Monthly Archives: March 2012

[Amnesty International] EXECUTION OF BALWANT SINGH WOULD BE A STEP BACK FOR INDIA

The execution of Balwant Singh Rajoana must be halted and an official moratorium on capital punishment established in India, Amnesty International said in an open letter to the country’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Balwant Singh’s execution is scheduled for 31 March 2012, in Punjab state.

Read the whole press release here.

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[Status Message] Tribals Caught in Penal and Forest Offences

Mersingh Korku a feeble man, aged 75 years, of Ghorpadmal; a remote tribal village of Betul district, has been threat to state so much so that there are half a dozen cases filed against him, and together two dozen against his fellow village man. When tribal of Ghorpadmal of Betul district were arrested two months back, it took them 45 days and had cost 15 thousand rupees to secure bail, as their files were missing. Yet they have two dozen cases in which they could not secure bail, as they have no money to apply for bail, there is permanent arrest warrant issued against them, magistrate was considerate enough to grant them bail in one case.

Tribals of Betul and Harda district, associated with Shramik Adivasi Sangathan, are trapped into vicious circle cases of penal and forest offences, filed by authorities in retaliation during 2003 to 2007. Many of them have 4 to 5 cases each against them, by the time they arrange bail in second, they realize that they have jumped bail in first one as they have not attendant hearing, the reason being; tribal sometimes were out on work; have no money. Our tribal activists have as many as 60 cases against them; in many cases there is permanent arrest warrant issued against them.

We need support to secure bail and fight these cases. Money can be sent directly or through Cheque to the account of Anurag Modi, CBI, Betul, IFS code cbin0281071. A/CNo 1293382984. Anyone donating around ten thousand need 80G exemptions may contact. Queries are welcome at sasbetul@yahoo.com

Anurag Modi/Shamim Modi

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[Breaking News] Activists Meet with the Home Ministry Re: Soni Sori

Today a group of 5 campaigners and human rights activists met P Chidambaram the Home Minister to talk about the Soni Sori case. They delivered close to 4000 signatures on a petition started on Change.org , a memorandum and a common letter telling the Home Minister to help Soni Sori get prompt and due medical care and treatment and seeking immediate intervention to ensure safety of Soni Sori, subjected to custodial sexual torture by Chhattisgarh police. The meeting took place at the Home ministry at 3:45 pm, on 27th March’ 12.

Details of the meeting:

Where: Home Ministry, New Delhi
Time: 3.45 pm
Date: 27th March’12
Who attended: P Chidambaram, Brinda Karat (Ex-Rajya Sabha MP), Sudha Sundararaman (AIDWA), Kalpana Mehta (Women against Sexual violence and State repression, WSS), Indira Chakraborty (WSS) and Kiran Mamta Shaheen (Writer).

“We discussed issues related to Soni Sori and delivered voices of 4000 people from all over India” said Kalpana Mehta (Member, Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression). Brinda Karat, ex Rajya Sabha MP, demanded that Soni Sori be given adequate constitutional safegurads as an under trial prisoner and sought his intervention for prompt and exemplary action against SP Ankit Garg of Dantewada and other officials involved in the custodial and sexual violence inflicted upon Soni Sori on the night of 8/9 October 2011 in Dantewada police station. A letter addressed to the home minister, from the campaigners urged that Soni Sori be given prompt and due medical care and treatment, and moved to a safe place, in consultation with her through her lawyers, where the policemen cannot interfere with the course of justice.

The campaigners expressed their concern about the fact that they were not being allowed to meet Soni Sori.

The Home Minsiter assured the women’s delegation that he will write to Chhattisgarh government raising the issues related to human rights violation.

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[Press Note] Protest against false imprisonment and torture of adivasi teacher Soni Sori in Chattisgarh (Bangalore)

Held at 6 pm, Saturday, 24th March 2012, Town Hall in Bangalore

“Arrest Ankit Garg, Release Soni Sori”

“Attn: Ms. President, Mr. Prime Minister, Chattisgarh state, NHRC, Stop Torture of Soni Sori”

These were among the slogans from nearly 20 Karnataka based human rights organizations to the Government of India in support of Soni Sori, a 35 year old adivasi school teacher who has been incarcerated in Chattisgarh police custody since October 2011 despite medical evidence revealing their brutal custodial torture, electrocution, beating, and sexual assault on her, shoving stones into her private parts. Around 100 persons gathered at 6 pm on 24th March 2012 in front of Town Hall in Bangalore to appeal for the immediate transfer of Soni Sori out of Chhattisgarh police custody and her speedy trial. Expressing solidarity with Soni Sori, the people also demanded the arrest of Ankit Garg, Superintendent of Police, Dantewada under whose supervision Soni Sori was subject to verbal and sexual assault in jail. They join people across the country in condemning the award of the Police Gallantry medal to Garg on Republic Day, 2012.

The protesters angrily burned an effigy of Ankit Garg, shouting slogans shaming him, and held a candlelight vigil for justice for Soni Sori. The brutality of police torture was also depicted by protesters masquerading as police and victims, while protesters held up signs condemning the functioning of the criminal justice system and asking for the freedom of adivasi journalists Lingaram Kodopi of Chhattisgarh and Vittala Malekudiya of Karnataka and many other political prisoners such as Manish Kunjam. Venkatesh of Dalit Bahujan Chaluvali, Manohar of SICHREM, and transgender political activists Charu of LesBiT and Veena of Praja Rajya Vedike spoke about the several ways in which the police system and false charges have been used to routinely detain and torture human rights activists and members of the adivasi, dalit, muslim and transgender communities in Karnataka. Comrade Balan of AITUC, Com. Nagaragere Ramesh of PDF, Com. Vishwa of New Socialist Alternative, Arati of PUCL and Pushpa of WSS stirred the crowd into thinking about whether the government today has prioritized the care and protection of its own citizens, or instead persecuted citizens for the benefit of exploitative private corporations. As the rousing songs of Dalitha Mattu Mahila Chaluvali questioned the freedom we have attained in more than 60 years of independence, members of the crowd signed a banner with messages to the President of India to ensure justice for Soni Sori.

Our Demands

– Immediately transfer Soni Sori out of the custody of Chhattisgarh police and ensure the provision of appropriate health care to Soni Sori without police interference.

– Set up an independent investigation into the conduct of Chhattisgarh law enforcement officials in the custodial sexual assault and torture of Soni Sori, and the immediate suspension of the responsible officers and prosecution under the PoA Act pending this inquiry

– Ensure the speedy completion of trial of Soni Sori, Lingaram Kodopi, Manish Kunjam and countless others so that they do not languish for years in custody when their guilt has not been proven.

– Show public proof of the good health and safety of Lingaram Kodopi and other prisoners in Chhattisgarh police custody.

– Set up a high-level independent investigation team to look at the condition of prisoners, especially women, including in the state ofChhattisgarh, to determine whether other women may have been subjected to torture and other ill-treatment, and investigate the reality ofprisoners’ access to health care.

– Enact the Prevention of Torture Bill and remove the need for prior state authorization to initiate criminal action against the officialsimplicated in custodial torture. Ratify the Convention on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

– Ensure that the latest central government grants to states to set up police stations in Maoist areas include support for independentmonitoring of detention facilities including station lockups and jails by human rights commissions and civil society groups. Considerrequiring police to videotape interrogations, especially in police stations in Naxalite areas and train police on proper conduct toward women in custody.

– End the use of custodial torture, lengthy custodial holding on false charges, and constant police harassment as tools of repressionagainst the adivasi and other residents of Chhattisgarh.

Participating Organizations/Networks

LesBiT, SICHREM, New Socialist Alternative (CWI-India), People’s Solidarity Concerns, Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression: WSS-Karnataka, PUCL-Bangalore, Peoples’ Democratic Forum, Dalitha Mattu Mahila Chaluvali, Concern (IISc), Maraa, Dalit Bahujana Chaluvali, Samanata Mahila Vedike, Vimochana, Sangama, Samara, Pedipics, Alternative Law Forum (ALF)

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[Koodankulam] Statement issued by human rights activists today about the Arrests of Satish kumar and Vanni Arasu

We, the undersigned would like to call attention to a news item that appeared in The Hindu, dated March 24, 2012. Titled, Youth Leader held on Sedition Charges, the report goes on to speak of Satish alias Satish Kumar (30), State Convenor of Tamilaga Ilaignar Ezuchi Pasarai being held on sedition charges.

We are astonished and shocked at this piece of news. Satish Kumar was indeed arrested on March 23, 2012, but according to information received by his family, he has been charged with Sections 143, 188 and 34 of the IPC, none of which has anything to do with ‘sedition’. Section 143 (Unlawful Assembly), Section 34 (Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention), Section 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant).
Satish Kumar was one amongst many hundreds who participated in a rally that was held in Tirunelveli on March 23. Many of the rallyists including MDMK leader Vaiko and Periyar DK leader Kolathur Mani, were arrested. While the others were released, Satish was not. Contrary to all established procedure he was arrested, kept in an unknown place for several hours and produced before a magistrate around midnight. He was subsequently remanded and lodged in Palayamkottai jail.
The news report however does not state any of this, and instead notes that he was apprehended in the district when he arrived there on Friday. The news report further notes that Satish Kumar is believed to be associated with the agitation against the Kudangulam Nuclear Power Plant. The report also quotes Tirunelveli Deputy Inspector General of Police V Varadaraju as saying that the ‘accused’ was involved in a case pertaining to the training of suspected Maoist cadres in 2002.

We are shocked that the actual details of the arrest are sought to be overwritten by statements that suggest Satish Kumar was engaged in seditious activity. We are particularly concerned that this is not the only instance where those who have protested against the Kudangulam plant are being subject to arbitrary arrests. Mukilan another anti-Kudankulam protester was arrested some days ago and Vanniarasu who was present at the March 23 rally was arrested subsequent to Satish Kumar’s arrest.

Given the nature of these arrests, we are forced to conclude that the police are engaged in weaving a conspiracy around the three arrested men with the intention of implicating them in false sedition charges. We also strongly condemn these and other attempts to malign and criminalise those who are engaged in a peaceful and legitimate struggle against the Kudangulam Nuclear Plant.

We demand that all three men be immediately released.

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[Death Penalty] Balwant Singh Rajoana to be Killed by Hanging, on 31 March 2012 at 9am in Central Jail, Patiala

From the Worldwide Sikh Diaspora

[…] a delegation of Sikhs from a number of countries will later this morning meet with UN officials in Geneva and make a submission to the UN Human Rights Council. The submission will request the UN to take action against India to end the death penalty.

The submission produced by the Sikh Federation (UK) states: ‘the first step is to put pressure on India to endorse the moratorium at the General Assembly of the UN later this year with a view to exerting sufficient pressure so India completely abolishes the death penalty within 12 months.’

Sikhs will also be requesting an immediate public statement from the UN Human Rights Council condemning the imminent execution of Balwant Singh […]

From DNA: Execution of Balwant Singh taking political overtures

The execution of Balwant Singh Rajoana, a co-accused in the killing of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh in 1995, is taking political connotations in the state even as top leadership of main parties SAD and Congress treaded cautiously on the issue here today.

[…]

Beant Singh was killed in the high-security Punjab civil secretariat in Chandigarh, when a suicide bomber, Dilawar Singh, blew himself up, on August 31, 1995. Rajoana was the second human bomb to be used in case Dilawar failed in his mission.

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[Tehelka] Student, Activist, Naxalite? Framed!

The story of Vittala is uncannily similar to Lingaram Kodopi. On 10 September 2011, Kodopi, a tribal journalist from Chhattisgarh, was arrested and falsely accused of being a Maoist. Vittala’s story is no different. The 22-year-old tribal, a first-year student of Mass Communication and Journalism from Mangalore University and his father were arrested from their house by the elite anti-Naxal force (ANF) of the Karnataka Police on charges of aiding Maoists.

[…]

Vittala and his father have been booked under Sections 10 and 13 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and under Sections 34 and 121 of the Indian Penal Code. During the search of the house, the police claims to have found handbills, paper cuttings on Naxal issues, binoculars and other related materials.

“The binoculars recovered from him were purchased four years ago during the Laksha Deepotsava festival in Dharmasthala,” says Vittala’s friends. “The handbills were of DYFI programmes and other than that, the police recovered 250 gm of tea and sugar from his house.” […]

Read the full article here.

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[Tehelka] Why is This Woman Still in Jail?

Finally! A mainstream news publication gives us information on Soni Sori’s case and its continuous postponement. Why, indeed, is she still in jail? Why has there not been a court hearing, a trial? Why has there been no justice? Not even a performance of justice?

Six months on, a PIL filed on her behalf is yet to be heard in the Supreme Court. Last October, an independent medical examination ordered by the apex court discovered stones from Sori’s vagina and rectum (Shockingly, Soni Sori has been sexually tortured with stones. Who will answer for this? by Tusha Mittal, 24 December 2011). This report was discussed in the court on 2 December. Shockingly, the court allowed the Chhattisgarh government more than a month to respond. The next hearing was scheduled for 25 January. Sori’s case was listed as item 14. But it never came up.
[…]
Since then, Sori’s case has been listed for hearing thrice a week in the court of Justice Altamas Kabir.

Read the full article here.

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[Resist POSCO] Open Letter to Naveen Pattnaik, CM of Odisha State Re: POSCO-related Attacks on Villagers

Open Letter by Korean Organisations to Naveen Pattnaik, the Chief Minister of Odisha State, India

The Chief Minister of Odisha State, Naveen Pattnaik
Bhubaneswar-751001.
Odisha, India
March 23, 2012

We -human rights, labor, and civic organizations in Korea- are writing to you with our deep concern regarding the current attacks continuously made to villagers who are opposing the construction of POSCO steel plant.

Even 6 years have been passed since the project in Odisha State had begun, POSCO could never have had approval from the villagers. And conflicts surrounding the construction of ironworks are continued.

The villagers made their peaceful resistance lying down on the roads while the government of Odisha State mobilizing the police to take their lands by force. This was on the rise to international community, including Korea, as a human rights issue.

Recent few months, however, the villagers and Anti-POSCO activists are being attacked by anonymous groups of armed men. On December 14, one person was killed and many were injured by a group of armed mafias while protesting. Bapi Sharkel is suspected to be the leader of this attack, however, Odisha police had not made proper investigation on this. Rather, questions are suggested that Odisha State is securing him.

Odisha State had not made fair work on Bapi Sarkhel, principal offender of the violence on December 14, and even had released him on February 29. And after 2 days from his release, another villager was attacked by an unidentified armed man.

A group of armed men came around 1PM on March 2, 2012 and took away Umakant Biswal, a known activist of the Anti-POSCO struggle. We got reports that he has been kept in Paradip police station and is being physically and mentally tortured. We do not know whether the attackers were the police, or the group of Bapi Sarkhel. What is certain, however, is that Umakant Biswal, who was injured, could not exercise his legal rights. We are aware of the fact that, as per the Indian Criminal code, the police are supposed to produce him before the magistrate within 24 hours of arrest. However, more than 24 hours have passed but he has not been produced before the magistrate. No one including the villagers, lawyer or even the parents is allowed to meet him in the police station.

We are concerning on the reason that why Bapi Sarkhel didn’t went through appropriate investigation and the testimony that he had received all kind of conveniences. Also, we strongly question the correlation between his release and the violence 2 days after that. If POSCO and the Odisha State government who wants to push ahead the construction are behind this series of incidents, this is gross abuse of human rights as well as significant part that damages the legitimacy of POSCO project.

There are many cases in korea which government and corporations oppressed the resistance of civilians by mobilizing gangsters over developments. The development project that does not protect right to life and right to live could never be successful.

We request Naveen Pattnaik, the Chief Minister of Odisha State

– To make thorough investigation into Bapi Sarkhel, including the criminals of the violence on December 14, 2011.

– To punish the offenders who had attacked Umakant Biswal and the police who had violated the article 57 of the code of criminal procedure and had refused to hospitalizing and conference with attorney.

– To stop the suppression on the villagers who oppose the construction of POSCO.

– Not to push ahead the construction without the consent of villagers.

Sincerely yours,

Advocates Public Interests Lawyers
Corporation For All
Energy & Climate Policy Institute for Just Transition
International Solidarity Committee of Minbyun
Korean House for International Solidarity
Korean Lawyers for Public Interest and Human Rights
Network for Glocal Activism
People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy
People’s Solidarity for Social Progress
Public Interest Lawyers’ Group Gonggam
SARANGBANG group for human rights

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