#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.

PRESS RELEASE- Fact Finding Report ‘ Guilty Until Proven Innocent’ on Unlawful Police Activities in North Bastar


CHHATTISGARH LOK SWATANTRYA SANGATHAN

(PEOPLES UNION FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES, CHHATTISGARH)

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                                                                                                                                                                Date 20th May 2013

To: The Editor/ Chief Reporter

PRESS RELEASE: FOR FAVOUR OF PUBLICATION

A team consisting of eminent activists and lawyers went for a fact finding mission organized by PUCL-Chhattisgarh to the Edanar and Malmeta Villages of the Edanar Panchayat, Kanker District and the Anjrel Village of Khadkagaon Panchayat, Narayanpur District of North Bastar, on 18th and 19th April 2013.  The purpose of the mission was to investigate and document the unlawful police activities that were exposed by Edanar villagers during a statewide camp by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) conducted on 12th April, 2013 in Raipur.   The representation by Edanar village focuses mainly on a police rampage that happened in Edanar and Malmeta Villages in which six villagers were assaulted, two families were robbed, and one innocent man was arrested, and remains in jail till date, after being accused of aiding Naxalites.

However, the 23rd January incident is only a small part of a longer history of militarization and unlawful police activities in this region.  In the Edanar Panchayat (P.S. Tadoki), security forces consisting of CRPF and BSF, accompanied by local police and Special Police Officers (SPOs), conduct combing operations twice a month in which homes are looted and villagers are assaulted, threatened, labeled as “Naxalites”, arrested, charged with very serious offences and some of them even killed. In the Khadkagaon Panchayat (P.S. Narayanpur), villagers are routinely terrorized and even evicted from their homes by local SPOs, despite the Supreme Court order declaring SPOs unconstitutional.

The team documented over 20 such incidents of unlawful activities in both panchayats.  The report also examines the legal issues associated with and the overall context in which these violent attacks have occurred.  It gives special importance to the broader impact of the ongoing militarization of the region including the six BSF camps which are already stationed in Kanker, and the pending construction of 22 paramilitary barracks by the Bhilai Steel Plant to protect the functioning of its Raoghat iron ore mine.

The team releases the attached report,  Guilty Until Proven Innocent :  A Fact Finding Report on Unlawful Police Activities in Two Panchayats of North Bastar, Chhattisgarh with the hope that the media would highlight the situation of the people living in these areas, understand the larger political and economic context of the ongoing violence, and strike a well-educated public discourse around the issue.   We strongly urge correspondents to visit the area and write firsthand accounts of the issues faced by the local villagers.

Team members include: Shishir Dikshit (Lawyer, Janhit Legal Center), Lakhan Singh (People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Chhattisgarh), Somdutt Upadhayay (Lawyer, Bilaspur Social Forum), Tathagata Sengupta (People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Chhattisgarh), Samantha Agarwal (Sanhati), Pinki Verma (Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha-Mazdoor Karyakarta Samiti), and Keshav Sori (Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan). The following report has been jointly prepared by the members of the fact finding team.

For further information contact: Adv. Sudha Bharadwaj (9926603877)

Sincerely,

Sudha Bharadwaj

General Secretary, PUCL-Chhattisgarh

#Chhattisgarh – Brief report of events in the JK Laxmi Cement Factory : accident, arson and arrests


Official seal of Chhattisgarh

Official seal of Chhattisgarh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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April 7, 2013,

Note received from Sudha Bharadwaj

In the past year there had been several agitations by farmers of various villages in the Nandini-Ahiwara area of district Durg, affected by the under-construction JK Laxmi Cement Plant, against serious illegalities committed by the company including the fact that an irrigation canal and traditional easements had been obstructed, that farmers had been defrauded of their lands and were paid paltry compensation, and that the public hearing for environmental clearance had been held quietly in an obscure tehsil head quarters unknown to the affected villagers. Most of these movements petered out due to the adamant attitude of the administration and the company.

However the farmers of Malpuri village had, since 14th February 2013, been picketing lakhs worth of heavy machinery and materials stocked by the company in the open next to the company compound. Hundreds of villagers – women and men – had been taking turns day and night and were eating and sleeping on the site of the agitation. Their demand was of permanent jobs to the villagers and those whose lands had been lost to the plant. Only recently, on 25th March 2013, on an invitation of these villagers, some of the workers and peasants associated with Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha (Mazdoor Karyakarta Committee) had travelled 35 km to participate in their observation of Shaheed Bhagat Singh’s martyrdom day. At that time we were surprised to note that no attention whatsoever was being given to this more than a month-long and obviously determined agitation and no efforts had been made either by the administration or the company to resolve the issues.

On 1st April 2013 a serious accident transpired in the JK Laxmi Cement Plant. Three newly employed and inexperienced contractual employees were made to work in a deep pit in which they slipped and two were seriously injured. The contractors and management’s people in a state of panic simply got the pit filled in, burying the third dead worker – a dalit youth Tarun Banjare, and absconded. It was only when the picketing villagers came to the spot and raised a hue and cry that the local administration dug out the body of the dead worker.

The company and police claim that, two days later, on 4th April 2013 the agitating villagers entered the factory premises in hundreds and set fire to vehicles and materials. Crores of losses have been claimed. However, what exactly transpired requires to be properly and independently investigated. Immediately following the incident of arson, the entire area was cordoned off by heavy deployment of police and a large number of fire brigades from the Bhilai Steel Plant were immediately pressed into service to control the fire.

After the incident, in the intervening night of 4th and 5th April, the police had brutally rounded up and arrested almost all the males in village Malpuri Khurd, as well as 3 women who had been leading the month long agitation. It was the spirited demonstration of the women of the village, who came with babies in arms and squatted the whole of the next day before the Police Station Nandini, that led to 50 of the 97 villagers originally rounded up being released.

The young dalit leader of the more than month long picketing agitation – Virendra Kurre, an ex employee of the Bhilai Steel Plant who was terminated for union activities, was picked up at about 3 am on the night of the incident. He has been produced before a Magistrate and remanded to police custody for 8 days. As per the reports of journalists he appears to have been severely beaten.

The clout of the cement companies in Chhattisgarh is not a new thing, and in this particular area apart from the JK Laxmi Cement Plant, a base for the Indian Air Force is also being planned. Hence it is not surprising that the police and administration have decided to ruthlessly suppress the villagers’ agitation.

A team of the Sanyukt Trade Union Manch – a joint front of various trade unions including the CMM, TUCI and AICCTU – which had also investigated the accident of 1st April – is trying to help the villagers get proper legal aid.

 

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