Monday, December 14, 2009

More news that isn't making headlines but should

And speaking of social activists in tribal areas, in the naxal context, here's another note from Imran Ali, a law officer with the Human Rights Law Network, about some recent developments: "the arbitrary, unjust and illegal detention of social activist Kopa Kunjam and advocate Alban Topo on December 10, 2009 in Dantewada in Chhattisgarh"

Again, I have not investigated this piece of news myself so I will refrain from making random remarks about 'state oppression', which is a very complex, very loaded phrase that I will expand upon some other day. But I will say that attacks on fact-finding teams and independent investigators are a sure sign of trouble. Trouble spelt U-N-D-E-M-O-C-R-A-C-Y.

Here is what the HRLN has to say about the arrests:

"Ironically, December 10 happens to be the International Human Rights Day to which India is a signatory. As what can be called gross violations of human rights and Supreme Court guidelines, the Chhattisgarh police whisked away Kopa, an activist with a Gandhian non-profit organisation Vanvasi Chetna Ashram, Dantewada, Chhattisgarh, and a young lawyer of Human Rights Law Network (HRLN), Alban Topo, who is working on the Right to Food ongoing case in the Supreme Court and currently visiting Dantewada, without complying with the D K Basu guidelines of the Supreme Court. The two were not informed by the police as to why they were being detained and where they were being taken. Alban was brutally beaten up in over 18 hours of illegal detention and released today by the police in deep interior forests of Bijapur in Dantewada, with a warning that he better cease his association with Vanvasi Chetna Ashram. The HRLN team is yet to reach him and confirm his condition. Condemning the Chhattisgarh police action, senior Supreme Court Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves called it "shameful for democracy". He said that there is no democratic structure in Chhattisgarh. Alban Topo was illegally detained and assaulted by the state police and his release was sought after much pressure and protests, he added. Alban Topo is visiting Dantewada district as ration shops had been closed there and the starvation situation is quite grim due to the security forces operations. He is working on the Right to Food case filed in the Supreme Court and went Dantewada for fact finding.Vanvasi Chetna Ashram is run by Himanshu Kumar, a committed Gandhian social activist working among the tribals of Dantewada and Bijapur districts of Bastar regions. The Ashram has increasingly raised its voice against State atrocities upon tribal civilians. An all-India fact-finding was conducted by People's Union for Civil Liberties- Chhattisgarh in June 2009 where the team visited the site of the demolished Vanvasi Chetna Ashram (VCA) at Kanwalnar near Dantewada. The findings revealed that during the demolition, the State administration did not even spare the hand pump though it was installed by the Government itself. The fact-finding report claimed that the State is trying to use military means alone to address the problem of Naxalism in Chhattisgarh and anyone not with the state (read also Salwa Judum), runs the risk of being branded a Naxalite sympathiser."

1 comment:

Sameer Khandelwal said...

I wish I could say I am shocked, but incidents of 'state oppression' or subversion of justice keep repeating with amazing alacrity.

I would love to hear a follow-up on what action Alban has initiated to ensure justice is served. At the least, the police officers who arrested him and wrongly imprisoned him should be suspended. But then again, if we let rapists go scot-free and reward them with medals of honor, who would care about human-rights-wallahs screaming hoarse about injustices in forgotten regions of our god-fearing democracy.

How are these incidents any different from purported Chinese crackdown on popular uprisings or violence against protesting citizens in Iran?

Why do I feel cynical instead of feeling optimistic that 'change' is imminent.

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