PUCL, February 2003

12-year-old boy arrested under Pota

Times of India

NEW DELHI: India may not be breaking many world records these days
but here's something for the Guiness book: the world's
youngest "terrorist", and the oldest.

Among the nearly 200 people arrested in Jharkhand under the draconian
Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) are Gaya Singh, 12, and Rajnath
Mahto, 81.

According to a confidential police file, a copy of which is with The
Times of India, the total number of children arrested as terrorists
under Pota is 10. And two of these "terrorists" are over 60.

The Jharkhand government says the accused have been arrested for
supporting Naxalites. However, the legality of arresting minors under
Pota is questionable. And it is not clear what terrorism an 81-year-
old man could have indulged in.

According to the social profile of the arrested, most are either
farmers, students or daily wagers. One hundred and fifty-eight of
them are being held in the Ranchi jail, the rest are in Giridih and
Hazaribag jails.

Declining to provide the exact number of Pota arrests, state home
secretary J B Dubit says the number of detainees is "increasing every
day" and "difficult to keep track of". In fact, he justifies the
arrests of students and farmers.

Dubit asks, "Pota does not specify that students providing
information to Naxalite groups would be exempt from arrest. If a
student is providing information to Naxalite groups or a 12-year-old
is carrying a rifle, he has to be arrested under Pota."

According to him, most of the arrests have taken place in the Palamu
region of the state, where Naxalites from the banned Maoist Communist
Centre (MCC) have a strong base.

The majority of those arrested under Pota in Jharkhand are Dalits and
tribals. And there is a girl student named Seema Kumari as well -
labelled a Naxalite and lodged in Ranchi - though the police file
does not mention her age.

Asked how the state police labels someone a Naxalite, a senior police
official from Ranchi told TOI, "Anyone caught with a copy of the
Communist Manifesto or (Mao's) Red Book becomes a suspicious
character. We watch his actions for some time. Most often,
police have gathered clinching evidence which would help us in
the Pota courts."

However, a fact-finding team from the All-India Peoples Resistance
Forum found that Pota is being used against ordinary citizens and
Naxalite sympathisers in Jharkhand.


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