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PUCL, March 2007

Judge throws out murder charges against Chhattisgarh activists

Birkoni Update, Saturday, March 17, 2007

[ For an earlier report see, Activists languishing in prison in Chhattisgarh ]

Greetings from the struggling and suffering people of Chhattisgarh!

This is to share the great news that the 32 innocent citizens and social activists won a legal battle today, when the Additional District and Sessions Judge, Mahasamund, Mr. V B Singh struck down some of the serious offences from the Charge Sheet, while framing charges in the false criminal case filed against them by the BJP-led Chhattisgarh Government. After hearing the arguments from both sides, the judge ruled that there was no matter to charge them with "attempt to murder" u/s 307, and others u/s 427, 332 and 149 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The judge has transformed section 307 into section 324 (Voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means), and has sent the case to be tried by the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Mahasamund, Smt Anita Dahariya.

This has exposed the grand-design of the BJP-led Chhattisgarh Government to falsely implicate in criminal cases those villagers, Gram Panchayat leaders and social activists who led the opposition to setting up of industries on the agricultural public land in Birkoni village, 15 kms away from the district headquarters of Mahasamund. It may be recalled that 14 were arrested and were put behind bars for 28 days in June-July 2006, and later 18 others, including 9 women, were detained for 57 days in December 2006 and January 2007, under these cases.

Much earlier, while granting bail, the ADJ, Mahasamund had already observed in the bail order dated 3rd July, 2006 that *"A Perusal of the Case Diary and the material evidence contained therein does not warrant such an action. Besides, the medical examination report also reveals that the policemen alleged to have been hurt in the stone pelting had received simple injuries." *Similarly, the Acting Chief Justice of Chhattisgarh High Court, Sri L C Bhadu hearing the Bail Petition of 18 other accused observed on 25thJanuary 2007that "

*no grievous injury was sustained by the Police party*". These orders go on to prove that the Police Administration had deliberately and falsely implicated the innocent citizens in serious offences like the "attempt to murder", because of which they had to suffer long periods of confinement in jail.

These 32 so-called "accused" were recognized for their 'courage and conviction' on the Women's Day (8th March, 2007) by the Chhattisgarh Mahila Jagriti Sangathan, and were provided with a memorabilia.

The repressive measures used by the BJP-led Chhattisgarh Government against the struggling people and social activists is not limited to Birkoni in Mahasamund, but in Bastar, Rajnandgaon, Chowrenga, Bilaspur, Kanker, and Kawardha, etc., where similar agitations are being staged against the ruthless implementation of "industrial policy" of the State Government at the cost of uprooting the people from their livelihood resources like farms and forests, and also causing industrial pollution thus cutting at the very base of their right to life.

It may be recalled here that Raipur is the "most polluted capital city" of the country, and the "third most polluted city" of the country. Every fifth citizen of Raipur is said to be suffering from one or the other form of respiratory diseases. The large-scale industrialization, especially the sponge-iron plants being set up by the State Government, has been a subject matter of debates in the Chhattisgarh Legislative Assembly, currently in session. It has been reported that each sponge-iron plant destroys about 3000 acres of agricultural land due to pollution. The State Government has signed MoUs with the MNCs and industrial giants in the country, including TATA, ESSAR and Texas Power Generation Corporation (said to be close to President George Bush of USA), etc.

The repression of the struggles of the Birkoni villagers for their right to life and livelihood is also be seen as an attack on the "democratic processes and institutions" as the Gram Panchayat and Gram Sabha, both had passed unanimous resolutions against setting up of the industries on the farm and public land. However, the District Administration got these resolutions reverted on 9th June, 2006 in the presence of heavy police post, while the leaders were "illegally arrested" and put behind bars. These detainees included the leaders of the peaceful and democratic movement: Toop Singh Nishad (Member, Janpad Panchayat), Pooran Sahu (Member, Gram Panchayat), Shiv Kumar Patel (District Convener, Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha), Bhuwan Lal Kuldip (President, KN Oil Mill Worker's Union affiliated to CMM), Akshay Sail (State Convener, Indian Social Action Forum). Others falsely implicated include Ms. Harshlata Kanwar (Chhattisgarh Mahila Jagriti Sangathan), and Surendra Kumar (SAMVEDNA).

The people's struggles of Birkoni villagers also acquired significance in the context of recent but similar struggles of people at Singur and Nandigarm in West Bengal. While a short-term "relief" has been received through the legal battle in this regard, we need to strategize our future plan of action as the "fascist" and "pro-globalization" forces are out-and-out to discredit the peaceful and democratic movement for people's rights and justice, by framing false criminal cases against the social and political activists and organisation, and treating them like "criminals".

The People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) Chhattisgarh State Unit has chosen as its Theme: *FAKE ENCOUNTERS, FAKE SURRENDERS and FAKE CASES* for the forthcoming State Convention to be held on 14th and 15th April, 2007 at Ambikapur, Chhattisgarh. The State Convention would definitely address the growing state repression also reflected in the filing of "fake criminal cases" against struggling people and activists in Chhattisgarh.

Thanks for all support and solidarity.

In Solidarity,

Rajendra K Sail,
President, PUCL Chhattisgarh

H-12, Anupam Nagar, P O Shanker Nagar, Raipur � 492007: Chhattisgarh Phone: 07723-223946; Fax: 07723-223289 Mobile : 98268-04519 E-Mail: pucl.cg@gmail. com

People's Union for Civil Liberties, 81 Sahayoga Apartmrnts, Mayur Vihar I, Delhi 110091, India. Phone (91) 11 2275 0014