#India – Activist, PMRD fellow, being victimised in Gadchiroli mining row #TISS #WTFnews


Gadchiroli, June 25, 2013

Pavan Dahat, The Hindu 

The mining row, which saw a senior executive of a company and two others being killed by the Naxals last week, has taken a new twist with the police now targeting an activist and a Prime Minister Rural Development Fellow (PMRDF) for alleged links with the Naxals.

A team of the Gadchiroli police’s special anti-Naxal unit — C-60 — claimed to have raided a village, Kovunwarsi, in Etapalli tehsil of the district on June 20 and arrested Sunil Yeshu Hichami (27) and Paika Majhi Pungati (45) over the allegation of collecting funds for the Naxals.

Police also claimed that Mahesh Raut, a PMRDF, and Harshali Potdar, an activist from Mumbai, were present in the village when they arrested the Naxals.

A leading English newspaper on Sunday reported that Ms. Potdar and Mr. Raut had been booked under Sections 13, 39 and 40 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

But Aheri Additional Superintendent of Police Rahul Shreerame said that both of them were just questioned for some time and let off. Mr. Shreerame denied having registered any offence against Ms. Potdar and Mr. Raut.

Contrastingly, Superintendent of Police (SP) Suvez Haque said the police had, in fact, booked them under various offences “because they were found in the same village from where other two Naxals were arrested.”

However, Gadchiroli police PRO Dharmendra Joshi told The Hindu that both Ms. Potdar and Mr. Raut had been let off after some “preliminary questioning.”

A top district official of Gadchiroli told The Hindu on the condition of anonymity that the police had not registered any offence as reported by the English newspaper and as claimed by the SP.

This district official also questioned as to why both Ms. Potdar and Mr. Raut had not been taken into custody if the police booked them for such serious offences.

But Ms. Potdar and Mr. Raut (both alumni of Tata Institute of Social Sciences) and the villagers of Kowanwarsi had an entire different chain of events to narrate.

“As a PMRD Fellow, I often visit these interior areas. On June 20 also, I went to visit these villages one by one. Harshali, who is studying the environmental threat caused by the proposed mining projects in this area, also accompanied me to these villages. At around 9.00 a.m., we reached Kovunwarsi and decided to take a nap at the house of the village Patil. At 10.00 a.m., a team of C-60 came to the village and arrested some people. They asked for our identity cards and told us to proceed with our work,” Mr. Raut told The Hindu .

“When we were returning to Allapalli in the evening, the police stopped us and took us to the Pranhita Police Headquarters where they questioned us for more than 30 hours,” he added.

Police alleged that Ms. Potdar and Mr. Rauthad gone to Kovunwarsi village to meet senior Naxal leader Narmada Akka.

But Ms. Potdar, Mr. Raut and the villagers have denied these claims.

“They came to inspect village infrastructure. They were sleeping in my house when the police arrested some Naxals from another house,” said Joga Buklu Hedau, the village Patil.

Even the District Collector of Gadchiroli, Abhishekh Krishna, said that Mr. Raut often visited interior areas in the Aheri division for his work.

“His work has been the best among all other PMRD fellows who work under me,” said Mr. Krishna.

According to Amol Marakwar, a Zila Parishad member of Gadchiroli, Ms. Potdar and Mr. Raut were being targeted for their “visible opposition” to the proposed mining projects in Surajagad Gatta range.

“Harshali had very strongly raised objections to these projects in a public hearing in Allapalli last month. Now she has been harassed for publicly opposing it” said Mr. Marakwar.

Mr. Haque did question Ms. Potdar and Mr. Raut’s open opposition to the proposed mining projects in this area.

“How can they oppose the government’s projects despite being a part of the government?” asked the SP.

Ms. Potdar confirmed that the majority of questions addressed to her were related to mining.

“They even asked me why we had two CDs of Kabira Kala Manch and why I saved some of the contacts in my mobile phone as ‘Comrades’. They even had problem with some people greeting me with Lal Salam and Jai Bhim . They searched our house and our laptop is with them now,” said Ms. Potdar.

Presently, the police at Aheri headquarters calls the duo for questioning on a regular basis. Some times Ms. Potdar is asked to come to the police station even after 6.00 p.m.

The duo has not been told if they have been booked or not.

“They asked us to sign on a blank paper, but we refused” said Mr. Raut.

Mr. Marakwar called the police exercise “an attempt to destroy roadblocks against the proposed mining projects in the area” and a “blatant violation of Human Rights.”

 

#India – “Tribal autonomy answer to Naxalism’’ #Maoists


May 29, 2013 12:30:50 AM | By Pramod Chunchuwar

Mumbai : Killing Naxals is not the solution, says the Congress MLA from Gadchiroli, Dr Namdev Usendi, a medical practitioner.

On Monday, home minister R R Patil and Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray had demanded stringent laws and harsh action to crush the Maoists.

Strongly opposing the suggestion to kill Naxals by using armed forces, Dr Usendi said, “This will not end Naxalism. Till poverty and violation of fundamental rights of tribals continue, Naxals will manage to recruit villagers.’’

He also lamented that some decisions of his own government made tribals wonder whether the government was with them or with the capitalist forces. A case in point was the government’s decision about granting lease of forest land for mineral exploration.

‘’Autonomy in administration to Naxal affected area can ensure development and this will help curb Naxalism,’’ Dr Usendi said in an interview with the FPJ.

“Since 1978, twenty-two irrigation projects could not be completed due to the Forest Conservation Act. For these projects, a maximum of 1,500 hectares would have been used. But 6, 545 hectares were allotted to various corporate houses for iron ore exploration. Why does the Forest Conservation Act create hurdles in developmental projects and how this Act is not a problem for corporate houses? This has created a doubt in the minds of tribals in our district and they wonder whether the government is with us or with the corporates or capitalists?’’ Dr Usendi said.

“According to the constitution, Gadchiroli’s tribal dominated area falls under the Fifth schedule. According to article 244(1), the Governor has the authority to announce that any law will not be implemented or implemented with some modification or relaxation. We are demanding that the government should announce the relaxation of Forest Conservation Act which will help complete various developmental projects. This demand was made by us to Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan in the Tribal Advisory committee but nothing has happened,’’ the MLA said.

“The Tribal Advisory committee headed by CM and having more than 20 tribal MLAs as members should meet once in six months. But in the last one year, there was no meeting. In the last four years, the committee has met only twice,’’ Dr Usendi said.

“In North Eastern states, tribal dominated area have been accorded autonomy in administration. Like this, there should be two Zilla Parishads in Gadchiroli district. The main ZP will be elected by all voters and election for another will be only in tribal dominated area and only tribals will vote for their representative. These tribal representatives will suggest or design the developmental schemes or projects and the main ZP will implement it,’’ Dr Usendi stressed.

“Currently, there are 23 tribal members in the 51-member ZP of Gadchiroli. Non tribal members are influential and therefore all money originally meant for tribals development can not be spent. Unless tribals get autonomy in development administration, development can’s take place and till the development takes place, Naxalism can not be curbed,’’ Dr Usendi stressed.

Pramod Chunchuwar

 

Maharashtra- Protest brewing in Red zone as another project proposed in the tribal land


Gatta (Gadchiroli), May 18, 2013

 

PAVAN DAHAT, The Hindu

  • Tribals of the project affected villages. No one wants the Jindal project here. Photo: Pavan Dahat
    The Hindu Tribals of the project affected villages. No one wants the Jindal project here. Photo: Pavan Dahat
  • Tribals of the project affected villages. No one wants the Jindal project here. Photo: Pavan Dahat
    The Hindu Tribals of the project affected villages. No one wants the Jindal project here. Photo: Pavan Dahat
  • Tribals of the project affected villages. No one wants the Jindal project here. Photo: Pavan Dahat
    The Hindu Tribals of the project affected villages. No one wants the Jindal project here. Photo: Pavan Dahat

Suklal Baldir Topo, a Tribal of Jhajawandi village in Etapalli tehsil of Gadchiroli district, is a concerned man these days.

Suklal is concerned about the proposed JSW ISPAT Iron Ore Mining project in Damkodvadavi hills, hardly a few kilometers from his village.

“I have seen my son grow up here and then his sons and daughters. Where would we go if this project comes here” asks Suklal.

Almost all the villagers of 17 villages in Gatta and Gardewada Gram Panchayats in Etapalli tehsil of Gadchiroli district share Suklal’s concern.

The JSW ISPAT Steel Limited has proposed an iron ore mining unit over 751.04 hectares of land on Damkodvadavi hills to produce 5.5 MTPA (Maximum Rated Capacity) of Iron Ore for which crushing and screening plant (3 x 250 TPH) will be installed in the mine lease area.

The JSW has been given mining lease for a period of 20 years. The produce of this unit will be used to meet the iron ore requirements of JSW Steel plant in Dolvi, Maharashtra.

A public hearing related to the environment impact of this iron ore mine project was held in Allapalli town on May 8 in the absence of the villagers from all 17 villages.

The Public hearing took place despite the Gatta Gram Sabha passing a resolution against the proposed project on May 1.

“The company or the government officials did not make available any information about the effects of this project directly or indirectly to all 17 villages in Madia language. The company carried out study of the area from the census document of 2001.But the proposed project requires approval of the concerned villages Gram Sabhas which was never taken. Forest is the mainstay of Adivasis living near the proposed project site and mining will badly damage water, soil, forest and air resulting in danger to our lives. Which measures will the company take to prevent this damage? The project will endanger the lives of birds and animals in this area and destruction of forest will result in the imbalance of environment. This area does not have skilled people to be given employment in this project. We don’t trust the company and the government to keep their promises. This Gram Sabha passes a resolution that we oppose the proposed public hearing of the project and the government should not give permission for this project and if it has given the permission, then it should be cancelled ” reads the resolution passed by Gatta Gram Sabha, a copy of which is available with The Hindu.

Etapalli and Gatta are known to be Naxal zone and the Naxal’s writ runs large in the area after Gatta village.

The public hearing of the project was conducted 70 km away in Allapalli town for “security reasons”, according to Gadchiroli District Collector Abhishek Krishna.

But Mr. Krishna refused to comment when asked how the project will be put up if even a public hearing has to be conducted 70 km away.

“The District administration’s job was to help the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board in conducting the public hearing and to send the proceedings to the government. The government will decide on the next course of action” said the Collector.

Hardly anyone in these villages knew about the proposed project until May 1, says Ravi Atram of Gatta village.

“There is something that this government is trying to hide. The advertisement of the public hearing was published in one English and one Marathi newspaper which hardly come to these interior areas” says activist Anand Dahagavkar.

“But the district authorities ignored the pleas of activists to postpone the public hearing in the absence of project affected people” said Amol Marakwar, the Zilla Parishad member of Gadchiroli who was present in the public hearing.

“The tribals depend on forest for their livelihood and this project, if granted permission, will destroy the tribal culture and life here. Everyone knows how much pollution an iron ore mine project causes” added Mr. Marakwar.

The Naxals have also jumped into the bandwagon and have made their opposition to the project clear.

According to some reliable sources, three days before the public hearing in Allapalli, the Naxals called a meeting of all the project affected villages and assured them the “CPI(Maoist)’s complete support against the Jindal project”.

Almost all the affected villages visited by this reporter in this area, do not want this project to come.

“We are happy with our life now. We will not leave this place even if they offer us Rs. 10 lakhs” says Madi Danu Hido of Kowanvarsi village.

According to activists, the JSW and the government have not said anything about the number villagers to be rehabilitated due to this project.

Rajan Malani of the JSW Ispat said “No village will be relocated. Everything is at an initial stage now. Just a public hearing has happened. And the public hearing was the administration’s lookout. They could have taken it in Nagpur. Our company is very strict about its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and we will do everything that can be done to help all these villages”.

“Mining does not cause much pollution. Our company and the government is very strict regarding this and all the environmental regulations will be followed strictly. And as far as security is concerned, again it’s administration’s responsibility. The government’s help will be taken for security” added Mr. Malani.

But Mr. Malani refused to comment on the resolution passed by Gatta Gram Sabha against the project.

The local MLA Deepak Atram who staged a token protest in Etapalli in protest of public hearing taking place in Allapalli says, “Whether we want it or not this project will come because the Jindal group is a strong group and they have government with them. They will put up CRPF camps if they decide to go ahead with the project”.

Mr. Atram does not have objection to the project but he expressed his displeasure over the way it is being brought.

“It will provide job opportunities to the educated youth of our region” says the MLA but has no answer when asked about the possible destruction of Tribal livelihood dependent on forest in this area.

But Mr. Atram as well as activists working in this area, are concerned about the possibility of an intensified conflict between the Naxals and security forces if the government remains adamant on bringing the project here “because the project’s proposed location is almost a Liberated Zone”.

 

Maharashtra -Dalit man commits suicide after police assault


Last Updated: Friday, March 15, 2013, Zee news
Gadchiroli (Maharashtra): A Dalit man committed suicide here in Eastern Maharashtra with his family alleging he took the extreme step after being assaulted by the police.

The victim, identified only as Sachin, escaped from a police van after being taken into custody and jumped into a well in village Katli near here Thursday. His body was fished out late in the night, police sources said.

His family this morning lodged a complaint with the Gadchiroli police station demanding action against the police personnel who allegedly assaulted him during a raid.

When contacted, Sub-Divisional Police Officer (SDPO) Rahul Khade said based on the complaint a probe has been ordered into the alleged police brutality. “We will take action against those found guilty,” he maintained.

According to the sources, a team of five Constables, including a woman, raided Sachin’s house on suspicion that he was engaged in illegal liquor trade.

When Sachin denied selling liquor, the policemen thrashed him with sticks and belt. They also assaulted his two sisters and mother, the complaint alleged.

The police then arrested Sachin and put him into a van, from where he ran off and jumped into the well, it said.

An organisation representing the community to which the victim belonged has demanded dismissal of the police personnel involved in the incident and registration of a case against them under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act.

Samayya Pasula, President of Madgi Samaj Sangathana, said a compensation of Rs 25 lakh should be given to the family of the deceased.

Meanwhile, tension prevailed in the village, where additional police force has been deployed to maintain law and order.

PTI

 

#India- State Throttling the voice, banning the thought of innocent people #draconianlaws #prisoners


draconianlaw

Jan 6, 2013, Deccan Herald 

 The rage of the ‘invisible masses,’ is a thread binding all democratic protests and people’s movements across the state. Be it in Konkan or Vidarbha or the deep dry jungles of Gadchiroli, the cries of ‘rights’ and ‘freedom’ has faded in majority of cases into the darkness of the shadows of the prison cells. Throttling the voice and banning the thought has turned these regions into police state, where in the name of law shackles are clamped on every dissenting voice.


In Konkan, since 2006, the undulating hills dotting Maharashtra coastline has been echoing and roiling with angry voices questioning the nuclear and open cast mining projects pock-marking the green ribbon stretching along the seashore.

The movement, despite running on peaceful strategy, has seen incidents of violence from the police side; in April 2011, police in order to quell a protesting mob, opened fire killing one person.

Last June, when villagers protested against Jaitapur nuclear power project, armed police clamped Section 144.

Vidarbha farmers’ fault?

The region everyday witnesses a funeral of a farmer committing suicide, deaths due to malnutrition and starvation in tribal areas.

The story is not new; in 2001, thousands of tribal women ‘Tendu’ workers were just hauled up in police vans and bundled off to prisons, charged with various draconian sections. Their fault: they were  demanding basic food security.

In December 2012, the government refused permission for staging any kind of demonstration to over a thousand widows of farmers, who took their lives to escape the sharp economic claws, under the pretext that it ‘is being spearheaded by Naxalites.’

Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti leader Kishore Tiwari says: “Raise your voice and you find yourself facing a non-bailable warrant. Since 2001 I have been charged with over 231 criminal cases…”

Gadchiroli’s eternal prisoners

It is the border tribal district and the news that filter out from this region focusses only on ‘violent clashes between the police and militant outfits’; the peaceful demonstrations of tribals asserting their democratic rights and ending up in prisons where sun rarely peeps in, never sees light.

On December 10, 2012, 50 tribal women languishing in Nagpur Central Prison for the past several years, under the charges of being “Naxal‘ sympathisers, went on a 11-day hunger strike demanding immediate opening up of the Gadchiroli Prison and an inquiry into ‘illegal re-arrests.’

Human rights lawyer Surendra Gadling said: “Using the 170-km stretch between Nagpur and Gadchiroli court as an excuse, the police deliberately delay the proceedings. What these women undertrials want is a speedy trial which is their Constitutional right.”

The hunger-strike once again brought to fore the brazen violation of human rights and Constitutional rights by the police and other para-military forces who clandestinely re-arrest political prisoners who have been acquitted or granted bail as soon as they emerge from the prison gate.

In 2007, human rights activist Arun Ferriera, was picked up along with one Arun Satya Reddy while he was distributing pamphlets to Dalits in Dikshabhoomi near Nagpur. In 2011, despite being cleared of all charges by a lower court, the police clandestinely whisked him from the exit door of the jail. In jail, he saw the re-arrest of tribal men and women in violation of laws and undertook a fast lasting 27 days, demanding an inquiry into ‘illegal re-arrests’.

Press Release- Serial Hunger strike by 50 tribals of Gadchiroli district incarcerated at the Nagpur Central Prison. #Humanrightsday


( ABOVE IS THE POSTER MADE BY INMATES

Around 50 tribals of Gadchiroli district incarcerated at the Nagpur Central Prison as political prisoners have commenced a serial hunger strike from 10thDecember, International Human Rights Day to 21st December 2012 

These tribal prisoners have consistently protested since the last 2 years against the failure of the judicial process and high handedness of the local district police. It is not a coincidence that Shri. R.R. Patil, the State home Minister is also the guardian minister of Gadchiroli district and all such violations of Human Rights are happening under his very own patronage. In April 2011, Shri. Patil while replying to a question raised by Ms. Shobatai Fadnavis had promised the State Legislative Council that he would review all cases of tribals arrested under charges of naxalism in Gadchiroli. However, there has been no intent to fulfill this promise in the past 21 months.

Along with this demand the protesting tribals have also raised the following grievances:

  1. The practice of the Gadchiroli police to re-arrest tribals immediately after their release from prison still continues (See attachment No.2). Despite numerous petitions from prisoners and civil rights organizations this violation of Human rights goes on unabated.
  2. Inability of the State administration to inaugurate the Gadchiroli prison (See attachment No.3). Although this prison has been completed since the past 2 years, the government has still not started it. Hence tribals of Gadchiroli are incarcerated in the prisons of Nagpur, Amravati and Chandrapur- prisons which are more than 150 to 300 kms from the trial courts. Resultantly, these tribals are not being produced before the trial courts for the past 23 months. This distance has also caused their family links to be severed.
  3. The practice of handcuffing undertrials on their way to court also still continues, despite the Supreme Court directives against its use (See attachment No.4). Recently, due to this illegal practice four undertrials were severely injured in a road accident. However the responsible police officials are yet to be punished.
  4. A two year old boy born in prison to a tribal couple has been compelled to be separated from his father. While father was transferred to Nagpur prison, his mother remains at Amravati prison despite numerous requests pending in the trial court and jail authorities (See attachment No.5).
  5. The atrocities of the district police and especially the notorious anti-naxal C-60 commandoes go on unimpeded. A undertrial, Ramesh Naitam seeks justice in the custodial death case of his mother (See attachment No.6).

The protesting tribals have requested the State legislative bodies in session at Nagpur to look into the above issues on the occasion of International Human rights day.

On behalf of the protesting tribals,

Adv. Surendra Gadling- gsurendra12@yahoo.co.in

( attchments are in marathi if you need pl email )

Nagpur

 

Maharashtra: Minor girl raped by two teachers #VAW #Teachersday


 

 

Gadchiroli: Two school teachers have been arrested for allegedly raping a minor girl student near Gadchiroli in Eastern Maharashtra, police said on Wednesday.

Albish Mormu and Harisham Soren (both 28), who are from Odisha, were employed at a private English medium school in a village bordering Andhra Pradesh under Sironcha taluka of this district.

The duo sexually assaulted the nine-year-old girl, who studies in the same school, a couple of days ago, police said.

When the girl narrated the incident to her parents, they lodged a police complaint on Tuesday.

Police registered a case of rape against Mormu and Soren and arrested them.

 

The Art of Rearrest and Brutality – Indian Police Style: Adv. Surendra Gadling


It is not only Arun Ferreira who has been arrested released and again Rearrested outside the Nagpur Jail. While, we are happy Arun Ferreira is out on Bail, finally an free man, but there are many like him who are behind bars, unknown to Media, Unknown to people.

Adv Surendra Gadling here narrates about one such a Case, who has been re arrested THREE TIMES before being released finally

Vikram alias  mallesh Kushwah r/o Surat , a powerloowas arrested in August 2004 in  Umred district.
Nagpur and was slapped  with 11 cases, 1 at Umred district , Nagpur (discharged) ,5 at bhandara  ( acquitted) 1 at Sakoli ( acquitted), 3 at Gadchiroli ( in 2 acquitted  in 1 discharged), 1 at Rajura Dist. Chandrapur in which he got bail

Adv Surendra Gadling had served jail authority with Vikram’s release warrant  after three years of imprisonment on 26/09/07 , but he was released only on 29/09/07 at about 6 pm. He was immediately Rearrested, in the same way as Arun Ferreira, was rearerste din Septemebr Last year.

It has happened several times in Vidarbha that the moment accused comes out  of Jail after be acquitted or discharged , The police  re -arrest them at jail gate only.  We were at Jail Premises frm 27th September to 29 th September  from 11am- 9pm, but of no avail.

“On 29 when I was at central jail premises I found some people in civil dress alighted from Maruti  Gypsy having yellow coloured lights.  I suspected them to be cops.  After sometime the  Jail judicial branch personnel came out and spoke to those people. I overheard their conversation” , said Adv Gadling , adding that the  person  who alighted from the Gypsy  inquired about Vikram’ s release and also expressed their intention to Rearrest  Vikram. After sometime  some more vehicles and police men came they were around 30 to 40 in number. “ Sensing irregularities and  illegalities to take place on his release I had lodged complaint with  Superintendent of Police  in Jail and Police Inspector at Dhantoli Police Station  in whose jurisdiction jail comes but of no avail.”

At about 6 pm Vikram was released and at gate only he was rearrested .Vikram shouted at them, and he asked them their identity and purpose of his being taken into custody   I also tried to convince them.  But they forcibly threw me and threw Vikram in Gypsy and rest the PHOTOGRAPHS speak for themselves . The inmates of Nagpur prison including Arun Ferreira and others went for 27 days strike for the rearrest.

Again he was released and rearrested in April 2008 outside  Nagpur prison,  and then he was taken to Bhandra prison where again he was acquitted of charges but re arrested in April 2008, finally he was released in Februray  2010.

We are still fighting for  release of many such prisoners , who are behind barsd on fabricated cases and charges  and we want all of you to join for the freedom of all political Prisoners

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