Terror Without a Clue- Peoples Hearing Court #Fabricated


The Indian Police has been methodically harassing those protesting the State’s atrocities by framing false charges against activists and citizens concerned, finds a People’s Hearing Court

Shazia Nigar
New Delhi, Oct 2, 2012

The People’s Hearing on Fabricated Cases, organised by academicians, civil society groups and concerned citizens, was held in the capital on 28 and 29 September. Even though those who deposed before the court came from places as varied as Jammu & Kashmir, Odisha, Jaitapur (Maharashtra) and the Northeast, but their stories were uncannily similar: fabricated cases, harassment and the use of the legal machinery to shrink the democratic space that is enshrined in the Constitution.

Abhay Sahoo, leader of Posco Protirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), from Paradip in Odisha, is a case in point. PPSS has been actively resisting the establishment of an integrated steel plant and a captive port by POSCO, a South Korean company, for the last seven years. The reason behind the sustained struggle is that more than 22,000 people belonging to Paradip will lose their land, livelihood and a sense of identity if the project goes ahead. Despite the peaceful and democratic form of protest employed by the locals, the government has strategically employed every means – democratic and undemocratic – to hand over the land to POSCO.

One of the strategies employed by the government, as Sahoo explains, is, “False cases. It is a weapon in the hands of the state governments to stop popular mass movements that demoralises activists and creates an atmosphere of fear. Almost 10,000 people involved with PPSS have not been able to come out of their villages for the last seven years. Isn’t this a lot more than a silent emergency?”

Implicated in fifty cases, ranging from murder, sexual assault, atrocities against Dalits and wrongful confinement, Sahoo spent fourteen months in jail in 2008-09 and another five months in 2011-12. Sahoo is not alone. There is Manorama, a young woman leader of PPSS implicated in 38 cases, including, bizarrely, charges of rape. Then there is Kamlesh who was implicated in a case that took place while he was still in custody. Besides these, 208 cases have been registered against 1,400 men and women who have dared to exercise their democratic rights. Fear of arrest makes it impossible for people to step out of their villages for basic needs such as medical treatment, education and even daily rations. The police are unable to pick them up from within the villages because of the strong resistance in the form of gheraos.

“Until now, I had been speaking about only others being implicated in fabricated cases,” said Seema Azad, a member of People’s Union of Civil Liberties and a journalist withDastak Ki Nai Awaaz in Lucknow. Today, she needs to defend her own case in a people’s court. She was arrested and spent a year-and-a-half in jail on charges of sedition and being a Maoist.

“Like in most fabricated cases, in my case, too, the place and time of my arrest in the police records are wrong. I was picked up in the morning, but the chargesheet says I was picked up at night. That day, I was carrying books with me, but they weren’t Maoist literature. The police planted these books. It’s not that I don’t read Maoist books, but on that particular day I didn’t have any on me.”

Throwing light on the dubious investigations carried out by the police, she recounted being asked whether she had visited Vishwanath temple. When she responded in the affirmative, the police said it was impossible because Maoists don’t visit temples. Then she was asked if she exercised, and on answering in the negative, she was told, “You must be exercising, as all Maoists do.”

“We should not call ourselves victims, we are the agents of change” said Shahina KK, a journalist and recipient of the Chameli Devi Award. She has been falsely implicated for ‘intimidating’ witnesses in the Muslim political leader Abdul Nasir Madani case. While at TEHELKA, Shahina had written an investigative piece on the fabricated case against Madani. But in an attempt to silence her, she was implicated in one.

Shahina says when she gathered some concrete evidence on how the false case against Madani had been built up, she received a call from the police, asking, “ Madam, everybody here says you are a terrorist. Are you?” Presently out on bail, she has to show up at the Bangalore High Court every month. For how long she might have to do that she doesn’t know, as the chargesheet has not yet been filed.

The others deposing at the hearing on day one were Shauzab Kazmi, son of Urdu journalist Syed Ahmed Kazmi who has been arrested allegedly in the Israeli embassy car blast case, and activists from Koodankulam and Jaitapur.

“Chaman Mein Har Taraf Bikhri Hui Hai Dastan Meri, Khamoshi Guftugu Hai, Be-Zubani Hai Zuban Meri”. Anjum Zamrud Habib from Kashmir described the situation in the valley by borrowing these words from Iqbal. A member of Muslim Women’s Organisation, she shared her experience of having to spend five years in Tihar Jail on being falsely implicated under POTA, and used the platform to talk about the clampdown of the State on anyone daring to stand for their rights in Kashmir. Babloo Loitongbam spoke on the extra-judicial killing of 1,500 people in Manipur; Omar Mukhtar and former MP Sabastian Paul spoke on behalf of Maulana Abdul Maudany.

Emphasising the need for documentation of such cases, Sajeed K, one of the organisers, said, “Until 2008, there did not exist any discourse on how the police was systemically targeting Muslims. It was then that we published a series on fabricated cases in TEHELKA, with relation to SIMI. Of course, the fabrication of the cases is not just against Muslims. Over the years, we have seen how the Indian police has systemically implicated human rights activists and community leaders who are leading campaigns against state terrorism. We need to keep up the pressure.”

The jury, consisting of Justice Rajinder Sachar, Saba Naqvi, Binayak Sen, Ajit Sahi and Ram Puniyani pronounced its verdict in favour of the people questioning the systemic and deliberate attempt to shrink democratic space for any dissent. It stated, “The role of the Indian state in fabricating cases of sedition and terrorism to implicate tens of thousands of innocent citizens across India has been thoroughly exposed in testimony after testimony presented at the People’s Hearing on Fabricated Cases.”

letters@tehelka.com

Assam riots: Real issue is development


 

 

Ram Puniyani says end of propaganda politics can help people understand actual problems, in Tehelka

PRIME MINISTER Manmohan Singh has called the recent violence in Assam a blot to the nation. Fifty three people have died and almost four lakh people have been rendered homeless in the clashes that occurred last week in Khokrajhar and Chirang districts, between Bodos and ‘illegal Bangladeshi infiltrators’, majority of whom happen to be Muslims. There was some inexcusable delay in deploying the army in the area, which resulted in worsening of the situation. That the riots occurred just around the sowing season in what is the rice country of Assam is a worrying sign. Traumatised people are now crowding 250 ill-equipped relief camps set up by the government.

But this isn’t the first time such violence has hit Assam. The strife between ethnic groups and Muslims, who are labeled as ‘Bangladeshi immigrants’, has been going on for several decades. In 2003, the Bodo Territorial Autonomous Districts were formed following a peace treaty between Bodo activists and the government. The districts included Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Udalgiri. Estimates put the percentage of Bodos in these districts between 22 and 29. The rest are Tribals and Muslims. Despite being in minority, Bodos, with full powers in the region, initiated policies which have kept non-Bodos largely out of the social framework. Over the years, local disputes have been painted as problems between legal citizens and illegal immigrants with parochial politicking under ‘Assam for Assamese’.

The first major catastrophe in this occurred in the 80s, when the All Assam Students Union (AASU) demanded exclusion of Bangladeshi immigrants from the electoral rolls. In 1983, at least 2,000 people were killed in Nellie, near Guwahati. Those killed were Muslims, said to be illegal migrants and occupants of land that belonged to Lalung tribals. Tribhuban Das Tiwary Commission was constituted into the Nellie massacre, but the AASU, now Assam Gana Parishad (AGP), after coming to power dropped all the criminal cases against the culprits and the report of the Commission was never made public. A decade later occurred another series of violence, the victims of which are still living in relief camps. Last week’s carnage was preceded by a rumour that people from Bangladesh have brought in a huge cache of armaments and it soon got triggered into violence that left lakhs with nothing.

Perhaps the real problem lies in the stressed land and job scenario due to a rising population. Lopsided development has put employment under pressure all over the country. In Mumbai, Shiv Sena presents it as a non-Marathis vs marathi issue. In Assam, the problem is deflected by making it an India vs Bangladeshi immigrants issue. Politics aggravates things in Assam by bringing in the foreigner angle, when actually Bangla speakers have made up a sizeable chunk of the state population for over a century.

In the early 20th century, Assam was grossly underpopulated and generated little revenue. The neighbouring Bengal, on the other hand, was overpopulated, which resulted in frequent famines. To counter the problem, the British resorted to ‘human plantation’ encouraging people from Bengal to migrate to Assam. But to maintain the core policy of ‘divide and rule’, the immigrants and the natives were kept in separate areas. This migration of Bangla speaking Muslims went on for several decades and by 1930s, the Muslims comprised a sizeable chunk of Assamese population. Post partition, divided Bengal became East Pakistan and then Bangladesh, but even then both Hindus and Muslims continued migrating to Assam.

The question here is how is this immigration is looked at. Why are Nepalese immigrants to India never looked down upon or demonised here? Why even the Hindus coming from Bangladesh are treated as immigrants, while Bangladeshi Muslims are seen as infiltrators and a threat to our security?

THE PROPAGANDA by communal forces about so call infiltration by Bangledeshis has assumed alarming proportions. It has been the backdrop of many agitations in Assam. Surely the basic issue of lack of development in Assam has been deflected by political groups as the issue of displacement of locals from their lands by infiltrators. Right from Nellie to the present violence, in which displacement is the most dominant factor, the infiltrator propaganda has prepared the ground for carnage.

What is required today is to disarm the criminals, to rehabilitate the refugees and to ensure that they return to their homes for the sowing season. If this is not met, surely a bigger disaster of food deprivation is staring at us. We also need to debunk the myth of ‘infiltrators’ for good. The word has been misued for far too long. And lastly the wounded psyche of communities needs to be healed through a process of dialogue and justice.

Ram Puniyani is a communal harmony activist based in Mumbai. The opinions expressed are his own.
ram.puniyani@gmail.com

 

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