Lalgarh: Statements on the life imprisonment of PCAPA and GPM activists – Sanhati, CDRO, Radical Socialist, CRPP

May 14, 2015

Statement by Sanhati Collective

We condemn the judgement of the Midnapore district and sessions court on 11th May, 2015, convicting Chatradhar Mahato, spokesperson of the Peoples Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA) of Lalgarh, Sukhshanti Baske, treasurer of the PCPA, Sambhu Soren and Sagun Murmu, members of PCPA, and Raja (Tinku) Sarkhel and Prasun Chattopadhyay, members of Gana Pratirodh Manch, for sedition and waging war against the state. The first four, Chatradhar Mahato, Sukhshanti Baske, Sambhu Soren and Sagun Murmu, have also been convicted under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the first convictions under UAPA in West Bengal. All have been sentenced to life imprisonment.

We consider this judgement to be a travesty of justice and an attempt by the state to send a clear message to peoples’ movements across West Bengal and India that any dissent against the state and the ruling classes will be answered in a ruthless manner. The Lalgarh movement, of which these people were participants, was an uprising of the adivasi-moolvasi people of Jangalmahal against the police repression and exploitation which they have suffered for decades. Because Chatradhar Mahato and his comrades stood up against it, and people like Raja Sarkhel and Prasun Chattopadhyay stood in solidarity with them, they are being made an example in front of us. They have been in jail since 2009 while the trial has dragged on for six long years, finally leading to this conviction. Chatradhar Mahato was also charged with 38 other cases, linked to every possible incident in Jangalmahal during the Lalgarh movement, in each of which he has obtained bail. Seeing the unviability of these cases against him, the state has used these UAPA and sedition charges to keep him and his comrades imprisoned for this long time, and now have allowed them to be convicted under these charges. It is a telling state of affairs that while famous film stars convicted of running over sleeping pavement dwellers get immediate bail after conviction and politicians known to have amassed hundreds of crores of rupees get acquitted, leaders and workers of peoples’ movements face possible death penalty or lifelong imprisonment.

We call upon all democracy-loving people to come out in protest against this conviction and demand the unconditional release of Chatradhar Mahato and his comrades and all others who have stood in solidarity with the peoples movement in Jangalamahal.

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Press Release from Coordination of Democratic Rights Organisation (CDRO)

UAPA: An alibi for political vendetta

CDRO (Coordination of Democratic Rights Organizations)unequivocally condemns the judgement of the Midnapore (West Bengal) district and sessions court on 12th May, 2015, convicting Chatradhar Mahato, spokesperson of the Peoples Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA) of Lalgarh, along with Sukhshanti Baske, treasurer of the PCPA, Sambhu Soren and Sagun Murmu, members of PCPA and Raja (Tinku) Sarkhel and Prasun Chattopadhyay, members of Gana Pratirodh Manch for sedition and waging war against the state. The first four, namely Chatradhar Mahato, Sukhshanti Baske, Sambhu Soren and Sagun Murmu, have also been convicted under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the first convictions under UAPA in West Bengal. They have all been sentenced to life imprisonment under charges of sedition. CDRO considers this judgement to be not only a travesty of justice but also a political attempt by the state to send a clear message to peoples’ movements across West Bengal and India that any dissent against the state and any democratic opposition to the ruling classes will be severely dealt with, including through adverse judicial pronouncements.

The Lalgarh movement, of which these people were participants, was an uprising of the adivasi-moolvasi people of Jangalmahal against the police repression and exploitation which they have suffered for decades. Because Chatradhar Mahato and his comrades stood up against the unrelenting exploitation of the adivasi and poor people, and people like Raja Sarkhel and Prasun Chattopadhyay stood in solidarity with them, they are being targeted. They have been in jail since 2009 while the trial has dragged on for six long years without bail, finally leading to this conviction. Chatradhar Mahato was also falsely implicated in 38 other cases, linked to every possible incident in Jangalmahal during the Lalgarh movement, most of which have remained unsustainable by the persecution. Seeing the un-tenability of these cases against him, the state has used these UAPA and sedition charges to keep him and his comrades imprisoned for this long time, and now have allowed them to be convicted under these charges.

It is a telling state of affairs that judiciary delivers what the government wishes and leaders and workers of peoples’ movements face lifelong imprisonment. CDRO calls upon all democracy-loving people to come out in protest against this conviction. CDRO also demands the unconditional release of Chatradhar Mahato and his comrades and all others political prisoners. CDRO also demands the rubbishing of the grotesquely draconian UAPA forthwith.

Coordinators of CDRO : C. Chandrasekhar (CLC, Andhra Pradesh), Paramjeet Singh (PUDR, Delhi), Parmindar Singh (AFDR, Punjab), Phulendro Konsam (COHR, Manipur) and Tapas Chakraborty (APDR, West Bengal)

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Constituent Organisations: Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR, West Bengal); Bandi Mukti Morcha (West Bengal); Campaign for Peace & Democracy in Manipur (CPDM), Delhi; Civil Liberties Committee (CLC); Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR, Mumbai); Coordination for Human Rights (COHR, Manipur); Human Rights Forum (HRF, Andhra Pradesh); Manab Adhikar Sangram Samiti (MASS), Assam; Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR); Organisation for Protection of Democratic Rights (OPDR, Andhra Pradesh); Peoples’ Committee for Human Rights (PCHR, Jammu and Kashmir); Peoples Democratic Forum (PDF, Karnataka); Peoples Union For Democratic Rights (PUDR, Delhi); Peoples Union for Civil Rights (PUCR, Haryana) and Jharkhand Council For Democratic Rights (JCDR).

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Speak Out Against the Verdict on Chhatradhar Mahato and Others

Radical Socialist
11 May, 2015

India is a country, where the rich alone have legal rights, where the rich alone are truly patriotic. The poor are good, only when they accept torture in silence, and remain quiet, without resisting exploitation though they die in the process. Those who make India’s laws, i.e., Parliament, those who uphold the laws, i.e., the police, the army and the administrative machinery, and those who apply and interpret the law, i.e., the judiciary, all provide daily proofs of the foregoing assertion.

Those who have huge property, or those who tread the corridors of power, get advatages at every step, even if they commit crimes. They easily get bail. Their cases are prolonged or rapidly disposed depending on their needs. If by chance a lower court convicts them they are assured of a reversal of the verdict at higher levels. When they have to stay in jails the very shape of the prison changes.

We do not want a single human being to be deprived of their legal rights. But the seeming equality of bourgeois democracy hides gross inequality. The rich get assistancer, the poor do not get it. The bail is set so high the Salman Khans can pay it, but the common people cannot. Then there are special laws which are aimed at those who protest, or at particular groups of people. This was acknowledged most clearly at one point of history, when Mrs. Indira Gandhi had targettted bourgeois oppositionists, applying Maintenance of Internal Security Act or MISA. At that time, Atal Behari Vajpayee had objected, saying, MISA was meant for Naxalites.

Today’s situation is absolutely clear. The Binayak Sens and the Soni Soris get bail after a very long time, across many agitations. A 90% physically disabled Prof. G. N. Saibaba has not been given bail despite a year in custody. One the other hand, our muscular film star Khan Sahib was out on bail the entire 13 years his trial for running over a pavement dweller went on. Within hours of being found guilty and sentenced, he was again out on bail. J. Jayalalithaa is out, exonerated in the /Disproportionate Assets case. On the same day, in a different court in another part of the country, Chhatradhar Mahato was found guilty under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and other laws. He and his comrades have since been given life terms.

Sustained efforts are on, to make people forget why the lalgarh movement took place. After all, the duty of the adivasi is to bow their heads and accept it when their land and their forests are taken away from them. An added duty of adivasi women is to smilingly accept being raped. And if they protest, they are Maoists, terrorists, anti-nationals. And presumably it is Maya Kodnani, found guilty of inciting the Naroda Patiya massacre, who is the ultimate patriot. From Buddhadev Bhattacharjee to Mamata Banerjee, all governmental parties and leaders – it is impossible to distinguish between their roles in such matters when they are in power.

In fact, Chhatradhar Mahato and his comrades had built mass organisations and had taken the path of mass movements. They had even (in our view wrongly) joined forces with Mamata Banerjee and the so-called “civil society” figures that worship at her doors. In that case, if the UAPA is being applied against Chhatradhar, why are they excluded? Does this not demonstrate how the judicial sysem dispenses class justice?

Repeal all Repressive Laws like UAPA, AFSPA
Release Chhatradhar mahato and all others convicted in this case
Build up Solidarity with the Struggles of Adivasis for their Rights

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CRPP Statement

CONDEMN THE FARCE OF A TRIAL SENTENCING FOR LIFE CHHATRADHAR MAHATO AND OTHERS ON TRUMPED UP CHARGES OF SEDITION!

RELEASE CHHATRADHAR MAHATO AND OTHERS IMMEDIATELY AND UNCONDITIONALLY!

On 12 May, the most visible face of the historic Lalgarh movement and people’s hero Chhatradhar Mahato along with Sukh Shanti Baskey, Sagan Murmu and Shambu Soren were given life imprisonment by Kaberi Basu, Additional Sessions Judge Fourth Court, Paschim Medinipur Vide S.T. case No. XLVI/March/2010 Lalgarh P.S. case No. 161/2009 dated 26.09.09 on the charge of waging war against the state. This was the first conviction under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) in West Bengal. All of them were members of the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA), the forum that led the Lalgarh Movement in Jungle Mahal. Two other activists belonging to the organization Gana Pratirodh Manch (GPM), Raja Sarkhel and Prasun Chatterjee, also given life sentence under the charges of sedition. All of them fought for the people’s rights; to make their life better.

Chhatradhar Mahato along with Sukh Shanti Baskey, Sagan Murmu and Shambu Soren as well as Raja Sarkhel and Prasun Chatterjee were all booked on false charges in the previous Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee led regime of the CPI (M) and have now been given life sentence by the present Mamata Banejee led Trinamool regime. One refuses to forget the fact that it was the Trinamul led by Mamata Banerjee which made the pledge to release all political prisoners during their election campaign. The strange irony is that the same Trinamool which had assumed power with the slogan of ‘change’ defeating the ‘left front’ has now completed the process of incarceration for life of those with whom they had shared the dais when they were not in power. This farce of a trial saw many government witnesses being declared ‘hostile’ and judges being replaced several times. As usual in many cases pertaining to political prisoners and too starkly in this particular case the Investigating Officer was marked by his absence for three long years under one pretext or the other and only when an arrest warrant was being contemplated by the court did he consented to descend before the court. This is a standard process of the perseverance and persistence of the lawful lawlessness that pervades judicial process, when it comes to political prisoners in the Indian subcontinent, thus prolonging the incarceration of under trial political prisoners for long periods.

Additional Sessions Judge Kaberi Basu took to believe the police story on face value as is revealed by the initial lines of her judgement: “The ball of the prosecution was set in motion by S.I. Prashanta Kumar Pathak of Lalgarh P.S. on 26-09-09 when he lodged a written complaint… alleging that on that very day…” there was “an assembly of some activists of CPI (Maoist) and Polici Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee”, and that there was an IED explosion, police acted quickly, could arrest Chhatradhar and some others while many others fled away. That was the police report submitted under oath which the judge accepted as true. Nothing could be further from truth as reports in as many dailies showed the next day that some policemen posing as media persons arrested Chhatradhar Mahato when he was giving an interview and the police was deliberately misleading the court by giving a different version convenient to them. The judge conveniently ignored this deliberate misrepresentation of facts has added to the misery of the incarcerated.

But there was rhyme and reason in this act of convenient ignorance of the court as it observed that “it cannot overlook the situation of terror that has arisen in the Jungle Mahal for a long period for the activities of PSBJC and its supporters, as well as the huge number of villagers being lost forever during the period and the harassment of the local people…” When a judge opts to go by the statement of the prosecution and when it believes that to be the truth and the only truth then judiciary—as an institution to instill judicious deliberation in settling questions relating to life, dignity, security, better living conditions and more so against the lawlessness of the police—becomes an instrument in furthering lawlessness.

There was hardly an effort to look into the role played by the police in the region in inflicting countless miseries on the people along with the hired mercenaries of the CPI (M). In fact the judge had turned the facts upside down as she makes an attempt to show that she has taken “all aspects together” and “its effects on the society as a whole…” while conferring the judgement. It is akin to the observation made by the Supreme Court while confirming the death sentence of Mohd. Afzal Guru in the Parliament attack case so as to “satisfy the collective conscience of the nation”!

For the last two decades numerous observations have been made and verdicts have been given by the High Courts and Supreme Court on the anti-people, colonial Sedition Act. One cannot frame any person even if one speaks about the need of the ouster of an established government unless there is definite proof that one is actually making preparations, assemblies and procuring arms with that end in view. There is no reflection at all of all these verdicts in the present judgement. Most of the prisoners who have been convicted are poor people who cannot make both ends meet. They have already spent more than five years and seven months in prison. This judgement comes at a time when Maya Kodnanis and Babu Bajrangis who have committed/masterminded acts of crime against humanity get bail, when a Jayalalitha walks free for having taken less money that can be deemed corruption (!) and a Salman Khan walks free for running his car over pavement dwellers while those who stood for the people, their dream for a better world without any form of atrocities or exploitation have to be put behind bars “for its effects on society”! Strange tales (horrors) of the largest democracy in the world!

The CRPP unequivocally condemns this farce of a trial and calls upon all the democratic people, civil libertarians, intellectuals, artists, students, social activists to raise their voice against such a judgement that is arbitrary as it blindly follows the prosecution version, unlawful as it ignores the precedence of law set by the higher courts and biased as it turns a blind eye to the genuine political aspirations of the masses of Jungle Mahal.

In Protest

SAR Geelani
President

Amit Bhattacharyya
Secretary General

Sujato Bhadra
Vice President

Sukhendu Bhattacharjee
Vice President

Jagmohan Singh
Vice President

PA Sebastian
Vice President

MN Ravunni
Vice President

N. Venuh
Vice President

Rona Wilson
Secretary Public Relations