Sanhati Statement against arrest of activists in Lalgarh

June 17, 2010

June 17, 2010

We strongly condemn the detention and subsequent arrest of Nisha Biswas, Manik Mandal and Kanishka Choudhury, activists from Kolkata who were visiting Lalgarh to investigate the rampant human rights violation by the police and paramilitary forces in those areas. The three activists, along with three print and electronic media journalists, had been visiting the Salboni-Lalgarh area since 14th June, documenting the atrocities and destruction wreaked by the joint state and central forces and the armed CPI(M) harmads who are backed by these same police forces. On 15th June, all the six persons were detained by the joint forces from Lakshmanpur village in Salboni. Along with them around fifty villagers were also rounded up. Although the journalists were subsequently released, the three activists were charged, together with seven villagers who are activists of the Peoples’ Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA), with violation of Sec. 144 of the Criminal penal code, which has been in force in Lalgarh for the past one year. We learn with great concern that when they were produced in Midnapore court on 16th June, they were charged with multiple false cases under various sections including waging war against the state, criminal conspiracy and unlawful assembly, as a result of which they were denied bail and remanded to 14 days jail custody, although the original charge of violating Sec. 144 is a bailable one. We unequivocally condemn this blatantly illegal act of human rights violation by the police and demand the immediate release of the three persons.

This act by the police is also a marker of the situation in Lalgarh one year after the entry of the joint forces into the area. For the past one year, Sec. 144 has been in force in Lalgarh, which is unprecedented in the history of independent India. Members of civil society have not been allowed to enter Lalgarh during this time and repeated attempts have resulted in detentions and arrest by the police. Lalgarh has become out of bounds for citizens of India, in complete violation of the fundamental right to the freedom of movement throughout the territory of India enshrined in the Constitution. In this situation, the area has seen unprecedented human rights violation by the state forces in the form of killings, rapes, beatings, looting of household goods, indiscriminate arrests and charging with false cases. Together with this has been the rampage by the CPI(M) harmads, who have reenterd the area in the wake of the security forces. In this backdrop the normal economic and social life has completely broken down in the entire region. We note with profound concern that the behaviour of the CRPF and other state forces have been like that of a foreign occupying force, possibly worse, and provides a taste of what Operation Green Hunt is doing to the adivasis over the entire central Indian region. We think that the latest arrests of the activists is the continuation of the intimidatory tactics by the government to break the resolve of civil society to stand beside the struggle of the adivasis of Lalgarh for dignity and justice, and demand their immediate release and the withdrawal of the joint forces from the region.

Sanhati