Guest Post by Bastar Solidarity Network Delhi Chapter
The democratic forces, organizations and the thinking minds of IIMC took part in a spirited protest today against the invitation extended to notorious ex-IG Kalluri by the IIMC administration to take part in a seminar. To start with, since last two days, there were several attempts on the part of the organizers to confuse/conceal Kalluri’s invitation. Immediately after the declaration of the protest, Kalluri’s name was dropped from the poster. There were also threats of counter-mobilisation by the BJP goons. But undeterred, as we reached the gates of IIMC at 11am, the site echoed with slogans of “Killer Kalluri Go Back”!
Guest Post by CONCERNED STUDENTS OF TATA INSTITUTE OF SOCIAL SCIENCES, MUMBAI
We, the concerned students of Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai condemn the continuing state repression of adivasis and recent attack on human rights activist Bela Bhatia in Bastar, Chhattisgarh.
On the 23rd of January, 2017, a group of 30-odd men attacked Bela where they barged into her house in Parpa, near Jagdalpur violently and threatened to burn the building down if she did not leave immediately. The mob also attacked her landlords and their children, threatening them with dire consequences if Bela was not evicted immediately. Despite Bela’s assurances that she would leave, the mob continued to be belligerent, in the presence of the police, and the Sarpanch. The mob has been identified with the right-wing vigilante group Action Group for National Integrity (AGNI). Continue reading In Solidarity with Adivasis in Bastar, Human Rights Defenders and Bela Bhatia in Bastar: Concerned Students in TISS, Mumbai→
In the last few weeks there were at least three gruesome incidents of killing of tribals or forest dwelling persons in different parts of the country. In the first incident two persons from Muslim community were killed in police firing near Kaziranga National Park (KNP) of Assam on 19 September 2016. These people were peacefully protesting against their eviction drive carried out by local administration, which was implementing the judgment of Gauhati High Court related to evictions. In the second incident two young boys were killed by police in the Bastar area of the Chhattisgarh, and following the long tradition of all such killings, the police claimed that they were Maoists. The third incident occurred on the 1st October in the Hazaribagh, Jharkhand where the police used its brutal power and killed four persons in an open firing. These people were peacefully protesting against land acquisition for a Thermal Power Plant, which would cause their displacement. It is should be asked that why the State used its brutal power against one of the most marginalized sections of the society? Was firing on these unarmed and, at least in two cases, peacefully protesting tribal and forest dwelling people necessary? Could it be claimed by the State authorities that they fulfilled all constitutional obligations in the context of the demands of these people, in other words, could it be claimed by authorities that their demands were absurd and unconstitutional? Or would it be more correct to underline that tribals represent the marginal voices of the Indian nation-state, and mainstream notions of ‘national interest’, ‘internal security’ and ‘development’ have meager or no space for their claims or rights?
It seems that an undeclared state of emergency is sought to be imposed upon us: a series of seemingly unconnected events across the country, in universities (most recently in Hyderabad and Delhi), factory premises and court halls, our streets and over large parts of the countryside, bear this out. We would like to draw wider attention, in particular, to recent disturbing developments in Jagdalpur, Bastar, that have been somewhat overshadowed by events in the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
In Delhi as in Bastar, the state is using its coercive power to stifle dissent and lock up dissenters by labelling them anti-national or, in the case of Bastar, Maoists. In Chhattisgarh, it has long been standard practice to label anybody with an opinion of development contrary to the mainstream view (of development as corporate welfare and environmental destruction) as a Maoist. This is usually a prelude to police action ranging from harassment and intimidation to arrest, torture, and even death. The adivasi inhabitants of Bastar have not enjoyed the rule of law since 2005, when the Salwa Judum, a vigilante paramilitary group, was formed in the name of combating Maoism. Nor does the law offer much protection to ordinary people elsewhere seeking to exercise their constitutional rights as law enforcement agencies and governments trample upon civil liberties in the name of nationalism.
Unidentified persons attacked tribal leader Soni Sori on February 21, hours after she bid farewell to Shalini Gera and Isha Khandelwal, lawyers at the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group and journalist Malini Subramaniam, when they hurriedly packed their belongings and left Jagdalpur. Over the last few months, they had withstood all forms of harassment and hostility from police officials and pro-police ‘civil society’ organisations in war-torn Bastar. They had been heckled, threatened with dire consequences and targeted via a sustained vilification campaign calling for their ouster from the region on grounds that they were stalling Bastar’s ‘development’.
Beginning 8 February, the pressure intensified. Police first landed at Malini’s house and then JagLag’s residence; they intimidated their landlord and domestic help, kept them in jail for hours together over several days and threatened to implicate them in false cases. Within ten days, Malini and JagLag lawyers had to leave Jagdalpur due to relentless pressure and harassment from the police.
Himanshu Kumar is a Gandhian activist who, together with his wife, ran the Vanvasi Chetana Ashram in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh for 22 years. He learned the local adivasi language (Gondi) and worked through the Ashram to help adivasis access their rights under the law. Starting in 2005, during the murderous Salwa Judum campaigns of vigilante groups against the adivasis of Bastar in Chhattisgarh, Himanshu worked to try to get villagers back to their homes, get people falsely accused out of jail, and win justice for the victims of police and vigilante crimes. His Ashram was eventually bulldozed and he was forced to move to Delhi, from where he continues to try to follow up with legal cases on the state’s treatment of the adivasis. JUSTIN PODUR interviewed him there in February 2013.
This intervew withSUDHA BHARADWAJof Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha was conducted byJUSTIN PODURin Raipur on 5 March 2013
JP: As a lawyer and an activist, how do you see the relationship between legal work and activism?
SB: I see myself primarily as a trade unionist. I joined the union movement over twenty years ago, and it was the union that made me a lawyer. They felt that workers needed a good lawyer in their fight with the corporations. Our union is one of contract workers and has been striving to overcome divisions in the working class. Here, workers have a close connection with the peasants. So, we believe that working with the peasants is part of unionism.
When I got to the High Court, I found that all the people’s organizations were in a similar situation. The laws that give you rights are poorly implemented. When you fight, the status quo has many legal weapons, launches malicious litigation, etc. So we have a group of lawyers now (Janhit), and we work on group legal aid, not individual legal aid. The idea is that if you help a group, that can bring about some kind of change, create some space. I’ve also gotten involved with the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), for which I am the General Secretary in Chhattisgarh. Continue reading The Bastar Land Grab: An Interview with Sudha Bharadwaj→