Travesty Of Justice

Fascism in Action

Sumedha Pal

Activists, authors, lawyers, among other civil society members on F July 22, came together under the banner of ‘Save Adivasis, Save Constitution’ to decry the Supreme Court’s recent order to impose a fine on activist Himanshu Kumar and to recommend to the Chhattisgarh government to press criminal charges against him.

Addressing a press conference in Delhi, Bhim Army Leader Chandra-shekhar Azad; Chattisgarh-based activist Soni Sori; authors Nandini Sundar and Arundhati Roy; and lawyer Prashant Bhushan described the order as a “travesty of justice”.

On July 14, a two-bench of Justices Pardiwala and A M Khanwilkar dismissed a petition by Chhattisgarh-based activist Himanshu Kumar and 12 others seeking a probe into alleged brutalities by security forces during anti-Naxal operations in 2009. The alleged massacres had taken place on September 17, 2009 and October 1, 2009 at Gachhanpalli, Gompad and Belpocha villages in the Dantewada district.

The apex court charged Kumar with a fine of Rs 5 lakh, describing the allegations by petitioners as “false charges”. It also instructed the Chhattisgarh government to act against the petitioners for “criminal conspiracy”.

Kumar in his petition had stated that in 2009, 16 tribals were “murdered” by the police and security forces at Gompad. Among those killed were women, children and elderly people, and the fingers of a one-and-half-year-old boy were chopped. Kumar had filed petitions in as many as 519 cases of alleged atrocities, including rape and loot by the police.

‘Will not pay fine, even if I have to go to jail’

Speaking at the press conference, Kumar said that he will not pay the fine levied on him even if meant if had to go to jail.

“Those who are demanding the truth and justice are being targeted and apprehended. A war is on. The state is fighting its own people. Are the troops there to protect Adivasis? They are there to capture resources for the rich. This is a full-fledged war on Adivasis – it is a hidden war of India. Gompad is one such case.”

Continuing further, he said, “The court has said that six people had not recognised who the killers were. Police had kidnapped these people in cars without number plates. If the police are kidnapping someone and threatening to shoot them, keep them in for six months and then forced them to give statements… Why is the court not investigating and why should someone who has filed the petition pay a fine? This is not a decision of thecourt, this is a decision of a judge who is scared of the government.”

“If I pay the fine, it will mean that the petition was wrong and Adivasis were wrong. Adivasis will come to Delhi and ask the Supreme Court to answer to those people who have lost their lives,” he said.

Lawyer Prashant Bhushan, critiquing the judgment said, “This is an absolutely ridiculous judgment, and a false case has been filed against the activist who in fact highlighted the issue. This pattern of imposing fines is the use of arbitrary power. Those judges who want post-retirement jobs are being lured to subjugate the judicial process. These are serious threats to the independence of the judiciary. Our constitution, high courts and the Supreme Court are watching as spectators as the democratic fabric of the country is being violated.

The independence of the judiciary is crumbling, bending down to the whims of the government. We must protest against this judiciary, every time this happens.”

A series of interviews of the witnesses in the case, as reported by The Hindu in 2010, alleged that on October 1, 2009, uniformed men stormed the village. They fatally stabbed and shot three men, three women and a 12-year-old girl, and cut off a two-year-old infant’s fingers. The reports also corroborated Himanshu Kumar’s and the witnesses’ accounts of the petitioners missing.

Speaking at the press conference, activist and author Nandini Sundar pointed out that several benches of different courts have raised questions about the functioning of the police.

“Despite so many questions, victims have not been compensated and no FIR has been filed against the officials responsible. In 2022, the police will be told that they are absolutely correct. This is contempt of people and Himanshu Kumar and the Supreme Court itself.

The benches are saying that they have no faith in the previous benches of the Supreme Court. Chhattisgarh Police is absolutely correct. The court is asking Teesta Setalvad and Zakia Jafri questions, a woman who saw her husband hacked in front of her is being accused of keeping the pot boiling. Our contempt case against the machinery is pending. The question is who is wasting whose time? I have no respect for this,” she said.

Activist Soni Sori said, “People in Bastar are being killed. They are being encountered. Our women are still being raped. Who will give us our lives and our time back? Be it the Congress or the BJP. We are being labelled as Naxals when we fight for our rights. This is not about the money; this is about weakening the fight for Adivasis. People from Gompad are ready to come to Delhi. We will come and meet the president.”

The activists stated that Adivasis will be coming to Delhi to register their protest against the order of the Supreme Court in the coming weeks.

 [Courtesy: The Wire]

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Vol 55, No. 8, Aug 15 - 21, 2022