Seshachalam Killings
People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) strongly condemns the slapping of cases against activists of a team of several civil liberties and democratic rights organisations from across the country who conducted a fact-finding into the recent killings of 20 red sanders "smugglers" in Chittoor district. Members of CDRO (Committee of Democratic Rights) and other human rights groups had visited the two 'encounter' sites on 10th April. When the team tried to speak to the forest officials to get their version of events they were threatened with dire consequences. Subsequently several team members were booked by forest officials on 11th April, for trespassing. Entering into a reserved forest area without authorisation is an offence under Sec 20 of the Andhra Pradesh Forest Act, 1957. Other charges may also have been applied. That this is a targeted selective, and blatant act of harassment is all too obvious as media teams have been freely visiting the sites since 7th April itself.

Significantly, those booked include Mr Chiluka Chandrasekhar, advocate and General Secretary, Civil Liberties Committee (CLC erstwhile APCLC)—who filed a PIL into the killings. It was on this basis that the AP High Court issued directives including registration of the case as unnatural deaths, observing the SC guidelines into encounter killings, preserving the bodies and a postmortem by a team of forensic experts.

In a Press Conference held in Tirupati on 11th April the team had released an interim report of their investigation. The team particularly highlighted the cold-blooded killings of 20 persons which are being passed off in the police version as 'random' deaths which occurred in 'self-defence' when attacked with stones and axes by over 100 red sanders "smugglers", resulting in the deaths of 20 of the coolies. The rights 'team' when they visited the two sites found no other bullet marks, or blood spots except where the bodies fell, as should have happened in a random firing. The bodies were found in close proximity to each other rather than scattered over a large area. More-over neither of the sites had no stones that the coolies could have hurled. The team questioned as to what happened to the rest of the coolies at least some of whom must have been injured in the "random", and allegedly untargeted firing.

In the light of the above, the registering of a case against the activists is obviously an obstructionist move intended to pressurise and prevent rights groups from actively pursuing the matter both in and outside the court. The Court clearly believes that the incident merits further inquiry. An independent fact-finding by a civil rights team is a civil society initiative in furtherance of the same. The registering of cases against the activists seems highly motivated and hints that a cover-up operation seems to have been already set in motion.

PUDR demands that :
1.    An independent inquiry in which the AP police has no role as they are the accused.
2.   The concerned policemen be booked under Sec. 302.
3.   The charges against the 12 team members be dropped immediately.

Megha Baht, Sharmila Purkayastha
Secretaries, People's Union for Democratic Right (PUDR), Delhi

Translation and the Idea of India
‘‘India is the second largest country in the world which has the second largest number of endangered languages and dialects. To preserve sublanguages we need translations’’, said Shri A Sethumadhavan, eminent writer and Former Chairman of NBT India. He was inaugurating the seminar on ‘Translation and the Idea of India’ held during the New Delhi World Book Fair. "We find many people who translate from foreign languages to English or Hindi or vice-versa, but we cannot find translators among Indian languages’’, he added, setting the tone for the seminar.

Arguing the need to be creative, Rev (Prof) Valson Thampu, Principal, St  Stephen's College, Delhi said, "Creati-vity is clarity and clarity is creativity.... There is a great need today to return in the creative’’. Reflecting on his initiative to set up the Centre for Translation Studies in St Stephen’s College, Prof Thampu said that, ‘‘The College was a place where people from across the country with different traditions came to study. Bul over a period of time with the dominance of English, began to abandon their respective traditions. The Translation Studies was an intervention in this regard’’.

Prof K Satchidanandan, eminent poet, scholar and former Secretary of Sahitya Akademi, looked at the relations between translation and nationalism, and how translations plays a pivotal role in creating the consciousness of India. Ms Mitra Phukan, well-known short story writer and scholar, spoke on the practical problems of translating a work.

Dr M P Ashley, Co-ordinator, Centre for Translation Studies, St Stephen’s College, said that Indian language literature is enriching the English language more than our languages. Reflecting on the notion of talking to another Indian, he observed that India is a kind of social experiment with its diverse culture and languages. Therefore, the need of the hour is making translations possible among Indian langauges.
Earlier, Dr M A Sikandar, Director, NBT India said, ‘‘We need to create equal space for all Indian languages. Therefore, the Seminar assumes importance’’.
NBT, New Delhi

Forest Movements
The First and founding Conference of All India Forum of Forest Movements (AIFFM) was held in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, on 21 and 22 March 2015. More than 300 delegates and representatives of solidarity organisations from 14 states took part in the Conference. On 21 March, apart from members of AIFFM preparatory committee, several speakers such as C R Baksi (CPI), Bijay Panda (Campaign for Survival and Dignity), Sudha Bhardwaj (Chattisgarh Bachao Andolon), Guman Singh (Himalaya Niti Aviyan and Mines, Minerals and People) talked about resource politics and challenges in front of people's movements in the inaugural session. All speakers explained the nature and scale of the present neo-liberal assault on forest communities and other working people of India, and emphasized the need for unified and entrenched resistance.

In a separate session on women's role in forest movements and community governance in forests, speakers like Kanta Marathe (AIFFM-Chhattisgarh), Anita Pawar (Kanha Rashtriya Udyan Sangharsh Samity), Indu Netam (National Adivasi Alliance) spoke about the integral relationship of women with forests, and their leading role in many forest movements of the past as well as present.

The delegate session that continued for the rest of the Conference opened with a presentation of political position documents by Soumitra Ghosh, member, AIFFM preparatory committee. Speaking on the documents, Prativa Sindhe of Lok Sangharsh Morcha (Maharshtra and Gujarat) and Biswajit Roy, senior journalist and activist (Kolkata) stressed upon the need for strengthening grassroots level movements as well as the need for unity between various peoples struggles representing various cross-sections of the society.

The Conference resolved the Following :
1.    AIFFM will be a platform for facilitating a continued dialogue among forest movements and grassroots communities in forest areas of India, to evolve political-organizational strategies at various levels, and to carry out specific action programmes accordingly :
a.  To establish and defend complete social ownership over forests and other natural resources through GRAM SABHA throughout India.
b.  To ensure that the rural toiling people, women and the marginalized sections of the Gram Sabha participate, equitably and democratically, in the decision making process.
c.   To resist capitalist and state invasion and plunder of forests and forest communities in the name of false 'national development' and anti-people forest/wild life conservation alike.
d.  To resist and banish capital and its agents like big contractors, anti-people forest bureaucracy from Gram Sabha controlled forest areas.
e.  To develop suitable livelihood and economic programmes, organize health and education programmes at Gram Sabha and inter-Gram Sabha levels.
f.    To establish political and programmatic links with other alliances of forest communities as well as a host of other struggles of toiling masses both in rural and urban areas: these alliances at various level will supplement and strengthen the collective struggle against state and corporate attack against democracy and democratic space.
g.  To uphold and defend the fundamental values of Indian Constitution.

AIFFM will have no designated leadership but a nominal organizational structure: a Central Co-ordination Committee, Regional Committees as necessary, and a mobile Secretariat which will have no fixed address.
AIFFM will take all decisions on the basis of consensus, including fund-raising and disbursement.

The Conference adopted the political position documents, the report of the preparatory committee and the draft constitution placed before it, with minor amendments to the Constitution. An open Central Coordination Committee was formed with 2 representatives from each constituent group. An 8-member Secretariat was formed.

Suicide at Jantar Mantar
Considering whole aspect and background of Gajendra Singh having allegedly committed suicide at AAP-party's rally at Jantar Mantar (New Delhi) on 22.04.2015 with different probes ordered separately by Delhi Government and Delhi Police, it will be in fairness of things that a judicial enquiry may be ordered by Supreme Court or Delhi High Court.

In matters where state and Union governments are ruled by different political parties, it is quite usual that probe-panels ordered by governments usually give findings according to requirements of political rulers having appointed these, like happened in infamous Godra train-burning episode of the year 2002 when probe-panels appointed by Union Railway Ministry and Gujarat government gave reports of contrast nature.
According to media-reports, Gajendra Singh was basically a trader having mastered art in turban-making with fame of putting turbans on heads of dignitaries including US president Bill Clinton and India's Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee even running a website for the purpose. There are also reports of his political ambitions. It should also be probed if he committed suicide, or died accidentally in a bid to draw attention of those at the stage and those participating in the rally.
Subhash Chandra Agrawal,
New Delhi

Two Governments
There has been a tussle between the two kinds of governing institutions in Delhi. The Lieutenant Governor is nominee of highest office in the country. The Chief Minister on the other hand, represents the common electorate to whom the democratic system belongs. In a democratic system, incumbents to the highest offices have to be elected. It is not so difficult to understand that an elected representative of people should have upper hand over the selected or nominated official. If it comes to asserting for superiority, the selected one has to make space for the elected one. One may raise the issue of who is better administrator. The one who asserts will be choice of many but the one who logically gives the space for the other would definitely be rated by others as magnanimous. Even if Delhi does not enjoy full statehood, democratic commonsense will recognize the directly elected representatives as authorized by the people to govern. Else, what they conduct in the name of elections in Delhi is a farce. The Union vests all its powers into the government formed following elections and any attempt to limit the jurisdiction of such a government will be tantamount to interfering with democracy. The two tier system has certainly worked as a safety measure under special circumstances and as long as they can go together, they should with mutual respect but eventually recognize that elected representative is better vested with authority than the selected one. May good sense prevail and may Delhi move on tracks.
Pramod Yadava, JNU

Vol. 47, No. 45, May 17 - 23, 2015