CDRO condemns the witch-hunt by the NIA and the choking of pro-people voices

CO-ORDINATION OF DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS ORGANISATION(CDRO)

Press Release
8th September 2020

After the arrests of leading public intellectuals like poet Varavara Rao, Prof. Soma Sen, Prof. Anand Teltumbde,Mr. Gautam Navlakha, Ms. Sudha Bharadwaj and others, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has trained its gun yet once again on democratic right activists, lawyers and other intellectuals. 

One of their latest targets is Prof. Partho sarathi Ray, a leading biologist of the country, an Associate Professor working in Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Kolkata and also a leading personality of the democratic rights movements of the country. Prof. Ray has been asked to present himself before the investigators in Mumbai on 10 th  September at 11 am. The NIA has also summoned Dalit scholar and activist K
Satyanarayana to appear before it for questioning in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon case on 9 th  September. Satyanarayana’s co-brother and senior journalist, KV Kurmanath, is also asked to appear on the same day. Both of them have been asked to come to the Central Agency’s Mumbai office for questioning. All three of them have
clearly stated that they had no connection with the Elgar Parishad and Bhima-Koregaon case. 
NIA has also strangely summoned three lawyers, including Nihalsing Rathod and Viplav Teltumbde, in connection with their investigation on Elgar Parishad-Bhima-Koregaon case though their involvement is in their professional level as defence lawyer of some of the intellectuals arrested earlier.

It may also be remembered that only in July 2020, Prof. Hany Babu M.T. of Delhi University was arrested by the NIA in the same case after summoning him for interview. NIA has arrested today Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor of Kabir Kala Manch. 

Thus, it is evident that the present government at the Centre is trying to choke democratic voices of protest by foisting false cases against the Rights activists. The bail petitions of twelve persons, languishing in different jails, are being rejected though the Agency could prove nothing against them. It is also to be noted that though the charge sheet, as well as supplementary charge sheet, have already been filed, the case
proceeding is yet to be initiated. Thus, this constitutes a violation of the rights of political detainees.

In this context, we consider the recent summons of Ray, Satyanarayana and Kurmanath an assault against the free speech and democratic rights of the citizens. We strongly condemn these summons. We demand that immediately these false charges be withdrawn against those already arrested and released them. We appeal to
all democratic rights organisations and the citizens to join hands in this protest.

K.Kranthi Chaitanya, Prit Pal Singh, Tapas Chakraborty and V. Raghunath

(Coordinators of CDRO)

Constituent Organisations: Association for Democratic Rights (AFDR, Punjab), Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR, West Bengal); Asansol Civil Rights Association, West Bengal; Bandi Mukti Committee (West Bengal); Civil Liberties Committee (Andhra Pradesh); Civil Liberties Committee (Telangana); Committee for
Protection of Democratic Rights (Maharashtra); Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR ,TamilNadu); Coordination for Human Rights (Manipur); Manab Adhikar Sangram Samiti (Assam); Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights ; Peoples’ Committee for Human Rights (Jammu and Kashmir); Peoples Democratic
Forum (Karnataka); Jharkhand Council for Democratic Rights (Jharkhand); Peoples Union For Democratic Rights (Delhi); Peoples Union for Civil Rights (Hariyana), Campaign for Peace & Democracy in Manipur, Delhi; Janhastakshep (Delhi)

A Letter from APDR to Ministry of Environment, forest & Climate Change

To
Mr. C K Mishra,Secretary
Ministry of Environment, forest & Climate Change (MoEF&CC)
New Delhi
In the matter of Draft Environment Impact Assessment(EIA) Notification 2020

The Central Government proposes to issue the said notification for imposing certain
restrictions and prohibition on the undertaking some projects or expansion or
modernization of such existing projects entailing capacity addition, in any part of
India,” in supersession of the Environment Impact Assessment notification, 2006 and
its subsequent amendments, says the draft Notification. The word ‘certain’ discards
any expectation of anyone about ‘required’ restrictions and prohibition in ecology
and environment protection of the country!
UNEP desires implementing of environmentally sound policies and practices.
The purpose of EIA Notifications in India is to implement sound policies and practices
to protect our country’s environment and mitigate pollution and not for their further
destruction and degradation as we all see in mines, big dams, industrial units or waste
treatment plants, etc.
Current developmental policies and practices of the government are open-ended
for the investors (both foreign and indigenous). The proposed new notification (2020)
relies on and leaves almost everything to their good wishes including a section of
corrupt bureaucracy. The hon’ble Minister currently leading the Department of
Environment is himself a witness to how the corruption brigade in the department of
industry and mining works in tandem with investors’ money-making machine. The
overall result in 2020 is that from her East to West and from North to South, India is
neck-deep into a drum of petrol. Disastrous events daily happen in our country (Korba,
Vapi, etc.)
A ‘Down To Earth (State of India’s Environment 2020: In Figures) report
(2020) pictured this situation in these words: Environmental crimes: India may take
up to 33 yrs to clear case backlog. The environment cases move in a snail’s pace.
We, APDR, are shouldering this burden like many others in many parts of our country
who moved environmental issues in the courts. About the police and Pollution Control
Boards, the less said the better! The NGT is on the verge of being wound up. For the
central government Section-4 of the NGT Act (tribunal to have full-time chairperson
and at least 10, but not exceeding 20 judicial and expert members at all times. seems
to be no more an obligation, no more a ‘necessity’! How many are there now? In such
a scenario, conceiving a ‘Regulatory Authority’ and an ‘Appraisal Committee’ as
reliable checks against the widest relaxations granted in the notification-draft to
projects, developers and investors defy the common sense of our society.
If the purpose of having an EIA scheme is to attract international funds, lip service to international commitments and to arrange open space for economic recovery
in its current downturns and Corona devastations rather than concern for the
environment, pollution and climate change predicts misfortune for the nation as a
whole. We hope the government will not traverse this course and you will prefer to
scrap the draft and advise the government to go for a new notification in active
consultation with all stakeholders, environment activists and experts in various fields
with an open mind.
We may recall facts about the step-by-step dilution of EIA (ref: MoEF Order of
14-3-2014) as it existed in 1994. The government’s rationale behind such dilution is
developmental urgency being blocked due to EIA (protracted and procrastinated)
formalities. The draft Notification -2020 seeks to waive off or lessen the ‘rigour’ of
EIA in the interest of superfast nation building. Thus, those who raise questions
regarding the government ethics of putting economy ahead of environment and
ecology (which is one form of developmental extremism too) are treated as ‘enemies
of the nation’, as ‘preachers of extremism’, etc. and framed under the UAPA (activists
of FridaysforFuture.in) or threatened to withdraw their posts made in the social media
(Padma Priya in TN). Acting as per Constitutional Article 51-A (g) is the duty of an
Indian citizen. So, we, APDR, want public freedom to criticise or accept the draft
Notification. This freedom, we think, is also badly affected by your failure to provide
this document in all the 22 scheduled languages. Rules must be followed in their
letters and spirit. Too much hurry gives a bad signal after all.
About violations and non-compliance, the said notification indicates the
government’s softness towards such offences against the people and state and
proposes to exclude a lot of activities from the EIA net. Even compliance reporting by
project proponents is intended to be made annual instead of biannual. The number of
concessions and accommodations abounds for the violators, contradicting the purpose
of EIA. The way sought for easing EIA restrictions and process is in line with earlier
governments with only semblances of cosmetic newness. This is your departmental
failure.
Easing the EIA process is necessary, but there are alternative ways to do so if
innovative ideas are adopted about screening, scoping, public hearing (in order to
gain prior knowledge about local public perceptions about development) and area wise preliminary assessments for sustainability of eco-system and environment are
undertaken well before any project proposals comes. This is nothing but integrating
policies and practices with the inner urge of the people for secure life and also for the
security, progress and development of the country as a whole. The draft Notification is
devised on a policy perspective of addressing only individual projects coming to the
department for EC. Development is not a ‘Go as you like’ game. The government
seems to have only ‘goals and targets’ left to be fulfilled through the ‘good wishes’
(so-called ‘Corporate Social Responsibilities’) of the members of the chambers of
business. We, on the other hand, believe that the principle of ‘minimum government’
in environment and ecology protection and sustenance is counter-productive and may
be disastrous for a country like India whose biodiversity is enormous and uniquely
varies from place to place. The country needs thorough and continuous EIAs with
people’s participation to establish regional need-based growth strategy along with
national needs. Every square-inch of our country is precious and every person is
precious, but India’s urbanisation has so far been accompanied by alarmingly high
pollution ; now the target is shifted non-urban areas (villages, tribal areas, fragile
hilly areas etc.); but, the draft Notification exempted ‘B-2’ category of projects
(Clause 13, subcl.11 of EIA) from prior EIA compulsions. This is worrying because
their destinations are the countryside.
APDR proposes not to exempt any industry or project from EIA, be they
MSME or giants. There are ample examples in West Bengal and in other states
showing MSME units have great polluting potential. We request you to consider this
point.
‘The knowledge of local communities is transmitted by aural and visual
traditions through generations which must also be considered when these communities
raise objections during a public hearing’, said our Apex Court in 2018 in Hanuman
Laxman Aroskar vs UoI. But, the Draft Notification seeks to do away with the process
of Public Hearing for Category A and B-1 projects (likely to constitute the majority of
cases amongst all). This is just ‘silencing’ the Vox Populi, if not more: silencing or
destroying the EPA 1986 on which the MoEF itself stands. The legal framework to
address eco-environmental hazards in India is weak from the beginning and
consecutive governments at the Centre and States have weakened them by their
insistent inaction due to political pitfalls of environment issues. Given the state
bureaucracy losing its independent and assertive role in India, things have worsened
further.
The government has lessons to learn from Singrauli, Korba, Vapi, Patancheru,
Tutikorin, Baghjan, Vishakhapatnam and many more cases of disasters happening
daily. The people remain afraid awaiting another Bhopal to happen at any time. We
are talking of ‘Man-made disasters’ wherein your ministry shall be primarily held
responsible.
Due to its regressive, non-transparent, pro-violators, mis-interpretative nature,
APDR demands that the ‘Draft Notification-2020’ be scrapped or shelved till widest
discussions take place and national unity achieved on the subject.
The guiding theme of the EIA exercise must not be exploiting the Nature and
Environment for immediate corporate profit, but to live with nature and environment
with emphasis on their preservation and nurture. This is our (and the government’s)
duty to the future mankind. We have no right to decimate and destroy nature and
environment,
India cannot be allowed to remain dirty forever! It should not be made dirtier in
the coming days!

Dhiraj Sengupta, General Secretary

Association for Protection of Democratic Rights

Kolkata: Monday, August10, 2020

Website: http://www.apdrwb.in Email: apdr.wb@gmail.com
Contact: +919432276415/ +918981416511

CDRO condemns the arrest of Delhi University Prof. Hany Babu

                                                      Press Release,30th July 2020

              CDRO condemns the arrest of Delhi University Prof. Hany Babu

Co-Ordination of Democratic rights Organisations (CDRO) condemns the arrest of Delhi University Prof. HanyBabuand demands his immediate release after dropping the false charges levied against him. His arrest is part of the Modi’s Government attempt in silencing the dissent. Prof. HanyBabuis arrested by NIA  on 28thJuly2020 on the allegation that he was propagating Naxal activities and Maoist ideology and was a co-conspirator with other arrested accused in Bhima-Koregaon  Case.  It should be noted that in reality, the violence at Bhima-Koregoanis the conspiracy of the Hindutva forces and it was carried out by perpetrators SambhajiBhide and MilindEkbote, both with ties to  RSS. The entire conspiracy hatched in the aftermath of the violence at Bhima-Koregaon is intended to incarcerate and silence the voices of dissent who have been speaking about the anti-people policies and Hindutva politics of the ruling BJP Governments. Erstwhile Maharashtra government led by DevendraFadnavis selectively implicated the Rights Activists from different fields under the draconian UAPALaw.

The Siva Sena-Congress-NCP coalition government, which came into power afterthe recent election, was about to withdraw the charges against the accused.The Central government immediately directed NIA to take up the case. After NIA took up investigation, it is again re-investigating the case, which is illegal, and arbitrarily arrested AnandTelthumble and GautamNavlakha. All the 11 persons arrested,including 81-year old Varavara Rao, who tested COVID Positive, are not getting bail. It shows the indifferent attitude of the judiciary. Eminent personalities from all over the globe have urged the government to withdraw the false charges against them. Still, the government took a nonchalant stand and continued its manhunt by arresting Prof. Henry Babu yesterday.

Dr.Babu, who teaches English in the University of Delhi, is a noted activist, being the coordinator of the ‘Alliance of Social Justice’ and a member of the ‘Joint Action Front for Democratic Education’. He is a prominent member of the ‘Committee for the Defense and Release of Dr. G.N. Saibaba’ which had condemned the rejection of granting permanent bail to the disabled and incarcerated Delhi University academic accused of having Maoist links. He has spoken out against caste discrimination in institutions of higher education, the death penalty and for the rights of political prisoners. Perhaps this is the sin committed by him against the State. Then he was targeted by the State. His house was raided by the Pune Policein the month of November 2019. At that time the police took three books and his laptop, phone, hard disks and pen drives.Again he was summoned by NIA to Bombay, and he was forced to travel to Mumbai on 23rd July. And since then he has been questioned every day for long hours until his arrest on 28thJuly. During his gruelling questioning, police tried to get false testimony against some more persons being functionaries of Maoists. Since Prof. HanyBabu refused to give such false testimony, finally NIA made his arrest in the Bhima-Koregaon case as a co-conspirator. We strongly feel that here the State is the biggest conspirator against the democratic forces.

Prof. HanyBabu’s arrest is proof of blatant harassment and intimidation of people who question the State and struggle for the rights of the marginalised and oppressed castes, classes and communities. This arrest is likely to follow the predictable narrative of branding Prof. Babuas an urban Naxal. The intention of the State is not to prove guilt but to punish via lengthy isolation and detention while being demonised by a State-sponsored media witch-hunt. These tactics are being deployed without any consideration for the fundamental right to life of the persons targeted as seen in the case of the revolutionary poet Varavara Rao, Dr. GN Saibaba and Prof.AnandTeltumbde among others.

CDRO appeals to all the progressive and democratic forces to unite and condemn the arrest of Prof. HanyBabu and the threat of arrest looming over several more rights activists, artists and journalists. We demand the government to

1. Withdraw baseless charges against the rights activists in Bhima-Koregaon case and to release them immediately.

2. Repeal of all draconian laws including UAPA, PSA, NSA and others

3. Immediate release of all anti-CAA, NRC and NPR activists.

4. Stop the witch-hunt of human rights defenders by the NIA.

K.KranthiChaitanya ,Prit Pal Singh, Tapas Chakraborty and V.Raghunath

(Coordinator of CDRO)

Constituent Organisations: Association for Democratic Rights (AFDR, Punjab), Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR, West Bengal); Asansol Civil Rights Association, West Bengal; Bandi Mukti Committee (West Bengal); Civil Liberties Committee (Andhra Pradesh); Civil Liberties Committee (Telangana); Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (Maharashtra); Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR TamilNadu); Coordination for Human Rights (Manipur); Manab Adhikar Sangram Samiti (Assam); Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights ; Peoples’ Committee for Human Rights (Jammu and Kashmir); Peoples Democratic Forum (Karnataka); Jharkhand Council for Democratic Rights (Jharkhand); Peoples Union For Democratic Rights (Delhi); Peoples Union for Civil Rights (Hariyana), Campaign for Peace & Democracy in Manipur, Delhi; Janhastakshep (Delhi)

APDR organised public meetings and demanded unconditional release of political prisoners

At the initiative of Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR), on 22nd July,  three meetings¾ in front of Jadavpur Market adjacent to 8B bus stand, at the Block Development Office in Baruipur, South 24 Paraganas and at Ratan Pally in Santiniketan, Bolpur¾were held with the demand of unconditional release of all political prisoners. Different democratic and progressive student-youth-intellectuals had joined this meeting, expressed solidarity with the organisers and raised their voices demanding the release of political prisoners.

In the present situation of Corona pandemic, where infections are widespread, it has become imperative to fulfil the commitment towards democracy by taking up suitable programs even in the face of dilemmas about health concerns.

Cases of corona infected persons inside the prisons are on the rise. The vengeance of the state and the ruling political parties has put the lives of elderly and sick political prisoners, who are kept in prison over an extended period, in jeopardy. In particular, we shudder at the thought of political prisoner, Prof. G. N. Saibaba of Delhi University, who suffers from ninety-percent disabilities. Prof. Saibaba cannot move without the help of others.

In the Bhima Koregaon case, there is a black cloud of concern over the physical condition of the revolutionary Telugu poet Varvara Rao. Varvara Rao’s corona infection and the steps adopted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) is currently being discussed across the country. It is learnt that Amitabh Bagchi, a political prisoner in Guwahati, Assam, has contracted corona. The news of political prisoners catching deadly corona-infection has made everyone concerned,  especially their relatives and friends. There is no way to travel to these places as trains are not running at present.  Because of the grave situation, people who were otherwise silent in the past, have also demandedthe release of political prisoners.

There are 71 political prisoners on trial in West Bengal jails. Of these, at least 7 are over 65 years of age. Besides, many are seriously ill today due to long imprisonment. Neurological and heart-related diseases have affected most of them, and there is no provision for the treatment of these diseases in jail. Even the jail authorities admit that there is no infrastructure in place to treat these diseases inside jail premise. The jail authorities are not sending the patients to outside hospitals for treatment on the pretext of corona pandemic. Most prisons do not have a doctor.So the convicts, without medical knowledge, have to take care of critically ill prisoners and even apply antibiotics and other life-saving drugs without a prescription. Sushant Sheel, a political prisoner on trial in Dumdum Central Jail, died recently due to medical negligence which is a kind of extrajudicial killing.

The vindictive attitude of Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government’s Department of Prisontowards political prisoners is clear from a recent incidence.A few days back, Kalpana Maiti had submitted a memorandum, signed by several inmates, to the prison authority demanding masks and hand-sanitisers for the inmates. It may be noted that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has mandated the compulsory to control the spread of coronavirus. However, the vindictive state government, as a punishment for this request, has shifted Kalpana Maiti from Dumdum Jail to Bankura District Jail located hundreds of miles away. We note with concern that  Kalpana Maiti, due to ten long years of imprisonment,  suffers from various physical symptoms, including spondylosis and thyroid.

Similarly, Paro Patel, a 45-year-old female political prisoner from Telangana, has lost her hearing due to medical problems. Now her vision is gradually getting weaker and weaker.

In such a dire situationthe demand for the release of political prisoners,raised in the meetings held in Jadavpur, Bolpur and Baruipur, is a necessary step for building a social movement to release political prisoners irrespective of their party affiliation. Most notably, many ordinary people have come to these meetings and demanded the unconditional release of all political prisoners.

It may be highlighted that seven days ago, the Dharmatala Metro Channel was filled with the enthusiastic participation of people at the call of struggling democratic personalities like Krishna Bandyopadhyay and poet Sabyasachi Deb. The participants had raised voice against the incarceration of Dr. Kafil Khan, the human face against politics of barbarism, revolutionaryTelugu poet Varvara Rao, Professor Soma Sen, lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj and all other political prisoners. The people had demanded an unconditional release of these noted social activists.

APDR gives a call to:

  • Unite all democracy-loving citizen and forge a strong democratic movement
  • Demand the unconditional release of all political prisoners.
  • Repeal all draconian laws which are tools of state-sponsored terrorism, including UAPA, AFSPA,NSA.
  • Put an end to NIA.

Bandi Mukti Committee (BMC)

In another development, members of Bandi Mukti Committee (BMC), Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Committee for Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP),Friends of Democracy(FOD) and Bhim Army (Kolkata), who had gathered on 24th July near the Esplanade Metro Station, Kolkata with the same demand of the release of political prisoners,  were arrested by the New Market Police Station and a case (Case # 205, Dated 24/7/2020) has been filed. They have been charged under Section 143/341/188/283/IPC to be read along with Section 51B of the Disaster Management Act. As the last news came in, all of them have been released on bail.

Mass protests in Punjab for the immediate release of Prof. Varavara Rao and other rights activists on the call of AFDR

Chandigarh: July 19, 2020

Today on a call given by Association for Democratic Rights (AFDR) Punjab, mass protests were held across the state. Protests were held at more than 30 places in Barnala city and village in the district of Barnala alone. Similarly, protests were held in Nawan-Shehr, Sangrur, Moga, Barnala, Patiala, Bathinda, Jalandhar, Mansa, Muktsar, Hoshiarpur, Gurdaspur, Ludhiana, Jagraon, Mullanpur, Baba Bhan Singh Memorial Sunet (Ludhiana), Longowal, Nagar (Jalandhar), RampuraPhul, Sirsa (Haryana) and many other places against the conspiracy of RSS-BJP Govt to cause a slow and latently creeping death of the eminent pro-people intellectuals by incarcerating them in jails. Besides AFDR (Punjab), leaders and activists of many other mass organisations such as AFDR (Haryana), Rationalist Society Punjab, Pargatisheel Lekhak Manch (Haryana), Punjab Students Union, Naujawan Bharat Sabha, Inqlabi Kender Punjab, Lok Sangram Morcha, PLS Manch, Bhartiya Kisan Union (Dakaunda), Varg Chetna, Pendu Mazdoor Union (Mashal), Punjab Radical Students Union, Krantikari Pendu Mazdoor Union, BKU (Krantikari), Democratic Teachers Front, DMF (Democratic Employees Federation), Technical and Mechanical Union, Inqlabi Mazdoor Kendra, Punjabi Sahitya Sabha, and many other organisations participated in these protests. They raised voice against the repressive policies of Central and Punjab governments.

The speakers mentioned that eleven eminent public intellectuals are falsely implicated and incarcerated by the Maharashtra police in Bhima-Koregaon case. These intellectuals are not released from jails even though there is a spread of coronavirus infection in Maharashtra jails, and there is a growing demand from justice-loving democratic people from India, and all over the world.

Despite his progressively deteriorating health condition and being tested positive for coronavirus infection, 81-year-old revolutionary poet  Varvara Rao was not released and his bail application has been rejected five times by the courts. It is evident that by refusing to grant bail to Professor Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navlakha, Advocate Surender Gadling, Advocate Sudha Bhardwaj, Professor Vernon Gonsalves, Advocate Arun Ferreira and Professor G.N Saibaba, who is 90 % handicapped,  and anti-CAA women protestors and many other activists and by forcing them to stay in corona-infected jails,  the Government wants to eliminate such people who question its policies physically. The speakers said that keeping in view the critical physical and mental health of Varvara Rao, it is not sufficient to get him admitted to a hospital. He should be released immediately and be treated at AIIMS under the personal care of his close family members. If any physical harm happens to Professor Varvara Rao or any other intellectual or political activist, then the central BJP government, National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the judges, who time and again have declined their bails, would collectively be responsible for such loss.

The speakers demanded that all intellectuals and activists must be released immediately. False cases regarding Bhima Koregaon violence must be cancelled immediately. Those RSS leaders, responsible for the violence, who are real culprits, must be arrested immediately. The UAPA and other draconian laws should be repealed. Attacks on democratic rights of people under the garb of corona pandemic, including the right to organise and right to struggle should be stopped immediately. Cases registered against mass leaders and protestors for violating lockdown provisions should be cancelled and illogical restrictions imposed under the garb of Corona infection should be withdrawn immediately.

Buta Singh, Press Secretary, AFDR Punjab

CLC & Left Parties Demands Unconditional Release of Public Intellectuals arrested in Bhima-Koregaon Case as well as Prof.Saibaba

News

A round table meeting was held on 14th July 2020, at the Godavarikhani, AmbedkarBhavan on the issue of arrested intellectuals in Bhima-Koregaon case. This meeting was attended by different public associations, Civil Liberties Committee (CLC), leftist parties like CPI, CPIM, CPI-ML New Democracy and Dalit groups like All India Ambedkar Youth Association (AIAYA), Madiga Reservation PorataSamithi (MRPS) and Mala Mahanadu.

Mallareddy, District General Secretary presided the function, and it had the patronage of Shri BonkurMadhu, State Vice President of All India Ambedkar Youth Association. Several notable speakers addressed the participants. The names include Shri MadanaKumaraswamy, Joint Secretary of Telangana State, Civil liberties Committee,Senior Journalist Shri MadasuRammurthy,CPM District Secretary Shri Y Yakaiya, Congress party senior leader Shri GummadiKumaraswamy,IFTU State President Shri.K Vishwanath,Members of the Central Committee of the Telangana Coal Miners’ Union Sri Vaddepalli Shankar, CPI district leaders Shri GautamGovardhan, CPI-ML New Democracy District Leader Shri E Naresh, Chief Secretary of TelanganaState Dalit Liberation Shri MarwadiSudarshan, Farmers Association District Presidents Shri Mudimadugula,All India Ambedkar Youth Association State Leaders Shri ManthenaLingaya, MRPS state leader Sri Rasa PelliRavikumar. Besides these eminent speakers, the participants included leaders of many Dalit organisations and Political Parties like MrsPullaSucharitha, MrShanigarapuRamaswamy, Shri PogulaRangayya, Shri UppuletiParvathaalu, Sri GaddamNarayana, Sri GorreNarasimha Rao, Sri GaddalaSashibhushan,  Lawyer Sri Akbar Elagandula Ramesh, Sri Perika Ravi, Shri. B. Ramaswamy, Sri NakkaRajender, Sri NallaSrinivas, Sri AlliGantayya, Sri KadashiLachchulu, Sri Kampally Swami, UppuletiHanumanthu, Sri Dasaratha, Sri UppuletiMallya, LingampallyVenkatesh,Kavitha.

All the speakers pointed out that the public intellectuals arrested in the Bhima-Koregaon case like Varavara Rao, BabasahebAmbedkar’s grandson-in-law Prof.AnandTeltumbde and nine others, had nothing to do with the gathering of the Dalits to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the defeat of the Pehwas. The main reason for putting these people behind bars is to silence the critics of the government as all the arrested persons were supporting people’s struggles.

The speakers noted with alarm that all of them are older people and keeping them in unhealthy congested prisons during the corona pandemic could stem from a desire of the government to let the arrested people die in the jail itself. It was noted that 81-year-old Varavara Rao is seriously ill and the leaders and delegates join the family of the poet in seeking urgent hospitalisation of the veteran writer for treatment and subsequent release.

The meeting gave a call for organising collective struggle to uphold the rights of the tribals, Dalits and other communities as otherwise the spirit of democracy will be undermined by the central and state governments. The organisers demanded unconditional release of critically ill poet Varava Rao and ten other intellectuals arrested in connection with Bhima-Koregaon as well asProf.Saibaba who is also having health issues.

After the event, a rally was held from Telangana Ambedkar Bhavan to the statue of Dr BR Ambedkar where the participants took an active part in chanting slogans against the Central and State Governments.

Covid-19 Situation in the Prisons of Assam & A letter to Assam Human Rights Commission by APDR

Various prisons in Assam have practically become death chambers with the covid-19 raging on without proper precautions and measures taken by jail authorities. While 120 inmates of Guwahati Central Jail have been found covid-19 positive out of a total of 200 who are tested till now, there have been allegations of major violations of all Covid-19 guidelines inside the prisons. Student leader Manas Konwar who came out of Guwahati Jail on bail on 14 July 2020, alleged that infected inmates are kept together with other inmates, in small cells overflowing with prisoners. Cells meant for 20-30 inmates are used to keep 50-60 people together.  While almost 80 to 90 per cent of the prison population have shown symptoms Covid-19, only 200 out of over 1000 inmates have been tested. A letter written by  Dudul Das, an inmate of Guwahati Central Jail, alleged that those found positive have not been offered treatment even after forty hours. Four advocates have filed petitions regarding this to three different courts in the city.

Meanwhile, the condition in various other prisons in the state are deplorable too. In Golaghat District Jail, on Wedneday, 15th July, 30 cases of Covid-19 were found. It has been alleged that proper precautions were not taken while bringing in and keeping inmates to the jail during the pandemic situation leading to spread of the disease.

Letter to AHRC

To                                                 Kolkata: Wednesday, July 15, 2020.

The Chairman,

AHRC

We, Association for Protection of Human Rights (APDR), the oldest existing HR Org. in India, do humbly send a report (attached below) for appropriate action from your end for the Covid affected and other worried inmates of the reported jail. Moreover, we’ve  reports that some political rights activists including Akhil Gogoi, Amitava Bagchi are also languishing there with serious illness. Assam Government may have its political motivations not to release them, but, we think, the Commission has a different role to play in public humanitarian interest. It is to be taken into account that due to closure of court proceedings for Corona pandemic the rights activists there in Assam could do very little . Please  do the needful and oblige. Thanks.

With regards

DhirajSengupta

General Secretary.

APDR

APDR condemns the anti-people role of the state government of Bengal and upholds peoples’ charter of demands

News

The whole country has been facing a severe socio-economic crisis as a result of the pandemic. West Bengal suffered from not only the loss of jobs by workers and migrant labour issue affected by extended lockdown but has also been ravaged by Cyclone Amphan. The response of the Bengal government in overcoming the twin crisis has been inadequate. Many civil society groups, including different civil rights organisations, students’ organisations and cultural forums, have sprung into action to face this crisis. All these initiatives provided relief to the affected people. Many of these groups raised demands for adequate compensation, proper distribution of ration, the need for 100 days work, issuing of new job cards, etc (and have tried to otganise people). The state government, which has failed to provide the amenities to its citizens in dire need, resorted to the use of force to stop all such initiatives taken by the civil society. The Bengal police brutally attacked the people and even arrested the organisers of the agitations and slapped cognisable charges.

APDR strongly condemns the government’s role and brutal attack by the Bengal police and the hooligans belonging to the ruling Trinamool Congress party. APDR had organised a street corner ob 10th July in Krishnanagar of Nadia district and condemned the ongoing anti-people attitude demonstrated by the government and administration.

RELEASE VARAVARA RAO IMMEDIATELY

A PUDR Statement

13 JULY 2020

PUDR is shocked to learn of the deteriorating condition of P. Varavara Rao in Taloja Jail. His family has held a press conference on July 12, 2020 drawing attention to his almost delirious and incoherent speech evident in his recent phone calls. His co-accused attendant has informed that Varavara Rao is unable to walk or look after himself.

By now, it has become standard for the NIA Special Prosecutor to argue that Varavara Rao is not suffering from any life-threatening disease, that he, like a few others accused in the Bhima Koregaon case, is using the Covid issue to harp on his advanced age and medical vulnerabilities, and that none of them is eligible for bail as they are arrested under UAPA. So far, courts in Pune, Mumbai and Gadchiroli have rejected as many as five bail applications by Varavara Rao (April 2019, November 2019, March 2020 and twice in June 2020). In April 2019, he was not allowed to attend his sister-in-law’s funeral as it was feared that he would abscond or that the police party might by ambushed by Maoists. Most recently, despite being hospitalized in a city hospital after falling unconscious on May 28, 2020, his bail application was turned down primarily because he was shown as stable as per the Taloja Jail medical report. A similar plea was used by the District Government Pleader before a Gadchiroli sessions court in June 2020, before which Varavara Rao had sought bail in a case in which he was made a co-accused after his arrest in October 2018.

It is amply clear that the jail administration has not lived up to its responsibility of taking care of those in its custody. Further, in this context, the attempts to block the bail applications of an ailing 81-year-old tantamount to risking his life. PUDR demands that Varavara Rao be released immediately and that no restrictions be placed on his access to proper medical care.

Radhika Chitkara and Vikas Kumar

Secretaries, PUDR.

pudr@.pudr.org

A brief account of police brutality in TamilNadu during COVID lockdown: A CPDR-TN compilation

Tamil Nadu experienced a massive protest against the ghastly murder of a father-son duo of Jayaraj and Benniks in Santhankulam in Thoothukudi district. The citizens voiced their anger via social media, and at some places, like in Thoothokudi, people came out in the streets. This spontaneous protest did not go unnoticed resulting in the Madurai bench of Madras High Court taking up the issue as a suo-moto investigation, and also attracted national media too. CPDR-TN had brought out a detailed analysis of events leading to these custodial deaths.

However, it is not the only incidence in Tamil Nadu where police excesses had been responsible for the death of ordinary people during the lockdown. The only difference is that in other occurrences, the protests have been confined within people close to the victims. Hence, CPDR-TN feels that it is necessary to chronicle these deaths so that the reader understands that the incident in Santhankulam is not any exception but a continuity.

The case of Mahendran killed in police custody at Sathankulam police station is a pointer. Mahendran, a 28-year old youth, was forcefully taken by the same SI Balakrishnan of Santhankulam police station on the 23rd of May and that too without any warranty. What wrong did Mahendran do? Apparently nothing. His elder brother, Durai, is one of the suspects in the murder case of Jayakumar. So, Mahendran was picked up in an effort to find Durai. In the police station, he was beaten by the police, and it is alleged that the volunteers belong to an extra-legal organisation, Friends of Police, had also taken part in the torture (https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil-nadu/2020/jun/30/sathankulam-deaths-investigate-role-of-friends-of-police-volunteers-2163429.html).  Mahendran, who had no prior record of any crime, was the primary bread earner of the family. Despite the toll taken by the heavy beating, Mahendran had to go to work, while taking medicines advised by the doctor. But the poor man could not carry on with his struggle and succumbed in the government hospital in Thoothukudi, due to the head injury sustained during police torture. His MRI report shows that “he had suffered acute left MCA territory infract and thrombosis (meaning clotting) in the brain” (https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/mahendran-another-case-of-police-brutality-in-tuticorin-after-jayaraj-beniks-custodial-deaths-1696855-2020-07-04). No post-mortem was carried out,  and the family was forced to perform the last rites, which is a clear breach of legal provisions.

Another accused in Jayakumar’s murder, Raja Singh was arrested on the 18th of May. He, too, was tortured and imprisoned. The monitoring of his condition has now been asked by the Madurai bench while enquiring the twin Sathankulam murder,  via the court-appointed magistrate Bharathidasan. It is said that SI Balakrishnan’s highhandedness is not arising only due to his misuse of his power as a police official. He has been alleged to be involved in caste-rivalry and had misused official authority to carry out unwarranted arrests and harassment of members of other castes. “As per a letter signed by three Panchayat Presidents in the area as well as trade union leaders, SI Raghuganesh is said to have instigated the Konar youth of these villages to destroy homes of people belonging to the other castes”(https://www.thelede.in/governance/2020/06/27/three-cops-in-sathankulam-leave-a-trail-of-violence-casteism-in-one-year). It may be recalled that Santhankulam is the same police station where ArunBharath had died in police custody in 2006. His mother is still expecting justice for his dead son (https://www.dtnext.in/News/TamilNadu/2020/06/29014342/1238323/14-yrs-on-another-brutality-case-awaits-justice-in-.vpf)

In the immediate aftermath of the tragic incidence involving Mahendran, Habeeb Mohammed was kicked and battered in Arumuganeri  Police station in Thoothukudi district, some 30 km away from Santhankulam. He was picked up for having a wordy duel with a police inspector. His kidney got damaged, and he had to undergo dialysis. “We were shocked and took him to a private hospital the next morning because he was in too much pain,” says Jamal, Hajeeb’s grandfather. “They refused to admit him there because it was an assault and then we went to a government hospital in Kayalpattinam,” he added. At the Kayalpattinam government hospital, the accident register clearly cites injuries on Habeeb’s thighs. Under ‘Nature of injury and treatment’ it states, “Alleged assault by 4 unknown (male) on 9/6/20 at 11.30 am . H/O injury with plastic pipe buttocks/thigh in Arumuganeri police station’. … The document has been signed by the Medical officer and the intimation register too records the injuries as a result of ‘Assault’.”  (https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/31-year-old-thoothukudi-alleges-he-dialysis-after-police-thrashed-him-127578). The police tried to pressurise the family to not put on record the police assault in the documents filed in the hospital. When the family members of Janeen Mohammed refused to do so, they were sent out of the hospital without treatment. As a result, he had to undergo dialysis spending his hard-earned money. In the words of Habeeb, “My father is a clerk in a hospital and my wife and mother don’t work. Now, I am unable to go to work as well. Every session of dialysis costs Rs.6000-7000. …  I don’t know how much longer we can afford the treatment”.

Then there is a case of police-handedness leading to the death of a youth in Tenkasi. Kumaresan of Veerakeralampudur of Tenkasi, a 25-year old auto driver, was picked up by the SI Chandrasekhar and constable Kumar belonging to VK Pudur police station on the 10th of May for arbitration in a verbal duel involving Kumaresan. There he was assaulted brutally with lathi and was released later.  Though visibly not well, Kumaresan had not revealed the incident in the police station to anyone till the 12th of June when he disclosed the conflicts to his father, Navaneethakrishnan when Kumaresan had to be admitted in the government hospital in Tirunelveli.  “At the hospital, he told me that the policemen had threatened him to not talk about the incident to anyone outside, and if he breathed a word about this, they would file a case under the Goondas Act on both him and me and put us in jail. So, Kumaresan did not tell this until he was admitted to the hospital. After about three days, he was shifted to ICU, where his condition further deteriorated,” Navaneethakrishnan said.”  (https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/25-yr-old-man-tn-dies-allegedly-due-injuries-beating-police-custody-127554 ). He died on the 27th of June.

These incidences suggest that police brutality during the lockdown period has reached a new high. Lathi wielding police did not hesitate to brandish the lathis on anyone in a small pretext of a violation. It appears that the supposed authority to guard the people against the spread of coronavirus gave them an extra-legal force. It is evident from the way the people were arrested, and cases were slapped, and the traders assaulted even though the permission existed for their transport.

While these instances appear to be regular cases of police atrocities to be pursued via legal processes, the lockdown period has made it difficult for the clients to take the support of lawyers as would be the situation under normal circumstances or approach courts for an injunction or court intervention. This difficult circumstances of the lockdown period along with the knowledge that economically weaker sections of the society can possibly be made to submit more quickly in these troubled times seem to have given the police an audacity to use power with impunity. (End)