Fascism In Action

Fight for a Human Society

[Following is a statement issued by the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners on January 7, 2017]
Whoever is against it, the machine teaches is an enemy of the nation. Whoever denounces injustice commits treason against the country.
I am the country says the machine.
This concentration camp is the country: this garbage heap, the immense wasteland empty of men.
Whoever thinks that the country is a home which belongs to everyone is a child of no one.                                                              

—Eduardo Galeano

It has been more than ten days since the arrest of a fact-finding team of advocates, leaders of people's movements, journalists and research scholars-by the Chhattisgarh police on 25th December, 2016 at Dummagudam village of Bhadrachalam District of Telangana. Among those arrested include the Secretary of the Andhra-Telangana Chapter of CRPP, Advocate Balla Ravindranath. Along with him others who have been arrested include Advocate Chikkudu Prabhakar(both Ravindranath and Prabhakar are Telangana High Court Advocates), B Durga Prasad, journalist), R Laxmaiah, Secretary, Adivasi Tudem Dubba, D Prabhakar Rao, President, Kula Nirmoolana Poratta Samiti (KNPS) and Rajendra Prasad and Mohammad Nazeer, research scholars, Osmania University. The team was on a fact finding mission to Chhattisgarh to enquire into complaints of human rights violations of adivasi villagers at the hands of security forces. Information from human rights activists makes it clear that the seven member fact finding team had left Hyderabad on December 24 and was detained on December 25 in Telengana. It is the Telangana police who later handed over the team members to Chhattisgarh police. All of them were charged under Sections 8(1), 8(2), 8(3) and 8(5) of the draconian Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005 (CSPSA). They were produced before the Sukma court on 26 December and then sent to Sukma jail. Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005 (CSPSA) one of the worst draconian legislations that have come up since the late 90s (as part of the surfeit of security legislations that were enacted in various states of India) was passed by the Chhattisgarh assembly in December 2005 and authorizes police to detain a person for committing acts, which among other things, show a "tendency to pose an obstacle to the administration of law". The act says that any person whose actions "encourage(s) the disobedience of the established law" will be considered "unlawful". In other words it is open season in Chhattisgarh and similar areas witnessing resistance from the local people against the policies of displacement and destruction with the lawless police emboldened by a draconian act out to criminalize any form of opinion, perception or assembly that criticizes the State policy in this region.

To further make matters worse the Chhattisgarh Special Court has denied bail for the 7 members on 4 January 2017.

Advocate Balla Ravindranath, one of the incarcerated, was constantly in touch with his partner Savithry (who is also practicing in the High Court of Telangana) till late night over phone as the team was about to board the bus from the border town of Telangana to Chhattisgarh. As usual the police in Chhattisgarh in cohort with their Telangana counterpart have made the wildest of allegations to prolong the incarceration of the rights defenders. They have accused the rights defenders as carrying a hundred thousand worth old currency notes allegedly for the Maoists in the denominations of 500 and 1000. To add flavor to this charge the police have claimed the members of the team were carrying proscribed literature. Further the advocates who have been taking up the cause of political prisoners have been accused of enlarging support for the proscribed CPI (Maoist) party.

How does one understand this charge of enlarging support for the CPI (Maoist)? It is a convenient and shrewd strategy to silence anyone who is ready to speak out about the murderous violence of the state forces in the region against the adivasis who have been defiantly waging a struggle against destruction of their lives and livelihoods. As a striking parallel to the military tactic of SCORCH-EARTH policy that the desperate state is implementing in the region to violently bring down the adivasi to submission one is witness to a SCORCH-IMAGINATION policy being enforced through the Chhattisgarh police so as to silence any kind of questioning let alone reportage of what is unfolding in the forests of Dandankaranya. The state euphemism for this perception management exercise is "winning the hearts and minds".

The present incarceration of the 7 member fact-finding team is a long chain of endless acts of impunity indulged in by the Chhattisgarh police in connivance with the state to target/profile/intimidate/incarcerate into submission any individual or group who is ready to talk/write about state barbarity in the region. From Soni Sori, Linga Kodopi, Hidma through Himanshu Kumar, Malini Subramanium, Bela Bhatia to Nandini Sundar (entrapped in false charges and facing arrest) and last but not the least the hounding out of the Jagadalpur Legal Aid Group—a team of four women lawyers fighting the cases of the adivasis—all point to this well meditated policy to silence any form of opinion making/support/reflection on the emerging situation in Chhattisgarh that is even slightly critical of the State.

It is reported in a section of the press who still value to give space for such issues that four local journalists have been arrested since last year while a visiting BBC newsman was forced to leave the district.

Hardly a week has passed since the peasantry in the southern state of Tamilnadu protested with rats in their mouth to highlight the acute situation of drought in the region. Last week also saw reports from a state which is sold in the media as 'god's own country' facing drought as never seen in the last 115 years. Far away from these regions in the forests of Central India the adivasi is holding the torch of protest against a policy of loot and plunder of the resources in the region, the immediate effect of which is the total uprooting and wipe out of a natural habitat, the very survival of the communities in the forests. At hindsight one can see that the torch the adivasi is holding is not something pertaining only to her immediate future but of tremendous significance for the survival and recreation of all that is living in the subcontinent. So when a Kumma Pottam of Metapal village of Bijapur district in Chhattisgarh says that his 13-year-old son Somaru was branded Maoist and killed after torture by the militia created by the security forces of surrendered naxalites (Salwa Judum 2.0) and has approached the High Court for justice it signifies the larger questions, the multiple dimensions of the struggle waged by Adivasis in the region for a world where they can live with dignity, without oppression; a world the survival of which is not only in simple terms the survival of the adivasis alone but for the people at large. Moreover it is a larger question, of a complete breakdown of law, of a scheduled protected area under the constitution where lawlessness has become the law and the constitution has been confined to the four walls of the court chambers. In a scenario where any kind of dissent in the public sphere—universities, press briefings, public meetings—is increasingly being profiled and criminalized as anti-national, anti-development, obstruction of discharging constitutional responsibilities, creating disaffection and even the struggles to safeguard constitutional rights are being criminalized as unconstitutional whoever thinks that this country is a home which belongs to everyone has literally become a child of no one!

Advocate Balla Ravindranath and the fact-finding team had the sense of responsibility and vision to reach out to those adivasis who have been meted with the worst kind of barbarities by the state paramilitary forces and the private militia created by them. And it is this fear of the larger public becoming aware of the brutal face of the policies of destruction and death euphemistically described as 'development' that has increased the lawlessness of the state which has forgone its constitutional responsibilities and declared a holiday for law and order completely deploying its forces and interests with the big corporate interests. The assault on the democratic rights of the citizen to travel to any part of the subcontinent without being profiled or intimidated is the beginning of the end of all hard earned rights that have won through their love for freedom of expression, freedom to assemble and the right to question and dissent.

Vol. 49, No.33, Feb 19 - 25, 2017