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PUCL, December 2008

PUCL Condemns the arrest of Lenin Kumar; it throttles freedom of expression

-- By Pramodini Pradhan, Convenor, PUCL ( Bhubaneswar Unit), 9 Dec., 2009

People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) condemns the arrest of Lenin Kumar, editor of Nishan, who has been arrested and sent to jail on charges of writing provocative literature which would disturb communal peace and harmony. The police have also arrested two employees of Sovan Press, Bhubaneswar, after conducting a raid on it for printing the book ‘Dharma naanre Kandhamalre Raktara Nadi’ published by Lenin Kumar.

On 07-12-2008 around 1-1.30 P.m. he was picked up by the plain-clothes policemen who had come allegedly by a numberless Bolero van. After getting this information from Rumita Kundu, wife of Lenin Kumar, we contacted IIC Sahid Nagar Police Station around 9.30 P.M. to ascertain the facts of the case. The IIC told us that he has been picked up for verification and he would be released within one hour or so though he mentioned nothing about the context of the verification.

Next day, a section of the media, quoting police sources, reported that Lenin Kumar and the other two were ‘detained’ under suspicion of Maoist links and the said book was alleged to be ‘Maoist literature’. But, when Lenin Kumar was produced in the court the only allegation brought by police was under Section 153-A and 295-A of IPC which relate to ‘publishing provocative literature which can disturb communal peace and harmony’. The specific section of the book – page 38 to 41 – (which has been cited by police) relates to a letter allegedly written by the RSS to its members for anti dalit, anti minority activities. It is worthwhile to mention that the same material has already been published in various journals/magazines in the past, both in Orissa and outside Orissa.

Thus, the so called ‘Maoist connection’ seems to be fed by the Police to the media to legitimize its own highhandedness. Lenin Kumar, as editor of Nishan, an Oriya quarterly, has been consistently raising voice of dissent for last one year or so in the pages of the journal. In the month of August (2008), Nishan was labeled as a maoist organ by the Jagatsinghpur SP and the editor had protested this allegation. In the present instance too the booklet under controversy has taken a critical tone towards govt. role in Kandhamal violence.

A few months ago, Rabindra Prasad Panda, a prominent Oriya writer, was sent to jail by the Orissa government for writing a book on Huzrat Muhammad, using similar Sections of the IPC.

Taking all these facts and trends into consideration, it is clear that the State is increasingly using police to suppress any dissenting voice and curtailing freedom of expression, guaranteed by the Constitution. For PUCL, it is a matter of serious concern. We appeal to all concerned citizens and civil liberty organizations to condemn the actions of Bhubaneswar police and speak up for freedom of speech and expression and the right to dissent.

Pramodini Pradhan Convenor, PUCL ( Bhubaneswar Unit) Dt.9.12.08 .

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