#India : Death in detention of Mr. Safiqul Haque and acts of intimidation against Family


 

Case IND 280613
Allegations of torture and ill-treatment/ Arbitrary detention/ Judicial harassment/ Death in detention/ No proper investigation/ Risk of impunity

The International Secretariat of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) requests your URGENT intervention in the following situation in India/ West Bengal.

Brief description of the situation

The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), a member of OMCT SOS-Torture Network, about acts of intimidation and judicial harassment against the family of Mr. Safiqul Haque, a 51 year-old man from Bilbari Village, after the family lodged a complaint alleging that Mr. Safiqul Haque had died in detention due to torture and lack of proper medical care. OMCT is particularly concerned about the arrest and alleged false charges brought against his son, Mr. Rafikul Alam, 22 year-old, and the lack of proper investigation into the death in detention of Mr. Safiqul Haque.

According to the information received, Mr. Safiqul Haque’s family has been continuously threatened by the Nabagram police after lodging a complaint in relation to the death in detention of Mr. Safiqul Haque (see background information hereunder). In a recent event, on 11 May 2013, at about 5:00 am, the Officer in charge of Nabagram Police Station, along with other 12 policemen, entered Mr. Safiqul Haque’s family house and arrested without any arrest warrant Mr. Rafikul Alam, son of Mr. Safiqul Haque, after the family refused to sign on blank papers. Mr. Rafikul Alam was illegally detained during two days. During his detention, he allegedly suffered verbal abuses, repeated threats and intimidation. He was also allegedly deprived of adequate food and proper sleep.

On 13 May 2013, Mr. Rafikul Alam was reportedly falsely charged in Nabagram Police Station Case no. 20/2013 under sections 147 (punishment for rioting), 148 (armed with deadly weapon), 149 (member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object), 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty) and 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) of Indian Penal Code and Section 3 of Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984. According to the same information, on 14 May 2013, Mr. Rafikul Alam’s mother lodged a written complaint to denounce the aforementioned events before the District Magistrate. To date, there has been reportedly no investigation carried out into the aforementioned events.

Background information

According to the same information received, on 7 December 2012 at about 5:00 pm, Mr. Safiqul Haque was praying at Bilbari Boro Mosque, in Bilbari Village, when he was apprehended, together with Mr. Ismail Seikh, Mr. Jarman Seikh and Mr. Anawar Hossan, by Superintendent of Police of Murshidabab district, Mr. Humayun Kabir, who came with about 500 police personnel. The police entered the mosque and started brutally assaulting Mr. Safiqul Haque and his acquaintances. Mr. Safiqul Haque, Mr. Ismail Seikh, Mr. Jarman Seikh and Mr. Anawar Hossan were reportedly tied and dragged by force to the police prison vans parked outside the mosque, where they were again beaten and verbally abused.

On 8 December 2012, Mr. Safiqul Haque’s wife reportedly received a phone call from an unknown person who informed her that her husband, together with Mr. Ismail Seikh and Mr. Jarman Seikh, had been brought to Lalbagh Court accused of murder. She went to Lalbagh Court where she found out that her husband and the two men were detained in the court lock up and that they had been tortured during the whole night by the police personnel who beat them with their boots and with wooden sticks. After rejection of their bail petition on 8 December 2012, Mr. Safiqul Haque, Mr. Ismail Seikh and Mr. Jarman Seikh were detained in Bhagwangola Police Station until 12 December 2012 when they were brought to the Additional Second Court Special Judge, Berhempur and implicated in the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS) case 1117/12. Mr. Safiqul Haque esd then moved to Bharampur Central Correctional Home where his family was not allowed to visit him. The police personnel allegedly tortured Mr. Safiqul Haque again during this detention causing him several injuries.

According to the same information, it was not till 7 January 2013 when Mr. Safiqul Haque was admitted to the Berhempur Sub-District Hospital to be treated from the injuries inflicted. Despite the advise of the doctor to move him to Kolkata Hospital for better treatment, the officials in charge did not do so. On 7 January 2013 Mr. Safiqul Haque reportedly died in Berhempur Sub-District Hospital without getting any proper treatment. The police did not inform Mr. Safiqul Haque’s family about his death. On 11 January 2013, Mr. Safiqul Haque’s wife lodged a complaint before the district Magistrate, in Murshidabad. On 14 February 2013 MASUM made a complaint to the National Human Rights Commission. However, to date, no action has been taken and there has been reportedly no investigation carried out into the aforementioned events. As for Mr. Ismail Seikh, Mr. Jarman Seikh and Mr. Anawar Hossan, they have been released on bail.

The International Secretariat of OMCT expresses its concern about the safety and physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Safiqul Haque’s family, particularly of his son, Mr. Rafikul Alam. OMCT is also gravely concerned about the circumstances surrounding the detention and death in detention of Mr. Safiqul Haque. OMCT urges the competent authorities to guarantee Mr. Safiqul Haque’s family physical and psychological integrity at all times, notably by immediately putting in place adequate protection measures for them, and by suspending the police personnel believed to be responsible for the allegations of torture and ill-treatment, pending an investigation.

OMCT recalls that the authorities have to fulfil their obligations under the Indian Constitution and under international human rights law to protect the right to life, the right not to be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and the right to liberty and security, to consider seriously any allegations of ill-treatment and arbitrary arrest, and to undertake a prompt, effective, thorough, independent and impartial investigation in this regard, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them to trial and apply adequate sanctions. OMCT also recalls that victims must be ensured the right to an effective remedy for the human rights violations suffered as well as the right to full redress, including compensation and rehabilitation.

Action requested

Please write to the authorities in India urging them to:

1. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Safiqul Haque’s family, particularly of his son, Mr. Rafikul Alam;
2. Immediately put in place adequate protection measures for the family of Mr. Safiqul Haque;
3. Immediately put an end to acts of intimidation and judicial harassment against the family of Mr. Safiqul Haque;
4. Carry out a prompt, effective, thorough, independent and impartial investigations into the alleged acts of ill-treatment, arbitrary detention and alleged false charges against Mr. Rafikul Alam, Mr. Ismail Seikh and Mr. Jarman Seikh and into the death in custody of Mr. Safiqul Haque, the result of which must be made public, in order to bring those responsible before a competent, independent and impartial tribunal and apply penal, civil and/or administrative sanctions as provided by law;
5. Ensure that adequate, effective and prompt reparation including adequate compensation and rehabilitation is granted to Mr. Safiqul Haque’s family, Mr. Rafikul Alam, Mr. Ismail Seikh and Mr. Jarman Seikh;
6. Guarantee the respect of human rights and the fundamental freedoms throughout the country in accordance with national laws and international human rights standards.

Addresses

  • Mr. Shri Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, Prime Minister’s Office, Room number 152, South Block, New Delhi, India. Fax: + 91 11 2301 6857. E-mail: pmosb@pmo.nic.in / manmo@sansad.in;
  • Mr. Sushil Kumar Shinde, Union Minister of Home Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs, 104-107 North Block, New Delhi 110 001 India, Fax: +91 11 2309 2979;
  • Justice Altamas Kabir, Chief Justice of India, Supreme Court, Tilak Marg, New Delhi -1, India. Fax: +91 11 233 83792, Email: supremecourt@nic.in;
  • Justice K. G. Balkrishnan, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of India, Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg, New Delhi 110 001, India. Fax: +91 11 2334 0016 / 2338 4863, Email: covdnhrc@nic.inionhrc@nic.in;
  • Justice Asok Kumar Ganguly, Chairperson, West Bengal Human Rights Commission, Bhabani Bhaban, Alipur, Kolkata -27. Fax +91 33 2479 9633 / 2479 7750, Email: wbhrc8@bsnl.in
  • Governor, West Bengal, Raj Bhaban, Kolkata – 62, Phone: +91 33-2479 7259, Fax: +91 33 2479 9633 / 2479 7750, Email: secy-gov-wb@nic.in
  • Miss Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister, Government of West Bengal, Writers’ Buildings, BBD Bagh, Kolkata – 1, Fax – +91 33 22145480, Email: cm@wb.gov.insechome@wb.gov.in;
  • H.E. Mr. Dilip Sinha, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations (Geneva), Rue du Valais 9, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland. Tel: +41 22 906 86 86, Fax: +41 22 906 86 96, Email: mission.india@ties.itu.int

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of India in your respective country.
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

Geneva, 28 June 2013

 

 

Andhra Pradesh –Tribals displaced by Indirasagar should be rehabilitated by June 15


RAMPACHODAVARAM, June 1, 2013

Staff Reporter

Importance should be given to traditions, language, security and the employment of tribals who were displaced due to Indirasagar project, said T.K. Sridevi, Commissioner, Rehabilitation and Resettlement. She directed the implementation officials to provide effective rehabilitation package with a humane touch. She addressed a review meeting on the progress of rehabilitation programmes like land for land, rehabilitation and other packages to the displaced tribals under Indira Sagar project in Rampachodavaram on Friday.

Speaking on the occasion, Ms. Sridevi said that special packages were being implemented for the comprehensive development of tribals, and 44 habitations have been submerged under Indirasagar in the district. She maintained that the Supreme Court has appointed a project monitoring committee to inspect the project execution, and suggested officials to shift the displaced to colonies after giving prior notice and take the assistance of Sub-Collector and ITDA Project Officer to vacate the displaced if they were not willing to do so. She made it clear that all the displaced should be shifted to the colonies by June 15 and submit the report.

The R and R Commissioner explained that the displaced should be vacated on priority basis and the rehabilitation package should be implemented according to guidelines. In the implementation of package, she made it clear that possession should be taken after issuing notices. She said that settlement should be made after estimating the value of the lands of non-tribals. It should be a one-time settlement with the approval of the district Collector. She made it clear that the temples should be reinstated in the same colony if the temples had to be removed. She suggested that the agricultural land should be provided within a radius of three kilometres radius from the colony in land to land package. She mentioned that the packages should be implemented through banking transactions and added that onus was on the officials to monitor whether the beneficiary utilising the funds was doing so in a proper manner.

Ms. Sridevi said that the fertile land, suitable for agriculture, will be given to the displaced people to compensate for their land submerged due to the project, according to government policy. She said that a house site along with financial assistance and rehabilitation will be provided to every displaced beneficiary.

She directed the officials of roads and buildings to estimate the value of submerged buildings and pay compensation according to the value. Rampa Chodavaram Sub-Collector Gandham Chandrudu, Special Collector B. Sudarshan and SE Irrigation B. Vijayabhaskara Rao were present on the occasion.


  • 44 habitations have been submerged under Indira Sagar in East Godavari district: official
  • ‘Settlement should be made after estimating the value of the lands of non-tribals’

     

 

Change.org — Cat is out of the Bag


Change.org  Cat is out of the Bag, so let’s stop playing Ping Pong

May 12, Mumbai- Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Kractivism

  Its official now

After months of testing, Change.org is ready to launch a new revenue model that is geared to consumers, not organizations. By targeting consumers, the change.org team expects to pull in steady revenues in smaller dollar amounts. Contributions are capped at $1,000 per user per petition, but beta tests found that 98 percent of contributions were under $100. During the test period, a total of 5800 people contributed to promoted petitions. Read more here Now anyone can sponsor a petition on change.org

This is how petitions can be promoted and sponsored

Promoted Petitions allow anyone to promote their favorite petitions to Change.org users who may not otherwise come across them. Similar to promoted posts on Facebook or promoted tweets on Twitter, Promoted Petitions allows users to pay to feature any petition to other users on the site.

Sponsored Campaigns are similar to Promoted Petitions, but structured slightly differently to help organizations establish long-term relationships with Change.org users who are passionate about their work and sign their campaigns. Each Sponsored Campaign has an opt-in box allowing users to agree to find out more information about the sponsoring organization after signing. Organizations ready to connect with their next generation of supporters can head to Change.org for Organizations to learn more.

My open letter to Ben Rattray, last October, was precisely about this , #India- Open letter to #BenRattray, #CEO, #Change.org – “Et tu Brutus” #kracktivism when they announced change in advertising policies that ,there is no confusion that change.org is  not a business for a social cause but  like any for profit , they are making money on our database.

Now after my expose.#India – Change.org : Campaign Victory’s exposed #Vaw #Socialmedia, wherein I bought to notice two conflicting petitions on the same platform. I did get a reply on a tumblr.com  site ???  Wondering why  change .org  could not the responses  reply on an  official change.org site?  Also the tumblr.com   site with no  option to comment ,   My question,to   India director,  change.org Avijit Michael, that by replying to me, on another change/org staffs personal blog , with no option to comment,   this how change.org proposes to have a public engagement ?

The fact that  it was only after  I  pointed out that  two conflicting petitions, change.org looked into the matter and found that the  petition of voyeuristic  journalists managed  thousands  signatures by fraud  . They  have informed Information and Broadcasting  Ministry . Interesting but what if they would not be informed, will they know will  then and will they take action ?

For once let me make it clear I do not have a personal vendetta against change.org and neither people are confused by allegations they are concerned.

Here is a  Hoot investigative story on  change.org and how it operates  notes , Deconstructing Change.org

Change.org believes that to get the desired impact, online petitions should be supported by on ground action, exposure in local media and interactions with decision makers. However, in many cases, the offline or on-ground mobilisation may be completely missing, thus putting a question mark on sustainability of the impact generated. For instance, a petition by Video Volunteers against a discriminatory practice in a Rajasthan village where a traditional practice of Dalit women carrying their footwear in their hands while crossing the houses of upper caste families garnered 5,480 signatures.

Acting on the petition, the District Collector along with other officials held a meeting in the village apprising them of the law banning caste discrimination and ordered that the practice be disallowed. However, the villagers did not even know that there was a campaign running on this issue and unknown people were playing their saviours over the Internet. The impact has been that the Dalits are now much more scared to talk about the discrimination, as mentioned by this report in Times of India. Herman refutes this claim, saying that the correspondent of Video Volunteers had mobilised Dalit women against this practice and villagers might be scared of talking to the media due to local power equations. However, independent inquiries made by The Hoot confirm that the action taken by the officials was solely on the basis of the online petition and there was no local campaign against the practice.

I will let the responses to my  expose on change.org speak for itself. I got many emails, facebook messages , some of them are below

आपने जो उदाहरण दिया है उससे स्‍पष्‍ट है कि कोई भी चेंज डॉट ओआरजी का दुरुपयोग कर सकता है। वैसे भी ये या तो व्‍यवसाय कर सकते हैं या सामाजिक बदलाव में कोई भूमिका निभा सकते हैं। और किसी को भ्रम नहीं होना चाहिए कि ये प्‍लेटफॉर्म सामाजिक बदलाव के लिए है। it’s really selling you and me on change dot org. –sandeepsamvad, new delhi, emaiil

it is hard to believe that change.org is not selling signatures as you have not completely denied when you said “Kamayani’s claim that we sell email addresses to sponsors is also incorrect. Our business model has been clearly outlined on the site. We allow our users to voluntarily opt-in to receive mailing from organisations via sponsored petitions.”there is a strong reason for not believing your words as in first instance you said in your reply “partly because one of them was the subject to anattempt at fraud and manipulation over the last week — almost 5000 signatures were added by two IP addresses” AND in very next line you say ” We have multiple levels of systemic checks to prevent this kind of abuse and ensurethat the integrity of our platform is maintained. The fraudulent signatureshave already been removed to reflect the count of genuine signatures.” WHAT HAPPEND TO THE MULTIPLE LEVELS OF SYSTEMIC CHECKS when peoples were signing petitions from one IP , in this case you have deleted signatures but how do we believe that other “victories” petitions are signed by individuals ;with this whole incident I think there are strong flaws on change.org , you have believed , trusted and took actions on almost all points Kamayani higlighted and on other hand you said “We completely respect Kamayani’s right to a different view, although we regret that she is spreading misinformation about Change.org”

I would have trusted on your words , if you would have removed this fraudulent signature petition and all other such petitions;I myself have written a petition and I know it is very difficult for us to raise a issue and bring in people to spend a time and sign it ; with this whole incidence of Change.org my belief on online petitions is shattered .lastly I perceive it in this way and that is , I think you also believe less  on change.org , as you chose Tumbler to highlight such a big news about your own website .I am hoping for a fair dialogue about this whole issues with a thread of previous emails and replies on change.org homepage so that truth must come out …

( Rahul Deveshwar on Facebook )

Change.org platform is no longer on the side of justice, but neutral in the fight against oppression, and hence, has actually taken the side of the oppressor…( Aashish Gupta  via email)

The idea that the  change.org makes no judgment on the type of petition seems a bit strange. Do they not have some sort of system of checks and balances? How many people sign things just on trust? I know I have done. To personalise the mistake (if it was a mistake) that they may have made to an individual who points out the inconsistency of their position on a specific petition seems to me a policy of “shoot the messenger” No petition is a trivial issue to those who take the trouble of starting one, or signing one. Motives would seem a significant factor. therefore this personalisation also would appear to have a motive. Is the organisation afraid of criticism? In which case the attack on an individual would seem logical. Why could not have change.org  provided a coherent answer to the inconsistency highlighted and not personalise the matter to an individual. It is those who work on the ground with people who matter, the idea of holding “people power and democracy in high regard” seems to me bullshit, and appears to appeal to interest groups who have a neo liberal agenda of control.
Kamayani I think all such organisations to me are suspect and anyone who points a finger that may expose their inconsistencies would be demonised in some way. specially such democracy movements of recent past seem to have had bloody results when western interests are threatened, Middle East, Pakistan orange revolution etc etc come to mind. There is sometimes more at stake than rights of people and that is the jobs of those who run these corporate “rights” organisations almost across the world and they would always go with their sponser, who would be western based or financed.  Kamayani, May be you have touched a brick that could shake the edifice ? I am frankly unconvinced by Change-org’s response, and as a user of Change in the past, may be forced to rethink my use of this platform. The simple question that bothers me is: how ‘neutral’ can such a platform be? If there is a petition demanding action against, say, Hindutva hate-speech or anti-dalit violence, will Change also host a petition by the same accused persons, as long as the language they use is not ‘hateful’? I would be much more comfortable with a clear, though broad, policy by such a platform.   I have closed by change.org account  (Satish Barot on FB)

” I am a little shocked that we bothered Mr. Tumbler. When I think, you own change.org. It would be more official when you post it there. Innit ?” (Harish Iyer, Facebook)

I am frankly unconvinced by Change-org’s response, and as a user of Change in the past, may be forced to rethink my use of this platform. The simple question that bothers me is: how ‘neutral’ can such a platform be? If there is a petition demanding action against, say, Hindutva hate-speech or anti-dalit violence, will Change also host a petition by the same accused persons, as long as the language they use is not ‘hateful’? I would be much more comfortable with a clear, though broad, policy by such a platform.    ( Kavita Krishnan, New Delhi email )

I completely agree that the case of the NALSAR students whose privacy was invaded and who were morally policed by these mediapeople shows exactly why change.orgshould not accept petitions from all sources. Many of us followed Kamayani’s use of change.org because we believed the organization had an explicit pro-justice bias in the campaigns it took on. Having change.org be a neutral platform to be used by anybody, or accepting paid sponsorships means that the platform indeed becomes something like Facebook – a profit seeking platform which we can use but which is not by itself an ally. I urge change.org to discard labels like neutrality, openness and democracy- all of which are used in our current socioeconomic system to mean that those with money will have the loudest voice – and to take an explicit stand on promoting justice through their petitions…( Kaveri, Bangalore )

It is sad that every space has been taken over by the BUSINESS and MONEY MAKERS…. we think we are playing in a free ground but that ground is also owned by the same corrupt minds… Amir Rizvi, Mumbai

It is indeed time that the issue about online petitions was addressed in more detail. Having read your blog and the response by change.org leaves me to conclude that change.org is definitely on the back foot as it has not bothered to explain the selling of email ID’s names etc for proit to other NGO’s. This is the business model of all the online petition sites and that is how they manage to have fancy pay packages for their employees and maintain their infrastructure. Sure, change.org may well be a technology oriented, democratic organization, but that does not absolve it from carrying out unethical practices.

The argument that change.org allows opt-in is not a favor done by the organization towards its users. It is legally mandated that such services should opt-in rather than opt-out services (throw back to Google, Facebook and other litigation’s and their results)

What happens to these online petitions (apart from creating a few seconds of “awareness”) is also debatable. I wonder if change.org has devised any metric to track what effect their online petitions have made. Being a “technology driven” organization, they should have the the means to track the effects of their petitions and should release such audits from time to time to their users.

In summary, the business model of change.org appears to be simply that of any other aggregator/mass e-mailer. To cloak this behind a veil of social consciousness and activism is doing dis-service to others who actually get their hands dirty doing real work and not sit behind computer terminals in air-conditioned offices selling their databases to the highest bidder. (Anuj Wankhede, Delhi)

I am completely with you and also understand the concern you raised in your narration. Media being one of the institutions operated and controlled by capitalist and patriarchal values certainly is not going to take pro-women, pro-equality stand. The argument of change.org that they provide space for ‘activism’ seem to be not true unless they take a critical position on issues being raised in and through their space. What if tomorrow anti-women, anti-dalits, anti-muslims, anti-abortion, anti-poor, anti-rights, anti-tribal, anti-minority people start putting up their petitions through change.org? What would be the position of owners/facilitators of this space?

Request to change.org from my side is to upload their position on many of the issues they feel are the result of inequalities, historic and systemic nature of discrimination, coercive hierarchies and culture of violence. Anand Pawar, Pune

Change.org has crossed the line between change-making and profit-making  .

So people are not confused by my expose ,but more concerned !

#India – Sub Inspector – an eye witness to the brutal assault on dalits


SI of Kesara police station Mr Venkat was an eye witness to the brutal assault on dalits. – Human Rights Forum

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To

The District Collector and Magistrate

Ranga Reddy district, Hyderabad

Dear Madam

Sub: Attack on dalits (Madigas) of Rampally Dayara JNNURM Colony- assistance to victims of attack-regarding.

You are aware that more than 10 dalits of JNNURM Colony of Rampally Dayara in Keesara mandal of Ranga Reddy district were injured in an attack on them by persons belonging to non-dalit castes of Ramapally Dayara village on May 1 and 2, 2013.

In the JNNURM Colony, Ms. Balamma of Rampally Dayara runs a belt shop which is located very close to the houses of the dalits. Inebriated customers have been creating nuisance for the past one year to which the family of Mr. Indrala Kalyan,a dalit resident of the colony belonging to the Madiga caste, have been objecting. The dalits had even a lodged a complaint in the matter at the local Kesara police station exactly a year ago on 4 May 2012. The owners of the shops have the support of Mr. Kandadi Anji Reddy and Mr Kandadi Srinivas Reddy of Rampally Dayara, the main accused in the attack of last week. While Mr. Angi Reddy is the mandal president of TDP, Mr Srinivas Reddy is the former upa-sarpanch.

Most people living in the JNNURM Colony were earlier residents of various parts of the city, having shifted as benificiaries of the JNNURM scheme. None of them are economically secure and get by on daily wage labour. Over the past three years, the dalits have been at the receiving end of dominant treatment by the OCs and BCs of Rampally Dayara.

On May 1, Mr. Kalyan had an argument with Mr. Gunda Yadesh, an OC person who runs a kirana store in the colony. The same day, Ms Balamma, the owner of the belt shop came to Mr. Kalyan’s house along with some youth and threatened and injured his mother Ms Eswaramma. Mr. Kalyan’s brother, Mr. Sridhar, who is employed at Nizamabad, came down the next day and went to the police station to lodge a complaint against Mr. Yadesh and Ms Balamma. The latter also filed a counter case against Mr. Kalyan. Meanwhile, Mr. Anji Reddy and Mr Srinivas Reddy brought pressure on the police for a compromise and held discussions with Mr. Sridhar in the premises of the police station. They sought dropping of the case against Mr Yadesh and Ms Balamma but the dalits refused.

While this was going on, around 20 persons belonging to Rampally Dayara went to the JNNURM colony and attacked Mr. Anthony, Jyothi, (Kalyan’s wife) and Eswaramma. Mr Anthony suffered serious injuries to the head. The assailants abused the dalits invoking their Madiga caste in the filthiest of words. Terrified dalit women ran from their homes and hid in the burial ground nearby. One of the dalits immediately called Mr. Sridhar who was in the police station at the time. He in turn informed the same to the police. Two constables and later the SI of police Mr Venkat rushed to the colony but this did not deter a second attack by a group of over a 100 who arrived on motorcyles armed with sticks and iron rods. They were  led by Mr. Anji Reddy and Mr Srinivas Reddy. This time they injured over 8 persons including Mr. Kalyan and Mr. Sridhar and several women. They also threatened the dalit women with rape. In the second attack which took place around 10 pm, the SI of Kesara police station Mr Venkat was an eye witness to the brutal assault on dalits. We have to say that the police’s willingness to facilitate a compromise between the attackers and dalits in the initial stage emboldened the former to go for all out attack on the dalits.

Following this brutal assault, the police initially filed the FIR only under the section 307 of the IPC. However, on the evening of May 5 they invoked sections of the SC and SC (POA) Act 1989 which are clearly attracted.

The injured dalits are being treated at the Vijaya Hospital in Naagaram. The condition of Mr. Anthony, who sustained a fairly deep laceration on the head is cause for concern. Mr. Sridhar who sustained multiple fractures on his right hand requires surgery and is still waiting for clearance of Arogyasri. All the six dalits in hospital are unable to meet medical and other expenses and as such this is impacting their thorough treatment negatively. Till date, except the MRO no government official has even visited the victims.

We urge you to intervene immediately and extend all possible help to the dalit victims and their families. Kindly make arrangements for their comprehensive treatment. We also request you appoint a district level officer immediately to supervise the process of extending financial, medical and legal aid to the victims of the attack.

Do issue orders to extern from the district for two years those persons who led the attack on dalits of the JNNURM Colony. This is exssential because, given their social, political and economic clout, their presence in the area will certainly influence the prosecution process to the detriment of the dalits. We also urge you to recommend to the government and Election Commission to ban these persons from contesting elections in future.

Lastly, it must be pointed out that inspite of frequent and repeated instances of attacks on dalits and various ‘forms of untouchability’ being practised in Ranga Reddy district, the respective villages have not been notified duly as ‘atrocity-prone’.

K. Murali                                                                       V.S. Krishna

Member, State Committee                                  General Secretary

Human Rights Forum                                          Human Rights Fourm

 

 

Change.org – Sign the change you want to see #onlineactivism


The concept of online petitioning is riding high on the wave of social change sweeping the world. MANU MOUDGIL says that while the impact is promising, there are several roadblocks to be negotiated.
Posted/Updated Saturday, Apr 27 , thehoot.org
Every other day, a new mail drops into the inbox asking you to ‘change the world’ by signing a petition. It can be as serious an issue as seeking justice for an acid attack victim or as trivial as asking Justin Bieber to have a live concert in India. For an increasing number of urban Indians bred on concepts of equality and justice but frustrated by trappings of age-old power hierarchies of this country, the idea is promising. You don’t need to be a kurta-wearing social activist sitting on dharnas or a donor writing cheques to fund campaigns. Just filling in your name, email Id and postal code would do.
Petitioning around social campaigns has been in practice for decades but never has its impact been more pronounced than today when a call to ‘stop rape’ can gather 59,000 signatures in just 24 hours (On last count, the petition had 6.64 lakh signatures). For every signature, the decision makers get an email (many petitions also request the supporters to call the officials) thus ensuring constant pressure on them to act.
Two government school teachers in Jharkhand get paid after four years, five asphalt factories in Rajasthan shut down for causing air pollution, a discriminatory temple ritual is banned in Karnataka…the list goes on about the impact online petitions have made, though not singularly.
Online petitioning picked up pace in India after 2011 when Change.org, the world’s largest e-petition platform, started its operations here. Today, it has close to 6 lakh users with 600-800 petitions started every month, up from 11-15 petitions two years ago. Worldwide, it has operations in 18 countries and boasts of 35 million users.
Change.org also scores over other online platforms because of its support team, which helps build a communication strategy around selected petitions. In India, a small five-member team sends emails to users, talks to the media and suggests ways to engage with decision makers around campaigns which are bound to get popular support like the anti-rape petition started in wake of the Delhi gang-rape. The team works on 14-16 campaigns a week.
Everyone’s invited
 
One palpable difference online platforms have made in the field of campaigning is democratisation of the petitioning tool. Anybody can mobilise support for a cause they strongly feel about. Namita Bhandare, who started the anti-rape petition, had never participated in protest marches or candlelight vigils. She wrote the petition just to give vent to her anger and feeling of helplessness after the Delhi gang-rape. “At first, I questioned myself what would a petition do. In fact, now I realise that the recommendations we made in the petition were very basic and the Justice Verma Commission went much beyond as it factored in marital rape, action against armed forces and redefined sexual assault. However, filing that petition was cathartic for me. The tool lends power to the people who were earlier completely dependent on media or NGOs to mobilise support,” she says.
However, critics believe that e-petition promotes slacktivism or armchair activism which is also the reason it is so successful. It gives “false power” to those who feel helpless in face of problems they can’t control and prevents many of the supporters from participating in on-ground action. Preethi Herman, Campaigns Director at change.org laughs off such criticism. “We tend to assume that people just sign petitions. Online platform is the first point of engagement. They make telephone calls to decision makers, participate in offline events and help spread the word further. You can’t equate mobilisation with activism as it’s more about developing a larger support base for your cause. Most of the supporters are not activists but they do want a change,” she says.
Bhandare agrees: “ E-petition does sensitise one to the cause. You can’t just start a petition on rape and go to a cocktail party. I am sure many of the signatories to my petition also joined the on-ground protests.”
Change.org also collaborates with Video Volunteers and CGNet Swara, the two grassroots-level organisations which use video and audio media to highlight issues in rural India. “It was important for us to adapt to Indian conditions where Internet penetration is still very low. We work with Video Volunteers and CGNet Swara to identify issues in their areas which could be promoted online and hence bridge the gap between rural and urban population,” Herman says.
Tania Devaiah, the impacts manager at Video Volunteers, confirms that getting numbers behind a cause through online petition lends an institutional approach to the campaign. “Constant flow of emails and phone calls does build pressure on decision makers in comparison to a single approach of making and screening of videos. We pick up issues for online campaigns where either it’s difficult to make the authorities act or the cause has a universal appeal,” she adds. The next frontier change.org wants to conquer is to make the platform available in Hindi and adapt it to mobile phones.
The loopholes
Change.org believes that to get the desired impact, online petitions should be supported by on ground action, exposure in local media and interactions with decision makers. However, in many cases, the offline or on-ground mobilisation may be completely missing, thus putting a question mark on sustainability of the impact generated. For instance, a petition by Video Volunteers against a discriminatory practice in a Rajasthan village where a traditional practice of Dalit women carrying their footwear in their hands while crossing the houses of upper caste families garnered 5,480 signatures.
Acting on the petition, the District Collector along with other officials held a meeting in the village apprising them of the law banning caste discrimination and ordered that the practice be disallowed. However, the villagers did not even know that there was a campaign running on this issue and unknown people were playing their saviours over the Internet. The impact has been that the Dalits are now much more scared to talk about the discrimination, as mentioned by this report in Times of India. Herman refutes this claim, saying that the correspondent of Video Volunteers had mobilised Dalit women against this practice and villagers might be scared of talking to the media due to local power equations. However, independent inquiries made by The Hoot confirm that the action taken by the officials was solely on the basis of the online petition and there was no local campaign against the practice.
Verification of facts reported in the petition is another sore point. Though some petitions do carry images and videos related to the issue, there are chances that you might end up supporting a wrong cause. For instance, an incident in Hyderabad got two separate petitions running on the website. Girl college students coming out of a pub after a farewell party were accused by the regional news channels of creating nuisance at a public place and depicted as uncultured while the students blamed the media of moral policing and wrongful depiction. The chances are you may end up signing one of these petitions without getting to know the other side. Herman says since numerous petitions are created daily, it’s not possible to substantiate the facts presented in each of them but whenever the Change team works on and pushes a petition, the facts are verified in detail.
Values shortchanged?
Change.org claims to be a corporation using the power of business for social good. It made revenue by allowing sponsored petitions from progressive groups willing to shell out dollars to promote their campaigns. The concept has helped the company generate enough profit to make its functioning self-sustaining.
However, something changed in October last year when a leaked internal documentrevealed how the organisation was replacing its value-based advertising policy to an ‘open’ approach allowing even conservatives and corporates to use its resources. This invited widespread criticism from the progressive community which felt that the vast user database it helped build through the years was being sold to the opposition camp.
On the other hand, as underscored by Isaac Luria of Groundswell, organisations running social campaigns don’t get a full contact list of their supporters whom they could later invite to attend meetings, join local groups, or donate. “Of course, I could have bought the names that signed the petition on Change.org for around $500,000 or about $2 per name if I had the foresight before the campaign was launched or had the money,” he adds.
Change’s founder Ben Rattray responded to the criticism by arguing that the organisation “cannot maintain an open platform and simultaneously block all ads that don’t fit a particular political view” and ads from controversial groups would only be accepted if the platform has users interested in their work. He also emphasised that an open advertiser policy was essential to avoid being “regularly forced into unsustainable positions.”
However, not everybody was impressed with these clarifications. Kamayani Bali Mahabal, an online campaigner who has initiated a petition asking Rattray to come out clean, says the definition of openness pushed by Change.org is not in consonance with progressive principles. “I used to laugh at some of the inane petitions like the ones promoting homophobia or anti-abortion, as I was sure change.org will not give any support and the petition will die its own death. But with the new policy, anyone is eligible to advertise. So, after I sign a petition for human rights, I might find a link to a sponsored petition on giving legal recognition to khap panchayats,” she says.
Mahabal has now been trying other online platforms but is not happy with their technical support. For the time being, she is using her own blog to mobilise online support and is hopeful that Indian activists will have their own independent platform soon.
Meanwhile, as they say, every change is accompanied by discomforts. The question is how well can we deal with these.
Official recognition

Online petitioning is officially recognised in the US where the right to petition your government is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The White House hosts an online platform ‘We the People’ where any petition which gets 1,00,000 signatures within 30 days elicits a government response. The threshold before January 2013 was 25,000 signatures and one of the petitions which got the White House speaking was seeking ‘genocide’ status for the 1984 Sikh riots in India. The petition had more than 30,000 signatures.

original article http://thehoot.org/web/Signthechangeyouwanttosee/6753-1-1-12-true.html

#India – The Bastar Land Grab #tribalrights #indigenousrights


 An Interview with Sudha Bharadwaj

April 20, 2013

This intervew with SUDHA BHARADWAJ of Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha was conducted by JUSTIN PODUR in Raipur on 5 March 2013

JP: As a lawyer and an activist, how do you see the relationship between legal work and activism?

SB: I see myself primarily as a trade unionist. I joined the union movement over twenty years ago, and it was the union that made me a lawyer. They felt that workers needed a good lawyer in their fight with the corporations. Our union is one of contract workers and has been striving to overcome divisions in the working class. Here, workers have a close connection with the peasants. So, we believe that working with the peasants is part of unionism.

When I got to the High Court, I found that all the people’s organizations were in a similar situation. The laws that give you rights are poorly implemented. When you fight, the status quo has many legal weapons, launches malicious litigation, etc. So we have a group of lawyers now (Janhit), and we work on group legal aid, not individual legal aid. The idea is that if you help a group, that can bring about some kind of change, create some space. I’ve also gotten involved with the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), for which I am the General Secretary in Chhattisgarh.

JP: Can you give examples of some of these struggles?

SB: We organize in the cement industry. One major corporation is Holcim, a Swiss multinational, that has taken over ACC and Ambuja, though these Indian corporations continue to retain their brand names. Holcim  has closed down its Spanish and American plants and has come here. Why? If you look at  returns on investment in this industry globally, they are 1.3%. In India, they are 13%. These multinationals have come here with deep pockets, and they have gotten a stranglehold over local administration – the ministers, the officers  of the forest, labor, mining and pollution departments – they have that capacity.

In the cement industry, there is a Wage Board Agreement that says no contract labor can be employed in the cement industry except in loading/unloading and packing, and even then they have to paid at the same rate as regular workers. But actually these multinational plants are using contract labor for all processes of cement production and paying paltry minimum wages, ignoring the law. When we take the struggle to the streets, they use the law against our workers. Ambuja in particular has been very vindictive. One of the leaders in the struggle spent 13 months in jail on a trumped charge of looting a mobile and Rs. 3500 from a Security Officer.

Look at the level of extraction. Contract workers at Ambuja get 180 Rs per day (less then $4), at ACC 200 Rs per day ($4). A permanent worker would get 700 Rs per day ($14). The Swiss worker gets 2500 Rs ($50), and the CEO gets 2.2 lakhs per day ($4400). The largest share holder Thomas Schmidheinney gets 2 crore per day ($400,000). Even getting basic labor rights is very, very tough and workers realize that the corporations are in an even more intense fight with the peasants and adivasis.

JP: And there are attempts at common struggles between workers and adivasis and peasants?

SB: There are. Our union is  a member of a platform called Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan which has  mass organisations like the Adivasi Mahasabha, Bharat Jan Andolan, Gondwana Gantantra Party etc., and most importantly many small village community organisations which are fighting displacement and trying to enforce the PESA act and Forest Rights Acts because individual struggles are just being crushed. This is an election year, so we might see some gestures from Congress, to cash in on the simmering discontent, but usually the political representatives of all parties have been trying to buy off opposition. The CBA may have critical mass one day. That’s what we hoped when it was  founded  2-3 years ago.

JP: I’ve been trying to understand what is happening in the forest, in Bastar.

SB: Take a look at a map of the periphery of Chhattisgarh. If you overlay maps of forests, of adivasi villages, of minerals you’ll find almost perfect overlap. When Chhattisgarh was created in 2000, carved out of Madhya Pradesh, the first Chief Minister coined a phrase, he said it was “rich land, poor people ”. In the 12 years since its creation, the people have become poorer, and more riches have been discovered in the land. This state is full of minerals – 19% of India’s iron ore, 11% of the coal, bauxite, limestone, all kinds of priceless minerals.

Paradoxically to understand Bastar, that is South Chhattisgarh, the place to start is north Chhattisgarh. In the north, in Raigarh, you will enter Jindal country, you’ll see Jindal everywhere. In 12 years, in Raigarh alone, 26,000 acres of agricultural land have gone for mining and plants. Where are the people supposed to go? Inequalities have intensified.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s the Maoists came into the northern district of Sarguja and were crushed. They came from Jharkhand. They redistributed some land. There were 20-25 encounter killings of their leaders, and many adivasi people are still in jail. Surguja has bauxite. It is densely forested. The forest ministry said it was pristine jungle,  a ‘no-go’ area for mining. The Chhattisgarh government made it a ‘go’ zone, with a rail corridor and power plants. In one village, Premnagar, the Gram Sabha (village-level government) voted 12-15 times, saying they didn’t want a power plant, they argued it out in a reasoned manner. That is because in a Scheduled Area (tribal dominated) the Gram Sabha has sweeping powers. So the State government, by a notification, changed the Gram Panchayat into a Nagar Panchayat  (municipal council) and took away its powers! This is unconstitutional, of course, but the final judgment  never seems to happen and there’s no interim relief – so the land grab can proceed in the meantime. Every possible protest is thrown to the winds.

JP: What is the role of privatization in this process?

SB: Mining for companies is based on leases with land owners, not by land acquisition. Earlier  leases used to only be given to the public sector, and you could not mine unless you built a plant. Now, with Public Private Partnerships (PPP), private companies can just mine, and even if it is not for captive use. This leads to ‘dig-and-sell’, a robber-baron kind of situation.

Kosampali village in Raigarh is surrounded by a 150ft deep Jindal mine on two sides. On the third side is the river. The people of the village have only one way out, and that land is scheduled for mining too. They are doomed  to become an island.

What does the law say about this? When the mining company applies for the lease, the application asks: does the applicant have surface rights? If not, has the consent of the owner/occupier been obtained? If the answer to these questions is no, then the application should be sent back immediately to obtain those consents. But instead, the mining company writes: “consent will be obtained”, and gets through this giant loophole that says “consent may be given after lease, but before entry”. So the government comes to the rescue of the mining company. The Tehsildar (a revenue official lower in rank to the District Collector) posts notice listing out all the plots in the lease, saying – come and collect your compensation as per the Land Acquisition Act. They don’t tell people that they have a choice not to consent. Normally people take it as a fait accompli. They come and take the compensation, and their consent is then assumed. In cases where villagers take the compensation, they try to buy land in other villages, and often the local people there see them as outsiders and don’t let them settle But the people of Kosampalli are saying, “No amount of money can compensate us if you take away these last lands for mining, because we won’t be able to live here any more.”  Our legal office managed to get a stay on the mining, and it’s fixed for final hearing. Jindal’s lawyer is the son of a Supreme Court judge. He is a Member of Parliament fom the town of Puri. Once the Jindal Company, at its own expense, took all the  judges of district Raigarh on a pilgrimage.

If you’re in Chhattisgarh, you should visit Jashpur district. It’s pristine forest at the moment, but the prospecting licenses cover the whole district. A whole hill and plateau atop it called Pandrapat where the Pahadi Korva primitive tribes reside is covered by bauxite mining leases. After the elections are over, mining will start, and the forest will be devastated.

JP: Talk a bit about the politics of power in this region.

SB: Janjgir-Champa, another district in the north, is a drought-prone area. The government invested in irrigation, and got 78% of the district irrigated. But now there are plans for 34 power plants using that water. There are plans for 70 plants in Chhattisgarh, to produce 60,000 MW. The peak electricity requirement in the state is 2500 MW, and we already have 5000 MW capacity. So are we selling it to our neighbours? Well, Andhra Pradesh is planning for capacity of 45000 MW, Gujarat 45000 MW, Madhya Pradesh the same. So what is going on? I think it is not about power. It is for the mining. There are 200,000 acres of land allocated for these plants, 100,000 acres for mining. The water required for these plants is more than all the surface water we have, so we’re going to dip deep into the ground water.

This is a net transfer of land and minerals to the private sector. When the global financial crisis set in, multinationals have begun to come here and continue to make huge profits by collaborating with Indian corporations. So Tata will be the Indian face of Corus when it needs iron ore. Foreign mining might face trouble – but if you have a great Indian company mining, no trouble.

Once you understand this pressure for mining, this pressure for land – then you can understand South Chhattisgarh, that is, Bastar.

JP: Bastar, where the Maoists are.

SB: The Naxals came to Bastar in the 1980s. The area was totally neglected. It was considered a “punishment posting” for the government officials who got posted there. Exploitation was blatant and brutal, of the forest peoples and adivasis. Many of the adivasis made their living collecting tendu leaves (used for rolling bidi cigarettes). There were huge movements to get the adivasis better prices for their tendu leaves, and the Naxals built a solid base with these movements.

By 2005, according to the Director General of Police (DGP) at the time, there were 50,000 Sangham members (unarmed members of the front organisations of  the Maoists). That might even have been an  underestimate. Thus there was this a huge area where the Forest Department and police couldn’t go, but teachers, doctors, were allowed. It was after  Salwa Judum), that violence greatly increased.. And the period of Salwa Judum correlates with the MOUs and the land grab some 2200 ha were granted to Tataand a similar amount to Essar, for iron ore prospecting.

So in  Bastar the state has this predicament. They want the minerals, they even want the forests a little bit for carbon credits, but they don’t want the people. In 2005, Salwa Judum starts. It’s typical strategic hamleting, moving people out of the villages and into camps. A similar approach was taken to insurgencies in the Northeast, in Mizoram and Tripura, for example. Here, they emptied 644 villages, by the government’s admission, 350,000 people. About 50,000 were brought to the camps, and today these camps still have about 10,000 people. Some fled to neighbouring states particularly Andhra Pradesh.Where are the rest? They seem to have gone even deeper into the forest, probably 200,000 people. . They try to cultivate and live in the forest, but they are being treated as outlaws.This displacement has been  a very violent process. There are  affidavits, evidence in the  “Salwa Judum” cases filed in the Supreme Court (Nandini Sundar’s case and Kartam Joga’s case). In one block alone, the Konta block, there were 500 deaths, 99 rapes, 2000 houses burned. This was a violent, state-backed vigilante movement, and was also essentially pushed back militarily by the Maoists.

The notion  of a few Maoists manipulating people is a bit simplistic. Even in the newspapers , when they describe ambushes, they describe 700, or 1000 attackers at times. Getting 700 people to a rally is difficult for us in the democratic movement. If 700 people are going to war, they must be looking upon it like an adivasi or national liberation struggle. And it is the State that has forced them to choose one side or the other.

JP: I’d never heard it characterized that way.

SB: Yes, you could say it’s a tribal rebellion, backed by the Maoists, who are ideological. But many  ordinary people who join it see it as the only way they can save their land.

Those of us in the democratic movement, in the PUCL, we say to the state: de-escalate the violence. Let people  come back to their villages. Let there be civilian administration. Let the teachers go back. The state has moved the schools, the ration shops, even the voting machines, to the Salwa Judum camps. How can you not have rigged voting in that context?

If you, as the State, think of these people in the jungle as outlaws, you’re ultimately behaving like an occupying army. The Indian army is also here, they came a year ago. There was a rally, of 700 elected representatives, sarpanches, panches, who went to the Collector and said, we don’t want army bases here, but no action seems to have been taken on their demands.

According to international law, indigenous people have the right to say no to projects on their land. In Indian law, inherited from the British, the tribal dominated areas are called  Scheduled Areas. Under the British, they were called Excluded and Partially Excluded areas. They were administered directly by the Union Government, through the Governor, not by the State Legislature. So, it was understood that these areas were a special case. According to the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act, the Gram Sabha is supposed to make the decisions, it is to be consulted for all developmental projects. Even under the Forest Rights Area, it is the Gram Sabha which declares and verifies rights both individual and collective. It’s supposed to be direct democracy in the tribal areas.

So we say, let it be implemented. If the adivasis, through the Gram Sabhas, say they want a freeze on MOUs, because their experience is terrible, with iron ore going to Japan for 400 Rs/ton ($8) while locals get no benefit, not to mention all the ecological damage, then you have to convince them. If it isn’t implemented, this will get worse and worse.

The government, internationally, says there is no internal armed conflict, because it doesn’t want any international involvement, no UN, no MSF, no Amnesty International eyes here. But internally, it labels the Maoists as the ‘greatest internal security threat’.

JP: Would international attention on this conflict be positive?

SB: It would be good. The Government would  have to then worry about civilian casualties. They ought to have nothing to lose. Why not allow the international community to monitor the situation? If you don’t, you are all but admitting that what you want to really want to do is a massive ground clearing operation. When there is a virtual war going on, recognition that it is going on would be better.

There was this village, Sarkeguda. It was very strong. The villagers refused to leave when the Salwa Judum started. Finally some people were killed by the Salwa Judum, some arrested and houses burnt, so in 2006 they fled to Andhra. NGOs like Himanshu Kumar’s Vanvasi Chetna Ashram, and the Agricultural and Social Development Society (ASDS), Khamam tried to rehabilitate some of these villages as had been recommended by the NHRC. They came back in 2009 and look again at what happened on 28-29 June 2012 – another fake encounter, 17 killed, 7 of them children. Eight years after their displacement, Sarkeguda is still trying to get re-established. They are feeling like the state doesn’t want them to live there.

Young men and women fear arrest when they go to the ration shop. When they go, their rations are carefully measured so they don’t have any extra, supposedly because it would go to the Maoists. There’s this total denial of basic human needs. They justify killings with this twisted logic. Earlier 17 people were killed in a faked encounter in Singavaram. The Superintendent of Police, Rahul Sharma, was sure that  someone “was or was close to Naxals” because  tablets of  chloroquine and a bottle of dettol were found on her person!

The government shows no interest in stopping the war through negotiation. A Maoist spokesperson who was coming forward for talks, Azad, was killed. A West Bengal Maoist leader who was in negotiation with the State Government, Kishenji, was killed. They state continues their military buildup and labels all the adivasis as Maoists. There are thousands of adivasis in jail, awaiting trial. When the police go into the jungle, they go in their hundreds, they pick up all those of  a  village who have not been able to run away, and bring everyone to jail. Most of these people, who speak adivasi languages and don’t speak Hindi,  have no interpreters, so they lie in jail and wait for acquittal – which will come, because there is no evidence against them. But they are waiting in a Central Jail, their family can’t see them, the lawyers don’t want to, because they get their photos taken and become known as “Naxal lawyers”.

The government has this Special Public Safety Act (SPSA), which means any “aid” to the Naxals is illegal irrespective of their knowledge, or intention that they are aiding.. In Bilaspur, tradespeople who sell olive green cloth are being prosecuted for  “supplying Naxal uniform”. There’s a military phrase for the action of security forces in that area – “Area domination” which means “Squash them all”. It doesn’t work, What happened in Kashmir? They “rooted out the militants”, now they have boys throwing stones. There’s huge anger, and the government is  not willing to come to terms with it.

In other areas, like the POSCO affected area in Odisha, people are struggling in different ways. The entire adivasi belt from North Bengal to Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh extending upto Vidharbha  is seeing huge struggles for land and forests, not just Bastar. And, unless the state decides to commit genocide, which is possible, this is not going to go away.

I think it’s time to rethink “rich land, poor people”. We allow private parties to dig up  the minerals, then what? Smart people don’t use up their own resources. The US still has oil, even though it was discovered hundreds of years ago. We in India are going to sell away  everything we have and cry afterwards, and we are going to violate all of our principles and the rights of our peoples to do it.

JP: How to resist this?

SB: As Marxists we have a notion of the State, of a system. Today the prospect of people getting their rights within  the system – through the executive, judiciary, or legislature – has shrunk. The system is not working. It has to change. Now, the Maoists have a strategy, they believe in the overthrow of that system. But democrats like us, we are confused. Some of us believe that we can transform the system through elections. The Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha has a flexible approach to elections. We’re not against elections and use different methods of contesting or opposing a particular candidate or supporting a particular candidate depending on what strengthens our organisation, but we don’t believe that they will change the system. In these elections where lakhs of rupees are spent even on village-level elections, and crores on MP or MLA elections, ordinary people trying to get heard among all this money is like giving a philosophy lecture in a disco. It’s ridiculous. The media is corporatized. While the media covered Anna Hazare, he had a huge movement. Then they just turned it off.

I watched how they dealt with the Occupy movement in the UK. They were frozen out, shut out of the conversation, isolated, and after some time, their tents were removed. It was a smart strategy. And the Indian state is no less smart. It’s very clever. Look in the Northeast, in Kashmir, in Bastar, in Gujarat. People are excluded, compartmentalized. We can’t get our act together.

As CMM, we refuse to remain silent on events in Bastar like the fake encounters or the adivasis languishing in jails,  just to be in the good books of the State. Some people say, armed movements invite repression. But all movements invite repression. They killed our leader Comrade Shankar Guha Niyogi in 1991, and workers have died in police firings in 1977, 1984 and 1991. Today our activists face the risk of being booked under the Chhattisgarh Special Security Act for this eminently democratic work. (http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/article2497776.ece). Still, we keep trying to work legally, democratically, and do mass mobilization, express solidarities, try to widen the circle.

Justin Podur is a Toronto-based writer and professor at York University, currently a visiting professor at Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi. His blog is www.killingtrain.com and twitter is www.twitter.com/justinpodur

 

“Emission from Sterlite plant was above permissible level”


Chennai, April 16, 2013

Special Correspondent

A view of the Main entrance of Sterlite Industry in Tuticorin. The plant has been closed following an order by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board.
The Hindu Photo Library A view of the Main entrance of Sterlite Industry in Tuticorin. The plant has been closed following an order by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board.

People complained of eye irritation, constant cough: Minister

Emission of sulphur dioxide from the Sterlite factory in Tuticorin above the permissible level led to people complaining about the plant, Environment Minister M.C. Sampath told the Assembly on Tuesday.

Replying to a calling attention motion, the Minister said continuous monitoring of sulphur dioxide by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) had clearly proved increased emission of gas from the plant on March 23, 2013.

He said people from Meelavittan, Anna Nagar, Brian Nagar, George Road and Thivipuram had complained of irritation in eyes, constant cough and choked throat condition and made a representation to the district Collector. Subsequently the Collector asked the district environmental engineer to take immediate action.

Mr. Sampath said according to National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOH) if the level of sulphur dioxide exceeded 5 parts per million (ppm), it would cause health hazards including eye irritation, cough and choked throat condition.

When the company was asked to explain about the emission of Sulphur dioxide above the permission level, it had informed the Pollution Control Board that the online continuous sulphur dioxide stack monitor was under maintenance. But it had failed to inform the TPCB about temporary suspension of monitor and resuming its operations.

The Minister said while issuing orders for closing the copper smelter division TNPC also directed termination of power supply to the plant.

The company approached the Green Bench and the Bench in its interim order had directed constitution of two-member expert committee.

The names of the experts would be announced on April 18 and the report would be submitted on 29 of the month, the bench had said.

 

Vedanta-Sterlite – Dangerous by Design #CSR #Humanrightsviolations


 Nityanand Jayaraman

MARCH 28, 2013
 at kafila.org

Guest Post by  NITYANAND JAYARAMAN 

Tuticorin Oct 2010 298

A toxic hotspot in the backyard of a house in Therkuveerapandiapuram, a village adjoining the Sterlite factory.  Dangerous levels of iron and arsenic were found in the soil here. (Picture by Nityanand Jayaraman)

On 23 March, 2013, a toxic gas leak from Vedanta-subsidary Sterlite’s copper smelter in Thoothukudi spread panic and discomfort for several kilometres around the plant. The leak once again highlighted the increased potential for major catastrophes due to an atmosphere of collusion between regulators and polluters. The company, which was shut down for maintenance, resumed operations in the early hours of 23 March. Within hours, people in the nearby areas complained of suffocation and eye and nose irritation. A 35-year old Bihari contract labourer, who was working at Sterlite’s thermal power plant nearly a kilometre away, reportedly succumbed to the effects of the toxic gas. Irate residents rallied to the District Collector’s office demanding permanent closure of the offending factory.

The District Collector suggested that sulphur dioxide may have been the culprit. But anyone who knows the history of this plant would lay the blame not on this gas or that, but squarely on pliant regulators, and perhaps the judiciary.

The 1200 tonne per day (tpd) copper smelter was constructed in two phases – both with dubious legality – with active support of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB), the Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) and the chairperson of the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee (SCMC). In September 2004, when SCMC visited Thoothukudi, it found that Sterlite had constructed a 900 tonne per day copper smelter complex without obtaining an Envirnomental Clearance from the MoEF. Neither did the plant have the mandatory Consents to Establish under Air and Water Acts.

Citing poor pollution management, the SCMC recommended that clearance should not be given. It ordered the TNPCB to verify the illegal constructions and take action. Contrary to recommendations, clearance was given a day after of the Committee’s visit to Sterlite. TNPCB inspected and confirmed the illegal constructions, but did nothing more.

On 7 April, 2005, a director at the MoEF wrote to the chairperson of TNPCB urging her to grant a Consent to Operate to Sterlite. “The directions issued by SCMC in this regard has (sic) been discussed with Chairman, SCMC, who has desired that TNPCB may now decide regarding granting consent for expansion to M/s Sterlite Industries India Ltd (SIIL) Tuticorin, Tamilnadu,” she wrote. The Air and Water Acts do not have any provision for legalising units constructed without a valid Consent to Establish. TNPCB obliged and issued a consent on 19 April 2005.

Sterlite went on to expand its capacity to 1200 tpd. To get its licenses, Sterlite exaggerated the extent of land in its possession. In 2007, Sterlite submitted an Environment Impact Assessment report that suggested that it had greened 26 hectares of its 102.5 hectare plant site. It claimed that it had sufficient lands – about 176 ha — in its possession to accommodate the expanded capacity and the resultant pollution (solid waste, air emission and effluents). It promised to plant 43 hectares with pollution-abating trees. Subsequent inspection reports by the TNPCB even state that the company had greened 25 percent of its 176 hectare land holding.

On 28 September 2010, the Madras High Court ordered closure of the copper plant. One key grounds for closure was the industry’s failure to comply with the condition requiring the development of a 25 metre greenbelt around the factory. TNPCB was chided for arbitrarily reducing the greenbelt requirement from 250 metres to 25 metres in response to Sterlite’s lament about high land costs associated with the wider belt.

The Madras High Court had rightly held that the failure to comply with greenbelt requirements was a crippling lapse. Indeed, had a thick belt existed, the effects of the recent gas leak would not have reached the city.
When Sterlite was shut down by the High Court, the factory was running without valid licenses under Air and Water Acts. Two days later, the Supreme Court stayed the High Court order and unwittingly authorised the unlicensed operation of a disputed facility.

In May 2011, Sterlite’s non-compliance of greenbelt requirements and its land fraud came to light in a report submitted by NEERI to the Supreme Court. Against a requirement of 176 hectares for the 1200 tonne plant, Sterlite had only 102.5 hectares, the report found. Also, less than 13 hectares – as against 43 hectares – had been greened.

Since October 2010, Sterlite has functioned on leave granted by the Supreme Court. During the apex court’s watch, at least 8 hazardous incidents were recorded where 3 workers were killed, four more injured. Several hundred people in the vicinity of the plant have been gassed.

Under the circumstances, faith in the rule of law is not an easy belief system to sustain.

UPDATE

Thoothukudi Gears up For Major Showdown with Sterlite

27 March, 2013. Thoothukudi – Residents of the coastal Tamilnadu town of Thoothukudi are gearing up for a major showdown with Sterlite on 28 March, less than a week after a massive gas leak injured hundreds of people for kilometres around the company’s controversial copper smelter. Numerous groups, cutting across political lines, will march from the city to Sterlite’s gates demanding its permanent closure. In the 20 years that it has functioned, Sterlite has been blamed for numerous mishaps, deaths and injuries. It has been closed twice by the Madras High Court, including in September 2010 when the High Court shut it down through its final order arguing that the company had violated siting setbacks, pollution norms and licence conditions.Tomorrow’s rally is gathering massive support as the Tamil Nadu Federation of Merchants led by Vellian, and the Esakkimuthu Conch Divers Association have said they will participate in the strike. The call for the strike was originally given by Vaiko, a political leader of the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, who said that this was an issue that transcended politics, and that the residents are united in their desire to rid their city of Sterlite’s Bhopal-like factory. Other prominent Thoothukudi-based workers organisations too have committed their support to the strike. The Anna Bus Stand Taxi Drivers Association, and the Anna Bus Stand Auto Drivers Welfare Association with nearly 200 auto drivers as members have said they will boycott work and join the residents demanding closure of Sterlite. Many more organisations and political parties are expected to join.“We are very angry. We have seen numerous such agitations start and then stop. We want an end to this nonsense. Sterlite must be shut down,” said 55 year old M. Shanmugavelu, Presidents of the Auto workers Association.

34-year old M. Kishorekumar, who is the president of Taxi Drivers Association clarifies that they are not opposed to industries. “We want good industries to come to Thoothukudi, to Tamil Nadu. But Sterlite is not good for us. It is a dangerous factory. We have to think about our futures too,” he says. “My 11-year old son suffered because of the gas leak. It is now three days since the leak, and he is still complaining of head ache, eye and throat irritation, a bitter taste in his mouth and has no appetite. I have had to take him to hospital for three days. He has to go to school with all this because it is examination time,” Kishorekumar says.

List of Hazardous Incidents at Sterlite Industries between October 2010 and March 2013 during the time the plant has run on leave granted by Hon’ble Supreme Court.

Compiled by Nityanand Jayaraman, based on reports by Sterlite workers

Total: 3 dead; several injured in 8 incidents

Date

Incident

Number Dead/Injured

8.3.2013

Amalan, 30, sustained serious injuries after an electrical fire broke out at Motor Control Room of Phosphoric Acid Plant.

1 injured

18.3.2013

Swaminathan, 50, killed after falling into Phosphoric Acid tank. Due to the poor light conditions, the worker tripped on the scaffolding and fell 15 metres into an open and empty tank.

1 dead

23.3.2013

Massive gas leak, suspected to be Sulphur dioxide or trioxide, causes suffocation and panic around the Sterlite Copper plant. One Sterlite contract worker, Shailesh Mahadev, 35, reportedly succumbed to exposure to the gas.

1 dead; several injured

23.8.2011

One North Indian worker, sourced by labour contractor Lohit, and employed by Mahesh Engineering was injured while working in the Phosphoric Acid Plant. Workers, who said very little information was available about his condition and what actually happened. He is reported to have had 5 stitches.

1 injured

17.8.2011

A white gas (suspected to be Sulphur Dioxide) escaped for about 45 minutes at ground level throwing a scare among Sterlite workers, after a power outage caused a shutdown of the Copper smelter and sulphuric acid plant at around 10 a.m. today (17 August, 2011). The wind was blowing from East to West and carried the smoke away from the highway and the Milavittan village.

13.8.2011

Thangapandi, a 32-year old contract worker, engaged by OEG Ltd to work in Sterlite’s copper smelter factory sustained first degree burns due to an electrical accident. Thangapandi is a resident of Pandarampatti.

1 injured

31.5.2011

Amalanathan, a 28-year old crane maintenance mechanic, was electrocuted and killed in Vedanta-subsidiary Sterlite Copper’s premises today. According to workers, Amalanathan died on the spot at around 11.30 a.m. As of 3.30 p.m., the police had not yet registered a First Information Report. According to a Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) party worker, it was only after the communist unions and MDMK intervened by staging a road blockade did the Police even enter the scene. Amalanathan, who was married barely 3 months ago, is a resident of a locality called 3rd Mile, near Sterlite.

1 dead

3.3.2011

Ratheesh, a young contract employee from Sterlite, sustained 30 to 35 percent burn injuries on chest and hand. He was admitted to Apollo Hospital, Madurai, and underwent treatment until 24.3.2011. Inpatient Number: 205688. Referred by Dr. Vanitha Stephen, Tuticorin.

1 injured

 

Nityanand is a Chennai-based writer and environmental activist.

#India – Sterlite worker succumbs to gas leak, residents demand plant closure


March 26th, 2013, tnlabour.in

Thoothukudy, March 25, 2013: One worker, reportedly a 35-year old man from Bihar, succumbs to effects of gas exposure following a poisonous gas leak from front of the Sterlite Copper Smelter on 23rd March 2013. The body of the deceased hospital was kept in the mortuary of the government hospital even as SIPCOT Police Station officials stated that they had no intimation of the worker’s death. According to other workers, the deceased worker was working in Sterlite’s captive power plant across the highway from the smelter. Following the gas leak, he reportedly complained of suffocation and subsequently collapsed. With this incident, Sterlite has witnessed 3 hazardous events this month resulting in at least 2 deaths and 1 serious injury. Irate Thoothukudy residents led by political leader Vaiko staged a demonstration at the District Collector’s office, demanding closure of the copper smelter. Vaiko has announced a march from the city to the Sterlite gates on 28th March, with a single point demand seeking closure of the plant.

The company which was shut down by the Madras High Court in September 2010 is currently operating on leave granted by the Supreme Court.

 

Woman judicial officer found dead in Odisha #Vaw


 HT
Balasore, March 16, 2013
 
Body of a judicial officer was today recovered from her official residence at Rajabagicha in Balasore town, police said here. Body of 32-year Anupama Behera, an officer of the Odisha Judicial Service, who used to stay alone, was recovered this morning, they said. “A scientific  
team and a sniffer dog have been engaged to investigate the death Behera. The body has been sent for autopsy,” a police officer said. 

Police came to know of the incident last night. They sealed the house and deployed a police guard outside the residence this morning, the officer said.

Though preliminary investigation suggests it could be a case of smothering and homicide, details would be known after autopsy, the police said.

As the body was getting decomposed it is suspected that it must have been lying there for over 24 hours, the officer said.

Anupama Behera, an officer of the Odisha Judicial Service (OJS), was posted as Process Inspector in the District Judicial Court at Balasore.

She was staying alone as her husband is a doctor posted at Kanasa in Puri district.

She had recently been transferred to Koraput as Sub-judge and was to join there on March 25.

 

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