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PUCL Bulletin, August 2004

Chhattisgarh PUCL

PUCL state convention aims at defending democracy with all its might

The Chhattisgarh branch of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has been duly constituted at the General Body Meeting on 28th March at Raipur. Two national observers conducted the proceedings, where a 19-member State Council and 13-member Executive Committee were elected. Advocate Rajendra K. Sail and Dr. Binayak Sen were unanimously elected as President and General Secretary respectively.

The first meeting of the State Council held on 29th March took stock of the deteriorating human rights situation in the state, and resolved to defend democracy with all its might. A two-pronged strategy was chalked out, which included expansion of the membership base with the formation of district level units, and challenging all forms of human rights violations in the established forums like the High Court to State Assembly, etc.

Specific issues identified for immediate response are to mobilize public opinion and forge the broadest possible alliance of democratic forces in the state to oppose Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002 (POTA) that is being thrust upon the people of Chhattisgarh by the newly installed BJP government. Campaign would be carried out to pressurize the legislators and parliamentarians to stand up against this draconian legislation built on the patterns of The Rowlett Act passed by the British India in 1919, and the American Law on terrorism called ‘Patriot’ in the wake of September 11 disaster in New York in 2002.

PUCL has also decided to appeal to the Chhattisgarh Government to appoint a retired judge of the High Court as the Chairperson of the State Human Rights Commission instead of a retired police official, as at present. Failing which it would challenge the unprecedented step in the Chhattisgarh High Court. PUCL has pointed out that this was the only state in the country that had appointed a retired police official at this prestigious post, thus deliberately undermining the importance and effectiveness of a statutory body acting as a watchdog of the human rights situation in the state.

Expressing grave concern at the undue delay in the Shaheed Shanker Guha Niyogi Murder Trial, the PUCL has demanded that the Central and State governments take immediate and adequate steps to speed up the Murder Trial, and to see that justice is done by bringing the culprits to book. It shall carry out a signature campaign for speedy trial at the Supreme Court of India, and submit the same to the President of India.

PUCL has demanded setting up of a high-level independent Committee to review and accordingly recommend withdrawal of criminal cases pending against the political and social activists in Chhattisgarh. It also condemns the use of Black Laws like the National Security Act, Zilabadar Act, etc. against common citizens. According to PUCL, these are age-old repressive methods employed by the party in power against those who differ in thought and action from their policies and programmes.

PUCL would conduct independent citizen’s investigations into the reported cases of encounter deaths in Sarguja, and submit its findings to the National Human Rights Commission for appropriate action.

PUCL takes a serious note of the undue and criminal delay in appointing the full-quota of judges at the Chhattisgarh High Court at Bilaspur. It would carry out a signature campaign among the various people’s organisations, NGOs, prominent citizens, etc. and submit a memorandum in this regard to the Chief Justice of India.

PUCL has also expressed concern at the growing attacks on minorities in the state, especially in the name of curbing the so-called ‘conversion by Christian missionaries’ by the Sangh Parivar. The BJP government’s plans to utilize the state apparatus to curb religious freedom and minority rights guaranteed under the Indian Constitution, which will be vehemently opposed by the PUCL by mobilizing secular and democratic forces in the state.
The campaign for the Right to Food would be streamlined by PUCL in the wake of recent reports of deaths due to malnutrition in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh.

The PUCL report in this regard will be submitted to the Supreme Court of India when the already pending PUCL’s Writ Petition comes up for hearing. Chhattisgarh PUCL plans to collect the nutritional data in these villages (Bargum of Kuakonda Block, Hidpal of Geedam Block, and Burgum-Mootanpal in Killepal village, which would be further submitted to the Commissioner appointed by the Supreme Court of India in this connection.
During the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections, PUCL would keep a close watch over the proceedings by inviting national observers, collect and analyse the affidavits submitted by the candidates of various political parties, and make public the information. – Rajendra K. Sail, President

Resolutions
The Chhattisgarh State branch of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) adopted the following Resolutions at its Convention held on 28th March 2004 at Town Hall, Raipur, Chhattisgarh:

1. Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA)
The PUCL is deeply disturbed by the announcement of the BJP Government in Chhattisgarh about its intentions to implement Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) in the state of Chhattisgarh. The PUCL opposes the implementation of POTA to protect the democratic traditions, prevent fascism from redefining the basic tenets of our Constitution, and hijacking terms like ‘nationalism’ and ‘patriotism’.

Coming in the wake of September 11 incident in New York, USA, POTA is nothing but a carbon copy of the American Law on Terrorism called ‘PATRIOT’. In letter and spirit, it is a draconian preventive detention law, which reverses the burden of proof, and permits wicked forms of harassment of political opponents, especially of those who express dissent to globalization and fascism.

The PUCL is convinced that jumping on the American bandwagon of so-called ‘war against terrorism’, the BJP-led NDA government seized the opportunity to launch a newer and harsher version of TADA primarily to beat the minorities and its political opponents. While the US-inspired global agenda against ‘terrorism’ is primarily to prevent the landslide in economy, the Indian version of fighting terrorism in the form of POTA is part of the larger agenda of the Sangh Parivar for establishing Hindu Rashtra.

The past experience of two years has established that not only POTA has strengthened the repressive wing of the state, and trampled on all forms of democratic dissent, it is yet another step in terrorising minorities and secular-democratic organisations to the dictates of the emerging Hindu Fascist State. During the past two years, it has been extended to all secular-democratic activities, and attacks on the interests of global capital are also classified as terrorist attacks.

The PUCL would strive to ensure that no one in a civilized democratic society be subject to such a law empowering the State to force any citizen to police custody for no reason at all. The PUCL would work to organize public opinion and mobilize democratic forces to oppose POTA by pressurizing our legislators and parliamentarians to stand up against this draconian legislation.

2. State Human Rights Commission

The PUCL is alarmed at the unprecedented step taken by the Chhattisgarh Government in appointing a retired police official as the Chairperson of the State Human Rights Commission. Chhattisgarh is the only state where a retired police official holds such a prestigious post, while the Law of the Land clearly advocates appointment of a retired judge of the High Court to head the State Human Rights Commission.

The PUCL believes that such a move not only violates the letter and spirit of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 but also raises doubts about the real motives of the Government. By departing from such a guideline, the Chhattisgarh Government has tried to deliberately undermine the importance and effectiveness of a statutory body acting as a watchdog on the human rights situation in the State.

We demand that the Chhattisgarh Government rectify this gross error and appoint a retired judge of the High Court as the Chairperson of the State Human Rights Commission.

3. Shaheed Shanker Guha Niyogi Murder trial
The PUCL expresses grave concern at the undue delay in the Shaheed Shanker Guha Niyogi Murder Trial, now pending at the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, after the Appeal has been admitted against the order of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh at Jabalpur in October 1998.

The lackluster manner in which the case is being pursued by the Central and State Governments demonstrates lack of political will on the part of the leadership to bring to book the culprits of the heinous crime committed by murdering the popular leader of a mass based democratic organisation in Chhattisgarh.

The PUCL believes that millions of people, along with various people’s organisations, political parties, NGOs, intelligentsia, prominent citizens, etc., are awaiting the outcome of this Murder Trial and are concerned that justice should not only be done, but seen to be done.

The PUCL demands that the NDA Government at the Centre and the Chhattisgarh Government led by Bhartiya Janata Party take immediate and adequate steps to speed up the Shaheed Niyogi Murder Trial, and to see that bringing to book the culprits does justice.

The PUCL should also carry out a concerted campaign for speedy trial at the Supreme Court of India. The PUCL should carry out a signature campaign beginning at the grass-roots level, and submit the same to the President of India.

4. Review and withdrawal of criminal cases against political and social activists
The PUCL views with growing concern the State Government’s total apathy and silence over the demands for the review and withdrawal of criminal cases pending against the political and social activists in Chhattisgarh. The people’s hopes and aspirations after the formation of the state of Chhattisgarh in November 2000 included respectable and reasonable treatment of the political and social activists who are very often the target of powers that be for their democratic actions against the governments.
The filing of criminal cases and also the use of Black Laws like the NSA, Zilabadar Act, etc. are age old methods employed by the governments in power against those who differ in thought and action from their policies and programmes.

The PUCL appeals to the Chhattisgarh Government to set up a high-level independent Committee to review all such criminal cases against the political and social activists in the state and, subsequently, withdraw these cases. Special mention needs to be made about the criminal cases pending against the leaders of the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha, Communist Party of India, Ekta Parishad, Chhattisgarh Mahila Jagriti Sangathan, etc.

5. Appointment of High Court judges
The PUCL expresses concern at the undue and criminal delay in appointing the full quota of Judges at the Chhattisgarh High Court at Bilaspur. The continued vacancies on the Hon’ble High Court negate the very spirit of jurisprudence that guarantees justice to every citizen. The non-appointment of Judges at the Chhattisgarh High Court amounts to denial of justice to the thousands of litigants whose hopes and aspirations had been raised with the formation of the separate State of Chhattisgarh. The manner in which the cases are piling up at the Chhattisgarh High Court, primarily in the absence of adequate number of judges, is slowly but systematically corroding the common citizen’s confidence in justice system.

Thus, the PUCL appeals to the concerned authorities, including the Chief Justice of India, to fill in the vacancies of judges on the Chhattisgarh High Court at Bilaspur without further delay.

6. Attacks on minorities & secular-democratic polity
The PUCL expresses concern at the growing attacks on minorities in the State, especially in the name of curbing the so-called ‘Conversion by Christian Missionaries’ by the Sangh Parivar. The coming to power of the BJP in the State has also given credence to the belief that the state apparatus will be used to curb the religious freedom and minority rights guaranteed under the Indian Constitution.

The PUCL would strive to forge broadest possible alliance of secular and democratic forces in the states and carry out a campaign to strengthen the secular-democratic polity in the state.

 

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