Chattisgarh: Lawyer and activist illegally detained

December 11, 2009

PRESS NOTE

State oppression: Lawyer and activist illegally detained

New Delhi, December 11, 2009: In the wake of certain developments in Chhattisgarh including State terror, the Salwa Judum campaign and attacks on voluntary organisations and social activists by the powers-that-be, the recent evidence of State repression comes with the arbitrary, unjust and illegal detention of social activist Kopa Kunjam and advocate Alban Topo on December 10, 2009 in Dantewada in Chhattisgarh.

Ironically, December 10 happens to be the International Human Rights Day to which India is a signatory.

As what can be called gross violations of human rights and Supreme Court guidelines, the Chhattisgarh police whisked away Kopa, an activist with a Gandhian non-profit organisation Vanvasi Chetna Ashram, Dantewada, Chhattisgarh, and a young lawyer of Human Rights Law Network (HRLN), Alban Topo, who is working on the Right to Food ongoing case in the Supreme Court and currently visiting Dantewada, without complying with the D K Basu guidelines of the Supreme Court. The two were not informed by the police as to why they were being detained and where they were being taken.

Alban was brutally beaten up in over 18 hours of illegal detention and released today by the police in deep interior forests of Bijapur in Dantewada, with a warning that he better cease his association with Vanvasi Chetna Ashram. The HRLN team is yet to reach him and confirm his condition.

Condemning the Chhattisgarh police action, senior Supreme Court Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves called it “shameful for democracy”. He said that there is no democratic structure in Chhattisgarh. Alban Topo was illegally detained and assaulted by the state police and his release was sought after much pressure and protests, he added.

Alban Topo is visiting Dantewada district as ration shops had been closed there and the starvation situation is quite grim due to the security forces operations. He is working on the Right to Food case filed in the Supreme Court and went Dantewada for fact finding.

Vanvasi Chetna Ashram is run by Himanshu Kumar, a committed Gandhian social activist working among the tribals of Dantewada and Bijapur districts of Bastar regions. The Ashram has increasingly raised its voice against State atrocities upon tribal civilians. An all-India fact-finding was conducted by People’s Union for Civil Liberties- Chhattisgarh in June 2009 where the team visited the site of the demolished Vanvasi Chetna Ashram (VCA) at Kanwalnar near Dantewada. The findings revealed that during the demolition, the State administration did not even spare the hand pump though it was installed by the Government itself. The fact-finding report claimed that the State is trying to use military means alone to address the problem of Naxalism in Chhattisgarh and anyone not with the state (read also Salwa Judum), runs the risk of being branded a Naxalite sympathiser.

Imran Ali
Law Officer
Human Rights Law Network
+91-9212696986