Arrest warrant against Stan Swamy, Aloka Kujur, Rakesh Roshan, Vinod Kumar and Babita Kashyap – WSS, PUDR Statements

July 11, 2019

Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) expresses shock and concern at the arrest warrant issued against Stan Swamy, Aloka Kujur, Rakesh Roshan, Vinod Kumar and Babita Kashyap on 17 June 2019, one year after the FIR was filed against 20 writers, intellectuals and activists in Jharkhand on 26 July 2018 based on Facebook posts.

All five are vulnerable to imminent arrest as part of the Jharkhand government’s targeted campaign against those defending human rights of adivasis in the state.

The Jharkhand Government has used an invalidated provision of the IT Act, Section 66A, to attack these human rights defenders who are standing with Adivasis.The FIR in question was lodged last year at Khunti PS against under Sections 121, 121A, 124 IPC and Sections 66 and 66A Information Technology Act, covering offences of waging war against the state, conspiracy and sedition, along with the offence of sending grossly offensive information by means of a computer or communication device.

It must be noted that S.66A, IT Act has previously been struck down by the Supreme Court in March 2015, but has been invoked by the Jharkhand administration without regard to a judgment of the Supreme Court. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court had also issued notices in a PIL for the continued use of the provision even after it has been struck down.

Out of the 20 persons named in the FIR, the four out of five persons against whom the arrest warrant has been issued had also applied to the Ranchi High Court last year for quashing the FIR, which remains pending. Complaints to the NHRC for action against the targeting of human rights defenders through this FIR on sedition, also remain pending.

The FIR falsely alleges that all named accused are inciting and misleading innocentadivasis of Khunti through their Facebook posts by giving wrong interpretations of the Constitution relating to their rights. Even as it is well-established that Facebook posts are protected by the freedom of speech, and that no action can be taken in the absence of immediate incitement to violence, no further investigations were made in the case over the past one year, and the Jharkhand government took no action on the FIR for almost a year even though all five remained active in public life. The state’s and police’s use of the draconic sedition law to stifle dissent in such cases only shows the receding space for human rights and civil liberties.

The pathalgarhi movement had been ongoing for more than a year before the FIR and the Facebook posts by the accused persons. The FIR of 26 July 2018 was a part of a string of repressive measures by the Jharkhand government on Khunti, Kochang and Ghaghra areas, where the Gram Sabhas had been asserting their constitutional rights to their land, under the Vth Schedule and the Chhotanagpur Tenancy Act, against the transfer of the same lands to land banks and mineral prospecting without the information or consent of the peoples.

Over the course of June and July 2018, the Khunti administration capitalized on the unfortunate gang rape of five adivasi women to unleash a manhunt for pathalgarhi leaders and supporters, and to station CRPF, COBRA and other security camps in the village. WSS has previously documented the human rights violations during the security raids of June 2018. Attempts to have the camps vacated from schools and panchayati bhawans in the village continue. Additionally, there are estimates of more than 300 villagers having been charged with sedition under FIRs that have not been disclosed to them, for their participation in panchayat meetings.

It appears that the impetus for the present arrest warrant comes from directions issued by the Central Bureau of Investigation to the Khunti PS. Aloka Kujur, a leading woman’s rights activist in Jharkhand who is involved in struggles for land rights and against militarization of adivasi areas for decades, has been subject to routine surveillance since last year.

She has been relentlessly bringing light to the human rights violations in Khunti and neighbouring districts last year in the aftermath of the Khunti gang-rape, the establishment of security camps in schools and panchayati bhawans, and the deaths, assaults and sexual violence against men, women and children during the security raids by more than 1000 security personnel in June-July 2018.

Stan Swamy, who is more than 80 years old, has been a consistent target for the present dispensation. Stan Swamy is a human rights activist working on issues of adivasi rights. He is a member of Vistapan Virodhi Janvikash Andolan (VVJA), a network of different movements fighting against forced evictions of marginalised communities.  He is also a part of the Persecuted Prisoners Solidarity Committee and has taken on cases of arbitrary and unauthorised solitary confinement, arrests of human rights defenders.

Stan Swamy has been advocating for the implementation of the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act in the Fifth Scheduled areas of Jharkhand as guaranteed under the Constitution. Stan Swamy was also one of those raided on the morning of 28 August 2018 as part of the simultaneous raids in the Bhima Koregaon conspiracy case. Vinod Kumar is a journalist.

WSS demands that the fraudulent and mala fide FIR intended to threaten and deter the free speech of Stan Swamy, Aloka Kujur, Rakesh Roshan and Vinod Kumar, be immediately quashed, and the Jharkhand government cease its targeted hunt for activists and intellectuals bringing attention to state abuse of power in the state.

Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS)

Conveners: Ajita, Nisha, Rinchin and Shalini
Contact: againstsexualviolence@gmail.com

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PUDR Statement: Condemn the issuing of arrest warrants against Stan Swamy, Aloka Kujur, Vinod Kumar, Rakesh Roshan Kiro and Babita Kashyap 

Stop harassment of Rights Activists in Jharkhand

2 July 2019 

PUDR condemns the arrest warrant issued against Stan Swamy, Aloka Kujur, Vinod Kumar, Rakesh Roshan Kiro and Babita Kashyap on 19 June 2019, in relation to FIR filed on 26 July 2018 for waging war against the state, sedition, conspiracy, and Sections 66 and 66A IT Act based simply on their Facebook posts.

The Jharkhand government had filed this FIR 124/ 2018 at Khunti PS against 20 writers, intellectuals and activists as part of the continued wave of repressive measures against the pathalgarhi movement in Jharkhand over June-July 2018, wherein more than 300 villagers have also been slapped with sedition cases without their knowledge, and there has been deployment of security forces, raids and constant surveillance over the past one year. 

The arrest warrant has been issued close to one year after the FIR was filed, with no follow-up investigation, even though the Supreme Court has struck down S.66A as unconstitutional as far back as 2015, and has held repeatedly that sedition cannot be invoked to target speech, unless there is direct incitement to violence.

Yet, the Jharkhand government continues its fear tactics against writers and activists working or writing on issues of land rights and the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA) for adivasis in the state. Without taking lawful action on the FIR, those named in the FIR have been subject to raids and continued surveillance, even as a petition for quashing the FIR remains pending before the Ranchi High Court since last year without a hearing. 

The present arrest warrant continues the concerted attack on Stan Swamy, aged more than 80 years, who has been living in Jharkhand for 40 years and is a member of the Visthapan Virodhi Jan Andolan. He was one of the six activists whose houses were raided on the morning of 28 August 2018 as part of the Maharashtra government’s conspiracy related to Bhima Koregaon, and his premises have been raided again on 12 June 2019.

As he continues to be threatened as part of that conspiracy, the Jharkhand government, on the encouragement of the CID, is attempting to further target him through the present FIR. On 26 June 2019, CID headquarters issued instructions to Ranchi range DIG to issue show cause notice to IO, Station Officer Khunti, Inspector of Area and SDPO about why no action has been taken against the 20 named accused in the FIR.

Similarly, Aloka Kujur, leading women’s rights activist in Jharkhand, who has also been involved in struggles to defend constitutional rights and PESA in the state, has been repeatedly targeted by the Jharkhand government through surveillance and intimidation tactics.

She has been actively involved in seeking redress for human rights violations as part of security raids on Ghaghra and neighbouring villages as part of the repressive measures in the area over June- July last year. Vinod Kumar is a journalist and writer, while Rakesh Roshan Kiro and Babita Kashyap are both local activists. 

PUDR demands

1.Immediate withdrawal of the warrants.

2.Quashing of FIR against Stan Swamy and 19 others

3.Quashing of FIRs against adivasis associated with the Pathalgarhi movement

4.Harassment of activists through raids, searches, false FIRs, be stopped.

Deepika Tandon and Shahana Bhattacharya

(Secretaries)

pudr@pudr.org