#India -Chhattisgarh lawyer, client charged with #sedition walk free #goodnews


SUVOJIT BAGCHI, The Hindu, Raipur  June 28,2013

Advocate from central Chhattisgarh has been slapped with the same charges that of her clients

Rarely in judicial history has an advocate been slapped with the same charges as that of her clients. But such was the case of Rekha Parghaniya – a lawyer and a human rights activist from central Chhattisgarh. She was arrested and charged with sedition and put in the same prison with her client, Rashmi Verma, a middle aged housewife arrested for “excit(ing) disaffection towards the Government.”

Ms. Parghaniya was defending Ms. Verma and her husband Bhola Bag, a contractual worker, who was booked with sedition as well. All three of them were also charged under Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005 (CSPSA) for allegedly abetting the outlawed CPI-Maoist. They were acquitted by the district court of Durg on Wednesday.

Bhola Bag and Rashmi Verma were arrested on basis of a statement made by Sarita, an alleged Maoist cadre. She, in her statement to the Sarguja district police, allegedly claimed that she stayed with Mr. Bag and Ms. Verma while working for the underground party. The couple were arrested in February, 2009 and eventually charged under an 1860 Act of Indian Penal Code (IPC) for “excit(ing) disaffection towards the Government” and Section 8/1, 8/3 and 8/5 of CSPSA, 2005 for helping an ‘unlawful organisation.’

“What triggered the arrest of Ms. Parghaniya was the arrest of her husband in Kolkata,” said one of her lawyers, Sadiq Ali. Ms. Parghaniya’s husband, Deepak, was arrested in Kolkata earlier in 2012 for allegedly helping a unit of the Maoists to manufacture small arms. Maoist Central Committee did acknowledge Mr. Parghaniya as one of their “comrades” in a release issued on March 2, 2012. “Ms. Parghaniya was arrested just for being the wife of Mr. Parghaniya whom she last met several years ago,” said Mr. Ali.

A team of CPI (ML)’s women wing, AIPWA visited Ms. Parghaniya in Durg central jail and questioned the arrest. “…incriminating documents seized by the police from Rekha’s house include literature by Bhagat Singh, Marx, Engels and Bertolt Brecht, as well as some folders on the history of the workers’ movement,” said the AIPWA release. “The AIPWA team led by Lakshmi Krishnan was severely interrogated before they were allowed to talk to the women who were projected as big time Maoist guerrillas,” said State secretary of CPI (ML) Brajen Tiwari.

The couple were implicated as Mr. Parghaniya, ostensibly, arranged for some contractual work for Bhola Bag in Bhilai Steel Plant before he left Durg. “Allegedly, they were consolidating the urban network of the Maoists,” said Mr. Ali. While all three were booked by police under same sections of IPC and CSPSA, Ms. Parghaniya was kept out of sedition when charges were finally framed. “Since the permission was not sought by police from home department before slapping 124/A,” said Mr Ali.

The judgment said that the evidences were not sufficient to convict Mr. Bag and Ms. Verma. Ms. Parghaniya was acquitted as the two main witnesses were not present during the seizure, which was the important evidence against her. “Even the investigating officer said there were hardly any incriminating documents, other than few leftist magazines,” said Mr. Ali.

Rekha Parghaniya walked free on Wednesday night and managed to win freedom for her clients as well.

#Invitation -Repeal AFSPA Save Democracy – #Irom Sharmila


Repeal AFSPA Save Democracy

We Want Citizen State Not Police State

Reach Raj Ghat, Delhi on 6 November 2012

12th Anniversary of Irom Shamila’s Fast

The lofty proclamations of liberal democracy – like: equality, liberty and right to life are the social contracts signed by the Modern Nation-State to legitimize itself, values as liberal democracy where citizens’ rights are sacrosanct, where individual rights are supposed to be the foundation in the structure of governance mechanisms including the force apparatus like army, paramilitary, and the police.

However, the reality is different. The existence of extremely draconian laws like the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, National Security Act, and various provisions in the Indian penal code like ‘sedition’ make a mockery of the claims of liberal democratic character of the Indian state.

The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958 (AFSPA) is one of the most draconian legislations used by the governments to enslave and oppress citizens under the garb of fighting separatism/terrorism. For the past sixty years the North-East and for almost two decades Jammu & Kashmir have been virtually under army rule leave apart police. This rule by the army has had a drastic effect on the daily life of the average citizens residing in the North-East and Jammu & Kashmir.

Irom Sharmila took the cudgels to challenge the might of the government and her method has always been Gandhian, shorn of violence, concrete in belief and consistent in perseverance. Irom Sharmila is a Gandhian of our times made of a unique metal. Irom Sharmila has been on hunger strike for the last 12 years but she has largely been unnoticed as she sought to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 with her peaceful protest.

On 6th Nov.2012 we the following adherents to democracy and peace have  planned a day-long fast in support of the movement of Irom Sharmila.

Program

Venue : Samata Sthal (opposite Raj Ghat)

Date : 6 November 2012

Time : 8 am to 5 pm

All are requested to join and support.

Socialist Yuvjan Sabha (SYS)

Yuva Bharat, Sarv Seva Sangh, Azadi Bachao Andolan, Bangladesh Bharat Pakistan Peoples Forum & Others.

Contact: Program Convener Dr. A. K. Arun, Mobile: 9868809602.

Other Contacts: 9716634603, 9871111387, 9899003100.

My name is NOT red


By Deepak Tiwari Story Dated: Saturday, March 31, 2012, The week

 

Case #1: Ulihatu, Jharkhand
Schoolgirls Juliana Purti, Jasmani and Magdali Mundu were picked up by the Jharkhand Police on October 30, 2010. The girls had stayed over at Juliana’s relative’s house after watching a hockey match. The police nabbed the relative on suspicion of being a Naxal sympathiser. The girls spent three months in jail for being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Juliana now studies in class 9 at Saint Mary’s School, Muruhu, 30km from Ranchi. She refuses to talk about the nightmare in jail and smiles rarely. She stays near the school, sharing a room with seven others. Her teachers showed her school records to the police to convince them that the girl was indeed a teenager. The police accused them of forging records.
Incidentally, Juliana comes from the same village as Birsa Munda, the legendary tribal who fought the British.
Case #2: Ganjam, Orissa
Auphira Badmajhi, a BSc. student of Khallikote Government College, was jailed under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, and sections of the Indian Penal Code. His only fault was that he was at home on vacation when the paramilitary raided his village. Auphira thought his English speaking skills would help the security forces interact better with the villagers. But it made the forces suspicious of him. He spent 10 months in jail, despite his college certifying that he had 90 per cent attendance and was a meritorious student.
Case #3: Ranchi, Jharkhand
Jeetan Marandi spent three years in jail for being the namesake of a wanted Naxal. Through his Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikash Andolan, Jeetan highlighted human rights issues and fought forcible land acquisition in Jharkhand. He was jailed because his namesake was accused in a Naxal attack which killed 20 people, including Anup Marandi, son of former Jharkhand chief minister Babulal Marandi, in October 2007.
On appeal, the courts absolved Jeetan of all charges. He was to be released on December 15, 2011, when the government filed fresh cases against him.

These lives have been caught in the crossfire between the Maoists and the state. Certain sections of the government and bureaucracy conveniently tag them as collateral damage and scoff at the idea of compensating them for their suffering. But what does the law have to say about it? In the Naxal belt, the laws are many and their interpretation varied (see list on page 43).
The central laws and state-specific laws were framed to give the police adequate powers to maintain internal security and deal effectively with insurgents. The problem lies in the interpretation. For example, the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005 (CSPSA) allows the police to arrest people committing “an unlawful act by words spoken or written or by signs or by visible representation or otherwise”.
The interpretation of “unlawful” has led to the arrest and imprisonment, without trial, and, in many cases, without any charges, of hundreds of innocent villagers, social and human rights activists, teachers and journalists in the poorly connected and poorly developed Naxal belt. Rajendra Kumar Sail, former president, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Chhattisgarh, equated these laws with the colonial Rowlatt Act. He said they work on the principle of “no dalil, no vakil, no appeal [No plea, no lawyer, no appeal].”
On March 29, a Delhi trial court absolved high-profile Naxal leader Kobad Ghandy of terror charges. The judgment came after a protracted legal battle. Despite being a popular doctor and having innumerable well-wishers in India and abroad, Binayak Sen had to spend two years in jail. The fate of the nameless faces can only be imagined.
An example is Junash Pradhan, 45, chairperson, Daringbadi block panchayat samiti, Kandhamal, Orissa, who was arrested on January 9. He was charged with involvement in a landmine blast, but actually his crime was speaking out for innocent tribals who were arrested for being Maoist supporters.
Said Narendra Mohanty, convener, Banvasi Surakshya Parishad: “Junash had organised a protest against the local police on May 5, 2011, to protest the killing of innocent tribals. It seems he was arrested and tortured to prevent him from contesting in the panchayat elections.”
Mohanty himself stands accused in another landmine blast case in Kandhamal. He has left the district, and came to Bhubaneswar secretly to meet THE WEEK. He said the case was foisted on him as his organisation helped tribals fight exploitation.
In an appeal before the National Human Rights Commission, Mohanty said Junash had no criminal links or involvement with banned organisations. “Since 2008, he has been a government nominee on a sub-division level forest rights committee,” he said. “He has never owned a gun, yet the police framed him in a landmine blast case.”
The police maintain that Junash is a hardcore Naxal involved in the landmine blast that killed three policemen near Kotagarh on January 5. He is charged under sections 120(b), 121, 121(a), 307, 302, 324, 326, 124(a) and 34 of the Indian Penal Code, sections 3 and 4 of the Explosive Substances Act, 1908, sections 25 and 27 of the Arms Act, 1959, and sections 16, 20 and 38 of the UAPA. The court may or may not find merit in these charges, but until then it is going to be a long wait for Junash.
Orissa Director General of Police Manmohan Praharaj said that while the UAPA was a strong law, there were checks to prevent its misuse. However, activists say most cases registered under such acts do not stand in court.
Village women Beko Bhime and Kunjam Ramwati of Mudbedi in south Bastar were charged under CSPSA and spent 15 months in jail before being acquitted. Madvi Joga, Mukka Hunga, Suknath, Muchaki Joga, Makdam Lakma, Uika Bhima and Banjam Bhima were arrested in 2008 for allegedly maintaining contact with Naxals and possessing Maoist literature and detonators. They were released on February 12, as the police could not establish their case.
Acquittals hardly compensate for the time they spent in jail. Most victims do not seek compensation for fear of being harassed again. But the tide is turning. Orissa High Court lawyer Pratima Das, 28, was accused of being a Naxal sympathiser and was jailed from August 13, 2008, to November 17, 2010, when the trial court acquitted her. She has moved court seeking ∃20 lakh as compensation for unjust imprisonment and the failure of the state to protect her life, liberty and livelihood.
The access to justice is also an issue in the Naxal belt. Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said there was a need to probe the reports about private companies paying protection money to the Maoists. Essar Steel was one such company mentioned in Chhattisgarh and arrests were made in this case. Essar General Manager D.V.C.S. Varma, an accused in the case, has been granted bail.
Vijay Sori, 38, master trainer of Rahul Gandhi Youth Brigade in Chhattisgarh and Dantewada district president of Kisan Congress, spent nearly two years in Bastar Jail, waiting for his bail plea to be heard in the Supreme Court. He was arrested along with 32 others on trumped up charges of murder of a local contractor on July 8, 2010. Many accused in the case were released for lack of evidence.
In an undated letter addressed to his wife and smuggled out of prison, Vijay had written that a high-profile legal team made all the difference. In the Essar case the executives had paid off the Naxals and were in the wrong, but they got bail. Innocents like Vijay languished in jail because their defence was poor.
Another arrest that has got media attention was that of Soni Sori (not related to Vijay Sori). A teacher and a panchayat member, she was accused in the Essar case and was charged under CSPSA. It was alleged that she had passed on the protection money to the Naxals. Recently, it was reported that she was tortured in custody by stuffing stones in her vagina and anus. Her family, too, was hounded to break her.
Kopa Kunjam’s case is another litany of abuse. A social activist, he had worked for Unicef and various agencies in Bastar through the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram in Dantewada. He was a district resource person of Mitanin, a rural health programme designed by Binayak Sen.
He vehemently opposed Salwa Judum, the state sponsored militia, and helped victims of Salwa Judum violence in more than 60 villages. He was picked up on December 10, 2010, with a young Human Rights Law Network lawyer, Alban Topo. Kunjam was sent to jail, while Topo was freed. He was charged with the abduction and murder of a Salwa Judum worker in Dantewada.
“When [social activist] Medha Patkar came to meet me in jail, the jailer told her that I did not want to meet her. He made me sign me some paper,” said Kunjam. “I was brutally beaten and suffered serious injuries on my chest, back and leg.” The Supreme Court granted him bail after 22 months in jail. In Dantewada jail, Kunjam organised a hunger strike of inmates demanding that cases of undertrials be heard within six months and parole be given to undertrials to attend funerals in their families. The Vanvasi Chetna Ashram was demolished last year by the police, as it was a base for social activists and journalists covering Bastar.
The police are also allegedly targeting journalists, activists and lawyers who work in the locality. The cops’ ire is that these people pass on information to the media at large, leading to negative publicity.
Amarnath Pandey, a PUCL member and practising advocate in Ambikapur, Chhattisgarh, filed lawsuits in an encounter killing and a custodial rape case. Within months he was implicated in a case and charged with sedition. “These cases were forged to threaten me for acting against the state,” he said. “I fight for ordinary people who are [tagged as being] Maoists.”
Sources said the police in the Naxal belt now file the names of activists in Naxal violence cases in remote areas. As nobody knows about it, the ‘accused’ are later declared absconders. “Later when they want to pressure these people, the FIRs come out of the cold storage,” said Sail. “Branding someone as a Naxal and then discrediting them using the available draconian acts have become a common police tactic.” He said the conviction rate of cases under these laws was less than 1 per cent.
Advocate Sudha Vyas of the Bilaspur High Court said more than 1,000 people were rotting in Chhattisgarh jails on charges of being Naxals or Naxal sympathisers. Ram Niwas, additional director-general, Naxal operations, Chhattisgarh, said CSPSA was specifically made to counter Naxals. “It is used only where we are sure that a person is directly involved in Naxal activity,” he said. “We are the worst hit by Naxal violence and we are here to protect both ordinary people and the security forces.” Official figures about victims are obviously much lower than what the activists quote.
Claims and counter-claims aside, the ordinary citizen is caught between the police hammer and the Maoist anvil. Shivdayal Tomar, a contractor, said nobody wanted to work in south Bastar region. “It is impossible to live in a rural area without giving and taking support from people around,” he said. “If a Naxal demands food, the villager cannot refuse. If he gives food, the police jail him for being a Naxal sympathiser.”
An example is the case of Puranchand Meher, a tailor from Indagaon on the Chhattisgarh-Orissa border, who was arrested under UAPA clauses meant for those who “disrupt the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India”. Meher’s crime was that he stitched 20 trousers and five shirts from 35m of olive colour cloth given to him by a customer. A tailor from Raipur and two cloth merchants from Bilaspur have spent months in jail under CSPCA for selling camouflage cloth to a person whom the police claim is an active Maoist. How would a tailor know who is a Naxal and who is not?
Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason to the arrests, activists said. Prominent human rights activist Sashibhushan Pathak said there were instances in Jharkhand where the paramilitary arrested only salwar-kameez wearing women from a village, while ignoring the sari clad.
In Jharkhand, Father Stan Swamy said, “Between January 2010 and January 2011, 341 people were arrested under UAPA on trumped up charges.” He alleged that there were 6,000 innocent tribals in Jharkhand jails branded as Naxal sympathisers. “If you speak against forced displacement of tribals or against police atrocities, you will be branded a Naxal,” he said.
Gladson Dungdung, the young general secretary of Jharkhand Human Rights Movement, was branded a Naxal for opposing Operation Green Hunt. But he was subsequently nominated to the Planning Commission as a member from the social sector!
Inspector General R.K. Mallick, spokesman, Jharkhand Police, said the special laws were never used to target anyone. “We realise, in a democracy, there is a space for an alternative viewpoint and we try our best not to interfere in that,” he said. “We know people who are declared sympathisers of Naxals, but we have not touched them.” He, however, said the police would not spare anyone who provided arms, communication equipment or logistical support to the Naxals.
Reports from Andhra Pradesh show that the misuse of laws is not restricted to the northern reaches of the Naxal belt. Pittala Srisailam, 35, editor of online television Musi TV and co-convener of Telangana Journalists Forum, was arrested on December 4 and was tortured for 30 hours. Only on December 5 did the state accept that he was in custody. He was charged under the Andhra Pradesh Public Security Act, 1992, for being a Naxal courier.
Even worse is the case of Sripathi Tirupathi Goud, 35, a toddy tapper. He and his fellow tappers were out collecting toddy from a palm grove when Naxals approached them and asked for money. They refused. The police came to know about this and questioned them about the Naxals and the conversation. Soon after this, 18 trucks were burnt at a sand quarry nearby. The police nabbed Goud and his friends and tortured them, accusing them of arson at the behest of the Naxals. Goud was sent to jail three times and it took seven years for the case to end because of lack of evidence.
with Lalita Iyer

There’s no escape from the corporations that run India


Arundhati Roy, in Guardian

Domestic mega-corporations’ tentacles extend into every aspect of Indian life – but no one dares speak out against them

Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man, is personally worth $20bn. He holds a majority controlling share in Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), a company with a market capitalisation of $47bn and global business interests that include petrochemicals, oil, natural gas, polyester fibre, special economic zones, fresh food retail, high schools, life sciences research and stem cell storage services. RIL recently bought 95% shares in Infotel, a TV consortium that controls 27 TV news and entertainment channels in almost every regional language. Infotel owns the only nationwide license for 4G broadband. Ambani also owns a cricket team.

RIL is one of a handful of corporations that run India. Some of the others are the Tatas, Jindals, Vedanta, Mittals, Infosys, Essar and the other Reliance (Adag), owned by Mukesh’s brother Anil. Their race for growth has spilled across Europe, central Asia, Africa and Latin America. Their nets are cast wide; they are visible and invisible, overground as well as underground. The Tatas, for example, run more than 100 companies in 80 countries. They are one of India’s oldest and largest private sector power companies. They own mines, gas fields, steel plants, telephone, cable TV and broadband networks, and run whole townships. They manufacture cars and trucks, own the Taj hotel chain, Jaguar, Land Rover, Daewoo, Tetley Tea, a publishing company, a chain of bookstores, a major brand of iodised salt and the cosmetics giant Lakme. Their advertising tagline could easily be “you can’t live without us”.

The era of the privatisation of everything has made the Indian economy one of the fastest growing in the world. However, like any good old-fashioned colony, one of its main exports is its minerals. India’s new mega-corporations are those who have managed to muscle their way to the head of the spigot that is spewing money extracted from deep inside the earth. It’s a dream come true for businessmen – to be able to sell what they don’t have to buy.

Of late, the main mining conglomerates have embraced the arts – film, art installations and the rush of literary festivals that have replaced the 1990s obsession with beauty contests. Vedanta, currently mining the heart out of the homelands of the ancient Dongria Kond tribe for bauxite, is sponsoring a “Creating Happiness” film competition for young film students who they have commissioned to make films on sustainable development. Vedanta’s tagline is “Mining Happiness”.

The Jindal Group brings out a contemporary art magazine and supports some of India’s major artists (who naturally work with stainless steel). Essar was the principal sponsor of the Tehelka Newsweek Think Fest that promised “high-octane debates” by the foremost thinkers from around the world, which included major writers, activists and even the architect Frank Gehry.

Tata Steel and Rio Tinto (which has a sordid track record of its own) were among the chief sponsors of the Jaipur literary festival. . Many of the world’s best and brightest writers gathered to discuss love, literature, politics and Sufi poetry. Some tried to defend Salman Rushdie‘s right to free speech by reading from his proscribed book, The Satanic Verses. In every TV frame and newspaper photograph the logo of Tata Steel (and its tagline, “Values Stronger Than Steel”) loomed, a benign, benevolent host. The enemies of free speech were the supposedly murderous Muslim mobs, who, the festival organisers told us, could have even harmed the schoolchildren gathered there.

Yes, the hardline Darul-uloom Deoband Islamic seminary did protest at Rushdie being invited to the festival. Yes, some Islamists did gather at the festival venue to protest and yes, outrageously, the state government did nothing to protect the venue. The battle for free speech against Islamist fundamentalism made it to the world’s newspapers. It is important that it did. But there were hardly any reports about Tata, the festival sponsors’ role in the war in the forests of central India – a war ostensibly waged against Maoists, but actually against all those who are resisting displacement by corporations such as Tata.

There were no reports either about the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, which make even thinking an anti-government thought an offence. Or about the mandatory public hearing for the Tata Steel plant in Lohandiguda which local people complained actually took place hundreds of miles away in Jagdalpur, with a hired audience of 50 people, under armed guard. Where was free speech then?

No one mentioned Kalinganagar where, in 2006, police fired on those who protested against the construction of a boundary wall by Tata Steel. No one mentioned that journalists, academics and film-makers working on subjects unpopular with the Indian government – like the surreptitious part it played in the genocide of Tamils in the war in Sri Lanka, or the recently discovered unmarked graves in Kashmir – were being denied visas or deported straight from the airport.

But which of us sinners was going to cast the first stone? Not me, who lives off royalties from corporate publishing houses. We all watch Tata Sky, we surf the net with Tata Photon, we ride in Tata taxis, we stay in Tata hotels, sip our Tata tea in Tata bone china and stir it with teaspoons made of Tata steel. We buy Tata books in Tata bookshops. Hum Tata ka namak khatey hain. We’re under siege.

But which of us sinners was going to cast the first stone? Not me, who lives off royalties from corporate publishing houses. We all watch Tata Sky, we surf the net with Tata Photon, we ride in Tata taxis, we stay in Tata hotels, sip our Tata tea in Tata bone china and stir it with teaspoons made of Tata steel. We buy Tata books in Tata bookshops. Hum Tata ka namak khatey hain. We’re under siege.

If the sledgehammer of moral purity is to be the criteria for stone-throwing, then the only people who qualify are those who have been silenced already. Those who live outside the system; the outlaws in the forests or those whose protests are never covered by the press, or the well-behaved dispossessed, who go from tribunal to tribunal, bearing witness, giving testimony.

But the Litfest gave us our aha! moment. Oprah came. She said she loved India, that she would come again and again. It made us proud.

Read original article- Capitalism: A Ghost Story

Hunger strike only option to get basic human rights in Prison– Arun Ferreira


Arun Ferriera who spent four years in prison shares his experinces of torture and struggle for human rights inside prison. He was speaking at the  Human Rights Education Seminar, at St Pius College, organised by the South Asian Human righst education centre. He also talks how he was not allowed to get in Constitution of India, to read

 

Video of Republic Day protest against Gallantry awards in San Francisco


Concerned citizens and friends of India organized a peaceful protest in San Francisco outside the venue of the official Republic Day function hosted by the Indian Consulate which was expected to be attended by around 400 invitees – the movers and shakers of the Indian community as well as local politicians. Much to our satisfaction, we were able to engage in one-on-one conversations with many of the attendees outside the venue and distribute flyers. Many of them signed our petition and many more were sympathetic.

The petition is as follows

Every year on the 26th of January, we celebrate the Constitution of India [1]. Every 30th of January, we remember the martyrdom of Mahatma Gandhi, who led India to freedom. However, for the vast majority of the people of India, even the most basic of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution – the right to life and personal liberty and due legal process if these rights are to be abridged – remain unrealized promises. And the ideals of the independence struggle, as articulated by Gandhi, stand indelibly tarnished.

One of the most shocking recent instances of this trampling upon the Indian constitution is the torture and sexual abuse of prisoner Soni Sori [2,3]. An adivasi school teacher from the Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh, Sori had exposed evidence of police misconduct in the framing of several cases against her [4]. Police intimidation forced her to flee, and she reached Delhi seeking legal assistance, but was arrested before she could file a petition in the Supreme Court. Fearing for her life in Chhattisgarh, she asked to be held in custody in Delhi, despite which she was handed over to the Chhattisgarh police [5]. In custody, Soni Sori was brutally tortured by the Chhattisgarh police, because of her refusal to corroborate their false statements. A subsequent independent medical examination found sizable stones lodged in her vagina and her rectum and severe damage to her spinal cord [6].

Another instance is the case of Lingaram Kodopi. In 2009, Kodopi was locked up by the police in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh for 40 days, tortured and pressured to join a vigilante force [7]. After the High Court ordered his release, Lingaram went on to complete a course in journalism, and later documented villagers’ accounts of arson, murder and rape during a three-day police operation in March 2011. In September 2011, Lingaram was arrested on charges of collecting ‘protection’ money for the Maoists from Essar, a large business conglomerate. Sori, his aunt, came under pressure from the police to persuade Lingaram to accept the charges. She refused, saying the charges were false and ended up being an accused herself. Amnesty International has pronounced both Sori and Kodopi, Prisoners of Conscience [8].

Sori’s and Kodopi’s are not isolated cases. Authorities in various parts of India have a record of imprisoning innocent people, including human rights workers, on false charges, the most notable case being that of Dr. Binayak Sen. Dr. Sen was convicted of ‘sedition’, and sentenced to life imprisonment, but released by the Supreme Court on bail, pending appeal [9]. Many other innocent people, mostly from marginalized sections of the society, continue to languish in India’s jails; Adivasi activist Kartam Joga [10] and labor leaders, Bhagwati Sahu [11] and Abhay Sahoo [12], are just some of them. Others like Kopa Kunjam [13] and documentarian Ajay TG [14] were released on bail and are awaiting trial. Arun Ferreira, a social and human rights activist, was acquitted in 11 different cases for lack of evidence, but re-arrested each time on a fresh set of charges, until he was finally released on bail on the 4th January [15].

In custody, Soni Sori was pressured by the police to implicate many prominent human rights activists as Maoists [16]. Though Sori resisted the pressure, other news reports indicate a concerted attempt on the part of the state to stigmatize human rights defenders [17]. This was a serious concern placed on record by Margaret Sekaggya, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, after the completion of a mission to India a year ago [18].

The gross misconduct of the police is enabled by several draconian laws of questionable Constitutional validity, such as the law against sedition in the Indian Penal Code [19], the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act [20], the Armed Forces Special Powers Act [21] and state-specific laws such as the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA) [22]. These laws are intended to help the police to bring charges against anyone on no or the flimsiest of evidence or to arrest and detain people for extended periods without charges or evidence. This process of filing false charges and detention based on them, is being used as a punitive tool in itself.

Where there are credible reports of torture or of other grave misconduct by the police, rarely have the police authorities been investigated, or the democratically elected representatives sanctioning systemic abuses held accountable [23].

Therefore, we demand that:

Torture and other prisoner abuses must stop

Intimidation of Human Rights Defenders must end

The practice of filing false charges, extended detentions without trial, and “arrest, detention and trial” as punishment must end

The law against sedition (Section 124A of Indian Penal Code) be abolished

Laws which give unconditional and unchecked power to the authorities, such as UAPA, AFSPA and CSPSA, be abolished

Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi be released immediately and unconditionally

Police and higher level government officials responsible for torturing and pressuring Soni Sori be prosecuted

Pl sign petition here

Below is a short  video (3 min) of the  Republic Day protest against Gallantry awards in San Francisco

Uphold the Indian Constitution! Defend Human Rights Defenders in India!


 

 

 AID -Petition to Release Human Rights Defenders

26th January, 2012

To

Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh,

Chief Minister of Chhattisgargh Raman Singh,

President of India Pratibha Patil.

Every year on the 26th of January, we celebrate the Constitution of India [1]. Every 30th of January, we remember the martyrdom of Mahatma Gandhi, who led India to freedom. However, for the vast majority of the people of India, even the most basic of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution – the right to life and personal liberty and due legal process if these rights are to be abridged – remain unrealized promises. And the ideals of the independence struggle, as articulated by Gandhi, stand indelibly tarnished.

One of the most shocking recent instances of this trampling upon the Indian constitution is the torture and sexual abuse of prisoner Soni Sori [2,3]. An adivasi school teacher from the Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh, Sori had exposed evidence of police misconduct in the framing of several cases against her [4]. Police intimidation forced her to flee, and she reached Delhi seeking legal assistance, but was arrested before she could file a petition in the Supreme Court. Fearing for her life in Chhattisgarh, she asked to be held in custody in Delhi, despite which she was handed over to the Chhattisgarh police [5]. In custody, Soni Sori was brutally tortured by the Chhattisgarh police, because of her refusal to corroborate their false statements. A subsequent independent medical examination found sizable stones lodged in her vagina and her rectum and severe damage to her spinal cord [6].

Another instance is the case of Lingaram Kodopi. In 2009, Kodopi was locked up by the police in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh for 40 days, tortured and pressured to join a vigilante force [7]. After the High Court ordered his release, Lingaram went on to complete a course in journalism, and later documented villagers’ accounts of arson, murder and rape during a three-day police operation in March 2011. In September 2011, Lingaram was arrested on charges of collecting ‘protection’ money for the Maoists from Essar, a large business conglomerate. Sori, his aunt, came under pressure from the police to persuade Lingaram to accept the charges. She refused, saying the charges were false and ended up being an accused herself. Amnesty International has pronounced both Sori and Kodopi, Prisoners of Conscience [8].

Sori’s and Kodopi’s are not isolated cases. Authorities in various parts of India have a record of imprisoning innocent people, including human rights workers, on false charges, the most notable case being that of Dr. Binayak Sen. Dr. Sen was convicted of ‘sedition’, and sentenced to life imprisonment, but released by the Supreme Court on bail, pending appeal [9]. Many other innocent people, mostly from marginalized sections of the society, continue to languish in India’s jails; Adivasi activist Kartam Joga [10] and labor leaders, Bhagwati Sahu [11] and Abhay Sahoo [12], are just some of them. Others like Kopa Kunjam [13] and documentarian Ajay TG [14] were released on bail and are awaiting trial. Arun Ferreira, a social and human rights activist, was acquitted in 11 different cases for lack of evidence, but re-arrested each time on a fresh set of charges, until he was finally released on bail on the 4th January [15].

In custody, Soni Sori was pressured by the police to implicate many prominent human rights activists as Maoists [16]. Though Sori resisted the pressure, other news reports indicate a concerted attempt on the part of the state to stigmatize human rights defenders [17]. This was a serious concern placed on record by Margaret Sekaggya, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, after the completion of a mission to India a year ago [18].

The gross misconduct of the police is enabled by several draconian laws of questionable Constitutional validity, such as the law against sedition in the Indian Penal Code [19], the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act [20], the Armed Forces Special Powers Act [21] and state-specific laws such as the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA) [22]. These laws are intended to help the police to bring charges against anyone on no or the flimsiest of evidence or to arrest and detain people for extended periods without charges or evidence. This process of filing false charges and detention based on them, is being used as a punitive tool in itself.

Where there are credible reports of torture or of other grave misconduct by the police, rarely have the police authorities been investigated, or the democratically elected representatives sanctioning systemic abuses held accountable [23].

Therefore, we demand that:

Torture and other prisoner abuses must stop

Intimidation of Human Rights Defenders must end

The practice of filing false charges, extended detentions without trial, and “arrest, detention and trial” as punishment must end

The law against sedition (Section 124A of Indian Penal Code) be abolished

Laws which give unconditional and unchecked power to the authorities, such as UAPA, AFSPA and CSPSA, be abolished

Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi be released immediately and unconditionally

Police and higher level government officials responsible for torturing and pressuring Soni Sori be prosecuted

 

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