Lalgarh

Where injustice prevails, Rebellion is justice!

The salwa judum of Bengal

Posted by Admin on March 7, 2010

Asha Menon

There are four things we live in fear of — police, elephants, the Maoists and the harmath,” said Rukmini in a village near Lalgarh in West Bengal’s West Midnapore district. “They are thieves.”“They even steal eggs,” says another woman listening in. But they are not harmless pranksters. The harmath is the armed militia of the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist). They loot, plunder, rape and assault villagers and villages suspected of having other political affiliations. In 2008, in Nandigram, before the gram panchayat elections, they snatched away the voter identification of people in Nandigram. At least 10 to 15 people were admitted in the local hospital, in “critically injured condition”, reported The Times of India.In Bankura district, Baksi village was emptied of 70 per cent of its residents by a joint force of police and the harmath.

“They misbehave with the women and burn our food stocks,” says Satyan Hansda. “The police do nothing.” The intimidation was to stop all groupings they suspected of political ambitions. “The PCPA does not function here because most of its members were driven away. They keep beating us saying that we are Maoists. We have not even seen a Maoist in our village.” A senior CPM leader accepts, on condition of anonymity, that the party maintains an armed group of “volunteers”. “There is dadaism. Not everyone in the party favours force to regain lost areas and there is factionalism within the party over this.” He adds after a while, “but every party has an armed wing, even the Trinamool Congress.”The term harmath came into the Bengali lexicon with the Portugese raiders who came in the 15th century. “They travelled in groups and were ruthless.” The word had not been used in the local vocabulary for years but it regained popularity during the Nandigram struggle, when people started calling the CPM goons by this name.“It could be the people who were attacked themselves, it could be the intelligentsia who were commenting on it, nobody knows for sure how the word became popular again. But today, it is a term used to refer to CPM goons,” says Jagabandhu Adikhari of the Association of People for Democratic Rights (APDR).

These types of armed groups have been part of the CPM from the Eighties, according to Adhikari. “But the concentration of the harmath group has definitely increased in the past few years.”“The primary task of this group is to make sure that no other political party or organisation can function in an area,” says Pratyut Ghosh, the Trinamool Congress District Secretary of the West Midnapore region. And to do this, they do not look for people who are ideologically inclined. They simply pay people with criminal records, according to Adhikari. “Sometimes they coerce people with criminal records to work for them or risk being arrested again.” Their job could also be to spy on their own neighbours. “Harmath sometimes cover their faces and attack, because they are neighbours or from neighbouring villages,” says Ashish Mahato, spokesperson of the People’s Committee against Police Atrocities. Harmath are hired by giving a lump sum — two to four lakh rupees — to a family and then they are promised an amount at regular intervals. “If a harmath runs a successful campaign (which means to get rid of, chase away or silence people who have other political leanings) then he is rewarded with a few lakhs again.

A promise is made that if the harmath is killed in campaign, the family will be taken care of. But in the cases where we have heard, that support is discontinued in a few months.” In every village, either the harmath accompany the police or they follow the police. “The harmath are even trained by the police,” says Adhikari. How are they armed? “Every party has arms,” says the CPM leader. “The ruling party keeps arms, so does the opposition.” According to the TMC secretary, ‘they get their arms from Bihar and Pune.” The funding is done through a teacher’s network. “The government appoints teachers. If they want the posting, they need to pledge a portion of the salary to the funding of this group,” says Congress district secretary of West Midnapore, Nirmal Ghosh. Adhikari says the relationship is a bit more complex. In 2008, teachers got an unexpected raise of a few thousands.

“Teachers were expected to give them a portion of the arrears. When one teacher in Chandrakona refused, he was accosted and threatened. Finally he had to give the Rs 10,000 they demanded of him.” The contribution can vary between Rs 5,000 and Rs 20,000, according to Adhikari.The CPM leader is not happy with the compromises the party has made over the years. “When we started, we had a list of do’s and don’ts. Over the past 32 years as the ruling party, we seem to be doing more of the dont’s.” People like him want the party to lose this time around so that they can rework internally and improve it, says his friend laughing. The leader does not argue.— ashamenon E Buzz

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Comrade bourgeois

Posted by Admin on February 4, 2010

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The villagers raided the house and destroyed everything. / Photo: Anwesha Ghosh
Many communist leaders in West Bengal amass huge fortunes

By Rabi Banerjee

Himangshu Das is the zonal committee secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in Khejuri, Nandigram. A member of local zilla parishad, he gets a salary of Rs 1,500 a month. As district committee member of the party in East Midnapore he earns another Rs 1,500. These are his only known sources of income.

But, people of Nandigram say Das is a crorepati. He has a palatial house with air-conditioned rooms in Khejuri, and owns a car and a bike. Villagers allege that he siphoned off funds meant for the local civic bodies. In August 2009, they attacked his house, dragged him out and beat him up in public. Das fled the village with family and is yet to return.
“How could a communist leader amass such huge wealth? He had become a crorepati and behaved like an industrialist,” said Manik Maity, a villager.

Not long ago, communist leaders in West Bengal were known for their simple lifestyle. Today, three decades after the Left Front started ruling the state, they live in palatial houses, drive expensive SUVs, own shopping malls and factories, and wear branded clothes. Ironically, they are still driven by the same philosophy—uplift the proletariat.

Anuj Pandey, a Marxist leader from Lalgarh, was jobless before joining the party. As the Lalgarh zonal committee secretary, he earns Rs 1,500 a month, his only known source of income. A couple of years ago, Pandey built a sprawling house on 20 acres—the only big house in the tribal-dominated Lalgarh. In the tribal upsurge in August 2009, the villagers raided the house and destroyed everything including air-conditioners, LCD television, refrigerator and expensive furniture.

“He did not think twice before building such a huge house in the middle of thatched huts. Is he really a communist? No way,” said Chunibala Hansda, local legislator. Pandey and family are yet to return to Lalgarh, which is now known as a Maoist-controlled territory. “Had people like Pandey not been there, Lalgarh would have never seen such massive tribal movements. Tribes got united seeing these communists looting government properties,” said Haripada Hansda, a local tribal leader.

But how did Das and Pandey, who are just district-level leaders, amass such wealth? Some local CPI(M) leaders said they were closely associated with the Central government -sponsored projects in the areas. The projects to improve rural employment and alleviate poverty had huge funds. The leaders allegedly took advantage of lack of monitoring by the government.

“Pandey minted money the way he liked,” said a former panchayat officer in West Midnapore. According to him, the leaders’ lavish lifestyle is just a reflection of the vast fortune they made. “Where will they put the money in? All cannot trust their relatives and deposit it in their names. So they have to spend money on their lavish lifestyle,” he said.

If leaders in Lalgarh and Nandi-gram flourished on the Central funds, in Haldia township, about 40 km away, the labour movement ?made many comrades millionaires.

S.K. Muzaffar, CPI(M) councillor in the Haldia municipality, controls the workers’ union of the Haldia ?dock and allegedly runs the dock’s labour market. He has a godown, a cargo trading agency and a logistic agency in the dock. About 1,500 labourers work under him.

A school dropout, Muzaffar was a worker in the dock in the 1970s. Later he became an employee of Haldia municipality which he left to become a CPI(M) leader. “For him, becoming a communist was more profitable than being a worker in the municipality,” said a local Congress leader.

After the CPI(M) rose to power in the state, Muzaffar started getting more and more contracts, and became a councillor in the municipality. His one son is studying in London and another helps him in business. Another son has a fascination for car racing. Muzaffar does not see anything wrong in being a communist and a businessman at the same time. “Tell me where it is written that communists cannot become businessmen and become rich. It’s the propaganda of frustrated people,” he said.

Ashok Patnaik and Ananta Bera, two other Marxist bigwigs in Haldia, also have thriving businesses. Patnaik quit his job as a primary schoolteacher and joined the party. He soon became chairman of a cooperative society which gave him direct contact with the business community. As the chairman of a council in the Haldia Development Authority, he looked after the major land deals in the Haldia township, which was a pet project of former chief minister Jyoti Basu.

“Basu wanted to make Haldia an industrial hub and spent crores for its development. Leaders like Patnaik benefited from it,” said a local CPI(M) leader. When the Haldia port was upgraded, Patnaik, like Muzaffar, seized the opportunity. Now, he is one of the richest contractors in the Haldia dock. “He drives almost all cars available in the market. He is one of the richest communists in India,” said a local CPI(M) leader.

Bera also made it big with the port. Hailing from a poor family in Contai, East Midnapore, he moved to Haldia with his wife, also a CPI(M) member, in the late 1970s. He hugely benefited from the party’s decision to make Haldia an industrial hub for car and petrochemicals.

“They are successful businessmen and CPI(M) leaders as well. They have changed the meaning of communism,” said a senior CPI(M) leader on condition of anonymity. These leaders, however, are unfazed. Said Muzaffar: “Not only are we successful businessmen, but we have also given employment to a lot of poor people. We are the true communists. Let the jealous be jealous.”

Many other communist leaders have relied on muscle power to amass wealth. Tapan Ghosh and Sukur Ali from Garbeta are CPI(M) district committee members in West Midnapore. The CBI arrested them after 11 Trinamool Congress workers were burnt alive in Chotoangaria, Birbhum, 10 years ago. But the CBI failed to establish their links with the carnage and they walked free. They still remain powerful and even ministers are not sure of winning elections without their help. “That is the only reason why the CPI(M) has not taken any action against them despite numerous allegations against them,” said a local CPI(M) leader.

Ghosh was a schoolteacher and Ali a small-time farmer. After joining the party, they started making lucrative business deals as potato growers. “In Garbeta, they control the cold storage and agro businesses,” said Aurobinda Sain, a local Congress leader.

These creamy layers in the CPI(M) have led to an identity crisis in the party, especially when a good number of its leaders still remain committed to the ideology. “After coming to power, the Left Front government did many things to empower the underprivileged. After a few years, leaders began asking people to pay them back. This is unfortunate for a party which talks of class struggle,” said Abhirup Sarkar, economist at Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata. He said the party no longer had the strength to take action against these leaders.

CPI(M) state secretary Biman Bose, a leader known for his austerity, recently wrote in a party note: “The biggest challenge for the party today is to prevent a good number of leaders from becoming non-communist. They should withdraw from all non-communist activities.”

But it is easier said than done. The leadership is well aware how idealistic young leaders have become fat cats over the decades. Former MPs, Lakshman Seth of Haldia and Mainul Hasan of Murshidabad, drive SUVs that cost around Rs 17 lakh each, though Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee lives in a one-room apartment. Both Seth and Hasan are the blue-eyed boys of the chief minister and the party.

Many ordinary partymen also take pride in their leaders’ ‘achievements’. Balai Sabui and Dibakar Koley of Singur are neighbours and used to roll bidis together. Sabui is now chief of the Hooghly district’s Krishak Sabha, the peasant wing of the CPI(M). He is also a district transport secretary, who issues permits to vehicles. He played a lead role in submitting reports on land acquisitions in Singur. Though he struggled to make ends meet earlier, Sabui is a rich man now. He has a two-storey house at Singur and a Bolero jeep.

Koley, still a poor bidi roller, is proud of his neighbour. “He has become a success story for poor men like us. We are proud to know that even a former bidi worker could have a car or a big house,” he said. But what Koley does not realise is that Sabui’s legitimate income is less than what he earns as bidi worker.

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Lalgarh: Jawans dump bus passengers

Posted by Admin on February 1, 2010

LALGARH: In a brazen display of high-handedness, a platoon of paramilitary forces in Lalgarh forced passengers off a bus and commandeered it on Sunday afternoon, leaving about 60 people including 25 women and children stranded for fours hours in Maoist-held territory, in between Lalgarh and Jhargram.

According to some of the victims, the jawans on foot patrol flagged down the bus near Bamal just 6 km from Lalgarh at 3.10 pm and asked the passengers to get off. The bus had travelled 55 km of the 80-km journey between Goaltore and Jhargram. "We thought a search was on. None of us dared to ask why we would have to get down," said Gyan Shankar Mahato, a resident of Lalgarh’s Orma travelling with his daughter and three-month old grandson. The passengers were not even allowed to take their belongings.

When the last of the villagers had stepped down, the platoon boarded and ordered the driver to make a U-turn and head for Ramgarh, 25 km away. The villagers stood dumb-founded. It took some minutes to realise that their bus wasn’t coming back. Buses are few and far between in these parts ever since the Maoists unleashed a reign of terror. If you miss one, you might nit get another the whole day.

Terrified at being left in a Maoist area, some of them got in touch with local Congress and Trinamool Congress leaders who informed West Midnapore SP Manoj Verma.

The bus was traced to Ramgarh and returned to the spot around 4.30 pm but the villagers woes weren’t over yet. The driver refused to go any further and stopped at Dherua, again a Maoist stronghold, some 12 km from Jhargram.

It was 6 pm and darkness had descended. No amount of pleading would do. The driver apparently said he had had enough for a day.

The passengers finally got hold off some Trekkers and lorries to reach Jhargram. "I missed the train from Jhargram and will have to stay overnight at the platform," said Kalicharan Mirdha, whose train was at 5.30 pm.

West Midnapore superintendent of police Manoj Verma, however, denied the incident, saying, "This just cannot happen." TOI

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Chhatradhar Mahato responds to Mamata Banerjee

Posted by Admin on January 26, 2010

Source: Sanhati

[Recently,
Mamata Banerjee, the Trinamool Congress supremo, had offered to mediate
negotiations between the agitating adivasis of Lalgarh and the
government. In response, Chhatradhar Mahato, the imprisoned leader of
People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA), wrote an open
letter from jail, which was published in the Bengali daily newspaper
Pratidin. A translated version of the letter is published below.
]

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I saw in the newspapers that you have organised a press conference and declared: “who is Chhatradhar?”. Also, you have accused me of being corrupt. I don’t regret that you don’t know who Chhatradhar is, but you are certainly answerable for saying that I am corrupt. Prior to this, the DG of the state spread stories about my possessing crores of rupees and owning houses in different places and now have shut up. Now you too have said so. Fine. I now request you to tell the public what acts of corruption I have committed and where. I see that at the same time you have expressed a desire to unleash the armed forces. I don’t know whether you remember the bone-chilling screams of our mothers in Manipur: the Indian Army raping them. So, our mothers and sisters in Jangalmahal got extremely concerned with these talks about deploying the army. I fear that the bone-chilling screams of our mothers in Manipur might be echoed in Jangal Mahal, the breeze through the Shaal and Mahul forests will get poisoned. I pray that this wish of yours is never fulfilled.

In a mass meeting in Jhargram on January 15 you have extended an invitation for discussions and imposed a seven-day time limit on it. This proposal of yours is really great. Inspite of all the meetings and processions for 13 months, thousands of people of Jangalmahal have failed to push the administration to participate in talks. Rather, they were presented with threats from the administration and the terror of the joint forces colluding with the harmads. But your proposal remains somewhat vague, i.e., you have not clarified as to with which organisation you want to have this discussion. Because there are quite a few organisations here such as Jharkhand (Aditya) Jharkhand (Naren), CPI (Maoist), ourselves, the Police Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee and many more. In case you want to sit for talks with our organisation, the Police Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee, then I have a few things to say. First, before sitting for talks, it is very important to create an atmosphere (in Jangalmahal) for discussions. Currently the joint forces are creating havoc every day: looting, burning down things in villages, picking up people from their homes and murdering them. The villagers are leaving their homes and taking shelter in various camps. There is a horrible atmoshere of terror. The schools have been occupied and got turned into hell. Tell me, how can there be talks without removing these joint forces?

They have picked up innocent villagers from the villages of Jangalmahal and subjected them to merciless physical and mental torture and then imposed dozens of cases on them to put them in prisons. From young mothers with little babies to old mother figures, from students of class six to old men, these murderous forces are not sparing anybody. The imprisoned families are devastated. Already in a state of destitution, now they have to face this mental torture also. The imprisoned people and their families are quite at a loss. The barbaric CPI(M) have imposed the black law UAPA, a shame on democracy, on me and many persons of our organisation to wreak their political vengeance. In such a frightening situation how can we have talks unless everyone is freed? Talks can only be held if everyone is unconditionally freed.

You understand very well that the movement based on the 13 demands that started in November 2008 in Lalgarh against police atrocities has now spread beyong Lalgarh and Jangalmahal into the adjoining districts of Bankura and Purulia. In support of the demands, the entire population of Jangalmahal including the Advasis and Moolbasis have maintained their mental strength and are continuing their fight inspite of facing several kinds of repression continually. If you are not sympathetic towards our demands then tell me how can we have the discussions? Hence the demands have to be considerered with importance in the talks.

Listen, the Indian constitution has given every citizen the right to get organised. It has given the right to express their opinions. It is not that they have to organise only as per the wishes of the ruling class, is it? Our organisation is a totally independent one and we are undertaking programmes openly by democratic means. Indeed, people with very diverse opinions can join our movement. They come with their own individual identities. They have participated in the movement in support of the demands. Nobody has ever used their organisational banners in our movement. Hence, attachment to Maoists, attachment to Trinamool, attachment to CPI(M) are nothing other than fabricated labels or elements of pure fiction created by the administration and the political parties. And you are talking about killings? I am taking full responsibility in saying that the West Bengal government is entirely responsible for the condition in Jangalmahal today. Later, the Central government has joined them. If you had been sympathetic to our demands right at the beginning then this situtation would not have arisen. But the administration admitted their mistakes. Be it the British rulers, or the ruling classes after they left, i.e., the powerful political parties of independent India, all of them wanted to dominate us and keep us trampled under their feet. Even though we are the indigenous people of India we do not get enough to eat. Whenever we raised our voices about our culture, our education and our freedom we were only met with brutal repression of the state power. Currently, as we have raised our voice against the terror in Jangalmahal, once again the State and the Central government have colluded to unleash terrible repression upon us. But everybody acknowledges our deprivation and misery. In 2009, during the Lok Sabha elections, the officer of the Election Commission in charge of West Bengal have sat down for talks with us and a solution was found. How come there was no problem then? Tell me, why do we have this situation today?

Inspite of this brutal torture on us you have not said anything in our favour. Quite on the contrary, when joint forces and the harmads are still not successful in curbing our movement, then you are expressing your desire to deploy the army. You have said that you will lay railway lines in Jangalmahal. Great idea. It is just like Buddha shouting, haven’t we done anything in the last 32 years? We have built roads.. But no food is carried on those roads. Neither is kerosene. All these things stay in Medinipur town: to facilitate the luxurious lifestyle of the Harmad officers (or to make their palatial houses, something left unsaid). Now only the vehicles of the mechanised armed forces travel on those roads.. No other car is allowed to enter theses road. I hope that ultimately your railway lines won’t be used for bringing in the soldiers only? If this laying down of railway lines creates employment for the young men and women of Jangalmahal then I will remain eternally grateful to you.

(This letter arrived by fax. Some sections were hazy. Whatever could be retrieved is being published here. – Pratidin)

[The translation from Bengali has been done by Sanhati.]

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The Youngest Maoist, two years old Madvi Mukesh nabbed!

Posted by Admin on January 16, 2010

Source: Just Bethe-youngest-maoist-two-years-old-madvi-mukesh-nabbed/chhattisgarh-baby-2/

Breaking news! Youngest Maoist nabbed!

Check out the murderous rage on his face!

Check out the hand that has bludgeoned many heads!

Check out the strained forehead that explain his years committed to bloodshed!

© Javed Iqbal

When Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh referred to Maoists as being the “single largest threat to the nation”, did he mean this child, whose fingers were brutally chopped off while his family was massacred?

Now, even before this ‘Maoist’ could be sent in for a narco-analysis, let’s understand where he comes from.

Name: Madvi Mukesh
Age: Two years old
Tribe: Muria
Residence: Gompad village, police station Konta, district Dantewada (on the Chhattisgarh-Andhra Pradesh border)
Family: Maternal grandfather Madvi Barjar (50) – dead; grandmother Madvi Subhi (45) – dead; mother Kartam Kunni (20) – dead; maternal aunt Madi Mooti (8) – dead; father (21).

Mukesh was with his family on the morning of October 1, 2009, when something unusual happened. Several men wearing military fatigues – SPOs (special police officers), police and other security forces – pointed their guns at these ‘Maoists’ and shot at them. Mukesh’s neigbours were killed – Muchaki Handa, Markam Deva, Tomra Mutta, newly-married couple Soyma Subba and Soyam Jogi.

mukesh+madvi1.jpg

Mukesh’s family was wiped out. He was found to be crying near a pool of blood, oozing from the chopped body of his aunt. His wails were uncontrollable – did he understand the meaning of the loss of his family, or was it because his three fingers were chopped during the carnage?

His ‘Maoist’ father wasn’t at home at that time. He was saved.

Houses were burnt down. Paddy, pulses, brass pots, poultry and cash were taken away. In all, the villagers found that 10 of their people were dead. Some youths were missing. Mukesh Madvi, the ‘Maoist’, disappeared into the jungles with his father.

About 200 kms north of Gompad, news about an encounter was being circulated in the press. Operation Green Hunt had officially begun on October 1, 2009, and it was declared that some Maoists were killed near the Andhra border. When questions were raised by some sceptical journalists about the bodies of the Maoists, they were told that the villagers had disposed them off.

On January 3, 2010, when I met Amresh Mishra, Superintendent of Police (SP) of Dantewada, and had asked him about the Gompad massacre, he clarified that it wasn’t a massacre. “There was only a firing from both the sides. There was no casualty; only some explosives were found.”

January 7, 2010, would have been the day when, like Mukesh, many other ‘Maoists’ would have come to Dantewada for a Jan Sunwai (public hearing), so that they could put forth their case. Home Minister P Chidambaram had promised Himanshu Kumar of Vanvasi Chetna Ashram, who had planned the Jan Sunwai, that he would be present to hear the unending woes of the people. However, the Governor of Chhattisgarh ESL Narasimhan prevented the Home Minister from making that visit. The Jan Sunwai was bound to have opened a can of worms before the national media, if the Home Minister had attended the meeting.

Mukesh did arrive for the Jan Sunwai along with his father, and several other optimists, on January 5. They were about 25 of them. No sooner did they arrive at Vanvasi Chetna Ashram, they were surrounded by SPOs. About 30 minutes later, they were all packed into three Boleros which bore no number plates.

It has been 10 days since those ‘Maoists’ were taken to an undisclosed location and there has been no news about them.

mukesh+madvi.jpg

© Javed Iqbal

So that is the government’s definition of a ‘Maoist’, whom I encountered personally – the tribal carrying logs of firewood who starts walking through jungles since 3 am, and reaches the nearest town by 7 am, to sell the firewood for Rs 60. The tribal who walks about 50 kms to reach the police station, to complain that the forces stationed in his village killed the only hen that he had, is a Maoist for the government. The two-year-old Suresh is a Maoist for the government.

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Mahato seeks status of ‘political’ prisoner

Posted by Admin on January 9, 2010

A petition was filed today at the court of Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate (ACJM) Jhargram seeking release of Chattradhar Mahato, leader of PCAPA of Lalgarh who was produced in the court today.

Kaushik Sinha, counsel for Mahato, moved another petition in which he sought the status of political prisoner for Mahato who was arrested on September 26 last year on several charges, including murder and sedition.

MD. Rezza, the ACJM, fixed January 18 for the next hearing.

The CID had filed charge-sheet against Mahato and six others under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in connection with a criminal case (No-161, Lalgarh PS), which came up for hearing today.

Sinha said the charges brought against Mahato in the charge-sheet were not justified and pleaded his client should be treated as political prisoner since he organised movements by local people to press for various demands and that he was not involved with terrorist outfits.

The CID’s charge-sheet names five persons involved with the PACPA of Lalgarh and two intellectuals — Raja Sarkhel and Prasun Chatterjee. Sarkhel and Chatterjee were arrested from Kolkata in the first week of October. All of them were booked under the UAPA.

According to Sinha, police implicated Mahato in 21 criminal cases of which bail was granted in 17. Mahato was discharged in one criminal case. IE

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Our movement for Adak and Bera’s release will continue: PCPA

Posted by Admin on December 19, 2009

Rebel kill-&-burn spree
OUR CORRESPONDENT
19trucks.jpgThe blaze at the sponge iron factory. (Samir Mondal)

Jhargram, Dec. 18: Maoists killed three CPM workers, set ablaze oil tankers on a national highway and torched a sponge iron factory and over a dozen vehicles on the first day of a protest against arrests which police denied having made.

Raju Adak and Joyram Bera had allegedly been picked up from Lalgarh on December 6, but no one by those names has been produced in court — in Jhargram or Midnapore — in the past few days.

“No such arrest has been made,” West Midnapore police chief Manoj Verma said.

The People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities identified the duo as its leaders and vowed to continue the agitation for their release.

Police sources said the duo were “hardcore” Maoists who used the committee as a front. Residents of Lalgarh, they have over 30 murder cases against them.

“The Maoists committed today’s murders and engineered the arson,” said Verma. Read the rest of this entry »

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Delhi Protesters March Against Operation Green Hunt

Posted by Admin on December 19, 2009

Source: Posted by Ka Frank on December 18, 2009

On the streets of Delhi, see more pictures below.

PRESS STATEMENT, December 17, 2009

The Forum Against War on People organised the “Rally Against War on People” to protest against the brutal military offensive of the Indian state on the tribal people of central and eastern India through Operation Green Hunt, wherein lakhs [1 lakh = 100,000] of the paramilitary-military as well as various vigilante gangs such as the Salwa Judum, Nagrik Suraksha Samiti, Sendra, Tritiya Prastuti Samiti, Harmad Vahini etc. has let loose on the people. …

The rally commenced from ram Lila Maidan at 11 am and reached Parliament Street where in various social activists, intellectuals, representatives of people’s organisations and civil rights activists addressed the gathering. People from Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamilnadu and Kerala attended the rally.

Later a delegation comprising of BD Sharma (Former Commissioner SC/ST), GN Saibaba (Assistant Professor, DU), Prashant Bhushan (Advocate, Supreme Court), Karen Gabriel (Associate Professor, DU), Gautam Navalakha (Consultant Editor, EPW), Mrigank (Navjawan Bharat Sabha) gave a memorandum to the Prime Minister. In the absence of the Prime Minister, Mr. Prithviraj Chauhan, MoS, PMO accepted the memorandum.

In Solidarity,

Campaign Against War on People, Committee Against Violence On Women (CAVOW), Naga Students Union Delhi (NSUD), Navjawan Bharat Sabha (NBS), Correspondence, KRALOS, KLAS, Krantikari Yuva Sanghathan (KYS), PFD, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), MKP, Campaign for Peace & Democracy Manipur (CPDM), Democratic Students Union (DSU), Committee for Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP), DGMF, People’s Front (PF), Mazdoor Ekta Manch (MEM), Left Democratic Teacher’s Front (LDTF), Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF), People’s Democratic Front of India (PDFI), CPI (ML) (New Democracy), CPI (ML) (Liberation), CPI (ML) (New Proletarian), JNU Forum Against War on People, BD Sharma, Arundhati Roy, Tripta Wahi, Vijay Singh, Neshat Quaiser, and others.

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Chhattisgarh: A Young Lawyer Appeals For Justice

Posted by Admin on December 17, 2009

Source: 0-9-A-Z

Those of you who have been reading my blog posts regularly, know about the back story of Kopa Kunjam (a tribal leader now falsely accused of murder) and Alban Toppo (a lawyer working towards tribal rights). Even if you don’t, you can read this open letter by Toppo and it will give you enough info. He writes, "I have been subjected this kind of brutality for working for poor and powerless. It is against law, against democracy and even against morality to do this to an advocate. If such kind of treatment is given to young lawyers who want to work towards a better society, young generation will loose hope." What do we have to say about that?

AN OPEN LETTER & APPEAL

I am a fresh lawyer coming from a tribal family of Jashpur, Chhattishgarh. I finished my law graduation in year 2008, got enrolled with Chhattisgarh Bar Council and started working for poor and underprivileged. For which I had a commitment since my college days. I started learning basics of human rights litigation at Delhi office of Human Rights Law Network and very recently had come to Chhattisgarh to do research for right to food case which is going on in Hon’ble Supreme Court of India and for this. I went to Dantewada, and met Mr. Himanshu Kumar, Director of Vanvasi Chetna Ashram, who has done some study on this issue and taking information, his advice and guidance. I was also providing some legal assistance to him during my stay in Dantewada.

On 10 December, 2009 at about 2:30 P.M. the Thana Incharge (TI) of Bhairamgarh Police Station Mr. K.S. Nand in civil uniform came to the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram (VCA) situated at Katiyarraas accompanied by approximately more than 25 SPO’s in 5 cars. Director of VCA, Shri Himanshu Kumar and few other volunteers of VCA were present. I was also present there. TI spoke to Himanshu Kumar about taking Kopa Kunjam, s/o Lacchu Kunjam, resident of village Alnaar, Block – Geedam, P.S. Dantewada, who is a volunteer of VCA stating that they need him for some interrogation by the Superintendent of Police. He said, “SP Sahab ne bulaya hai, kuch puch tach karni hai”. No notice was served for this. However on being asked by Himanshu Kumar to give some written notice about it, the TI Bhairamgarh immediately wrote on a piece of paper that, “Prati, Kopa Kunjam ! Apse thana Dantewada me kuch poonch thanch karna chahta hoon. Kripya ap mere sath sadar P.S. kotwali chalein.” (I want to do some investigation with you at Dantewada Police Station. Please come with me to P.S. Kotwali). Being an Advocate present at the spot, I thought it to be my duty to accompany VCA Volunteer Kopa Kunjam to Dantewada police station. With the consent of Himanshu Kumar, Director-VCA I went alongwith Kopa Kunjam. At Dantewada police station we were asked to sit down. After making both of us wait for about half an hour, we were asked to come and sit in a vehicle . Thinking that we were being taken to the S.P. Office, we sat in the vehicle. As vehicle proceeded, I introduced myself to the IT Bhairamgadh saying that I am an advocate, having done my law course from Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur and am associated with Human Rights Law Network. When the vehicle crossed Dantewada, we became suspicious and asked as to where we were being taken now, to which TI, Bhairamgarh, replied, “Kopa Kunjam is now being taken to Beejapur District”. Kopa Kunjam refused to go further as he was not informed about being taken to Beejapur earlier. I also objected to it, stating that the police should follow necessary procedures under the law and should act as per guidelines of the Supreme Court and that they cannot take Mr.Kopa to Beejapur without giving any notice in this regard. By this time Kopa Kunjam came out from the Bolero vehicle and I also got out of the vehicle. The TI along with 2 others got hold of Mr.Kopa and with the help of around 15 S.P.O’s bundled Mr. Kopa into another vehicle which was also coming along with them. When I again resisted to such behavior saying that it was illegal to behave in this manner, two S.P.O.’s started abusing and slapping me and bundled me also inside the car. Before being bundled into car, I somehow managed inform my senior Lawyer, colleagues and friends in Delhi about this incident. Noticing this two SPOs, started slapping and beating me and tried to snatch my mobile and, but I didn’t give my mobile, but after this they force me inside the car and did not allow me use the mobile phone.

At about 5 P.M., we reached Bhairamgarh police station. The IT, Bhairamgadh asked me to give my mobile phone and also asked to switch it off and we were asked to sit there inside the police station. We were kept at a place inside police station with two S.P.O. keeping an eye on us. At about 8 p.m. we were taken for dinner in a nearby Hotel, from where we came in 15-20 minutes. At about 8:45 P.M. the officials of Bhairamgarh police station called me inside a room and tried to ask about the reason of me deciding to accompany Mr.Kopa. About three minutes later TI of Bhairamgarh started addressing me in an extremely rude and disrespectful manner and soon became violent and abusive. He started abusing me with slur and offensive language, which was followed by beatings with a thick bamboo stick and with a hard rubber cane, continuously slapping me while pulling my hair and kicking severely. After sometime he went out and started beating Kopa Kunjam. Kopa Kunjum was brought into the same room and both of us were beaten severely for 30 minutes by the TI Mr. Nand and an assistant constable Banjara, while some 15 other police staff & S.P.Os surrounded both of us. TI Mr. Nand also said that “ No Advocate in Bastar dares to speak in my presence and you talk a lot. Now show me how much you can talk! Show me how much law you know?” Later I was taken to a separate room and was questioned about the purpose of my stay in Dantewada and association with VCA. At around 10 PM, I listened someone saying that , “Sala Bada Admi hai , Delhi se Sahab ka phone aya hai.” Soon after this I was asked to write in a paper that I was brought to Bhairamgadh and as it has become late evening and there is no mode of transport and since the area is a very sensitive and unsafe, I decided to spend the night at Bhairamgarh station, where I am safe. In Bhairamgadh Police Station, they said that that Himanshu is a Naxalite and whoever is working with Himanshu is a naxalite and who stays with Himanshu it a Naxal supporter.

Mr. Kopa was very badly beaten and had received serious injuries on his chest, back and leg, due to which he was even unable to walk and sleep properly. I have got injuries on front portion of elbow of right hand, biceps and back causing severe pain and swelling. I was even not able to move my hands and back due to severe pain. I spend whole of night shivering and in pain, speculating what next is to happen.

On 11 December, 2009 at 9:30 a.m. I was send to Dantewada police station accompanied by 4 S.P.O.’s in a vehicle and one head constable of Bhairamgarh police station, while Mr. Kopa was kept detained. When they reached Dantewada Police Station, two volunteers of VCA were called and I was handed over to them.

After being released, next date day, I went to Ambedkar Hospital, Raipur to get a medical examination done, however I was asked make a compliant before the police and I was informed that the police will come after I make the complaint and then MLC will be conducted in the presence of police. I thought of going back to Dantewada to lodge the F.I.R. but because I was scared of being implicated in any false case this time, I did not go there.

However, being very much concerned about the trend of even lawyers not being allowed to function freely and being beaten up like this, I have no other option except to write this open letter-cum-appeal addressed to every body so that the issue could be taken up by the society itself. I have been subjected this kind of brutality for working for poor and powerless. It is against law, against democracy and even against morality to do this to an advocate. If such kind of treatment is given to young lawyers who want to work towards a better society, young generation will loose hope.

Kindly take appropriate step against those who have abused power vested in them to beat and insult me in this gruesome manner and help restoring the faith of young people in the democracy and rule of law.
Yours Sincerely

Alban Toppo

Advocate

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Press Release: Women activists not allowed to enter Dantewada

Posted by Admin on December 16, 2009

Source: Radical Notes December 16, 2009 at 4:54 pm in Chhattisgarh, India, Press Release, State Terrorism, Women’s oppression

Campaign against Sexual Violence and State Repression

On 12-13 December, 2009, about 120 people from numerous women’s and democratic organisations representing 10 states participated in the Campaign against Sexual Violence and State Repression meeting held at Raipur, Chhattisgarh. On 13th evening a representative group of 39 members set out from Raipur to Dantewada to extend support and solidarity to the adivasi women who had filed complaints before the NHRC and also filed private complaints of rape and sexual assault and are pursuing these valiantly.

The groups set out in 4 vehicles at around 10 p.m. The team was stopped at Charama Police Station, Kanker, at around 12.30 p.m. by D.S.P. Neg and his juniors; personal details were recorded while the drivers were whisked away separately inside the thana. Team members were forbidden to accompany the drivers and threats of ‘goli mar denge’ were repeatedly called out to us. Under the guise of interrogation the drivers were threatened with grave danger if they proceeded with us. Police confiscated one of our vehicles and forbid one driver from driving on allegations of improper documentation. The police finally allowed 3 vehicles to proceed to Makdi tola, the next junction, to procure a replacement vehicle for further journey. This entire episode lasted for about 2 hours.

After a twenty minute journey, the team was again stopped at Makdi on the grounds that the documents acceptable at Charama were now improper. Meanwhile our drivers succumbed to fear of further police action and refused to drive us further; we had also been followed by police in plain clothes. Around 3 a.m. the team somehow managed to board two buses going to Jagdalpur. These two buses were again stopped for passenger identification- first at Keshkal and then at Farusgaon; individual details noted were again noted each time and the halts were prolonged.

After a drive of 2 hours, the 2 buses were again stopped at Kondagaon police station; personal details were noted yet again. The passengers and driver were informed by policeman Awdhesh Jha that the buses would be allowed to proceed on condition that they offloaded the 39 passengers who had boarded at Makdi. Around 6 a.m., we were forced to disembark and wait at Kondagaon police station for the S.P. Khan M. Khan. DSP Vishwaranjan, when contacted by one of our team members, claimed lack of knowledge of our detention and promised to respond after finding the reason. Not only did he not call back but he did not take our further calls. S.P Khan, after he finally arrived at about 8 a.m., claimed that we’d been offloaded for our own protection. He also informed us that 4-5000 people were blocking the roads at Korenar and Dantewada in anticipation of our arrival. On further probing he claimed that we were free to leave and he would facilitate our travel to Dantewada with private vehicles.

We decided, however, to take public transport to Jagdalpur from the Kondagaon bus stand, primarily to consult with SP at Jagdalpur to assess the situation before further travel. Not surprisingly, the bus drivers at this bus-stand refused to take us; they claimed that they had been warned by the police. By this time the atmosphere was getting increasingly intimidating and oppressive as lots of motorcycles with youth cruised in front of us. Two trucks full of armed security personnel unloaded in front of us.

By this time many of our members had begun the process of contacting friends across the country and media both from Kondagaon and from Jagdalpur began arriving at the Kondagaon bus-stand. The team now began interacting with members of the public and press. We answered their queries and experienced no hostility; some of the local press narrated that the police were all-powerful in each locality and were instrumental in the suppression of free speech.

Given that we were unable to proceed to Jagdalpur, at around 10.30 we decided to return to Raipur by bus. This time though, our bus was met at Kanker bus stand by 10-15 men who initially blocked the entrance with placards, shouted anti-naxal slogans to intimidate us, and our co-passengers. As the bus left the bus-stand it was brought to a halt in the middle of the market; we again had men at the windows shouting at us. A man claiming to be a Haribhoomi journalist deflated a tyre; while it was being replaced two men boarded and shot us on camera at close quarters. We proceeded towards Raipur at about 11.45 a.m.

What we witnessed today has convinced us that all the reports of rampant violence, especially against women and their families could well be true. The state appears to be trying to hide the heinous crimes committed in this region by not letting independent teams enter the region and by the way it has tried to curb people’s efforts to reach there. It is disturbing to imagine what would be the situation inside the zone for women and for people’s movements and organisations.

The recent situation in Narayanpatna in bordering Orissa has also been similar where a fact-finding team of 10 women from across the country investigating allegations of molestation were bullied, intimated and roughed-up; their vehicle’s glass was broken and the driver was rounded up by the police at the behest of local liquor mafia, landlords and mining companies.

We hold the state responsible for our diminishing democratic spaces and demand an independent inquiry into this matter.

We further demand that people’s organisations have free and safe entry into these militarized areas for independent inquiry.

The Campaign is not deterred by the state’s efforts to subsume and threaten democratic rights groups and activists reporting state atrocities against women with the label of “naxalite” and “naxalite-supporters” and “undertaking anti-government activities”. Unquestioned, the state’s use of sexual violence as a method of repression would remain uncovered and increase. If justice is to be served, we – individuals, organisations and various sectors of civil society including the media- should join hands in protesting against state repression.

Women against Sexual violence and State Repression as currently represented by: AIPWA, AISA (Delhi), Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan, Chhatisgarh Mukti Morcha (Chhatisgarh), CAVOW, Dalit Stree Shakti (Andhra Pradesh), HRLN (Madhya Pradesh), Human Rights Alert (Manipur), IRMA (Manipur), IWID, Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (Madhya Pradesh), Kashipur Solidarity (Delhi), Madhya Pradesh Mahila Manch (Madhya Pradesh), Nari Mukti Sanstha (Delhi), Navsarjan (Gujarat), NBA (Madhya Pradesh), Pratidhwani (Delhi), PUCL (Karnataka), Saheli (Delhi), Sahmet (Madhya Pradesh), Samajwadi Jan Parishad (Madhya Pradesh), Sangini (Madhya Pradesh), Vanangana (Uttar Pradesh), Vidyarthi Yuvjan Sabha, Women’s Right Resource Center (Madhya Pradesh), Yuva Samvaad (Madhya Pradesh), Stree Adhikar Sanghatan (Uttar Pradesh), and individuals

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