actually an intermediary between Sabyasachi Panda, erstwhile leader of the Maoists in Orissa, and Narayan Sanyal, a Polit Bureau member of the party.

While Anil told the author that Rs. 50,000 was “collected” by a tendu leaves financier of Bengal, Piyush Guha, to deliver it to Mr. Sanyal for his legal expenses, through Binayak Sen, it is not clear if the money actually passed through the hands of the beleaguered doctor.

“I asked him [Sabyasachi Panda] if he ever got the money back. Piyush had been arrested before he could deliver or return the money, he replied,” Mr. Choudhury wrote in his book. With the DKSZC’s denial of the “Binayak Sen episode,” the controversy involving the doctor and the Maoists took a new turn.

Dr. Sen told The Hindu that he believes Mr. Choudhury is a “promising, young journalist,” and added, “… I have been saying all along what he [Mr. Choudhury] has stated is not true. For me, it is a good development, what I have been saying has been finally confirmed by the other party involved in the alleged transaction.”

Jeet and Mukti Guha Niyogi, the son and daughter of legendary trade union leader Shankar Guha Niyogi, are also named in the book. Mr. Guha Niyogi could not be reached on the phone for his comments.

The rebels, however, have not threatened the senior journalist and the rebuttal is more of a discussion on the praxis of the Maoist movement in India.

DKSZC spokesperon Gudsa Usendi said Mr. Choudhury had not made any “serious attempt” to understand the Maoist movement. “He has claimed to have spent seven years with us but… he has not tried to understand the basic aspects of class war.” However, other than underscoring their objections regarding the claims made about the civilian activists, the release has not clarified why the Maoist leadership is critical about the book.

The allegation seems to be more on how Mr. Choudhury failed to understand the Maoist movement than a point-by-point rebuttal.

The spokesperson is more direct about Mr. Choudhury’s radio broadcasts, which, according to Mr. Usendi, are “baseless.” Media reports suggest that comrade Ramanna alias Ravula Srinivas replaced veteran leader comrade Khosa as DKSZC secretary recently.

According to the release, Mr. Choudhury claimed in a recent radio programme that “Maoists will [now] focus more on violence after a change in the leadership.” Mr. Usendi objected to this observation and said such “imaginary analyses” are “bunkum.”

Alleging that “false propaganda” is often spread against the underground party to negatively influence the people’s movement, the release said “… consciously or unintentionally Mr. Choudhury has become part of it [propaganda machinery].” Mr. Usendi has also denied that there is a “rift” among the senior leaders.

Refuting the allegations, Mr. Choudhury said he stood by his book.

“My book was written on the basis of research conducted within the Maoist dominated areas and after detailed interviews with many Maoists. I stand by what I have written,” he said.

 

#India -an Appeal From Tribal Activist Himanshu Kumar: On Atrocities, Self Reflection


An Appeal From Tribal Activist Himanshu Kumar: On Atrocities, Self Reflection And More

Posted on: June 2, 2013
-Youth ki Awaaz

Translated from Hindi by Akhil Kumar

Self-Reflection Fast: How should India Behave With Its Tribal Population

Dear friends,

A large number of army troops are being sent to the tribal areas to establish peace.

Whereas past experience tells us that the entry of the army troops in tribal territory has never decreased unrest but escalated it instead.

For a long time now, the tribal people have faced oppression from the government. And if any one of them asks for justice against this oppression, they are branded as Naxalites and tortured again. The government has thus closed all doors of Justice for them.

Soni Sori, Linga Kodopi and Binayak Sen were a victim of government tyranny because they raised their voice against this injustice. We know that the educated and prosperous urban class of India does not see anything wrong with sending the army in large numbers to tribal areas in order to occupy the resources of the indigenous people.

Also, there are talks of using force to suppress the dissatisfaction caused by displacement due to this plunder of resources. But if India keeps killing its citizens like this, it will result in the moral degradation of the Indian community that holds power.

India will have to think, as a nation, on how should it behave with its native inhabitants.

Do we approve of occupying the lands of the tribal community on gun point? Do we believe that we can bring peace to the country after burning their villages, driving them out of their homes and occupying their land?

If once we get habituated to doing injustice to our own citizen, wouldn’t it make way for us to do it to everyone else tomorrow? Today, we will attack the tribals, then we’ll kill Dalits and go on to kill our villagers and then, one day, we will find ourselves surrounded by enemies that we created ourselves.

Hence, we need to review our behavior towards the tribal people as soon as possible.

It is my humble effort that we use this opportunity to ponder on this issue that how should the tribal people of this country be treated. To self introspect on this issue, I am sitting on an indefinite hunger strike from 1st June and I hope that you, wherever you are, will also introspect on it.

This is not just a question of the tribals but a question for all those who want to build a better society, where everyone gets justice because it is impossible to even think of peace without justice.

Please do visit Jantar Mantar if possible, we will be pleased.

Yours
Himanshu kumar
Jantar Mantar, New Delhi

09013893955
vcadantewada@gmail.com

 

Soni Sori, Kodopi acquitted of murder charges #Goodnews #Justice


SUVOJIT BAGCHI, May 1, 2013

Soni Sori, the tribal school teacher accused of acting as a courier between Essar Steel and the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist), and Lingaram Kodopi, the activist-journalist trained in Delhi, have been acquitted in one more crucial case by Dantewada court.

The case filed in 2010 by Dantewada police alleged that Ms Sori and Lingaram Kodopi are among several others involved in planning and executing an attack on local Congress leader, Avdesh Singh Gautam, in which two persons were killed.

15 others, including activists of various mainstream political parties, who were booked with Ms Sori were also acquitted. Congress leader Vijay Sodi, CPI leader Lala Ram Kunjam and a Panchayat member of Dantewada, Sannuram Mandawi are among the accused who got acquitted on Wednesday.

Soni Sori has now been acquitted in six out of eight cases filed against her.

A FIR filed in Kuakonda police station in Dantewada court said that on 7 July, 2010 midnight, more than 150 Maoist soldiers attacked local Congress leader and contractor Avdesh Singh Gautam’s house. Mr Gautam’s brother in law, Sanjay Singh and house attendant Dharmendra were killed, while his son and a guard were injured.

17 accused, including Ms Sori and Mr Kodopi, were present at the scene of crime, said Mr Gautam, according to the FIR. On basis of available evidences and witness’ statements several charges were brought against the accused under Indian Penal Code, Arms Act and Explosive Substance Act which includes criminal conspiracy, rioting, arson causing death, and attempt to murder, besides a host of other allegations.

“Due to lack of enough and proper evidence additional sessions Judge Anita Dehariya acquitted Soni Sori, Lingaram Kodopi and others,” said Ms Sori’s lawyer in Dantewada K K Dubey on phone.

In February, this year, Ms. Sori was acquitted in two other cases. One in which, she was accused to have opened fire and used explosives to blow up vehicles of Essar Steel. In another, she was accused of firing on police near Essar Beneficiation Plant in Kirandul. “Witnesses could not confirm her involvement,” Mr. Dubey told The Hindu earlier. Last year, Ms. Sori was acquitted in two more cases.

Two more cases against Ms Sori are still in court. One of the allegations, pending in Bacheli court, accused Ms Sori of torching several vehicles. In the other case – the most crucial one – pending in Dantewada court, it is alleged that Ms Sori and Mr Kodopi were planning to hand over “protection money” from Essar Steel to the Maoists. D.V.C.S. Verma, the general manager at an Essar steel plant, and B.K. Lala, one of Essar’s contractors, were arrested in the same case, allegedly for disbursing money. According to police, Mr. Kodopi and Ms. Sori were carrying the money to the rebels. While Ms Sori and Mr Kodopi are languishing in jail, like thousands of tribal under trials (UTs) of south Chhattisgarh, two of their co-accused, Mr Verma and Mr Lala, got bail soon within months after the arrest.

90 per cent cases against tribals are concocted

Ashok Jain, a senior lawyer of Dantewada, representing some of the accused, who got acquitted with Ms Sori, said Wednesday’s judgement proves how tribals are detained under “false charges.”

“These tribals are detained under completely concocted charges, at least most of them. Their families get ruined as they spend several years as undertrials. Whenever the cases are followed well, like the case of Soni Sori, the accused gets acquitted,” Mr Jain said.

A battery of lawyers representing the high profile case of Ms Sori and other accused feel, while the case of Soni Sori or Dr Binayak Sen got enough “attention from all quarters,” cases of thousands of undertrial tribals are getting “absolutely no attention from media or civil society.”

“Most of these cases are so flimsy that higher courts may not even admit those or the accused will get bail within hours of admission. But lack of financial and people’s support, keep these tribals behind bars for years,” said one of the lawyers. “How can a poor tribal be arrested for just being a resident of an area controlled by the Maoists or sharing a lunch with the rebels, possibly under duress,” said another lawyer.

Ms Sori’s lawyers, however, sounded optimistic and said they have moved a bail petition in Chhattisgarh High Court. “I hope, Ms Sori and others will get bail soon after this acquittal in a crucial case,” said Mr Dubey.

Angry Jeetan Marandi vows to continue stir for poor


JEETAN

 Mukesh Ranjan | Ranchi |  Pioneer, April 1, 2013

Aggravated after his release from the jail after five years, Jeetan Marandi is all set to expedite his movement for the cause of the release of thousands of innocent tribal people lodged in various jails on the pretext of being Naxals.

Jeetan, a prime suspect of the Chilkhari massacre in which Anup Marandi, son of the former Chief Minister Babulal Marandi along with other 17 other people got killed, awarded death sentence by a Giridih Court, was released from Birsa Munda Central Jail on Thursday.

“I am not happy even after my release, as thousands of poor and tribal people are still lodged in jails without any substantial charges against them. My acquittal has exposed the intention of the suppressive Governments at the Centre and in the State,” said Jeetan.

“Had I not been acquitted, the intention of the Government would not have been clear,” added Jeetan. “They are trying to keep me away from my wife and son and have put my wife in the jail with a four-year child with her,” he alleged.

He was arrested allegedly because his name resembled to a Maoist Jeetan Marandi for whom cops had been looking for. There had been wide range of agitations across the country after Jeetan’s arrest on April 5, 2008.

Even Human Rights activist Binayak Sen came in open support of Jeetan Marandi terming the death sentence to the tribal artist as unlawful. An artiste and a tribal rights activist, Jeetan was well known for utilising the power of music to speak against government atrocities on the common man, especially tribals.

He was speaking to the media persons during a felicitation ceremony organised, by Jeetan Marandi Rihai Manch, after his release from the jail at Namkom Bagicha in Ranchi. Jeetan is to be felicitated in Giridih on Sunday.

Jeetan, who also narrated the police atrocities he had to go thorough while he was in jail and looked determined to work for the cause of over 6000 tribal and 10,000 other  people lodged in jail under Crime Control Act. He also accused the State and the Central Governments of conspiring against him to put in the jail to suppress the voice of the poor and downtrodden.

As the Government wants to label Jeetan’s family as a sympathiser of the CPI (Maoists), it has imposed a false case against his wife Aparana Marandi along with her four-year child in jail a few months back. The kid has not even seen his father’s face,” said Central Committee member of the Marxist Co-ordination Committee Sushanto Bhattacharya.

17 people got killed on the spot at Chilkhari on October 26, 2007 while 12 got injured in the massacre. Two more people died later during investigations. During a cultural programme at Chilkhari, a few unidentified persons started firing indiscriminately on the crowd present at the function.

Jeetan and other three were convicted under section 143,342,379,149,120B, 30, 149, Copyright Licencing Act and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act along with 302.

 

#India -Arrests at Mavelikkara: Against UAPA, For the right to dissent #blacklaws


by Gilbert Sebastian , Facebook

There is a saying in Malayalam, ‘Kaaryam paranjaal Communistaayi!’ meaning, you will be labelled a Communist if you tell the truth. This used to be a saying during the decades when the Communist party in the state used to wage land struggles and uphold the rights of the deprived. Today, the saying could be modified as, Kaaryamparanjaal Maoistaayi!’ meaning, you will be labelled a Maoist if you tell the truth.

 

On 29 December 2012, seven persons persons, including two girl children and human rights activists were arrested at Mavelikkara in Kerala state. The other five are being detained under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA): Gopal, Shiaz, Rajesh Madhavan, Bahuleyan and Devarajan. As was reported in the social media and mainstream media, they had assembled peacefully for sharing their experiences. The two girls were Ami aged 16 and Savera aged 10 who have been harassed by the police several times even before for the mere reason that they are children of a Maoist couple. After night-long interrogation using even sexually insulting language, the two girls were let off. The other five are still in custody. Rajesh Madhavan was personally known to me for some years now as a socially concerned person, hailing from a humble background. As I have gathered from friends, they were meeting to share experiences, including those on the education front. None of the persons arrested had any previous history of offences against them. One of them, Gopal, is a scientist who was working with Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and is a human rights activist  who has been involved in the protest against Koodankulam nuclear project.

 

The arrests are clearly in violation of the Fundamental Right “to assemble peaceably and without arms” under Article 19 (1) (b). There is no reason why one should be paranoid about such get-togethers to discuss contemporary political issues that they could cause a threat. Why shouldn’t we think that they could only strengthen democracy? (The latest news is that the Additional Sub-Inspector, K.Y. Damian who had carried out the arrests, apparently, hanged himself to death near his home.) Going by UAPA, the State can arbitrarily arrest and detain anyone on the basis of mere suspicion. UAPA which is the UPA version of the now-defunct Acts, POTA and TADA, is used to track down people labeling them as Maoists and as Dalit and Muslim extremists. Those who oppose State terror and those involved in rights-based struggles are tormented and unjustly detained under this Act. It has draco­nian provisions such as non-bailable incarceration for 180 days. The onus of proof lies on the accused. Section 15 of the act defines ‘terrorist act’ quite vaguely. Section 39 makes “support given to a terrorist organization” an offence and criminalises normal activities like ‘arranging, managing or addressing’ public meetings. Hardly any distinction per se is drawn between anti-State militancy and terrorism as indiscriminate killing of innocent people.

 

On the other hand, one cannot forget to mention that the Indian State is ‘selectively repressive’ against adversaries who violate its canons. Those who create communal and regional divisions among people like the Sangh Parivar, Shiv Sena, MNS and the high profile instigators of riots in Delhi, 1984; Gujarat 2002 and Kandhamal, 2008  are granted impunity. The arrests at Mavelikkara is a good example to illustrate how our political system faces the real danger of degeneration into an ‘illiberal democracy’/a police State. Recent empowering judgements by the Supreme Court in cases involving Binayak Sen and Narayan Sanyal indicate how the apex court views such arrests unjustified under the law.

 

As Prof. Haragopal rightly used to say, the vibrancy of democracy can be demonstrated when the State is able to democratically reckon with even armed protests against it. Constitutional morality is the minimum that the State needs to uphold since the Constitution is the document that the rulers of India have given unto themselves and swear by. On the other hand, the rebels need to be true to their own ideology. People should be the arbiters in the contention between Constitutional morality and an ideology of rebellion, he says. It is necessary that all democratically minded persons and groups should come forward to oppose UAPA, a draconian, fascistic Act and the arrest of these activists under it, towards the protection of the democratic freedoms guaranteed under the Fundamental Rights of the Constitution of India. On 7 January 2013, some concerned individuals called a gathering at the martyrs column in Thiruvananthapuram, the state capital to protest these arrests under UAPA. The message is: Uphold the right to dissent! Protest the arrests! Oppose UAPA!

Please Don’t Blame #Imphal: My journey of protest and #music #poetry #mustread


by Akhu Chingangbam

Wednesday, May 30, 2012
It was sometime in 2007 in Delhi when Ashley Tellis, a friend, called me up and asked me to sing a few songs at a protest event at Swami Vivekananda Statue, Arts Faculty, Delhi University. The event was organised by People’s Union for Democratic Rights and they were demanding the immediate release of Dr Binayak Sen who had been arrested by the Chhattisgarh Police without citing any reason. I was broke as usual but i managed to take an autorickshaw to the protest venue. All the performers at the event were performing in Hindi. They were singing songs of Safdar Hashmi and many other protest songs. I carried a few printed copies of my own poems that I had written for Dantewada after reading an editorial column of Hindustan Times. I should call it a collage of images of Dantewada rather than poetry because I had translated the imagery directly from the newspaper.

 

That day I sang three songs, two of my poems and Dylan’s “I shall be released”. No other songs could suit the situation better than “I shall be released”. This was how I started to sing at protest events.

 

These days, more than music, poetry has given me the space to express myself and my existence in this violence-driven undemocratic country. Not only was I addicted to creating my own poetry, I started to search for poetry that match and reflect my hunger and anger. And then one day I stumbled upon the page of Thangjam Ibopishak’s poetry collection “Apaiba Thawai”. The restlessness and anxiety in Ibopishak’s early work during the late sixties was just like that of my generation today. What is different is that my generation is not expressive; perhaps we are timid. And the tragedy doesn’t end here, many youngsters don’t even realise the existence of such poets.

 

When it comes to my poetry and lyrics, I can hardly trace the dividing line. I can always sing my poetry in my own style. Admittedly many may not like my singing style but I have the freedom to do so.

 

By 2008, I had written and composed several songs and I was restless to record them. It was sort of a burning desire that I could not suppress. So in the summer, along with Sachin and my sister, Riki, I recorded eight songs which collectively formed the album ‘Tidim Road’. We named ourselves “Imphal Talkies N The Howlers”. Many friends helped me in recording the songs, both financially and physically. Many thanks to them! The recording session was fun. We were nervous. The idea of playing music in a studio really frightened us. On the first of the days that we booked the recording studio, we couldn’t record. We were very much shaken by that dark sound proof room. But what actually scared us most was the cost of the recording.

 

With every tick of the clock, our bill was mounting and we were not able to play anything other than stuff just enough to make the cue tracks! But finally we did it and it took us nine days to record the whole album.

 

Subsequently, with help from e-pao.net, we released the album in Delhi in February 2009.

 

Around this time something very tragic happened. Dr Thingnam Kishan and his two subordinates, Rajen and Token, were murdered by NSCN (IM). This incident left many shocked. Kishan was someone our generation looked up to for his uprightness. That uprightness cost him his life. Manipur went up in flames with protests engulfing every nook and corner of the state. With a lot of help from the Manipuri Diaspora, NGOs, student organisations, Manipuris in Delhi organised a candle light vigil at Jantar Mantar.

 

At Jamia, I was pasting posters for the vigil when I received a call from a guy named Raju Athokpam saying he would like to perform a few protest songs of Tapta at the vigil. On the day of the vigil, Raju and I met. We played a few songs together and my sister, Riki, sang some new songs. The vigil was successful, with many people from different communities of Manipur turning up for Kishan, Rajen and Token.

 

The last time I met Kishan was exactly one year ago from the month of his death. We met in Delhi and had argued over Manipuri poets. He opined, “Manipuri poets are visionless, they can write of only blood and death. They should look forward to a future beyond this current turmoil.” I countered as I felt there would be the right time for a new crop of poets who would feel the need of a new form of literature.

 

One night after the vigil, I called up Raju to ask if he was interested in recording a song for Kishan as a tribute to the great man. He said, “let’s do it”. Then we went on to record a song named “Ballad of Kishan” at some music school in North campus which incidentally did not have a proper recording studio. The track lacked quality. Raju played everything – bass, lead, rhythm. I was there just to boost his energy and to do the vocal part. The song was criticised by many people for my voice being out of tune. Later I realised I was indeed very much out of tune. In my defence, we recorded the song in just one day. We took three days to compose it and we were not professionals. Our main concern was to show that we cared for Da Kishan. We would not leave any stone unturned in our effort to do so. And we felt the urge to initiate a movement despite our rather insignificant existence as amateur musicians.

 

Thus Raju joined my bandwagon and became a member of the Imphal Talkies N The Howlers. The time that followed never lacked in incidents to inspire us to write new protest songs.

 

Soon after, the incident of July 23, 2009 fake encounter at BT road took place. Once again me and Raju set out to record a song called “Rise” and we recorded it at the same studio. It was not even sound proof, yet we tried our best. It was 1am by the time we were done with the recording. Later the same night, we dissolved our worries in a bottle of whiskey till the wee hours of the morning.

 

In November 2009, New Socialist Initiatives observed the beginning of the tenth year of Irom Sharmila’s struggle to repeal the draconian AFSPA. They organised the event at the same Swami Vivekananda Statue, Arts Faculty, DU, where I had performed for Dr Binayak Sen. Just before the performance, I got a phone call from a friend from Imphal informing that one of my closest friends passed away that morning in a road accident. I didn’t know how to react. All I could think of doing and did was to call my father and ask to go to see my deceased friend’s parents. I cried for a few minutes in a loo as his face suddenly appeared in my mind. He used to be the one who would come to my home in the early morning and wake me up just to talk to him. I still remember the day I blacked out and collapsed on the road sitting on my Honda Activa at his Thongal after consuming half a bottle of Old Monk rum. He helped me up and I waved good bye. That was how we departed. I never knew that would be the final goodbye. What surprises me is that I can’t even compose a poem in his memory. I have tried but in vain.

 

But I had to perform that day, leaving aside his memories. Because I know life is that way. I’m going to meet death too and being a Manipuri, death can come easily to me with guns and bombs.

 

I reached Arts Faculty along with Bomcha (Nila) and Sanjeev Thingnam. That was the first day I peformed with Sanjeev Thingnam. We sang a song called “India, I see blood in your hands”, a poem I had written some months back. We performed it impromptu at the spot. The song started with the line “India, have you ever crawled down enough to smell the soil of Kashmir?” And Jilangamba, a friend, insisted me to sing a Manipuri song, so I sang “Lainingthou lairembigi manairensa Kumsi di Army yam lakka ni hairiye”. Even today wherever we perform, I feel like singing these songs. We then performed: “When the home is burning” and another called “Freedom” written by Sanjeev.

 

That day after the event, we were asked to perform at Miranda House. And we did perform. We added a few new songs to our repertoire, such as “Ghost of Machang Lalung”. Machang Lalung was from Assam. He spent 54 years in prison without any trial. The maximum sentence he should get was ten years in prison. He was even dumped in a mental asylum. Sometime in 2006, a few Assamese activists managed to get him released. But the tragedy was that no one remembered him in his own village, let alone other places and he didn’t even recognise his home. It is almost unimaginably tragic. When I heard his story, I could not help pour out my feelings into a song.

 

Soon after the Miranda House programme, the Progressive Students Union organised an event on the same theme for Irom Sharmila at Jawaharlal Nehru University. Imphal Talkies N the Howlers was the main performer of that evening. There, the three of us – Raju, Sanjeev and me – performed together for the first time. Raju started as a thrash/metal music fan, Sanjeev as a bluesy guy and me addicted to the likes of Dylan and Cohen. We were very different musically. What bonded us together is our shared love for original music that speaks for our bullet-riddled Manipur.

 

Later in early 2010, we performed the same repertoire of songs at Kirori Mal College and National School of Drama, Delhi. Where ever we performed, Sharmila has been our focus. We didn’t plan it but her spirit and this nation’s deafness was already there in many of our songs. Through these small events, I gained many valuable friends.

 

And in the middle of 2010, the spectre of the Commonwealth Games (CWG) loomed like a giant monster, evicting beggars from the streets and students from university hostels. But people didn’t just give up easily. Many organisations protested against such injustice done to poor people and students. University Community for Democray (UCD) was one such organisation formed particularly to protest against the CWG. Many of my friends were in this organisation. I wrote a song in collaboration with Tara Basumatry of Kirori Mal College, on this issue. It goes like “Heart shaped balloon in traffic jam, fade away as they bring their dirty games, they wanna hide the beggars from the streets, cos they are the real indians…”.

 

Sometime later, I sang the song again at Swami Vivekananda Statue, Arts Fauclty, DU. By this time, I was convinced that this Vivekananda Statue would be able to pick me out even if I were standing in the middle of a Chandni Chowk crowd.

 

A few days later, I attended a one-day relay hunger strike accompanied by my songs, again organised by UCD. The next protest event took place at Jantar Mantar for Bhopal Gas Tragedy victims. I went with a friend (Venus) who ended up being my mic stand. From such events, I learnt an important lesson – there is no race or religion for the suffering ones, they will always be together. And me being someone who spent half of his school days in the streets of Imphal, holding placards, shouting slogans, I know how it feels to be at the receiving end. But what comforts me is that the world seems to be dominated by the suffering ones. Just look around!

 

This song is originally by Delhi-based band Imphal Talkies N The Howlers. I love the song — written by Delhi-based PhD student and Imphal Talkies frontman Ronid Chingangbam — so much that I just had to record it! Please check the Imphal Talkies page atwww.reverbnation.com/imphaltalkiesnthehowlers

lyrics

Lyrics, melody: Ronid Chingangbam. Please check his page at

http://www.reverbnation.com/imphaltalkiesnthehowlers

India, have you ever crawled down enough to smell the soil of Kashmir?
India, have you ever heard of a lady named Sharmila?
India, can you explain to me what happened in the land of Gandhi, in Gujarat?
India, what are the charges against Dr Binayak Sen?

India, I see blood in your hands
India I see blood in your flag

India, are you waiting for the stone pelters to become suicide bombers?
India, Why are your farmers so suicidal?
India, why the Poets in South are mourning for the Tamils killed in Sri Lanka?
India, why did you let Narendra Modi walk free preaching genocide?
India, what have you done to the villagers after salwa judum?

Is there a dream that we share from north to south?
Is there a song that echoes from east to west?

credits

released 20 December 2011
Irom Sharmila’s photograph by Chitra Ahanthem

12-string guitar, blues harp, keyboards, vocals, arrangement: Sumit Bhattacharya

 

 

[]

#India- arrests at Mavelikkara: Against UAPA, For the right to dissent #Draconianlaws


by Gilbert Sebastian on Monday, 7 January 2013 , on FB

There is a saying in Malayalam, ‘Kaaryam paranjaal Communistaayi!’ meaning, you will be labelled a Communist if you tell the truth. This used to be a saying during the decades when the Communist party in the state used to wage land struggles and uphold the rights of the deprived. Today, the saying could be modified as, Kaaryam paranjaal Maoistaayi!’ meaning, you will be labelled a Maoist if you tell the truth.

 

On 29 December 2012, seven persons persons, including two girl children and human rights activists were arrested at Mavelikkara in Kerala state. The other five are being detained under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA): Gopal, Shiaz, Rajesh Madhavan, Bahuleyan and Devarajan. As was reported in the social media and mainstream media, they had assembled peacefully for sharing their experiences. The two girls were Ami aged 16 and Savera aged 10 who have been harassed by the police several times even before for the mere reason that they are children of a Maoist couple. After night-long interrogation using even sexually insulting language, the two girls were let off. The other five are still in custody. Rajesh Madhavan was personally known to me for some years now as a socially concerned person, hailing from a humble background. As I have gathered from friends, they were meeting to share experiences, including those on the education front. None of the persons arrested had any previous history of offences against them. One of them, Gopal, is a scientist who was working with Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and is a human rights activist  who has been involved in the protest against Koodankulam nuclear project.

 

The arrests are clearly in violation of the Fundamental Right to assemble peaceably and without arms under Article 19 (b). There is no reason why one should be paranoid about such get-togethers to discuss contemporary political issues that they could cause a threat. Why shouldn’t we think that they could only strengthen democracy? (The latest news is that the Additional Sub-Inspector, K.Y. Damian who had carried out the arrests, apparently, hanged himself to death near his home.) Going by UAPA, the State can arbitrarily arrest and detain anyone on the basis of mere suspicion. UAPA which is the UPA version of the now-defunct Acts, POTA and TADA, is used to track down people labeling them as Maoists and as Dalit and Muslim extremists. Those who oppose State terror and those involved in rights-based struggles are tormented and unjustly detained under this Act. It has draco­nian provisions such as non-bailable incarceration for 180 days. The onus of proof lies on the accused. Section 15 of the act defines ‘terrorist act’ quite vaguely. Section 39 makes “support given to a terrorist organization” an offence and criminalises normal activities like ‘arranging, managing or addressing’ public meetings. Hardly any distinction per se is drawn between anti-State militancy and terrorism as indiscriminate killing of innocent people.

 

On the other hand, one cannot forget to mention that the Indian State is ‘selectively repressive’ against adversaries who violate its canons. Those who create communal and regional divisions among people like the Sangh Parivar, Shiv Sena, MNS and the high profile instigators of riots in Delhi, 1984; Gujarat 2002 and Kandhamal, 2008  are granted impunity. The arrests at Mavelikkara is a good example to illustrate how our political system faces the real danger of degeneration into an ‘illiberal democracy’/a police State. Recent empowering judgements by the Supreme Court in cases involving Binayak Sen and Narayan Sanyal indicate how the apex court views such arrests unjustified under the law.

 

As Prof. Haragopal rightly used to say, the vibrancy of democracy can be demonstrated when the State is able to democratically reckon with even armed protests against it. Constitutional morality is the minimum that the State needs to uphold since the Constitution is the document that the rulers of India have given unto themselves and swear by. On the other hand, the rebels need to be true to their own ideology. People should be the arbiters in the contention between Constitutional morality and an ideology of rebellion, he says. It is necessary that all democratically minded persons and groups should come forward to oppose UAPA, a draconian, fascistic Act and the arrest of these activists under it, towards the protection of the democratic freedoms guaranteed under the Fundamental Rights of the Constitution of India. On 7 January 2013, some concerned individuals called a gathering at the martyrs column in Thiruvananthapuram, the state capital to protest these arrests under UAPA. The message is: Uphold the right to dissent! Protest the arrests! Oppose UAPA!

 

 

A Conversation With: Human Rights Activist Binayak Sen


By MALAVIKA VYAWAHARE, NYtimes
Dr. Binayak Sen.Courtesy of The Gandhi FoundationDr. Binayak Sen.

Binayak Sen, 62, is no ordinary doctor. Few doctors, after all, spend three decades working in a region threatened by what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called the “single biggest internal security challenge ever faced” by the country. And that was before Dr. Sen was jailed on charges of “waging a war against the state,” which prompted a group of Nobel laureates topetition for his release.

Dr. Sen was released in 2009, after spending two years in jail, but still faces charges of supporting the Maoists, also referred to as Naxalites, which he denies.

The Maoists have been leading an armed movement to capture political power in 13 states in India over four decades, and claim to be fighting for the poor, dispossessed and marginalized. Dr. Sen ran mobile clinics in the interior of Chhattisgarh, one of the states most affected by the Maoist insurgency. In 2005, he led a 15-member team that published a report criticizing the Salwa Judum, which  Human Rights Watch calls “a state-supported vigilante group aimed at eliminating Naxalites.”

The Chhattisgarh state government alleged that his work, and in particular his association with the Maoist leader Narayan Sanyal,  amounted to helping wage “a war against the state.” Although that charge was dismissed, he was found  guilty of sedition and conspiracy, and sentenced to life imprisonment by a lower court in Chhattisgarh in 2010. He was granted bail by the Supreme Court in 2011 and an appeal against the conviction is pending in the Chhattisgarh High Court.

A group of 40 Nobel laureates described him as “an exceptional, courageous, and selfless colleague, dedicated to helping those in India who are least able to help themselves,” in a 2011 letter appealing for his life sentence to be overturned.

India Ink had several conversations with Dr. Sen, both over the phone and e-mail, to discuss how human rights activism grew from his work as a doctor.

Q.

Describe your journey from being a doctor in rural areas to being labeled a Maoist sympathizer.

A.

My work in Chhattisgarh was with village communities, some of the poorest in India, and training health workers to look after their needs. Earlier, I had helped establish a hospital for mine workers in the area. As a logical outcome of my work, I was involved with human rights work, and was the general secretary of the state unit of the Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties.

In this capacity I was instrumental in documenting and exposing deaths due to hunger and malnutrition, and to the displacement of over 600 tribal villages by the state-sponsored militia called Salwa Judum, or S.J., in southern Chhattisgarh. Last year, the S.J. was banned by the Supreme Court of India.

But it was in 2007 that I was labeled a Maoist supporter, for reasons best known to the Chhattisgarh state government. I was arrested in 2007 and charged with sedition, as well as under internal security acts, spent two years in jail during the trial, was released on bail by the Supreme Court,  convicted and sent to jail again, before again being released on bail in 2011. My appeal against the conviction is still pending in the state high court.

Q.

What was your association with the Maoist leader Narayan Sanyal?

A.

I was approached by Narayan Sanyal’s family to help him with his legal cases and his health needs. In my capacity as a P.U.C.L. activist, I visited him in jail several times in the presence of senior jail officials, as they testified at my trial.

Q.

Could you tell us about your time in prison?

A.

My time in prison was a time of deep despair, as I was unable to figure out the logic of the juridical action against me. At the same time it gave me an opportunity to know the stories of many fellow prisoners who were undergoing the same trauma as myself.

I came across many such instances where people had spent substantial amounts of time and were later let go. In some instances the judges have indicted the police for fabrication of evidence and illegal detention, but nothing has happened.

I did not do anything that was, to the best of my knowledge, wrong or illegal.  I didn’t expect anything like this happen to me; I had in fact worked with the government to provide essential services in these areas. After coming out of jail, I have been part of a nationwide process for the repeal of unjust and oppressive laws.

There was no physical intimidation that I faced in jail. However, I was kept in solitary confinement. Life in jail is itself a form of mental intimidation.

Q.

Do you consider yourself fortunate that you received a great deal of media attention when you were arrested?

A.

I faced a virulent media trial in Chhattisgarh in the print and electronic media, as well as on the Internet. The ordinary journalist in Chhattisgarh relies to a large extent on government (including police) handouts. It was the contribution of dedicated national journalists who turned their spotlight on the real story.

It was only over a period of time that a campaign against the patent injustice in my case built up, and many prominent citizens at the national and international levels besides sections of national media took a positive view about me.

Q.

What is your understanding of the Maoist problem in India? Does their use of violence overshadow the issues they are fighting for?

A.

It is surprising that so much of the public discourse is about the issue of violence. Large sections of the population in the “affected areas” are living in a state of perpetual hunger, to the point of famine, and lack appropriate and basic health care. Their access to common property resources, essential for their survival, is denied to them as a result of state action, to a point where the very survival of entire communities is called into question – but this does not become the center of the discourse.

I have clarified on many occasions that I do not condone the violence either of the agencies of the state or of those who oppose the state.

Q.

You were recently part of a conference called “Resist the Silent Emergency” in Delhi; what is the “silent emergency” in India?

A.

The conference to which you refer was mainly devoted to documenting and chronicling widespread fabrication of cases and the use of sedition-like laws to suppress dissenting voices across the country. The silent emergency refers to the suppression of fundamental rights to freedom of thought and expression, without the declaration of an actual internal emergency as in 1975.

Q.

You have spoken about the need to establish alternative agencies and systems. What has given rise to the need?

A.

First of all, I want to clarify that I have always engaged with the state to help it function better. I was recently part of the steering committee for health in the 12th five-year plan, and earlier part of the advisory group on structural reforms in health care for government of Chhattisgarh.

However, recent developments make it plain that the planning commission is unlikely to carry out its stated commitments to the universalization of health care. The alternative strategies that most public health workers are advocating, is the universalization of health care and for increased resource allocation in the health and nutrition sector.

Q.

Some suggest we need to involve international bodies in improving health care. Does that signal a lack of faith in the country’s own systems of checks and balances?

A.

The distress due to chronic hunger, lack of health care and widespread displacement of the people, who constitute one sixth of mankind, cannot be constrained only by questions of national identity. These are matters of concern for the entire world community.

(This interview has been lightly edited and condensed.)