#India-Journalists report the police version of crime: Seema Azad


|October 21, 2012

Do journalists question enough, asks Seema Azad, ‘Dastak’ editor who was charged under the UAPA in this interview with SHOBHA S V [Courtesy: THE HOOT]

Seema Azad

37-year old Seema Azad’s calm demeanour belies the trauma that she’s had to undergo. Azad, editor of ‘Dastak’ magazine and organising secretary of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) was arrested in February 2010 in Allahabad along with her husband Vishwa Vijayon charges of sedition and UAPA. Vishwavijay has been a student union leader and activist of Inquilabi Chhaatra Morcha.

The duo were arrested shortly after Seema wrote against Ganga Expressway Plan, a project that would have displaced many farmers and also highlighted arbitrary arrests of Muslim youth by the Special Task Force in Azamgarh.

After a prolonged fight that stretched for two and a half years, the Allahabad High Court finally granted bail to the duo on 5thAugust, 2012. They have appealed against the conviction. Azad and her husband were in Mumbai recently to speak in a public meeting demanding for release of social activist SudhirDhawale, who has been in jail on charges of sedition.

Seema spoke out strongly against sedition and laws that curbed dissent and deplored the failure of mainstream media to question police charges against fellow journalists and activists. She also said the publication of ‘Dastak’ was suspended when she and her husband were in jail, but it will come out again from January, 2013.

Can you tell us what happened when you were picked up in February 2010?

I was coming back from Delhi after attending the National Book fair and a group of plainclothesmen literally grabbed my husband and me and put us in a vehicle. I wouldn’t say we were arrested. We were kidnapped. There was no warrant issued at all.

Why do you think you were arrested?

During questioning, the police kept asking us about my articles in my magazine ‘Dastak’ including Operation Green Hunt, Ganga Expressway Plan that would have affected many farmers’ livelihood and about my article on Muslim youth in Azamgarh who were being harassed by the police. I was branded a Maoist because I wrote against the Government on these issues.

Can you describe your experience in the jail?

It was very depressing initially. For the first day or two, I couldn’t talk to anyone. I slowly started opening up. Resistance builds up only gradually. My experience in prison made me open my eyes to a reality that I would never have had an opportunity to experience otherwise. Prisoners also have rights, which are consistently violated all the time. I remember wanting to read a newspaper every day. It seems like a simple thing except that it was not. I had to fight for it with the superintendent, jailor, warden and may others. Finally, when the Chief Judicial Magistrate had come for a programme in the prison, I insisted very strongly that I need a newspaper. It was only after his intervention that they started giving newspapers to read. My family really helped me during this time. Whenever they would come to meet me, they would bring along with them, a big set of newspapers, magazines and some books for me to catch up with my reading. I also found that the jail library is in a very bad shape. I could hardly use it. In my prison, I was the first woman who was accused of being a Maoist.

Since I was an under-trial, physical work was not mandatory for me. However, they kept asking me for bribes. I resolutely refused to pay them anything. I received feelers that I should either pay up or I should work. I clearly told them that I wouldn’t mind working but refused to pay bribes. However, they did not bother me after that. I think it was because I was educated, that things were relatively better for me than someone who is non literate.

The jail officials would ask for money in order to facilitate meeting with my family members. I ended up spending lot of time with the children of the female prisoners. I also taught two women how to read.

What kind of support did you receive from the journalist community?

Mainstream media kept writing from the point of view of the police. When I was arrested, I did not get any support from mainstream media and journalists at all. I have been working as a journalist for the past eight years now. Apart from bringing out a bi-monthly magazine, I have also written for a mainstream publication, Sahara Samay for three years now. Yet, when I was arrested, there was not a single word from any mainstream media journalist. It was very disappointing.

What do you think ails journalism today?

Journalists only end up writing the police version of any crime. The accused person’s version is seldom published. Rarely is any attempt made to contact the accused person’s lawyer or family for their statement. This is a very sorry state of affairs. The level of ignorance amongst journalists about laws is appalling. When I finally got bail two months ago, we had arranged for a press conference about black laws. So many journalists did not know about Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) or Unlawful Activities Prevention Act(UAPA). I had to explain what AFSPA is all about. However, just as corporate media in India is spreading everywhere, I also see many instances of independent media. There are many small publications which are doing good work. I also see hope in online media. When I was arrested, I remember my brother pointing out to many websites, blogs writing about me and the black laws that exist in our country.

Now that you are out on bail, what how do you plan to continue your fight?
I am very happy going around different parts of the country talking about black laws like sedition and UAPA. I am also working on bringing out my magazine ‘Dastak’ once again. It was stopped when I was in jail. The next edition will come out in January 2013.

I express my solidarity with the people of Koodankulam. 7000 people have been slapped with sedition! Section 124 (sedition) has become a joke. The prevailing atmosphere is such that the state wants to intimidate everyone who wants to critique and challenge government policies of development. If the government thinks that they will frighten people in this way, I can tell you from my experience that they are sorely mistaken. I have become even more rebellious after my arrest and subsequent stay in jail. I am going to continue my fight for what I believe in.

 

PUCL on conviction of Seema Azad and her husband by an Allahabad Court


PEOPLE’S UNION FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES

Founder: Jayaprakash Narayan

270-A Patparganj, Opposite Anandlok Apartments, Mayur Vihar– Phase I, Delhi 110091


12th  June, 2012
Press Release

          On the Conviction of Seema Azad and her husband by an Allahabad Court

The news of the sentencing of Seema Azad, along with her husband Vishwavijay Kamal, charged under Sections 121, 121A and 120B of IPC and also under the relevant provisions of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for possessing objectionable literature, to life imprisonment by a court at Allahabad on 8 June 2012 has come as a shock to the People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) and thousands of human rights workers all over the country.

Seema Azad, a grassroots journalist and a well known civil liberties activist belonging to the UP State Branch of the PUCL, was returning after attending a book fair in New Delhi along with her husband when they were arrested by the Special Task Force on February 6, 2010 from the Allahabad station, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, for their alleged links with Maoist organizations. The only evidence provided was a book carried by Seema Azad containing information on Maoist politics. From then on, they have been detained in custody, and have been refused bail.

It is clear to human rights activists that Seema Azad and her husband were charged under the draconian laws for political reasons. She has relentlessly raised her voice against local scams and injustices, denouncing the working condition of mining workers, exposing the practices of the local mafia and its nexus with the police force. She also edited a bi-monthly magazine – Dastak – and used it as a platform to publicize all the wrongs around her.

“On a number of occasions, she (Seema Azad) had taken up the cudgels on behalf of poor labourers and exposed the nexus between the police and the illegal contractors, who used to deploy labourers for unauthorised mining of stone or sand in various regions of Uttar Pradesh, particularly the Sonbhadra district,” PUCL UP Vice-President Ram Kumar said in a statement.

It has become a trend for the governments to book those, who criticize their anti-people policies and expose the misdeeds of politicians-police-bureaucrats and mafia nexus or give voice to the exploited, suffering, disinherited masses, under the most stringent laws, brand them as anti-national or Maoists and keep their voices muzzled by incarcerating them. What is even more miserable is that the judiciary, which is supposed to be the protector of the freedom and liberties of the people, also fails to do so. And the worst is that those who book innocent people on false and concocted charges always go unpunished even when higher courts reverse the judgment and set them free, of course, when they have already spent several years of their prime life in prisons. Seema Azad and her husband’s case has again brought these questions into focus and for all freedom loving people and human rights workers to take up the cause.

The PUCL plans to hold a convention shortly and also carry out a campaign for the release and justice of Seema Azad with other organisations.

Mahi Pal Singh

National Secretary, PUCL

Verdict on Seema Azad and Vishwa Vijay: A pattern of judicial connivance to arbitrariness of the state in dealing with dissent


COMMITTEE FOR THE RELEASE OF POLITICAL PRISONERS

185/3, FOURTH FLOOR, ZAKIR NAGAR, NEW DELHI-110025

The singer was singing

And they question him

Why do you sing?

He answers them as they seize him

Because I sing

And they have searched him:

In his breast only his heart

In his heart only his people

In his voice only his sorrow

In his sorrow only his prison

And they have searched his prison

To find only themselves in chains

Mahmoud Darwish

                                                                                                                                                 13/06/12

The Verdict on Seema Azad and Vishwa Vijay: A set pattern of judicial connivance to blatant arbitrariness of the state in dealing with political dissent

If a police officer can take exception to the possession of a book on Shaheed Bhagat Singh as part of the several books shown in the seizure list of Seema Azad and Vishwa Vijay, questioning the motive of the two to read on the life of the great martyr, well that sums up the growing climate of an undeclared emergency being enforced with impunity on any form of political dissent that fundamentally articulate the interests of the vast sections of the masses of the people.

In 2010, when Seema and Vishwa Vijay were arrested from Khuldabad, Allahabad, several PUCL members had opposed their arrest pointing out that they had been framed as they were working extensively against land mafias and anti-people policies of the government. Though the arrests were made by the special task force, the case was later handed over to the anti-terrorism squad of UP so as to primarily deal it as an act of ‘terrorism’ a much abused word by the powers that be. For more than two and a half years the case is being tried in the Court of the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrates in Allahabad. It is not an accident that the judge who had heard the entire proceedings of the case was transferred just before the verdict was supposed to be given. So while sentencing Seema and Vishwa Vijay for life on charges of criminal conspiracy, waging war and under several provisions of the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) the Additional District Judge Sunil Kumar Singh, further slapped a fine of about Rs 70,000 on the couple.

As the Organising Secretary of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) in Uttar Pradesh and editor of the magazine Dastak Seema had consistently reported and gave voice to the growing dissent of the people against the anti-people policies of the government in the form of Ganga Expressway which brought forth the nexus of the politicians, bureaucrats and the land mafia. As we may recall the Ganga Expressway can result in the displacement of thousands of peasantry. It was her initiative to expose the increasing arbitrary arrests, torture and incarceration of Muslim youth in Azamgarh. The magazine Dastak became a vehicle for expressing the voice of the voiceless. And this is precisely what the government would want us to believe as ‘waging war against the state’! And this is why the police officer would find fault with both of them, for ‘waging war’ with the state, for reading Bhagat Singh at a time when the country is growing and growing, but the condition of the people are going from bad to worse!

At a time when the governments at the state and the centre have been spending heavily on the way people perceive the changes that occur before them as part of the strategy of ‘winning the hearts and minds’ to generate a consensus towards a policy of displacement, destruction, destitution and death in the name of development, it becomes inevitable that voices like that of Seema Azad and Vishwa Vijay are silenced. Already the state has sensed that there is a mounting public opinion and discontentment among the vast sections of the democratic and freedom people of the country against the continuing incarceration of Seema and Vishwa Vijay. Little wonder that the perception managers have already started planting ‘horror’ stories of ‘mass unrest’ being hatched out under the garb of protesting against the unjust verdict of the sessions court. This is further evidence to show how the state is not leaving any stone unturned towards criminalising any form of dissent against the denial of fundamental rights to the people to express their views without fear or favour.

The verdict against Seema Azad and Vishwa Vijay is against the grain of fundamental rights of the people of the subcontinent as it goes a long way in criminally profiling any political dissent or opinion or even spreading that as ‘waging war’ against the state. The state would tell us how we should think and express ourselves. We can be only part of the state in ‘managing’ the perception of the people. We cannot say a word against the growth stories that abound the press—electronic as well as print. As capital is development and development is capital—the presence or absence of it, capital is ready to satiate the perception of development too. You can only consume that perception; you just cannot go against it. Any perception or thinking that goes against the predatory, violent necessities of capital couched in the discourse of development has been termed ‘waging war’, ‘criminal conspiracy’ against the state! The need to stand up against the verdict of Seema Azad and Vishwa Vijay is a necessity for the struggle for our fundamental rights, our freedoms, our right to think critically and choose the life that we deem fit in the interests and well being of vast sections of the masses of people. The state and the government of Uttar Pradesh should release Seema Azad and Vishwa Vijay Unconditionally!

In Solidarity,

SAR Geelani

Working President

Amit Bhattacharyya

Secretary General

Rona Wilson

Secretary, Public Relations

Seema Azad Verdict: Another Attempt to Silence the Critical Democratic Voice


PEOPLE’S UNION FOR DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS

Press Statement

10th June 2012

Seema Azad Verdict: Another Attempt to Silence the Critical Democratic Voice

PUDR strongly condemns the verdict of a lower Court in Allahabad awarding life sentence to Civil Rights activist Seema Azad and her spouse Vishvvijay on charges of sedition, waging war and under several provisions of the draconian law, Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). Additional District Judge Sunil Kumar Singh, while pronouncing the order, also slapped a fine of approximately Rs 70,000 on the couple.  The couple were arrested from Lukerganj locality in Allahabad on February 6, 2010 by the Special Task Force (STF) of Uttar Pradesh, which claimed that Maoist literature was recovered from their possession and that they were associated with a banned organization, the Communist Party of India (Maoist). Their arrests were made by the Special Task Force, but the case was later handed over to the Anti-Terrorism Squad of UP making it a case involving terrorist activity.

Seema Azad’s incarceration and sentence is a clear case of silencing dissident voices. Her arrest followed Seema’s active chronicle of people’s movement. She was actively associated with women’s liberation front till 2001 and with the revolutionary students’ movement till 2004.  Seema is also an active member of PUCL, Uttar Pradesh. Furthering her concern towards violation of people’s rights she brought out a new magazine, Dastak, which carried out a thorough investigation of the Ganga Expressway plan which threatened to displace thousands of farmers. She published the findings of her survey in form of a booklet and distributed copies. Dastak also published a long report on the arbitrary arrests and torture of Muslim youth in Azamgarh. Seema’s arrest came in the wake of the growing efforts to sensitize people of violation of their rights and other concerns relating to human rights. Seema and Vishvvijay’s arrests were a move to crush such efforts on the pretext of containing efforts of incitement against the government. Following the detention, bail petitions were presented in court many a times. Each time the petition was rejected for Seema’s ‘dangerousness’ to the status quo constructing a civil rights activist into a naxal. Seema’s conviction is one of the many cases where proscription under UAPA shows its true colours. By banning an organisation as “terrorist” and thereby banning even its literature, it becomes possible for authorities to target anyone by accusing that person of having links with a banned organisation. Thus legitimate activities become unlawful and therefore offensive.

PUDR staunchly denounces the judgement as being representative of the efforts of the government to squash critical voices and extends support to the cause taken up by activists such as Seema Azad.

Paramjeet Singh

Preeti Chauhan

(Secretaries)

Seema Azad Yearns For Freedom


Human rights activist Seema Azad and her husband are in jail on dubious charges. On 8th February 2010, Seema Azad and her husband were arrested by the Allahabad Special Task Force, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, for their alleged links with Maoist organizations. The only evidence provided was a book carried by Seema Azad containing information on Maoist politics. From then, they have been detained in custody, and have been refused bail.

Seema Azad is a grassroots journalist and civil liberty activist. She has relentlessly raised her voice against local scams and injustices, denouncing the working condition of mining workers, exposing the practices of the local mafia and its nexus with the police force. She created a bi-monthly magazine — Dastak — as a platform to publicize all the wrongs around her. It is clear to human rights activists that Seema Azad and her husband have been jailed for political reasons. Campaigns have been launched to support her and to put an end to her unfair detention.

The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), of which she is an active member, has petitioned the National Human Rights Commission to plead for her release and to expose the iniquity of her treatment. Till date, Seema Azad has seen no improvement in her situation. Ajeet Bahadur hopes that his video will mobilize people all over the country to support Seema Azad, and other activists, jailed because of their fight for political and social justice.

Uttar Pradesh: Court Says No Proof to Detain Seema Azad

The Uttar Pradesh Police received a setback on Saturday when they failed to submit any evidence in court against Seema Azad, the state secretary of People’s Union for Civil Liberty (PUCL) and her husband Vishwavijay Azad.

The Special Task Force had arrested Seema and Vishwavijay on February 8 in Allahabad. They were booked under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for their alleged links with a banned Maoist organisation.

Judicial Magistrate Vikas Kumar rejected the application of the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) seeking a week’s remand for Seema and Vishwavijay. Dismissing the application, the judged observed that the police have not come up with any concrete evidence against them. “There was no need to accept the request for police remand of the accused and the police did not mention any concrete ground for the remand,” the court observed.

Lalji Kaithwas, Seema’s advocate, argued that the ATS did not even record the statement of the accused before seeking their remand. “The police cannot seek remand without recording the statement of the accused. Remand is taken only after the police are convinced during the recording of statement that they can get evidence or make recovery in support of their claim against the accused,” he added.

Citing a Supreme Court judgment, the judge observed: “How could the ATS know that they could get some more information without recording the statement of the accused? The permission for police remand for mere interrogation of the accused cannot be granted as the police can interrogate the accused even in jail. When there is no claim of any recovery by the police, there is no need for granting police remand.”

On Monday, a local court will hear Seema and her husband’s bail application. On February 8, the STF had arrested three alleged Naxalites from Allahabad and Gorakhpur. While Seema and Vishwavijay were arrested from Allahabad, Asha alias Heerman Munda was arrested from Gorkhapur.

(Indian Express, 22nd February, 201o)

Seema Azad, journalist, human rights worker and her husband sentenced to life for waging war against India


NDTV, june 8, 2012

AllahabadA couple who were arrested by the Uttar Pradesh special task force in February 2010 and suspected of being Naxals have been sentenced to life imprisonment by a lower court in Allahabad.

Seema Azad and her husband Vishwa Vijay were found guilty of waging war against the state, criminal conspiracy under various sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention act.

The case against the two was being tried for more than two and half years in the Court of the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrates in Allahabad.

They were detained in the Khuldabad area of Allahabad on February 3, 2010, while they were returning from Seema’s brother’s house in Delhi.

Banned Maoist literature and Rs. 40,000 were found on Azad and her husband Vishwa Vijay which the police claimed was being used to exhort people to become Naxals.

32-year-old Seema Azad, a Master in Psychology from Allahabad University was the Organising Secretary of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) in Uttar Pradesh. She also edited a magazine called Dastak.

In 2010, several PUCL members had opposed the couple’s arrest alleging that they had been framed because they were working extensively against land mafias and unfair policies of the government.

Their arrests were made by the special task force, but the case was later handed over to the anti-terrorism squad of UP.

The Supreme Court had ordered a day to day trial in the case.

After the sentencing was announced today, the couple’s lawyer Lalji Kaithwas said that he still believes this is a case of poor evidence and that he will challenge their conviction and sentencing in the High Court.

Archives

Kractivism-Gonaimate Videos

Protest to Arrest

Faking Democracy- Free Irom Sharmila Now

Faking Democracy- Repression Anti- Nuke activists

JAPA- MUSICAL ACTIVISM

Kamayaninumerouno – Youtube Channel

UID-UNIQUE ?

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 6,245 other followers

Top Rated

Blog Stats

  • 1,669,074 hits

Archives

October 2017
M T W T F S S
« Jun    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031  
%d bloggers like this: