We are stunned by the temerity of the state to arrest well known civil rights activists while on the way to Bastar for fact finding into the recent encounter killings. While they were detained by Telangana Police they were handed over to Chhattisgarh to be charged under the draconian Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA). In its characteristic style the Chhattisgarh Police has already slapped CSPSA clauses 8 (1), 8 (2), and 8 (3) on them, essentially alleging that the activists were members of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and had assisted the banned organisation financially. The Sukma Court, where they were produced on 25 December has rejected their bail.
The fact finding was organized by the Telangana Democratic Forum (TDF), the umbrella association of 307 rights-based democratic groups. The seven activists who were arrested are (1) BallaRavindranath, advocate and general secretary of the Committee for Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP), (2) Chikkudu Prabhaker, convenor, TDF; (3)Durga Prasad, independent journalist; (4) Duddu Prabhaker, Kula Nirmulana Porata Samiti (Committee for caste annihilation), (5) Ramanala Laxmaiyya, an activist in an adivasi organisation Tuddum Debba, (6) Rajendra Prasad and (7) Nazeer, a student member of TelenganaVidyarthi Vedike, a student association. All are noted activists in Telangana.
There is a pattern in the behaviour of the Chhattisgarh Police. Early this year two women lawyer activists Shalini Gera and Isha Khandelawalwere forced out of Jagdalpur. They along with two other lawyers Parijata Bharadwaj and Rupesh Kumar had come to Jagdalpur, the district headquarters of Bastar,relocating themselves from Delhi to form Jagdalpur legal Aid Group, popularly known as JagLag in 2013. In February Soni Sori, local tribal teacher turned activist and AAP candidate in the last Lok Sabha elections was asked to vacate her house. Soni Sori and her nephew Linga Kodopi have been facing persistent harassment from Police. Before that Malini Subramanium, a freelance journalist and former head of the International Committee of Red Cross in Chhattisgarh, left Bastar on Friday due to alleged harassment by local police.
Recently, Delhi University professor Nandini Sundar, whose PIL against human right violations led the Supreme Court to ban the state-sponsored Salwa Judum vigilante movement in Chhattisgarh; Archana Prasad, Professor in Jawaharlal Nehru University and Left activists Vineet Tiwari and Sanjay Parate were outrageously charged with the murder of a Bastar resident.It was clearly an instance of police vindictiveness which even drew the attention of the National Human Rights Commission, which demanded an explanation from the state. This all has been happening with direct/indirect backing of the controversial Bastar IG, SRP Kalluri who is in turn backed by the state government.
It is utterly deplorable that the Chhattisgarh Police have arrested the entire team of civil rights activists crossing all limits of the civility. They had earlier harassed Dr Binayak Sen, and earned heaps of ignominy from all over the world but then he was alone. This time it is a member of seven noted activists in civil rights movement that went on a fact finding into series of encounters that took place in the state. It is an apt case for the Supreme take a suomotu notice and reprimand the state government for harassing innocent people with false cases under the draconian acts like CSPA.
- Supreme Court take suomotu notice and ask for the immediate release of all the seven members of the fact finding team and reprimand the Chhattisgarh Police for its unlawful behaviour
- The FIRs be immediately filed against the security forces responsible for the murders of innocent tribals in recent encounters
- An independent commission comprising the ex-high court judges and representatives from civil rights organizations be constituted to investigate the recent encounters in Chhattisgarh
Dr. Anand Teltumbde
Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR)