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Interim report by womens’ team on Nandigram November violence

Posted by Indian Vanguard on December 5, 2007

Source: Sanhati

Interim Report of an Independent Citizens’ Team from Kolkata on the Current State of Affairs in Nandigram

30 November 2007

As a result of an initiative instituted by women’s groups, women’s organizations and individuals, an eleven member women’s team of concerned citizens from Kolkata comprising teachers, social activists, researchers and students visited Nandigram, on November 24, 2007. Concerned about the repeated disruption of peace in the region, the members decided to visit the affected areas and talk to the local people, with the objectives of showing solidarity with the survivors of violence, documenting people’s needs in the
current circumstances, and drawing up recommendations based on our understanding of the situation.

The people who constituted this team were Kavita Panjabi, Anuradha Kapoor, Rajashri Dasgupta, Saswati Ghosh, Shyamoli Das, Swapna Banerjee, Trina Nileena Banerjee, Shuktara Lal, Sushmita Sinha, Shubhasree Bhattacharya and Sourinee Mirdha.
On arrival in Nandigram at the Relief Camp at Brij Mohan Tiwari Shiksha Niketan, the team split into two groups. One talked to the people in the Relief Camp, the other to a woman who had been sexually assaulted, and the injured in Nandigram Hospital. One group then proceeded to the villages of Sonachura and Garchakraberia, also stopping at the Bhangaberia Bridge where the CRPF is stationed; the other half of the team went to the village of Daudpur.

This interim report comprises the general findings and recommendations of all the members of the team that visited Nandigram on the 24th of November. The specific testimonies and individual stories will be included in the final report.

PRIMARY FINDINGS:

1) Overall there is a reign of terror; the people are marked by deep fear, disillusionment and depression. Since January, Nandigram has been marked by the violence of the State in tandem with the ruling CPI(M), and the retaliatory attacks by the BUPC . The massive attack of the state on the BUPC procession in March 14th, 2007, clearly violated all democratic norms and involved armed police, para-military forces, as well as armed party cadres, including rampant shooting and widespread sexual abuse of women. Subsequently, in numerous villages post March 14, there were reports that many CPI(M) supporters were forced to flee to relief camps in Khejuri and that their homes were ransacked and looted by BUPC supporters. There has been continued violence since on both sides. However, the build up in the area of the CPI(M) militia, the Harmad Bahini, the brutal firing by CPI(M) cadres on November 6, 2007 of BUPC members in Satengabari, Ranichak, Bhangabera and Sonachura, and the torching of nine villages including Simulkunda and Satengabari, followed by the attack on November 10, 2007 at Maheshpur village in Nandigram, when armed CPI(M) cadres fired bullets indiscriminately at a peace rally organised by BUPC with the police taking no steps to intervene, all demonstrate the scale and might of the violence exercised by the ruling CPI(M), with the full support of the State.

2) The people of Nandigram are now living in terror of the CPI(M) which has now taken over most of the Nandigram villages and is out to extract vengeance on the BUPC and its supporters. Criminals who have killed, sexually assaulted and injured people continue to threaten the population of the villages. Many who had tried to return to their villages but had to come back to the Relief Camp spoke of bombs and firing that they heard even on the 23rd night when they had tried to return to their homes. And the night-time threats, especially against women, also continue. Across all the villages, people testified to the complete loss of political freedom – they are being forced to pledge their allegiance to one particular party or the other, and they talked angrily about their right to decide which party they wanted to support. The people in the camp, as well as the majority in the villages, have lost all confidence in the government, administration and police.

3) At the Relief Camp at Brij Mohan Tiwari Shiksha Niketan in Nandigram town, villagers testified to rampant firing, brutal killing and large-scale threats by the cadres of the CPI(M), the ruling party, across the villages of Gokulnagar, Kalicharanpur, Adhikaripara, Simulkunda and Satengabari. About 20-25,000 people have left their homes according to people in the camps. Of them, 3000 to 3500 people had been living in this camp approximately 1500 of whom were still there on 24th November. The People’s Health doctors working in the Relief Camp said they had not received any complaints of sexual or physical assault, but mainly children’s health related complaints, like cough, fever, diarrhoea. However, many people in the camps carried scars of deep bullet injuries on their faces, stomachs and legs and women told us about a woman who had been gang raped in Satengabari by 6-7 men, who is now in Tamluk hospital. Both her daughters, one about 17, one younger, were abducted. They are still missing. Further, hundreds of women who had fled Kalicharanpur, Adhikaripara, Simulkunda and Satengabari in fear of sexual assault were still in the Nandigram camp. They testified that not only had their homes been looted and burnt down, in villages like Satengabari they had also been severely threatened by CPI(M) cadres, who came around saying “We’ll come back at night – light your lamps and wait for us with open doors. Send your men away, we’ll come back to you at night.” “How can we stay in a place under such threats?” the women asked. Women of these villages are still living in fear of being sexually abused, and young girls have been sent to relatives’ homes elsewhere. The fear and insecurity of the villagers – especially the women at the Nandigram camp – has been so high that they have refused to go back to their villages till the CRPF is posted there to ensure their safety and protect them from the violent vengeance of the Harmad Bahini comprising CPI(M) cadres.

4) Extensive physical abuse and sexual abuse of women, ranging from rape and forcing of rods into women’s vaginas, to rampant sexual harassment, as well as abduction of girls has been reported since March this year, but not much has been done to provide relief to the women, or to initiate investigation against and punish the perpetrators. Such violence against women continues, accompanied by terrifying threats, and there is no evidence of any steps having been taken to curb either.

5) Some of the people who had participated in the unarmed march to Maheshpur on 10th November were arrested and locked up for three days in the school building. The women were subjected to repeated sexual harassment by male CPI(M) cadres who claimed the women were Maoists.

6) In villages such as Garchakraberia, where the CRPF has already been posted, normal life and activity seem to have returned; however, there is simmering tension and fear under the facade of peace. At night, when CRPF personnel go off vigil, assailants begin their attacks again; so people have been forced to flee their homes at night and take shelter elsewhere from fear of reprisal. Villagers claim this is a forced calm and are terrified of what may happen when the CRPF is withdrawn.

7) Some residents of Sonachura also expressed their anger and frustration at the BUPC leadership for keeping their own women safe at home, while forcing other women in the villages to join the BUPC marches and threatening to beat and burn down the homes of all who refused. Many people in Sonachura were also scared of admitting to the violence they have faced from the CPI(M), claiming that they had been threatened into silence.

8) The situation in Daudpur is still very tense and the administration should take immediate measures to address this. There is resentment and anger brewing among the villagers. People openly accuse each other of violence while questioning the authority and corruption of particular CPI(M) leaders. Some villagers also claimed that the BUPC forced people to volunteer to stand as night guards against the armed attacks from CPI(M)’s Harmad Bahini after 28 October.

9) Villagers testified that the police are playing a partisan role. BUPC members returning to their villages were being arrested, some on false charges. Others are being levied exorbitant “fines” to “compensate for the damages done to the CPI(M) families in the last 11 months.” Complaints about the atrocities of the CPI(M) followers were either not registered, or the accused were released after being arrested, without any of the legal procedures being followed.

10) The senior police officer at the Relief Camp refused to comment on most of our questions. He i) hinted at pressure from some political parties ii) implied that work was being made “difficult” due to “interference” iii) said peace is returning to the villages, but the situation is “still difficult”.

11) While language is proving to be a barrier for the CRPF in dealing with the volatile situation here, there are apparent efforts to restore peace, including red-flag processions etc. But the atmosphere outside the temporary ‘protection’ of the Relief Camp is of extreme terror. In spite of all apparent efforts and assurance on the part of the authorities, this terror is persistent.

12) There is a tremendous breakdown of trust. The villages of Nandigram are zones of pregnant silence today – they are zones of seething fear, terror, suspicion and threat. Common people are suffering and living in fear and their tragedy is heightened because of the partisan role played by the police

RECOMMENDATIONS:

1. Non-partisan, just and effective action on the part of the State is the most basic and critical factor for restoring peace in Nandigram. The government must strengthen administrative structures and ensure impartial and immediate action on the part of the administration to instill confidence in the people and normalize the situation in Nandigram. Conditions must be created for people to renew their daily social and economic activities without fear and apprehension of reprisal.

2. The violence in Nandigram must be stopped. i) All arms in the possession of the entire population of all the villages of Nandigram must be confiscated. ii) The area must be rid of all outside cadres. iii) All criminals, irrespective of political affiliation must be arrested immediately and tried; and iv) effective vigilance should be set in place against all those indulging in retaliatory and revengeful acts that will derail the peace process.

3. We demand responsible action now from all the political parties too. They must stop exploiting the situation, abstain from violence, and play a constructive role in bringing peace back to Nandigram. .

4. Rape and sexual assault have clearly become dominant weapons of war in the crossfire between vested political interests in Nandigram. i) Urgent measures must be taken by the administration and the police to stop this immediately. ii) Perpetrators have been resorting to sexual assault on women to intimidate, humiliate and subjugate the opposition, while the opposition has been using incidents of rape to discredit the perpetrators, not to seek justice for the women affected. We demand a complete and immediate stop to such practices and to all threats of sexual violence too.

5. The administration should also ensure that all rape cases are registered, thoroughly investigated, and followed up. Cases where women have been brutally assaulted should also receive the attention they merit and should not be brushed aside merely because the case was not one of rape. Sexual assault is a serious offence and must be dealt with as such. All victims of sexual assault must be provided immediate medical treatment and their privacy respected and dignity upheld.

6. Both men, and large numbers of women, especially those subject to sexual assault and/or rape, are now severely traumatized and have sunk into visibly deep depression or shock. The government should set up a counselling cell in Nandigram or authorize an NGO to do so for the purpose of trauma alleviation.

7. Those who are suffering from the latest violence, as well as those who have been injured earlier in the year, cannot afford the medication required. Many cannot work as they could earlier. On both counts, their livelihood is adversely affected. Compensation to the injured and raped, and to the families of the dead should be made available on an urgent footing. Women and children have been the worst sufferers of the violence; attention should be paid to their special needs, and efforts made to restore their dignity and confidence in the process of rehabilitation. The SDO/BDO should ensure that the grant promised to repair houses must be distributed without any partisan preference. The presence of the CRPF can ensure only a temporary and forced calm. This is no solution to the reign of terror. The state must set in place peacemaking efforts, and involve all political parties and people’s organisations in the region to renew the democratic process and enable citizens to reclaim the lost democratic space for a lasting and just peace in the area. People’s political rights must be ensured. Democracy does not mean the rule of the majority, but ensuring the rights and respect of the minority and those holding opposing political opinions and beliefs too. Concerted efforts have to be made, across all political differences, to control the spate of vengeance, and rebuild the confidence of the people of Nandigram who are living with violence as well as the fear of violence on a day to day basis.

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Fact Finding Report

Posted by Indian Vanguard on September 6, 2007

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fact finding committee Report on Vakapally Gang Rape

Posted by Indian Vanguard on September 3, 2007

A Fact finding committee constituted with the members, on August 23rd, has visited the Vakapally village of Nurmathi panchayat of Visakhapatnam district, where as many as 11 tribal women were dishonored by the Greyhounds police on August 20th, The poor tribal women were raped by the cruel police mercilessly. This incident moves the entire nation, especially women cutting across the caste and religion. The electronic and print media had highlighted the hapless tribal women tragedy prominently, soon after the ghastly incident reported.

The representatives:

Ms Lalitha

Padma (Chaitanya Mahila Samakhya)

D. Chandranna,

Purnachandrarao (AIFTU)

Bhimabharat,

Mohan (DBSOS)

Apparao,

Annapurna (APCLC),

UB. Krishna (HRF)

Uma (Kavo)

Anitha (Savitri Bhai Phool Sangam)

Devi (APTF)

Ganga Bhavani,

Laxmi

Aruna (POW)

Prasadarao (steel plant SC,ST employees association)

Sudhakar (DBSU)

Kusuma (Sakshi Human rights)

Patnaik (MCPI)

Nirmala (Professor)

Bhumudu (Girijana Vidhyarthi Sangham) and

Part of the Fact Finding Committee.

Vakapally, a small tribal village, situated 190 Km away from the Greater Visakhapatnam. We reached the Vakapally, after two hours walk from Nurmathi Panchayat village of G.Madugula Mandal. There are Phirangi, Puraja, Gadaba, Kraja, Koda tribal people living in the village. They depend on the Podu cultivation to eke out their livelihood. The victims described the police brutality on the fate day of August 20th.

On Monday morning, at about 10 am, some 21 police belongs to Greyhounds, raided on the village, alleging the tribal were handing glove with the naxalites. The police abused the womenfolk and dragged them out from the houses. The police had forcibly taken the women from the houses and resorted to rape. The victims Ms Prangi Barasu, Arisobhi, Korra Kumari, Korra Janakamma, Vantala Chitteemma, Vantala Rendo, Pangi Ande, Pangi Laxmi lodged a compliant to the Sub collector of the Paderu revenue division. The women were at the age of 20 to 45 years. Even a woman (45 years), and other women who had delivered a baby just three days ago, were not spared by the brutal police. Later with the help of the elders and husbands, the tribal women met the Paderu MLA Rajarao and explained the police evil behavior. The MLA, in turn drew the attention of the ITDA Officer about this incident.

It was unfair on part of the DGP Mr MA. Basit that the Maoists were resorting to propaganda against the police who are involved in the combing operations in the naxal infested agency area of the district. He said that the naxals were intentionally trying to tarnish the image Mr Jana Reddy also said that it was not fact that the tribal women were raped by the police. Later he said that a case will be registered by the district SP against the police under sc, st prevention and atrocities act. Tribal women will be sent to medical tests, the Minister said. Police were ordered to take the victims to KGH hospital. Police made a futile attempt to distore the facts in this case.

A Husband of the victim Sridevi, asked his wife not to speak about the incident and do not lodge compliant against the police. On another side the DSP of Paderu Stalin also alleged that the Maoists had stooped down level where they were making baseless against by exploiting the tribal women. In the meanwhile, so far the names of the accused in this case were not disclosed by the state government. It indicates the state government dilly dally attitude. The state police have been trying to dilute the case. The district collector and Superintendent of the Police failed to visit the village. However, the tribal women came to the capital and met the Home Minister and Human rights Commission. They also met the Chief Minister.

The State government should register the case against the greyhounds police involved in this crime, under SC,ST Act, IPC 376 and arrest the culprits immediately. The police did not conduct identification parade. The government did not order to conduct DNA tests on the police. The higher police officials interrogated the accused in a secret place and did not disclose the details.

The State government respond in this incident is unconstition. The bureaucracy violated the law and tried to rescue the police. The higher court should order the government tot register the case against the Home Minister, DGP and district SP who spared no stone unturn to rescue the accused in this cases. In 2004, a similar incident occurred in the agency village of Prakasam district, where the 8 greyhounds police raped one Kudumula Errakka. This incident reported in Charlopally Chenchugudem of Dornala Mandal. However, the police frightened the victims Errakka. They brought pressure on this woman and made her to lie that the she had reported false allegation against the police.

In protest against the police attitude, women organizations conducted a dharna and rallies in the city of Vizag. Many human right activists also conducted a dharna at Ambedkar statue in the capital. They demanded the government to announce 5 lakh rupees exgratia to the victims and order a probe by the sitting judge. They burnt the effigy of the DGP. Later the police arrested the human right activists and shifted them to the Gandhinagar police station. On 22nd of the August itself, the agency area of the Visakhapatnam observed the bandh in protest against the incident. The victims were not allowed to their villages. An uneasy calm prevailed in the Visakapatnam agency area. According to the tribal customs, the husbands of the victims were distancing themselves from their wives. The victims were sheltered in a community hall in the Vakapally village. The elders of the village are advocated to perform SUDDI in the village. In this case the accused were the outsiders. The State government failed to take stringent measures against the police. The Visakha agency area is potential to the Bauxite ore. The state government is planning to entrust the mining to the multinational companies. The government is considering the proposal to vacate the tribals in a big number. The State government is trying to brand the poor tribals as naxals sympathizers.

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A Report from Haryana

Posted by Indian Vanguard on September 3, 2007


Silencing Dissent

Contents

I. Dalits in Haryana 2

II. Organisations and Activities 4

III. Present Cases 5

IV. The Charge of Sedition 13


V. Demands 17

Boxes

Ghaso: A Symbol of Dalit Resistance 6

Ismailabad village 15


Preface

For past more than a month or so, the Haryana police have unleashed a reign of terror in the districts of Yamuna Nagar, Kurukshetra, Kaithal and Jind. Since mid-April this year until the first week of May as many as 13 activists of three organisations, Jagrook Chhatra Manch, Krantikari Mazdoor Kisan Union and Shivalik Jan Sangharsh Manch have been picked up and charged under several sections of IPC and Arms Act, including the charge of sedition.

Sympathetic to the Maoist movement, these communist organizations have been raising issues related to wages, fee hikes, dalit oppression for a long time. Repression is no new to these organisations. What is new, though, is its increased level that the people associated with and sympathetic to these organisations are facing for the last two years or so. The activists say that more than 100 people had been picked up, kept in illegal confinement, tortured in custody and then let off over the last two years. More than 50 people were implicated in false cases with serious charges like attempt to murder. In the recent past, media projection in Haryana has turned paranoid. Consider the news headlines: “Maoism snatches the sleep”, “Maoists were trying to firm-up their position in Haryana”, “Secret agencies hunt for Naxals”, “Students unite to fight Naxalism”, “US military weapons reach Maoists”, “Police tightens the noose on Maoism” and you would get the impression that Haryana state is soon going to turn into a red bastion.

The local newspapers, it seems, are busy churning out stories about the ‘Maoist menace’ that has come to plague the parts of Haryana and is now threatening to spread its tentacles to engulf other areas. Such paranoid projections in the media not only help shape the general population’s ideas about these organisations but also prepare the ground for justification of the use of undemocratic means to suppress the people’s movements. It was in this context that People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) visited the districts of Yamuna Nagar, Kurukshetra, Kaithal and Jind on 8 and 9 May 2007. The team went into the villages of these districts like Ismailpur, Chhammo Kalan, Rohti, Thandro, Mandi Kalan and the towns of Yamuna Nagar and Kaithal and talked to the people there. The team met large number of dalit villagers and the husband of the women sarpanch of Ismailpur, lawyers, political activists, journalists, the Superintendent of police at Yamuna Nagar, the police in Kaithal town and the Sub Divisional Officer at Pehova.

Following is the report of the team.

I. Dalits in Haryana


It appears that one reason for this level of intimidation is the national
policy whereby the Maoist movement is being projected as the biggest
internal security threat. Thus its suppression, irrespective of the means
employed, anywhere in the country, has become a central objective
of the administration. Other reasons emanate from the local
contradictions. The two prominent Congress leaders Randeep Singh
Surjewala and Birender Singh, who also hold ministerial posts in the
present government, are steadfast in suppressing any possibility of
resistance that challenges their hegemony in the area. Both are wellto-
do landowners as well and obtain their support from among the
dominant castes. What has changed this structure of dominance is
the challenge from the landless and suppressed castes
.
In Haryana, according to the 2001 census, dalit population is 40.9
lakh, which constitutes 19.3 per cent of the total population of the
state. No less than 78 per cent of dalits reside in villages. Census data
shows significant changes in the occupational structure of dalits from
1991 to 2001. First, is the rise in proportion of marginal workers in
total workers from 7.5 per cent to 34.4 per cent. Second, is the shift
from agriculture to non-agriculture: from 65 per cent of workers
engaged in agriculture to 50 per cent in 2001. Third, is an increase in
the work participation rate, i.e. the proportion of working dalits in
the total dalit population, from 31 per cent to 38 per cent over this
period. Taken together, this suggests lesser availability of work in
agriculture, need for more working persons in the family and, a move
towards low paying and irregular work in non-agricultural sectors.
The kind of work opportunities available to dalits can be gauged from
the literacy and educational statistics: 45 per cent of dalits are illiterate;
19 per cent literate are without education or educated below primary
level; 18 per cent up to primary level; 8.5 per cent up to middle level;
another 8 per cent up to class 12; and 1.5 per cent above class 12 or
technically trained.

In agriculture, cultivators constitute 9 per cent of the dalit main
workers and 6 per cent among the marginal workers. On the other
hand, 32 per cent of the dalit main workers and 61 per cent of the
marginal workers are agricultural labourers. On the other hand,
among the non-dalit population only 9 per cent are the landless
labourers! Thus of the total 12,78,821 landless labourers in Haryana,
6,66,750 are dalits; i.e. every second landless labourer is a dalit.

It is these dalits who have faced the ire of the dominant castes – be
it the Gohana incident, Sonepat district in August 2005, when a dalit
basti was burnt down in an organized fashion and the administration
not only turned a blind eye, but even tried to justify it; or Mehmoodpur
Kunjpura incident, Karnal district in February 2006, when the dalits
were prevented from taking out the procession on the occasion of
birth anniversary of Ravidas and were beaten up and arrested when
they protested; or Farmana incident, Rohtak district in March 2006,
when the dominant castes erected a boundary wall around dalit basti
so as to prevent them from freely moving around in the village; or
Quila Zafargarh incident in 2006, when dalits were attacked; or Salwan
village in Karnal district, where there was a well organized attack on
dalits in March 2007; or Kheri Masania in Jind district, in 2007, when
over the issue of wage increase for wheat harvesting, there was a
skirmish between the dominant castes and the dalits.

In the past, in November 2000 at Jatluhari, Bhiwani, a dalit groom
was not allowed to ride the horse and was beaten up by the dominant
caste people. In front of Jajjhar’s Dulina police chowki, on October
15, 2002, five dalits were lynched by a 2000-strong mob in the presence
of the police and administration, when they were alleged to be
‘skinning a live cow’. In Kaithal district’s Harsola village, upper caste
people drove 200-250 families of the dalits out of the village on
February 10, 2003. There have been instances when Khap (jat clan)
panchayats pronounced death sentences in the cases of inter-caste
marriages. Such is the mindset that those involved in cases of arson
are eulogized. The protests – dharnas, rallies, bandhs – are organized
when any of those involved in atrocities against the dalits get arrested.
It is this dalit population, whose issues form a major concern for
the three organisations currently under attack by the Haryana
government.

II. Organisations and Activities


The origin of the Jagrook Chhatra Morcha and the Krantikari Mazdoor
Kisan Union can be traced to 1986. That year a cultural organisation,
Disha Sanskritik Manch was formed in Rohtak Medical College and
University. In 1991, Naujawan Dasta, a youth organisation was formed
which started struggles on a variety of issues that the Disha Sanskritik
Manch had been raising. These included caste discrimination,
custodial violence, and inter-caste marriages. Prominent among the
struggles led by them was one to allow dalits to use the village pond
in Ghaso village (see Box: Ghaso – A symbol of dalit resistance).
Spread of the activities of Disha Sanskritik Manch to other towns
led to the creation of the Jagrook Chhatra Morcha (JCM) in 1994. Its
activities were initially concentrated among the university students
in Narwana town of Jind district, later spreading to Ambala,
Kurukshetra, and Yamuna Nagar. Issues relating to admissions, fee
hike, sexual attacks on women, and most recently, protests against
the Private Universities Bill, have been taken up by the JCM. The
organization has also been notable in protesting injustices perpetrated
against peoples’ struggles across the country. Such protests included
one against the police brutality on Honda workers in Gurgaon and
another against the killings by the CPM-led West Bengal government
at Nandigram.

Colleges and universities in Haryana lack an official students’
union owing to a more than a decade old government ban on student
union elections. Organisations such as the JCM individually and
jointly with other student groups thus became the only available
means for students to raise their demands. Notwithstanding the
success in getting their grievances redressed, each of the protests led
to the launching of criminal cases against activists of the JCM, which
lingered on in courts for many years.

One of the programmes consistently taken up by the JCM was
termed “go to the village”, to sensitise students about the issues being
faced by peasants and workers in the countryside. This led to the
creation of the Gramin Mazdoor Union. This organisation was to soon
make way for a more broad-based organisation, the Krantikari
Mazdoor Kisan Union (KMKU) in 2004. Women’s issues, both in
towns and villages, are addressed separately through a women’s
organization called the Mahila Mukti Morcha.

An organisation similar to the KMKU, the Shivalik Jan Sangharsh
Manch (SJSM) has been active in organising and taking up peasants’
issues in the north-eastern corner of Haryana, contiguous to the hill
and terai regions of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The concerns of
both these organisations, as exhibited through the struggles taken up
by them, include higher wages in agricultural work, release of
panchayati land occupied by dominant landowners, demand for
implementation of the land ceiling laws, access to village tanks and
cultivation by dalits on auctioned panchayati land, and against
dominant caste practices that constitute an attack on the dignity of
the dalits, especially of dalit women.

III. Present Cases


1. Narwana Town
With higher education becoming a lucrative business, government
policies both at the Centre and the States have become increasingly
conducive to providing private actors an open field to invest in this
sector. In this context, the Private Universities Bill was passed by the
Haryana Assembly in September 2006. By December, it had received
assent from the Governor. Many student organisations expected this
law to cause a steep rise in course fee, thereby further pushing higher
education out of the reach of many disadvantaged sections. It was
also viewed as a huge step towards the state abdicating its
responsibility in higher education.

After a series of protest meetings, the JCM held a cycle rally from
Narwana to Chandigarh starting on 14 April 2007. Since most JCM
activities were being disallowed by the administration, journalists
present at the flagging-off ceremony asked the president of the
organisation, Sanjay, whether they were confident about being able
to reach up to Chandigarh. Sanjay was reported to have replied that
if not Chandigarh, they would reach Delhi’s Lal Qila and hoist their
flag there. The journalists further prodded him by asking if that would
happen by armed methods, to which Sanjay was alleged to have
replied in the affirmative. This statement was widely and piquantly
reported in the press. There was a lull thereafter for nearly a month.
In mid April, the JCM was busy organizing a memorial meeting
for a member of the Morcha, who had died a few days ago. Since the
deceased activist was also associated with the Rationalist Society,
the programme was to be jointly organized. On the late evening of 12
March, five activists were engaged in writing slogans on the walls in Narwana town to campaign for this meeting to be held on 27 May. A
PCR van spotted them and took them into custody. These five were:
Sunil, Krishan Deora and Vedpal from JCM and Om Prakash and
Devinder from the KMKU. The last two had joined as they had a
good hand at painting.

Vedpal and Krishan, wanted by the police in an earlier case of
Ghaso village (see Box: Ghaso – A symbol of dalit resistance), were
produced before the magistrate the following day and sent to jail.
The remaining three persons were illegally detained for another day.
They were produced before the magistrate on 14 April, shown as
arrested from Uchana town, charged with an offence of defacement
of public property, and sent to jail. Sunil and Om Prakash were badly
tortured in police custody. On 16 April, an FIR No. 108 was filed at
Narwana with six persons being named as accused and ‘unnamed
others’ under section 124-A, IPC (sedition). The basis for this FIR
was the reported statement of the JCM president to journalists on the
launch of the cycle rally. Those named were the JCM president and
the five who were already in jail.

The following days saw more arrests of the JCM members in FIR
No. 108. On 21 April, police arrested Rajkumar, a third year student
of K.M. College in Narwana, from his village. On 29 April, a first
year LLB student, Vipin, was arrested from his hostel room in
Kurukshetra University and two days later, Satya, a woman activist,
was arrested from her village in Machrauli in Yamuna Nagar.
Rajkumar, Vipin and Satya formed the part of interminable list of
‘unnamed others’ in the sedition case.
All of them are currently in jail, seven of them at Jind and the
woman activist at Hissar. The court recently granted Vipin the
permission to write the university examinations in custody.

2. Kaithal Town
On 8 May, while our team was touring Yamuna Nagar district, we
came across newspapers of 7 May that reported the arrest of another
JCM activist from Kaithal town. On 5 May 2007, Somveer, a JCM
activist, was picked up from his house in Kaithal town by the local
police. He was detained in police custody for four days. He is also
charged under sedition and now duly sent to jail.
According to the police, the JCM held a meeting at Jawahar Park
in the town on the evening of 5 May. An undisclosed informer
reported to the police about the use of provocative speeches and
slogans in the meeting clandestinely being held to recruit members.
Upon the SHO receiving the information, a police party was sent to
the site and found that the meeting had dispersed and everybody
disappeared. Somveer was arrested from his house later that evening.
This most recent FIR threatens to arrest more ‘unnamed others’,
who would be shown ostensibly as part of the ‘meeting’, the very
occurrence of which is in the realm of doubt.

3. Sedition and Arms Act, Yamuna Nagar District
On 19 April two activists of Shivalik Jan Sangharsh Manch were
arrested near Bhurkala a few miles from Ismailpur village.

Information of their whereabouts was given by some residents of
Ismailpur. The police claimed that they recovered two weapons and
some literature from them. An FIR was lodged under section 121-A
(conspiracy to wage war), 122 (collecting arms with intention of
waging war), 124-A (sedition), IPC and sections 25, 54, and 59 of the
Arms Act at P.S. Khizrabad, Yamuna Nagar the same day. The FIR
records that the two men, Jagtar and Samrat had been touring the
villages telling people that the government did not listen to their
demands, that people should wage war against the government, and
that they would supply the arms required for this purpose. Samrat,
who is a resident of Yamuna Nagar town and Jagtar, who hails from
Thandru village in Ismailabad block, Kurukshetra, were produced
before the magistrate on 20 April at Yamuna Nagar and remanded to
police custody till 28 April. Their interrogation led to the arrest that
of Rinku, a resident of Ismailpur village on 24 April. He was illegally
detained for four days and charged with providing shelter to Jagtar
and Samrat. Police claim to have recovered three country-made pistols
from his house.

On 28 April, the police applied for the further remand for two
weeks for Samrat and Jagtar as intelligence agencies from the centre
and other states wanted to interrogate them about the weapons. Their
remand was duly extended by another 13 days! Their lawyer told the
PUDR team that he met the accused on 2 May and it was clear that
Samrat had been severely tortured while in custody. There are no
prior cases against Jagtar, Samrat or Rinku.

On 5 May, a woman activist of JCM, Poonam was arrested from
her rented house at Yamuna Nagar town. Her name was added as an
additional accused in the above case. The court remanded her to police
for seven days.

Ismailpur Village

Located in the north-eastern part of the state, the Yamuna Nagar
district is bordered by Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Uttar
Pradesh. Close to the eastern border of the district and the Yamuna
river lies the village of Ismailpur, where about 150 dalit, 30 Muslim
and 50-60 gujjar families reside. The present sarpanch is a Gujjar
woman but that is more perfunctory; for all practical purposes the
real sarpanch seems to be her husband. This became evident when
we asked to meet the sarpanch, it was he who talked to us in that
capacity. No dalit has ever held the post.
The predominant occupation in this village is agriculture. Since
agro forestry is also practised over substantial portions of land, as
also stone and sand quarrying along the Yamuna river bed, people
find work in these activities too. Following the norm in Haryana, no
dalit family in the village owns agricultural land. All land is in the
hands of the Gujjar residents – both Hindu and Muslim. Proximity to
the Yamuna and the Shivalik hills, and availability of pump sets,
makes for easy access to water for irrigation and therefore high land
productivity.

Gujjar households control the entire 600 acres of arable land that
belongs to the village, which also includes 50-60 acres of common or
‘panchayati’ land. The law makes it obligatory that one-third of the
panchayati land of the village be given to the dalits for cultivation,
for which an auction is required to be conducted annually. The
proceeds from the auction, fund the activities of the panchayat. But
this is not followed here. About 20 to 25 acres of this land has been
planted with a tree crop, and the rest is lying fallow. The proceeds
from sale of timber fund the panchayat. In this way, dalits continue
to be denied access to land.

The land is worked upon by dalits of the village and migrants
from other areas. Daily wages vary between Rs. 60 to 70 for male
workers. Payment during harvest is given in kind at the rate of 1
quintal per acre for male workers and 10 kilograms lesser for women.
But a more common practice is of employing seeri/naukar for the entire
year at a rate of Rs. 12,000 annually or Rs. 33 per day. Women are not
employed within this seeri practice and their work is totally seasonal
as they are employed at the time of harvesting and sowing of paddy
where they get lower wages than men.

Seeri is a caste-based traditional labour arrangement. Even today
it is prevalent in greater or lesser degree in all the villages our team
visited. A landowner hires a seeri for the whole year. The seeri is then
expected to do all the work required on the farm: irrigation, sowing,
harvesting, weeding, etc. and additionally to work on household
chores during the lean season. He may be called upon at any time
during the day or night. Absence on account of illness or otherwise
requires the seeri to either provide a substitute worker or face wage
deduction on the daily wage rate, which is approximately double. A
seeri thus never gets the amount fixed at the time of hiring. Such
situations can lead to a seeri taking loans from the employer, which
lower the amount fixed in the seeri contract for the following year.
Unable to pay off the debt, the seeri system leads to the creation of
‘attached’ labour. In Ismailpur, the influx of labourers from nearby
poorer hilly regions has led to employing a seeri on monthly basis at
Rs. 600 to Rs. 800. This substantially lowers the annual earning since
it entails no employment for the lean part of the year.
Current Tensions

Social and economic oppression of the dalits by the gujjars is
compounded by the presence of gujjar criminal gangs that openly
threaten and harass dalits. Dalit residents told us that the gujjars with
the help of these gangs control and oppress the dalits so completely
that till recently, dalit males were not allowed out of their houses
after 8 pm and all dalits were forced to pay social respect to the gujjars
by giving them the traditional right of way, kowtowing before them,
leading a totally segregated life minus access to all the common
resources. Dalit women are specific targets of atrocities, as this is a
common and effective way of subjugating the entire community.
Over the last couple of years, dalit inhabitants of the village have
been mobilized with the active support of the Shivalik Jan Sangharsh
Manch. Activists of the Manch seem to have interacted and discussed
with the dalit residents, the oppression faced by them and the ways
to resist it. Dalit women testified that the presence of both Samrat
and Jagtar in the village, has given them a lot of confidence in their
social lives.

Current tensions started a year ago when a gujjar resident of
Ismailpur and the leader of a local criminal gang, Nittu, openly
claimed a dalit girl. Family members and other residents arranged
the marriage of the girl, which was opposed by Nittu. On 4 May
2006, Nittu and his companions came to the dalit settlement and
threatened them. When some dalit boys came out to face him, he
opened fire. One person was injured. Police refused to take action
and the dalits were forced to organise protests at the police station
till two persons were arrested. They remained in jail for 20 days.
Meanwhile the dalit girl was married off.

On their return from custody, the gujjar gang attempted to attack
the dalit settlement on 27 May. They opened fire and a woman got
pellet injuries. But this time round the dalits were more prepared
and they beat back gang members out of the dalit settlement into the
gujjar part of the village. A dalit youth, Rinku was seen as the hero of
this retaliation, as he was the first to challenge the gujjar gang. Once
in the gujjar part of the village, dalits were faced by an armed gujjar
mob. After a brief clash with lathis, firearms were used from both
sides. A number of witnesses confirmed to this firing. One woman
from the gujjar community was hit by a bullet. Unlike the previous
occasion, the police arrived and detained six persons from among
the dalits and, 34 from among the gujjars.

The panchayat then intervened and after a discussion between
the two communities, the police was handed over five boys from
both communities for interrogation. The police, however, decided
not to charge the gujjar men under the Arms Act, but the same chargesremained against one dalit. Clearly, the police had made up its mind to side with the gujjars against the dalits in the context of the Shivalik
Jan Sangharsh Manch’s activities in the area. Therefore the arrested
dalits stayed in jail for a month before they obtained bail; the gujjars
barely spent a day in jail.

While the immediate hostilities subsided after the deal between
the dalits and the gujjars of Ismailpur, fears of a future attack remain
high. Even when our team visited the village, dalits feared gujjar
attacks, particularly from their criminal gangs, which have weapons.
Given these tensions in the area, we were told by dalit residents,
carrying of arms for self-defence has become a necessity. The
administration, however, has chosen to take a one sided view of these
tensions. Instead of intervening in these tensions impartially and
dealing with the criminal gang effectively, they have sided with the
gujjar versions and community. This, in turn, has led the dalits to
believe that the administration is biased.

The gujjar community has been quick to use the presence of the
Shivalik Jan Sangharsh Manch to their advantage. The presence of
firearms and escalating tensions are blamed on the organisation and
on the dalits. The administration also echoes the same. And almost a
year later from the May incident, the members of the same criminal
gang were able to inform the police about Jagtar and Samrat and
ensure their arrest. A few days later Rinku, the hero of the first dalit
retaliation against gujjar criminal attacks, was arrested. However,
the leader of the criminal gang Nittu was recorded in police records
as “special informer”!

As this report goes to print, newspapers in Haryana reported that
32 year old Biram Pal, a dalit from Ismailpur village, was brutally
murdered and the dead body burnt on 22 May. The police has filed a
case of murder, and some members of the gujjar community have
been charged. This incident once again highlights the insecurity being
faced by dalits in this region.

IV- The Charge of Sedition


Section 124-A under which I am happily charged is perhaps the prince
among the political sections of the Indian Penal Code designed to
suppress the liberty of the citizen. Affection cannot be manufactured
or regulated by law. If one has no affection for a person or thing, one
should be free to give the fullest expression to his disaffection so long
as he does not contemplate, promote or incite to violence.
M.K.Gandhi’s Statement at Ahmedabad Trial May 17, 1922

Why have 13 activists been picked up and charged under sedition? If
wall writing, holding of a meeting, staying peacefully in one’s room
or house can be construed as seditious, then by the same logic, every
citizen is a potential danger to the state. Sedition is unlike other
provisions of the Indian Penal Code. It is a crime of intent, not of the
act done. Given the possibility of abuse of power that such a provision
creates, the courts, have laid down certain clauses to restrict its
applicability. Thus any action that has “the effect of subverting the
Government by bringing that Government into contempt or hatred, or
creating disaffection against it, would be within the penal statute
because the feeling of disloyalty to the Government established by
law or enmity to it imports the idea of tendency to public disorder by
the use of actual violence or incitement to violence.” (Kedarnath vs. State of
Bihar, 1962, emphasis ours). Notwithstanding these restrictions, the
deciding element of what constitutes sedition, resides in the mind of
the law enforcer i.e. how the police interprets the intention of the
accused. The action can therefore be the utterance of a sentence,
drawing a sketch or cartoon, showing of a CBFC certified film or,
singing a song. Such a definition makes the charge of sedition, vague
and arbitrary. Police is not amenable to examining whether the charge
is appropriate in the light of Supreme Court judgments. The SP,
Yamuna Nagar, for example, told our team that he would not comment on the appropriateness of the charge, as that was for the
courts to decide. All “anti-terrorist” legislations, such as TADA,
POTA, and UAPA suffer from similar vague definitions of crime and
have been responsible for large-scale abuse of power by the police.
Sedition is no exception.

The Haryana police have time and again used sedition against
those considered to be political foes of the government in power.
Nowhere was it examined whether the actions of the accused had
the effect of subverting the government and was accompanied with
the use violence or incitement to violence. Following a massive
agitation by the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) in April 2003, the Om
Prakash Chautala government used sedition against the BKU leader,
Ghasi Ram Nain and other activists. The charges were dropped after
the present Hooda government made peace with the BKU leadership.
In February 2006, under the present Congress regime, nine activists
of KMKU were charged with sedition when dalits of Ismailabad
village in Kurukshetra were demanding allotment of panchayati land
for construction of houses. The charge could not be sustained as the
police had not taken the mandatory permission from relevant
authorities as required under S. 196, Cr.PC. What seems clear is that
the charge of sedition was not intended to secure conviction of the
accused. It served the purpose of damning the organisations in the
press, creating terror in people at large, and keeping the accused in
custody for long periods by making bail difficult to obtain.
Absurd Charges

How have the above 13 activists threatened the “government
established by law”? Obviously writing on the walls in Narwana for
a memorial meeting cannot be treated as sedition, and the remarks
made by the JCM president during the cycle rally in March 2007 were
made in the context of leading questions by some journalists. These
were not part of a public speech that could have a tendency to public
disorder. These also did not involve either actual violence or
incitement to violence. Importantly, sedition specifically excludes
from its domain opposition to the policies followed by the
government. And the cycle rally was being organized against the
promulgation of the Private Universities Bill, a key element in the
government policy of privatization of higher education.

In the case of Kaithal town where a meeting was supposedly
organized to recruit members, the charge of sedition seems most
suspicious and, therefore, outrageous. As per news reports, there were
no confirmed eyewitnesses, except undisclosed police informers, who
could claim that ‘provocative’ speeches and slogans were made.
Somveer, who was arrested immediately after the FIR, was not even
named as an accused.

However, in both the above cases, charging a group of people
under sedition makes no legal sense. If the utterances of the JCM
president form the basis for sedition in Narwana, there can be no
justification for holding five others in jail. They certainly did not utter
anything, nor is anything against them placed on record. The same is
the case with Somveer in Kaithal.

As far as the arrests of Jagtar and Samrat are concerned, the use
of sedition was justified by the Yamuna Nagar Superintendent of
Police (SP) on the grounds that the duo regularly visited Ismailpur
and neighbouring villages to stoke feelings of enmity among dalits
against the gujjars. In the definition provided, stoking enmity between
communities cannot be construed as sedition. To claim that the two
also made provocative speeches is a common police ruse used to
cripple the activities of their organization. Not surprisingly, the SP
had no answer as to why the police never considered using the SC &
ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act against the gujjars in the May incident
last year or why the Arms Act was not used against the gujjar persons
who opened fire. And while it is probable that the police did recover
the weapons from Jagtar and Samrat, it seems to have never occurred
to them that the gujjar criminal gangs should be similarly booked.
Arguably, carrying of unlicensed weapons is an offence and there is
an appropriate law to deal with it. But it remains unclear how the
recovery of two unlicensed pistols in the hands of the SJSM activists
constitute sedition. Why was the offence not restricted to the Arms
Act?

In the case of Vipin whom the police picked up from his hostel in
Kurukshetra and Poonam who was picked up from her house in
Yamuna Nagar, the police did not even bother to give a reason for
their arrest!

As the above instances at hand illustrate, the use of sedition has
nothing to do with anything that the activists said or did which could
justify its usage. It is obviously a politically motivated action against
the JCM, the KMKU and the SJSM. In a state where dalits have been
deprived and continue to remain deprived, mobilizing them against
caste oppression is considered seditious by the police! Not only is
this a casteist and biased action by the administration, it goes wholly
against any received notions of social justice. Invoking of sedition in
the manner police is going about in Haryana, is an attack on
fundamental political freedoms and an attempt to push away the
compelling issues of caste oppression and economic deprivation, and
of state inaction in providing social justice.

V – PUDR demands:

1. Immediate withdrawal of false charges of sedition against all
13 activists
2. Initiate charges under the SC & ST (Prevention of Atrocities)
Act in instances of denial of access to community land and
water, and attacks on dignity of dalits by dominant castes.
3. Village lands illegally occupied be made available to dalits and
landless people.
4. Minimum wage laws be implemented.
3. Immediate end to targeting of JCM, KMKU and SJSM

Ghaso: A symbol of dalit resistance

On September 21, 2005, the Krantikari Mazdoor Kisan Union (KMKU) and the Jagruk Chhatra Morcha (JCM) had organized a cultural programme and a torchlight procession at Ghaso Kalan, Jind district, reportedly to mark the first anniversary of the formation of the CPI (Maoist). The people from the neighbouring villages were also participating in the programme. After the cultural festivities were over, the torchlight procession started from the village. Everything was peaceful until the procession reached the adjacent village of Ghaso Khurd.

There are, however, conflicting reports as to how the groups of jats and dalits clashed. The newspaper reports of the time suggest that the tension had begun to build up even during the cultural programme because the people from jat community were objecting to the playing of loud music, but the organizers showed obduracy and carried on. The reports further said that
immediately thereafter the procession started where the dalits indulged in shouting provocative slogans.

An altercation is believed to have taken place between some people from the jat community and the activists of KMKU. The clash occurred at Ghaso Khurd village. Just then someone opened fire from a country-made pistol and the bullet went on to hit one Randhir Singh alias Dheera. As many as 10 people were reported to have sustained injuries, four of them seriously. According to the press reports, the FIR had been registered u/s 148/149/307/ 353 and 323 of IPC.

Another version says that the procession had already taken the round of the village and it was about to be wrapped up, when they saw a gang of people standing armed with lathis. Their intention was to attack selective activists. The people in the gang confronted the processionists, as the procession was culminating. They had not expected that they would be met with resistance and had instead thought of easily overpowering them. To their surprise, the dalits retaliated and chased them away.

By night the twin villages of Ghaso were surrounded by the contingent of police. Next day all the young people were rounded up. A total of 39 people were arrested, 20 of them were from the Kurukshetra University. Among the arrested 10-12 people were from the village itself. All arrests were made from the dalit side and none from among the jats. However, on May 1, this year, an out of court settlement was reached upon and the case now stands withdrawn.
Whatever may be the actual facts of the case, the fact remains that the clash did happen and it happened between the dominant and the oppressed castes of the village. The fact also remains that whatever might have been the immediate trigger, the discontent was simmering among the dalits for a long time. It was the discontent arising out of the relentless exploitation,
oppression and discrimination.

In contrast to Jajjhar, Harsola, Gohana, Mehmudpur Kanjpura, Farmana, Quila Zafargarh incidents, where the dalits were targeted the Ghaso incident has come to symbolize dalit resistance against the exploitation and oppression by the dominant castes in Haryana. It was here in this village that a decade ago under the leadership of Naujawan Dasta, a precursor of KMKU, had waged a sustained struggle to gain access to the village pond. Ghaso has since then
witnessed several struggles—be it for the increase in wages for the wheat harvesting from 1 quintal to 1.2 quintals; or the rights of the dalits over panchayati land; or the right to take divorce by a dalit women from her drunkard husband, much to the chagrin of the feudal lords in the village; or the fight against routine instances of social oppression and discrimination.

Posted in Fact finding Report, Haryana | 2 Comments »

CONDEMN STATE’S ATTEMPT TO SILENCE DISSENT. FIGHT FOR THE RELEASE OF SHIELA DIDI.

Posted by Indian Vanguard on September 1, 2007

Sheila Didi is a popular women’s activist among the most deprived women of Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, and Bihar. She was the former President of Nari Mukti Sangh, Bihar. She was arrested on 7 October 2006 at Aamjhor Village under the police limits of Lathikata, Sundargarh district of Orissa. The police fabricated cases against her in the name of waging war against the state. After the arrest they immediately shifted her to a nearby CRPF camp where she was tortured physically and psychologically for two days. Later she was produced before a magistrate court which allowed four more days of police custody. She was once again tortured physically and psychologically. She sustained injuries on forehead and stomach during the police torture. The police brutally tortured her constantly by inflicting severe blows on her legs and the soles of her feet. The police, after blindfolding her, kept on shifting her from one place to the other. She was interrogated by the teams of police from West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

Since then she has been incarcerated in Rourkela prison. Her health has deteriorated as she has been denied any medical care. She hasn’t been given even a pen or a sheet of paper, let alone books or periodicals to read. After she was given bail in all existing cases on 11th July she was arrested again as soon as she came out of prison with more cases being foisted on her.

Sheila Didi belongs to a poor Adivasi family. A woman of courage and conviction, she was convinced about the need for building up a strong women’s movement as she realized that women in our country had to fight every step for their rights and freedom, to do away with the customs and traditions that treat her as an inferior being, a second class citizen. The founding of Nari Mukti Sangh along with a host of other women was the result of this realization.

Soon this organization developed into a strong women’s organization. Thousands of the most deprived women today are conscious about their rights. This organization has been consistently fighting all forms of patriarchy while at the same time resisting any kind of exploitation, domination or discrimination. Hundreds of women, along with Sheila Didi have become literate in the due course of empowerment of this real and genuine movement.

The condition of women in our country is so pathetic and wretched that if they stand on their own legs in order to move ahead in their lives, patriarchic oppression along with all kinds of attacks of the contemporary society will brow beat them to submission. It is in this context that Sheila Didi has evolved as a valiant and uncompromising leader of the oppressed women and waged several struggles for the betterment of their lives in these regions. It is highly deplorable and is a grim reflection of all of our sensitivity that this women’s activist who has emerged from the most oppressed rungs of Adivasi life and who worked day in and out to awaken thousands of oppressed women, has been incarcerated in the jail.

We demand that Sheila Didi be released immediately and unconditionally. In this context we urge you to intervene immediately and ensure that she receives proper medical care and relief. We also demand that she be treated as a Political Prisoner as she has been arrested and incarcerated for her convictions to fight for women’s rights. In this connection, we also appeal to you to join the fight against the continued incarceration of this senior women’s activist while demanding for her unconditional release.

http://dsujnu.blogspot.com/2007/08/condemn-states-attempt-to-silence.html

Posted in Fact finding Report, Nari Mukthi Morcha | Leave a Comment »

Where the State makes war on its own people

Posted by Indian Vanguard on June 2, 2007

Post it here for Archive.

A fourteen-member team from five organizations conducted an investigation between 28 November and 1 December 2005 in Bijapur and Bhairamgarh blocks of Dantewada district, focusing specifically on the violation of human rights and the impact on peopleís everyday lives. The organisations are: Peopleís Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) Chhattisgarh, Peopleís Union For Civil Liberties (PUCL) Jharkhand, Peopleís Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) Delhi, Association for the Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) West Bengal, and Indian Association of Peopleís Lawyers (IAPL). Download FFR

Posted in Fact finding Report | Leave a Comment »

All…

Posted by Indian Vanguard on April 3, 2007

All India Fact-finding Report on Polavaram Dam Project

Preliminary Report

An all India Fact-finding team comprising Dr. BD Sharma, Former National Commissioner for Scheduled Castes and Tribes, Dr. Jayashankar, former Vice-chancellor, Kakatiya University, Dr. I. Thirumali, Reader in History, Sri Venkateswara College, University of Delhi, G N Saibaba, Lecturer in English, University of Delhi, Shirish Medhi, Social Activist from Mumbai, Dr. Gopinath, Eminent Cardiologist, Andhra Pradesh, Rona Wilson, Research Scholar, Jawahar Lal Nehru University, Ajay Mishra, Reporter, Sunday Post (Hindi), Suresh Kumar, Advocate, Hyderabad, Ch. Prabhakar, Advocate, Hyderabad and Ravichandra, Teacher, AP Government Residential Schools. The team toured across 9 mandals in the districts of Khammam, East and West Godavari districts that are to be affected by the Polavaram Dam Project between 3nd March and 6th March, 2007.

The team spent 4 days in and around the site of the proposed Polavaram Dam touring extensively in all nine Dam-affected mandals. First the members arrived at Hyderabad on the 2 March, 2007. The team proceeded to Bhadrachalam on the following day and from there it divided into batches to conduct surveys on all the mandals. It had extensive discussions with the people of various villages and sarpanches. It also met the various organizations formed to fight against the question of displacement of lives and livelihoods. The team felt the need for further extensive studies in the affected areas at regular intervals taking into consideration the enormity of the situation with the threat of displacement of vast sections of the people.

Our findings:


1. Damning the people; damning the procedures; damning the law

The work of digging of canals by the government of Andhra Pradesh started even before permission is accorded to construction of the Dam. The modus operandi of the government so far without any procedures and norms spending crores for digging the canals have forced one to believe that ultimately it is going to serve the interests of the contractor lobby.

2. No Permission accorded so far from any government agency

The land acquisition has begun even before it could be known whether the projects would get permission or not from the Central Water Commission, the Forest Department, the Environment Department, the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes and other relevant departments and agencies. No permission has been so far given by the Central Water Commission. In fact the Supreme Court had asked the state of Andhra Pradesh to comply with the directives of the Central Water Commission. Contrary to this the AP government has been filing contradictory statements with different government institutions from which it has to get the necessary and mandatory clearance.

3. Gram Sabhas bypassed: Politics of manipulation and coercion

The Government has not gone to the people in the Scheduled areas which are mostly the project affected area. They have not been consulted nor their due consent been taken before proceeding with the acquisition of land for the construction of the dam. The entire area that will submerge when the dam gets finally constructed comes under provision of the 5th schedule of the constitution. In most of the villages the mandatory Gram Sabha meetings did not take place to discuss and deliberate on the issue of Polavaram. Wherever it has happened it was facilitated under the shadow of heavy police deployment with a battery of government officials threatening the villagers with dire consequences. The Gram Sabhas of these areas are the supreme decision making bodies. Without the consent of these bodies any other notification of any government institution—including the aforementioned bodies—stands null and void.

When in Maredubaka village in Kukunoor Mandal, people passed resolutions against Polavaram dam and the R & R package offered by the government those resolutions were ignored, suppressed and manipulated. Some Mandal Praja Parishads (MPP) also have passed resolutions against the construction of the dam but time and again over the last one year the officials have not accepted or recorded the written resolutions sent by the MPPs as told by Kantepale Raju, Sarpanch of Maredubaka and also by the sarpanch of Amaravaram of Kukkunoor mandal.

The District Collector is not supposed to sit in the Gram Sabha. But in Paidipakka village in Polavaram mandal the district collector Mr. Luv Aggarwal sat in the Gram Sabha along with the RDO, BDO, MRO, PO and others and a huge posse of armed police force at the background. There he told the people that the government can’t pay more than 1.3 lakhs and the villagers had no other option but to leave. This village has a sizeable section of the non-tribals and since they don’t have any legal entitlement they are the main targets of coercion. Once they budge the tribals can follow.

Secretly tribals are called individually to the RDO offices and are threatened to sign the papers. They are told that they have to inevitably move out and that is no way out for them. Those villagers who are refusing to budge have been targeted by striking off their ration cards, cutting of the power supply to the villages and also demolishing their roads.

It is evident that the government of Andhra Pradesh has been keen to hide facts—from the people of the affected areas in particular and the society at large—than the things that they have so far revealed about the various facets of the project. It is intriguing that why the government is operating under complete secrecy when it claims that the project is the answer to all the water and power problems faced by the state.

4. R & R Package: Old tales of Divide and Rule, Secrecy and Mystery

The compensation package offered by the government varied from village to village, tribal to non-tribal and last but not the least, the nature of the land holdings. It has more loopholes than concrete proposals on paper. In many cases it operates by word of mouth than through any documented intervention. It is the good old strategy of divide and rule by manipulating on the vulnerability of the targeted population.

The people of the project affected area, whether tribal or non-tribal are unaware of the rehabilitation package which is touted by the AP government as one of the best packages ever made in the world! Yet no sarpanch of the affected villages could give us a copy of the R&R package spoke volumes of the secrecy and mystery behind the politics of R & R. It should be noted that since 1947 not a single R & R package of any major displacement has been fulfilled by the government.

Some of the absentee landlords in the area who are non-tribals will definitely get a good compensation many times higher than what the government has so far offered to the common tribal masses. One glaring example is that of Mr. Totakura Venkattappaiah who owns 500 acres of fertile land at Amaravaram village in Kukkunoor mandal. He and his family lives in Hyderabad. Most of this land from the 500 acres belongs to the Koya tribals. The so-called compensation will come in the name of the tribals who have been living as agricultural labourers but the money will go to the coffers of the absentee landlord!

The government also has used different tactics to lure the people in favour of rehabilitation by giving them packages which are at best illusory. For instance, in Kondukota village which comprises of 50 percent Koyas and 50 percent Malas (SC) there has been neither official notification nor survey. Yet the officials have approached the people with various packages. They have offered them to hold land at the project affected area ( i.e. their present place of stay) as well as the newly promised location of rehabilitation! The local MLA took the Empowering Committee appointed by the Supreme Court to only those places where the people have ostensibly supported the projects.

5. Compensation amounts released in two villages: Administration’s fraud and People’s anguish

In two villages Vinjaram (Kukkunoor mandal) and Rudramakota (Boorgampadu mandal) the first acts of acquisition of land for project took place. The compensation was released to the acquired cultivated and fertile lands. The team came across a big group of people at Rudramakota, Velerupadu mandal, sitting in the local temple and settling the dispute that has surfaced after the cheques were encashed and the actual money was being distributed. The size of the amount was decided by the village elders. Thus Kanthi Reddi Punnamma, a 65 year old woman got 58000 rupees. This was in return of the 2 acres of fertile land that was relinquished permanently for the dam. She and her family lived off this fertile land for many generations. For her 2 acres Punnamma was given 230000 rupees. At the end of the day Punnamma was left with a meager 58000 after dividing the amount with her sons and another major stake holder the local Cooperative Bank which had the lion’s share: a good 50 percent of the total amount! This 50 percent covers the agricultural loans which were actually struck off by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last year! The officials (MRO, MDO, Collector) promised the villagers that the amount of the loans would not be deducted from the compensation amount. This was one of the main agreements between the villagers and the government before they agreed for the compensation to part with their land. But once the compensation was awarded, all the banks queued up with their knives to demand their pound of flesh. Only the landlords who had the land under false names had the last laugh. The villagers reported with anguish how the land records were manipulated and outsiders got the benefits.

6. Deceit and domination of the people of Telengana

Yet another act of deceit and domination over the people of Telengana. More than 80 percent of the water of Godavari flows through Telengana. Significantly, the mammoth project has little to offer when it comes to water/power sharing to the already drought prone region that Telengana is. It is natural for the people of Telengana to suspect the unwarranted haste shown by the Andhra Pradesh government to push through the project flouting all norms and procedures before the formation of the Telengana State. They strongly believe that the formation of the Telengana state would be an impediment to the Polavaram project and hence against the interest of the Andhra Pradesh government.

7. Protests prevented through repression and coercion

The people who have protested against the construction have been threatened by the officials belonging to the office of the collector, the RDO, BDO, MRO, PO etc. The people who sat on Dharna from the Chegondipally village in Polavaram mandal have been charged of treason. Mr. Sonam Raju of the same village had to spend three months in the Rajamundry prison and warrant has been issued against five of his fellow villagers for allegedly burning the huts at the construction site of the spill way. Another Mr. Bangu Anil Kumar of Kondu Kota village was also arrested and released after 17 days for opposing the project.

8. Polavaram: Another ‘Modern Temple’ of Colossal Waste

The Polavaram project with its projected costs and benefits is a colossal waste of public money. It would destroy the rich flora and fauna of the forests of the Eastern Ghats on either side of the river Godavari in the catchment areas of the dam. It will uproot the lives and livelihoods of some of the oldest tribal communities—the Koyas and Konda Reddys—who are the inhabitants of these regions. Even according to the official estimates 236000 people living in 276 villages would be displaced by the dam in Andhra Pradesh (including a few of them in Chhattisgarh and Orissa). About 50 percent as per government statistics belong to the scheduled tribes and 15 percent to the scheduled castes.

All the 9 mandals that will submerge come under the scheduled areas. In fact the Polavaram project displaces the largest number of people—more than 2 lakh tribals among them—as well as some of richest of biodiversity in the world. Tribals cannot live in non-forest areas. They will lose their constitutionally guaranteed rights under the scheduled area, if they are rehabilitated. They will lose their traditional strength and culture outside their natural habitat. They are aware of this and they steadfastly refuse to move away from their villages and forests.

The ownership of land and forest produce is not fixed in these areas. Traditional sharing methods are more persistent. No R & R package will do justice to the tribal communities here.

It is amazing and at the same time unfortunate and disappointing to note that the media and the civil society have written very little about this! It is unequivocally the largest displacement and destruction of natural flora and fauna in Post-47 India.

As recommendations what flow out evidently from the initial findings are that:

1. The government of Andhra Pradesh should immediately come out with a White Paper on all issues related to the Polavaram Dam Project. All construction work including that of canals should be stopped forthwith till a proper review is made after a discussion on the White Paper by the people of the affected areas, civil society and experts of peoples’ organizations.

2. The President of India through the Governor of Andhra Pradesh should seek a report on the impact of the project on the tribals in the area as per the 5th Schedule of the Constitution of India. Such a report should be made by experts who have worked on the issues of the tribals including various laws related with the 5th Schedule. Till the Presidential review is done all construction work related to the dam should be suspended.

3. The Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy package announced by the Andhra Pradesh government and the ground realities of the use of force and coercion by the local administration on the people in all the 9 mandals should be enquired into by an independent committee comprising of experts who have knowledge on the various aspects of tribal life and livelihood.

4. The central government should initiate immediately a process to study the alternative plans for utilizing the waters in Godavari as well as other rivers and tributaries in Andhra Pradhesh made by expert committees and peoples’ organizations.

5. A judicious and acceptable plan to redistribute the waters in the river Godavari among the Andhra, Telengana and Rayalaseema regions.

An all India Fact-finding team:
1. Dr. BD Sharma, Former National Commissioner for Scheduled Castes and Tribes
2. Dr. Jayashankar, former Vice-chancellor, Kakatiya University, Warangal, Andhra Pradesh
3. Dr. I. Thirumali, Reader in History, University of Delhi
4. G N Saibaba, Lecturer in English, University of Delhi
5. Shirish Medhi, Social Activist from Mumbai
6. Dr. Gopinath, Eminent Cardiologist, Khammam, Andhra Pradesh
7. Rona Wilson, Research Scholar, Jawahar Lal Nehru University, New Delhi
8. Ajay Mishra, Reporter, Sunday Post (Hindi), New Delhi
9. Suresh Kumar, Advocate, Hyderabad
10. Ch. Prabhakar, Advocate, Hyderabad
11. Ravichandra, Teacher, AP Government Residential School, Hyderabad

Posted in Andra Pradesh, Fact finding Report | Leave a Comment »

All India Fact-finding Report on Polavaram Dam Project

Posted by Indian Vanguard on April 3, 2007

Preliminary Report

An all India Fact-finding team comprising Dr. BD Sharma, Former National Commissioner for Scheduled Castes and Tribes, Dr. Jayashankar, former Vice-chancellor, Kakatiya University, Dr. I. Thirumali, Reader in History, Sri Venkateswara College, University of Delhi, G N Saibaba, Lecturer in English, University of Delhi, Shirish Medhi, Social Activist from Mumbai, Dr. Gopinath, Eminent Cardiologist, Andhra Pradesh, Rona Wilson, Research Scholar, Jawahar Lal Nehru University, Ajay Mishra, Reporter, Sunday Post (Hindi), Suresh Kumar, Advocate, Hyderabad, Ch. Prabhakar, Advocate, Hyderabad and Ravichandra, Teacher, AP Government Residential Schools. The team toured across 9 mandals in the districts of Khammam, East and West Godavari districts that are to be affected by the Polavaram Dam Project between 3nd March and 6th March, 2007.

The team spent 4 days in and around the site of the proposed Polavaram Dam touring extensively in all nine Dam-affected mandals. First the members arrived at Hyderabad on the 2 March, 2007. The team proceeded to Bhadrachalam on the following day and from there it divided into batches to conduct surveys on all the mandals. It had extensive discussions with the people of various villages and sarpanches. It also met the various organizations formed to fight against the question of displacement of lives and livelihoods. The team felt the need for further extensive studies in the affected areas at regular intervals taking into consideration the enormity of the situation with the threat of displacement of vast sections of the people.

Our findings:


1. Damning the people; damning the procedures; damning the law

The work of digging of canals by the government of Andhra Pradesh started even before permission is accorded to construction of the Dam. The modus operandi of the government so far without any procedures and norms spending crores for digging the canals have forced one to believe that ultimately it is going to serve the interests of the contractor lobby.

2. No Permission accorded so far from any government agency

The land acquisition has begun even before it could be known whether the projects would get permission or not from the Central Water Commission, the Forest Department, the Environment Department, the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes and other relevant departments and agencies. No permission has been so far given by the Central Water Commission. In fact the Supreme Court had asked the state of Andhra Pradesh to comply with the directives of the Central Water Commission. Contrary to this the AP government has been filing contradictory statements with different government institutions from which it has to get the necessary and mandatory clearance.

3. Gram Sabhas bypassed: Politics of manipulation and coercion

The Government has not gone to the people in the Scheduled areas which are mostly the project affected area. They have not been consulted nor their due consent been taken before proceeding with the acquisition of land for the construction of the dam. The entire area that will submerge when the dam gets finally constructed comes under provision of the 5th schedule of the constitution. In most of the villages the mandatory Gram Sabha meetings did not take place to discuss and deliberate on the issue of Polavaram. Wherever it has happened it was facilitated under the shadow of heavy police deployment with a battery of government officials threatening the villagers with dire consequences. The Gram Sabhas of these areas are the supreme decision making bodies. Without the consent of these bodies any other notification of any government institution—including the aforementioned bodies—stands null and void.

When in Maredubaka village in Kukunoor Mandal, people passed resolutions against Polavaram dam and the R & R package offered by the government those resolutions were ignored, suppressed and manipulated. Some Mandal Praja Parishads (MPP) also have passed resolutions against the construction of the dam but time and again over the last one year the officials have not accepted or recorded the written resolutions sent by the MPPs as told by Kantepale Raju, Sarpanch of Maredubaka and also by the sarpanch of Amaravaram of Kukkunoor mandal.

The District Collector is not supposed to sit in the Gram Sabha. But in Paidipakka village in Polavaram mandal the district collector Mr. Luv Aggarwal sat in the Gram Sabha along with the RDO, BDO, MRO, PO and others and a huge posse of armed police force at the background. There he told the people that the government can’t pay more than 1.3 lakhs and the villagers had no other option but to leave. This village has a sizeable section of the non-tribals and since they don’t have any legal entitlement they are the main targets of coercion. Once they budge the tribals can follow.

Secretly tribals are called individually to the RDO offices and are threatened to sign the papers. They are told that they have to inevitably move out and that is no way out for them. Those villagers who are refusing to budge have been targeted by striking off their ration cards, cutting of the power supply to the villages and also demolishing their roads.

It is evident that the government of Andhra Pradesh has been keen to hide facts—from the people of the affected areas in particular and the society at large—than the things that they have so far revealed about the various facets of the project. It is intriguing that why the government is operating under complete secrecy when it claims that the project is the answer to all the water and power problems faced by the state.

4. R & R Package: Old tales of Divide and Rule, Secrecy and Mystery

The compensation package offered by the government varied from village to village, tribal to non-tribal and last but not the least, the nature of the land holdings. It has more loopholes than concrete proposals on paper. In many cases it operates by word of mouth than through any documented intervention. It is the good old strategy of divide and rule by manipulating on the vulnerability of the targeted population.

The people of the project affected area, whether tribal or non-tribal are unaware of the rehabilitation package which is touted by the AP government as one of the best packages ever made in the world! Yet no sarpanch of the affected villages could give us a copy of the R&R package spoke volumes of the secrecy and mystery behind the politics of R & R. It should be noted that since 1947 not a single R & R package of any major displacement has been fulfilled by the government.

Some of the absentee landlords in the area who are non-tribals will definitely get a good compensation many times higher than what the government has so far offered to the common tribal masses. One glaring example is that of Mr. Totakura Venkattappaiah who owns 500 acres of fertile land at Amaravaram village in Kukkunoor mandal. He and his family lives in Hyderabad. Most of this land from the 500 acres belongs to the Koya tribals. The so-called compensation will come in the name of the tribals who have been living as agricultural labourers but the money will go to the coffers of the absentee landlord!

The government also has used different tactics to lure the people in favour of rehabilitation by giving them packages which are at best illusory. For instance, in Kondukota village which comprises of 50 percent Koyas and 50 percent Malas (SC) there has been neither official notification nor survey. Yet the officials have approached the people with various packages. They have offered them to hold land at the project affected area ( i.e. their present place of stay) as well as the newly promised location of rehabilitation! The local MLA took the Empowering Committee appointed by the Supreme Court to only those places where the people have ostensibly supported the projects.

5. Compensation amounts released in two villages: Administration’s fraud and People’s anguish

In two villages Vinjaram (Kukkunoor mandal) and Rudramakota (Boorgampadu mandal) the first acts of acquisition of land for project took place. The compensation was released to the acquired cultivated and fertile lands. The team came across a big group of people at Rudramakota, Velerupadu mandal, sitting in the local temple and settling the dispute that has surfaced after the cheques were encashed and the actual money was being distributed. The size of the amount was decided by the village elders. Thus Kanthi Reddi Punnamma, a 65 year old woman got 58000 rupees. This was in return of the 2 acres of fertile land that was relinquished permanently for the dam. She and her family lived off this fertile land for many generations. For her 2 acres Punnamma was given 230000 rupees. At the end of the day Punnamma was left with a meager 58000 after dividing the amount with her sons and another major stake holder the local Cooperative Bank which had the lion’s share: a good 50 percent of the total amount! This 50 percent covers the agricultural loans which were actually struck off by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last year! The officials (MRO, MDO, Collector) promised the villagers that the amount of the loans would not be deducted from the compensation amount. This was one of the main agreements between the villagers and the government before they agreed for the compensation to part with their land. But once the compensation was awarded, all the banks queued up with their knives to demand their pound of flesh. Only the landlords who had the land under false names had the last laugh. The villagers reported with anguish how the land records were manipulated and outsiders got the benefits.

6. Deceit and domination of the people of Telengana

Yet another act of deceit and domination over the people of Telengana. More than 80 percent of the water of Godavari flows through Telengana. Significantly, the mammoth project has little to offer when it comes to water/power sharing to the already drought prone region that Telengana is. It is natural for the people of Telengana to suspect the unwarranted haste shown by the Andhra Pradesh government to push through the project flouting all norms and procedures before the formation of the Telengana State. They strongly believe that the formation of the Telengana state would be an impediment to the Polavaram project and hence against the interest of the Andhra Pradesh government.

7. Protests prevented through repression and coercion

The people who have protested against the construction have been threatened by the officials belonging to the office of the collector, the RDO, BDO, MRO, PO etc. The people who sat on Dharna from the Chegondipally village in Polavaram mandal have been charged of treason. Mr. Sonam Raju of the same village had to spend three months in the Rajamundry prison and warrant has been issued against five of his fellow villagers for allegedly burning the huts at the construction site of the spill way. Another Mr. Bangu Anil Kumar of Kondu Kota village was also arrested and released after 17 days for opposing the project.

8. Polavaram: Another ‘Modern Temple’ of Colossal Waste

The Polavaram project with its projected costs and benefits is a colossal waste of public money. It would destroy the rich flora and fauna of the forests of the Eastern Ghats on either side of the river Godavari in the catchment areas of the dam. It will uproot the lives and livelihoods of some of the oldest tribal communities—the Koyas and Konda Reddys—who are the inhabitants of these regions. Even according to the official estimates 236000 people living in 276 villages would be displaced by the dam in Andhra Pradesh (including a few of them in Chhattisgarh and Orissa). About 50 percent as per government statistics belong to the scheduled tribes and 15 percent to the scheduled castes.

All the 9 mandals that will submerge come under the scheduled areas. In fact the Polavaram project displaces the largest number of people—more than 2 lakh tribals among them—as well as some of richest of biodiversity in the world. Tribals cannot live in non-forest areas. They will lose their constitutionally guaranteed rights under the scheduled area, if they are rehabilitated. They will lose their traditional strength and culture outside their natural habitat. They are aware of this and they steadfastly refuse to move away from their villages and forests.

The ownership of land and forest produce is not fixed in these areas. Traditional sharing methods are more persistent. No R & R package will do justice to the tribal communities here.

It is amazing and at the same time unfortunate and disappointing to note that the media and the civil society have written very little about this! It is unequivocally the largest displacement and destruction of natural flora and fauna in Post-47 India.

As recommendations what flow out evidently from the initial findings are that:

1. The government of Andhra Pradesh should immediately come out with a White Paper on all issues related to the Polavaram Dam Project. All construction work including that of canals should be stopped forthwith till a proper review is made after a discussion on the White Paper by the people of the affected areas, civil society and experts of peoples’ organizations.

2. The President of India through the Governor of Andhra Pradesh should seek a report on the impact of the project on the tribals in the area as per the 5th Schedule of the Constitution of India. Such a report should be made by experts who have worked on the issues of the tribals including various laws related with the 5th Schedule. Till the Presidential review is done all construction work related to the dam should be suspended.

3. The Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy package announced by the Andhra Pradesh government and the ground realities of the use of force and coercion by the local administration on the people in all the 9 mandals should be enquired into by an independent committee comprising of experts who have knowledge on the various aspects of tribal life and livelihood.

4. The central government should initiate immediately a process to study the alternative plans for utilizing the waters in Godavari as well as other rivers and tributaries in Andhra Pradhesh made by expert committees and peoples’ organizations.

5. A judicious and acceptable plan to redistribute the waters in the river Godavari among the Andhra, Telengana and Rayalaseema regions.

An all India Fact-finding team:
1. Dr. BD Sharma, Former National Commissioner for Scheduled Castes and Tribes
2. Dr. Jayashankar, former Vice-chancellor, Kakatiya University, Warangal, Andhra Pradesh
3. Dr. I. Thirumali, Reader in History, University of Delhi
4. G N Saibaba, Lecturer in English, University of Delhi
5. Shirish Medhi, Social Activist from Mumbai
6. Dr. Gopinath, Eminent Cardiologist, Khammam, Andhra Pradesh
7. Rona Wilson, Research Scholar, Jawahar Lal Nehru University, New Delhi
8. Ajay Mishra, Reporter, Sunday Post (Hindi), New Delhi
9. Suresh Kumar, Advocate, Hyderabad
10. Ch. Prabhakar, Advocate, Hyderabad
11. Ravichandra, Teacher, AP Government Residential School, Hyderabad

Posted in Andra Pradesh, Fact finding Report | 1 Comment »

More Horror Stories From Nandigram,

Posted by Indian Vanguard on March 23, 2007

CPI(ML) Team In Nandigram: Summary Of Findings


(A 20-member CPI(ML) team comprising Party General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya, West Bengal State Secretary Kartick Pal, senior state leaders Dr. Partha Ghosh, Shankar Mitra, Meena Pal and Chaitali Sen, AISA leader Malay Tewari and editor of the Party’s Bengali weekly organ Deshabrati Animesh Chakraborty visited the carnage-ravaged areas and people of Nandigram on 17 March. They also talked to injured victims undergoing medical treatment at the district hospital at Tamluk and the extremely under-equipped and over-crowded health centre at Nandigram. They heard reports of most horrendous killings of unarmed people, gangrapes and brutal assaults on women and children, met several people who were desperately looking for missing family members and were shocked to see very few young girls and children among the survivors in the carnage-ravaged villages of Bhangabeda, Sonachura and Gokulnagar. What follows is a brief report of the team’s findings).


What really happened at Nandigram on March 14


From the accounts of the injured at the hospital as well as injured residents of the three affected villages – Sonachura, Bhangabera and Gokulnagar, the following facts emerge about the events of March 14.


The villagers were apprehensive of a police crackdown. They wished to be sure not to give the police any pretext to attack. Therefore, feeling that the police would surely not attack defenceless women and children, the latter assembled in the form of separate and adjacent prayer meetings of Hindus and Muslims in the maidan between Gokulnagar and Bhangabera. A huge 5000-strong police force stormed into the area, and began by kicking at the worshippers and destroying their idols and prayer area.


The police then lobbed teargas shells and fired rubber bullets – not to disperse a violent or unruly mob, but rather to literally create a smokescreen and confuse the crowd of people. Having done so, the firing began. The bullet wounds on the bodies of the people at hospitals are mostly in the waist, chest, back – bullets were cold-bloodedly aimed to kill. Local CPI(M) leaders oversaw the entire operation, and many villagers recounted how several of those in police uniform and helmets wore chappals on their feet, indicating that they were actually CPI(M) goons in uniform.


A particularly brutal feature of the attack is the aspect of sexual assault on women and massacre of children. Women have recounted having seen little children being torn apart. They said many children were still in school uniform, having just returned from morning schools, and were brutally assaulted. A large number of children are still missing; it is not clear whether they have run away, been abducted, or been killed and the bodies disposed off. The local people suspect that the missing children have been killed.


The people informed us that the horror did not end on March 14. Our team visited on March 17, and we were told that on 15th, 16th, and right up to the morning of the 17th, the assaults by CPI(M) goons continued.


Evidence from the Hospitals


The team felt the accounts gathered from the injured in hospitals were the most authentic, since those people had beyond doubt been at the spot and had directly witnessed the episode. We saw a broken ambulance lying in a pond. TV footage showed police beating up a woman who was trying to pick up a severely injured and unconscious person. It appears that systematic efforts were made to prevent the injured from getting help.


Members of the team visited Nandigram Health Centre (the nearest health centre), Tamluk Hospital, and SSKM Hospital, Kolkata.


Tamluk


At Tamluk Hospital, we spoke to Sankha Gole (47), Laxmikanta Gayen (26), Niranjan Das (38), Subhransu Partra (30), Gopal Das (32), Anjali Das, Nirmal Mondal (28) and others. Some of the patients had been shifted from here to Kolkata, but there were still others who had been referred to Kolkata and were yet to be taken there for treatment.



We spoke to the CMO at Tamluk hospital, who along with the other doctors and nurses seemed to be doing their utmost, but the sheer lack of medical facilities for the severely injured made their task difficult.


Nandigram


At Nandigram Health Centre, we spoke to Gobinda Paik (37) from Sonachura, Sreehari Samanta (26) from Kalicharanpur, Pranati Maity (50) from Keshabpur, and Ranadhir Galu (40) from Soudkhali. This Health Centre has paltry facilities, and just 30 beds, while even on the 17th, there were at least double the number of patients, with most lying on the ground.


SSKM Hospital Here we spoke to Swarnai Das (40) from Gokulnagar, Avijit Giri (22) from Kalicharanpur, Swapan Giri (21) from Sonachura No. 10, Parijit Maity (51) from Kalicharanpur, Haimanti Halder (50), Tapasi Das, Salil Das, Andhirani, Prithish Das, Banasri Acharya, and others.


We learnt that at Tamluk, 14 dead bodies were brought in on 16th March (12 male, 2 female). Another person died in hospital. Among the injured brought to hospital, 31 were male, and 14 female. 7 dead bodies are yet to be identified. At the Nandigran hospital, 65 injured were brought in, (32 male and 33 female). Both these hospitals are understaffed, there is no sweeper, only two ambulances. Life saving drugs not available and are locally purchased on an ad-hoc basis. The injuries of those in hospital and the reports of the state of the dead bodies tell their own tale. Many had bullet injuries – above the waist, in the chest, abdomen, frontal side of shoulder. In Tamluk hospital there were 2 rape victims – Gouri Pradhan (25), of Adhikary Para of Gokulnagar and Kajal Majhi (35), mother of 4 children, of Kalicharanpur. One of the latter’s breasts had been lacerated by a chopper/sword. Swarnamai, in Woodburn ward in SSKM, had severe bullet injuries, while Haimanti had a buttock chopped off and was in the ITU. Such injuries were not merely the result of having been unluckily in the line of police firing – they were deliberate and savage assaults of a sexual nature.


The women we spoke to alleged that 6 other rape victims were not thoroughly examined due to pressure from above. Also that the uterus of one woman was ruptured by introducing a hard metallic rod.


The injured people we met did not speak of themselves – their injuries or chances of survival or lack of proper treatment; they all spoke of how they looked forward to continuing their struggle against eviction from the land.


Calculated Savagery


The sheer savagery of the violence at Nandigram indicate that it was not just another case of unprovoked police firing, or of a police force gone berserk. The injuries inflicted on people (indicated by the state of the dead bodies as well as the survivors) are not mere bullet injuries. We have described above some of the chopper injuries on those in hospitals. A television cameraperson who had seen the mutilated and brutalised dead bodies in the morgue, said he had seen bodies of victims in bad rail accidents and fires – but had never seen bodies in such a disfigured, disemboweled condition as in Nandigram.


CPI(M)’s Complicity


The people at the hospitals as well as in the three affected villages told us they recognised CPI(M) leaders who directed the entire operation –Lakshman Seth, MP and chairman of the Haldia Development Corporation, CPI(M) district leaders and panchayat functionaries like Ashok Guria, Ashok Bera, Debal Das, and Sureshwar Khatua. These leaders also ensured that almost no media reached Nandigram – several newspapers reported how their reporters and camera persons were roughed up by the CPI(M) goons.


CBI’s findings as reported in several newspapers, also seem to corroborate the allegations of the villagers and eyewitnesses. The CBI team followed a trail of blood, which suggested that a bleeding body had been dragged some distance to the Ma Janani brick kiln in Khejuri, a CPI(M) stronghold. There the CBI sleuths came across CPI(M) and DYFI literature, party flags and clothes including women’s underclothes.


The CPI(M) goons arrested by CBI in this brick kiln include Naru Maity, Rajkumar Jana, Manoranjan Maity, Ratikanta Maity, Sachin Pramanik, Abhishek Ghorui, Kanai Das, Panchanan Sasmal. Villagers allege that they were hired by Laxman Seth and others, for two lakh rupees each for Operation Nandigram. A huge cache of arms and ammunitions were recovered from them, and also CPI(M) leaflets and flags, mobile sets with phone numbers of local CPI(M) leaders were also recovered from them by the CBI.


The myth of extremist ‘outsiders’


The CPI(M)’s official response has been to blame ‘outsiders’, ‘naxals’ and the like for indulging in ‘lawlessness’, and even attacking the police with bombs and pipe guns – thus justifying the need for the police action. What truth is there in these accusations and claims? A simple question which needs to be posed against these claims is: how come no police personnel is seriously injured, if they were actually subjected to an extremist assault by a huge mob? CPI(M) MP Sitaram Yechury has said that SEZs and land acquisition had nothing to do with the occurrence at Nandigram; ‘outsiders’ and ‘extremists’, frustrated by their inability to mobilise local support, indulged in violence against the police. Our observation was quite the contrary. Nandigram is a traditional CPI-CPI(M) stronghold, an old area of Tebhaga peasant struggle. The local MP is from CPI(M), MLA from CPI, and most panchayat members are from CPI(M). The only reason why this very mass base suddenly turnedagainst CPI(M) was the proposed land acquisition for the proposed SEZ to built up by Indonesian MNC Salem International.


It was precisely because Nandigram was emerging as a model for anti-SEZ, anti-corporate- land grab resistance that it invited such horrible repression. It had become a sore spot and a source of concern and anxiety, not just for local CPI(M) leaders or the LF Government, but for all Governments all over the country.


The Build-up to March 14


March 14 has not happened all of a sudden – it is not a mistake that the LF Government or the CPI(M) has committed on the spur of the moment. The events of January in Nandigram were a dress rehearsal for March – in which the patterns for the March assault can be discerned. In January, the police withdrew in the name of allowing ‘peace’ to be restored; while actually they were clearing the way for a planned assault by CPI(M) cadres from Khejuri. Then, there were systematic attempts to stop facts from reaching the public: the CPI(ML) fact-finding team was arrested before they could enter Nandigram, jailed and had charges of murder and illegal possession of arms slapped on them.


Then, the CM appeared to backtrack in the face of the determined resistance, and claimed the HDA notification of land acquisition was a ‘mistake’ that caused ‘confusion’. He made reassurances that no land would be acquired without farmers’ consent. But it seems that these statements were only meant to deliberately mislead the movement and people at large, even as ‘Operation Nandigram’ was being planned all the while.


Since January, the statements of senior CPI(M) leaders all clearly indicate the ominous threats to the people of Nandigram, and reading them after March 14, they sound like chilling prophecy. CPI(M) CC Member Benoy Konar said “We’ll surround them and make life hell for them”. Health Minister Suryakant Mishra who is from East Midnapore, had declared “Snakes come out in the summer, you must use the flag like a stick and smash their heads” (see Ananda Bazaar Patrika, 31 January). And in the Kisan Rally of 11 March at Brigade Parade Ground, Buddhadeb also issued a veiled threat that no region would be allowed to hold the development of the State to ransom. These statements are as clear an incitement to and indication of violence as one can get.


Post-Carnage Justifications


After March 14, Buddhadeb has made three types of statements. Immediately after the incident, he declared to the CPI State Secretary that he was “under pressure from the party to act”. On the 14th he arrived too late in the Assembly to make a statement. On the 15th, in the Assembly, he justified the police action as “self-defence”. And eventually, he accepted moral responsibility as head of the Government, and said he had not expected so much resistance and not known the police excesses would be quite so much.


What to make of the behaviour of the LF Government and CPI(M) in the aftermath of March 14?



The LF partners have reduced the whole issue to a matter of internal democracy of the Left Front – and have ignored the fact that what took place at Nandigram is a massacre, genocide, murder of democracy. Let us repeat that March 14 was no blunder that happened on the spur of the moment. In January itself, intellectuals and well-wishers of the LF Government and of the CPI(M) had expressed concern about the escalating violence in Nandigram and warned the Government to desist from the policy of forced land acquisition and SEZs. The CPI(M) arrogantly dismissed these voices and did not bother to listen to even the pro-Left intelligentsia, preferring instead to mock at them.


If Buddhadeb says he acted “under pressure from the party”, the statements of the topmost CPI(M) leadership indicate that all levels of the CPI(M) hierarchy have been equally complicit in chalking out the blueprint of Operation Nandigram.

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Nandigram: Horror Stories Emerge, Fact finding report of the delegation deputed by the Calcutta High Court

Posted by Indian Vanguard on March 23, 2007

Report of the team who went to Nandigram in the district of Purba Medinipore in terms of the order of the Hon’ble High Court dated 15.03.2007 passed by the Hon’ble Division Bench comprised of Mr. S.S. Nijjar, Chief Justice and the Hon’ble Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghosh in a writ petition filed by the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights and Paschim Banga Khet Majdoor Samity.


1. That soon after getting a plain copy of the order of the Hon’ble High Court a team consisting of the following persons proceeded towards Nandigram from the High Court.


i) Sri Amit Dyuti Kumar, representing the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights;

ii) Sri Prasad Roychowdhury, Secretary, Association for Protection of Democratic Rights;

iii) Dr. (Mrs.) Subabrata Bhadra, Association for Protection of Democratic Rights;

iv) Sri Raghu, Association for Protection of Democratic Rights;

v) Smt. Anurada Talwar, representing Paschim Banga Kheth Majdoor Samity;

vi) Sri Jeeban, – do –

vii) Ms. Panchali Roy – do –

viii) Sri Sandeep -do-

ix) Sri Chiro -do-

x) Sri Pramod -do-

xi) Sri Gangyly,

xii) Sri Sadhan Roychowdhury, representing Manabidhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM);

12. Sri Subrata Roy, representing Manabidhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM);

13. Sri Arjun Das , representing MASUM

xv) Bibek Tripathy, Advocate, High Court , Calcutta


2) At about 8 PM on 15.03.2007 a team went to the office of the District Magistrate, Purba Medinipore where Mr. Anup Agarwal, District Magistrate, Purba Medinipore was present. The team expressed their strong will and desire to go to Nandigram and sought for security escort or necessary police protection to enable the team to proceed for Nandigram immediately.


3) The District Magistrate, Purba Medinipore, however, flatly refused to entertain any such request for rendering police protection to the team on various counts or grounds saying that the District Magistrate, Purba Medinipore is not a party in the writ petition and that the said District Magistrate, Purba Medinipore has no legal or moral obligation to entertain any of the requests on the subject. Then the District Magistrate, Purba Medinipore advised the members of the team not to go to Nandigram on the ground that seeing the members of the team the people of Nandigram may be charged thereby there will be apprehension of breach of law and order.


4) All persuasions made by the team for allowing the members of the team to go to Nandigram failed.


5) At about 8.30 PM the team went to the office of the Superintendent of Police, Purba Medinipore but in the said office of the Superintendent of Police, Purba Medinipore no one was present. The night guard also could not provide the team with any information as to where the Superintendent of Police, Purba Medinipore will be available or telephone number either of the office or residence of the Superintendent of Police, Purba Medinipore. Mrs. Anurada Talwar from her own sources after making several calls could get mobile phone number of the Superintendent of Police, Purba Medinipore and tried for several occasions to talk to the said Superintendent of Police, Purba Medinipore but the said Superintendent of Police, Purba Medinipore did not pick up the telephone on any occasion.


6) Then the team proceeded for Tamluk Sub-Divisional Hospital. The team could get the following informations from the hospital –


i) All together 36 persons both male and female were admitted with bullet injuries, head injuries and different types of other severe injuries. Four police personnel were also admitted in the hospital but in the said hospital record there is no mention as to the nature of injury allegedly suffered by such police personnel. From records it could be ascertained that few patients have been referred to the PG hospital and 4 police personnel have been referred to Nilratan Sarkar Medical College and Hospital. The members of the team then were allowed by the hospital authorities to talk to the patients and a few numbers od the tem entered into the ward where the victims of the incident narrated the entire episode as to how and in what manner such persons were subjected to indiscriminate, reckless firing committed by both police personnel and the goons of the rulling political party.


ii) Then the team could ascertain that several bodies have been brought dead in the hospital and such bodies have been kept in the morgue. Some bodies have been claimed by the relatives but there were still some bodies which were not claimed by the members of family of the deceased victims. In the Sub-Divisional hospital the team could find that a CBI team headed by Sri B.B. Misra, Joint Director of CBI, already arrived there to conduct investigation in terms of the order of the Hon’ble High Court. Then the team at about 00.30 AM left the Tamluk Sub-Divisional Hospital and then stayed at Tamluk at night. In the morning on 16.03.2007 the team preceded for Chandipur Police Station.At about 8.00 AM the team could reach the Chandipur Police Station where the team could meet Mr. Kalyan Banerjee, Additional Superintendent of Police in Charge, Purba Medinipore. The said Additional Superintendent of Police in Charge in a diplomatic way told the team that being a police official the said Additional Superintendent of Police in Charge should not say that the team should not go to Nandigram in violation to the Constitutional guarantee but the said Additional Superintendent of Police in Charge advised the team not to go to Nandigram in the same and similar tune and version of the District Magistrate, Purba Medinipore. The said Additional Superintendent of Police did not receive the copy of the order of the Hon”ble High Court on the alleged ground that the said Additional Superintendent of Police is not a party to the writ petition. The team told the Additional Superintendent of Police that the team will convey the decision of the team after sometimes and accordingly after about 45 minutes the team intimated the said Additional Superintendent of Police in Charge that the team has taken a decision to go to Nandigram. After communicating the decision of the team to go for Nandigram at about 10 AM the team started for Nandigram and could reach at Nandigram Hospital at about 10.45 AM.


iii) In the hospital at Nandigram which is a Primary Health Centre the team could ascertain that all together 69 persons (male, female and children) have been admitted in the said hospital. Several cases of bullet injuries and various other injuries due to blasting of tear gas shell and hand made bombs have been recorded in the record. A few cases of rape by the police personnel and other persons have also been reported by the victims to the hospital.


iv) The team could find that the hospital do not have any facility for rendering treatment to the victims. The members of the victim family were waiting outside the hospital are all trauma stricken. A deep sense of frustration was prevailing in the entire hospital compound at Nandigram. The patients have not been provided with food and minimum medicines which they require. There is no ambulance in the hospital and one ambulance provided by some NGO is not functioning properly. The Block Medical Officer of Health admitted that thre is an acute problem for transportation of the victims to Tamluk due to shortage of ambuance and vehicles.


7) At about 2.30 PM the team proceeded for Sonachura which place is situated at about 20 Kms. from Nandigram Hospital. On their way to Sonachura the team could find thousands of persons were sitting on the road or assembling jointly in some areas.Upon seeing the team reaching the area all the villagers started narrating their story as to how and in what manner the poor villagers have been subjected to torture by the police and the murderers of the ruling political party. The nature of allegations made by the villagers is as follows:


i) On 14.03.2007 the villagers assembled near Bhangabera which is a bridge connecting Nandigram and Khejuri. At Bhangabera. the villagers of both the communities were offering prayers to God and the gathering for offering prayers to the God were comprising of women and children mostly. All on a sudden the police personnel without any notice to the villagers proceeded towards the the villagers offering prayers and without any notice started indiscriminate firing of rubber bullets, killing bullets and tear gas. Several persons were killed at the spot by such indiscriminate police firing. Just after opening of the fire of the police upon the gathering the villagers were trying to escape to a secured place and such villagers were surrounded by the murderers of the local political party who were also in uniform but sandle in their feet and fully armed with local made arms and ammunitions. Children were murdered indiscriminately; bodies have been thrown to nearby Chuniburi river. The children of Primary Schools at least 8 in numbers have been killed by the murderers and then all those children were buried in a particular place near Bhangabera area.


The police and hooligans then ransacked the huts of the villagers, indiscriminately fired the residential huts of the villagers and captured upto the village Sonachura and the adjoining villages. The team could find that a good number of persons who have received various kinds of injuries including bullet injuries not less than 100 in numbers, receiving such bullet injuries are in their respective huts in their village. Such persons could not dare to go to hospital because of threats perpetrated by police and the murderers of the political party. A good number of women have complained that they have been raped, sexually abused and molested by police personnel and the murderers of the political party. The team could ascertain a good number of persons not less than 60 in numbers still remain untraced. The exact figure as to the particulars of the untraced persons could not be ascertained because villagers of some villages could not return to their home so as to ascertain as to how many members of persons are remaining untraced. The team could ascertain that the CBI team reached Bangabhera for the purpose of investigation. The team could not ascertain the exact numbers of victims of killing, rape, injured and untraced.


ii) The team returned to Nandigram Hospital at about 8.00 PM to start for Kolkata.
This brief report is supported by the statements made by the victims recorded by the members of the team personally and also the video clippings and footage.


8) Observation of the team from the trend of statements made by the victims of the incident and the villagers in general.


i) The people of Nandigram have been subjected to torture by the police and the political hooligans in a concerted way;


ii) The villagers, the police have started operation at the first instance for mass killing and the job has been completed by the murderers of the political parties. The peaceful movement of the people of Nandigram to oppose acquisition of land and/or for establishing Special Economic Zone by the State Government under the approved scheme of the Central Government has been sought to be broken and/or demolished by the ruling political party in aid and abatement of the police and the local administration.


iii) A good number of persons have been killed in the action. The exact number of the dead persons, untraced persons, victims of rape and the persons who have been severely injured could not yet been finalized because the villagers of Adhikari Para, Sonachura and the adjoining villages could not return to their respective huts as yet.


iv) The administration have shown their total callousness in securing minimum force for providing medical assistance and for building up confidence upon the people of Nandigram.


vi) The indefinite attitude of the District Magistrate, Purba Medinipore, Superintendent of Police, Purba Medinipore and the other functionaries of the Purba Medinipore administration clearly suggest that those officials have had their definite knowledge and participation in the whole operation of causing indiscriminate firing upon the people of Nandigram.


vii) There is no presence of administration at Nandigram either through the District Magistrate, Purba Medinipore, Superintendent of Police, Purba Medinipore or the other administrative persons.


viii) The dignatories indicated in the order of the Hon’ble High Court to the best of the information received by the team include Mr. Lakhman Seth, the Member of Parliament who is personally responsible for the incident of this mass killing. Informations have collected by the team to the effect that Lakhman Seth deployed professional murderers to commit murders of the villagers at Nandigram and that police started the operation but the rest of the operation has been conducted by the professional murderers engaged and deputed by Lakhman Seth, M.P. and the functionaries of Haldia Development authority and the local CPIM murderers at Haldia.


ix) CBI team conducting investigation may not be successful in unearthing each and every incident of murder, kidnapping, rape and other various kinds of offences in its meticulous details because that CBI team do not have sufficient and adequate expert officials of the CBI and the team constituted by CBI is a skeleton team and is too inadequate to conduct investigation over the incident at Nandigram occurred on 14.03.2007. Countercurrents.org

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