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PUCL Bulletin, June 2004

PUCL Chhattisgarh press release

Dharna by PUCL against state repression on Jalianwala Massacre day

-- By Dr. Binayak Sen, General Secretary, Raipur, 13th April 2004


Chhattisgarh PUCL organized a daylong Dharna today at the Moti Bagh to highlight various cases of state repression in Chhattisgarh. Participating in the Dharna were various people's organisations involved in struggles for people's basic rights to land, water and forest, right to life and livelihood, right to work and shelter, etc. The Day-long Dharna also paid tribute to the martyrs of Jalianwala massacre on its anniversary today. Addressing a press conference were various victims of state repression, who narrated their stories of atrocities and indignities they faced at the hands of state officials.
During the press conference, Dr. Binayak Sen, General Secretary, Chhattisgarh PUCL made specific reference to-the increase in the number of encounter and custodial deaths.

He said that the PUCL was making a special effort to bring out the truth in these cases of encounter and custodial deaths. On the basis of a landmark judgement by the Supreme Court of India that all such cases be registered u/s 302 i.e. Murder, and trial be conducted against the concerned official, the PUCL would bring out a well documented report for legal action, preferably at the High Court at Bilaspur.

The victimized women from Kusumsara village of Kasdol Block narrated the indignities and insult showered on these Harijan and Adivasi women by the forest official on 18th February 2002 simply because their families were trying to protest their land rights over the so-called forest land. They told the press that the four accused officials of forest department in this case were acquitted on 29th March this year, simply because the prosecution had not fought the case with sincerity. On the contrary, all efforts were made to protect the erring officials. They further pointed out that in this case investigations were conducted by the National Women's Commission, and the Human Rights Commission. The matter was also raised in the Parliament by the then MP, Shri P.R. Khunte. But, the outcome is very disappointing and raises doubts in the minds of common citizens about the justice system. The PUCL is planning to file a Petition in the High Court, and would also make a representation to the State Government to file an appeal in the High Court in this matter.

Similarly, the Baiga-Adivasis who had come to participate in the Dharna to raise their voices honestly against the continued repression and denial of their right to land, forest and water in the Achanakmar Abhyaran. Speaking to the press, Bhudhwaria, Janglu Baiga, Andhru Baiga, and Bullaram Baiga narrated their age-old story of eviction from their ancestral land and forest. They told the story of Birju Baiga who was murdered in cold blood on 9th February 2002 in Putputa village of Pandariya Tehsil of Kawarda district, simply because he had occupied one acre of forest land. He was murdered at the behest of forest officials, and even after two years the culprits were roaming scot-free, while the Adivasis of this wild life sanctuary were even today harassed and uprooted from their land. Although work is being provided to them for only about four months a year, the payments are being made hardly once in two years.

The case of Kansa village folks of Dabhra Tehsil of Champa-Janjgir District is yet another incident of how the Adivasis are uprooted from their ancestral land in the name of “development” and are left high and dry to fetch for themselves even after the completion of such development schemes. The Ghatoi Dam constructed in this area in 1980-82 had uprooted many people because of the submergence of their land. The 11 families, whose 15-16 acres of land was submerged have neither received alternate site nor compensation even after 24 years. When they took out a peaceful procession on 18th March this year to demand the payment of compensation the concerned SDO not only ill- treated them, but got them arrested on flimsy charges. 19 members, including 9 women, are still languishing in jail for simply demanding their due under the law. The PUCL has formed a fact-finding team in this regard, and would take all possible steps to see that the guilty officials are brought to book, and the innocent village folks get their rights to life and land.

Many people's organisations participated in the day-long Dharna. The Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha has raised the issue of excessive use of para-military force during the current Lok Sabha elections, which amounts to harassing the innocent and peace loving citizens, while the criminal elements under the protection of various political parties are roaming freely to bring in a reign of terror. Shri Ratneshwar Nath of Parivartan organisation in Kanker also narrated incidents where the innocent youth are victims of the excessive police force in the name of maintaining law and order during elections. Hundreds of tribal youth are being thrown into prison. The PUCL would like to detail such incidents and bring it to the notice of the Election Commission. The PUCL has also expressed concern that otherwise peaceful people of Chhattisgarh are being victimized by the para-military forces especially insensitive areas in the name of curbing naxalism.
The State Executive Committee met at the end of the Dharna to take stock of the situation and plan future strategy and agenda.

 

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