Fourteen trade union leaders and activists arrested in Gujarat in the name of Maoist activity

June 24, 2010

by Kavita Srivastava (Source – PUCL)

24 June, 2010

The fishing expedition of Gujarat police has now reached Delhi. After having arrested 13 trade unionists, forest rights activists and ordinary workers of Gujarat against the omnibus FIR number 1-37/2010 Police station Kamrej, Surat range*, dated 26th of February, u/s 120 (B), 121(A), 124(A), 153 A& B of the IPC, and sec 38, 39 and 40 of the UAPA, 2004, Shakeel is the new catch, the 14th person arrested in this FIR on 17th April, 2010.

Abdul Shakeel Pasha, for the last six years had been working relentlessly with homeless and street children with organisations like *Aman Biradari(2004 to 2008) and since 2009 with *Shahari Adhikar Abhiyan. His work with Aman Biradari also took him to Gujarat several times as the work on “Justice to the victims of the 2002 Gujarat genocide” was carried out through the Nyaya Grah project of Aman Biradari.

I too interacted quite closely with him both when he was with Aman Biradari. Since in the Centre for Equity Studies the office of Aman Biradari was housed so was the work of the Supreme court commissioners in the Right to Food case. So we used to go very frequently. When Bengali Speaking Muslims were being arrested and evicted from Delhi he wanted our experience on it including the court orders that we had procured from the Rajasthan High Court. He also participated in several “release Dr. Binayak Sen” programmes in Delhi where I met him. I worked with him when he and some others undertook on behalf of the CES a study of the implementation of the right to food schemes in Jaipur slums. As recently as April when he was associated with the Shahari Adhikar Manch he was one of the key volunteers of the dharna of the right to food campaign from 15 to 19 April, 2010. He mobilised hundreds of people and got them to the dharna sthal.

The Kamrej police station FIR was very cleverly filed, so that the hands of the Gujarat police could be strengthened for the witch hunt of activists, trade unionists and the newly emergent leadership working amongst the tribals and dalits who are demanding their rights from the Indian State. It is clear from the sections under which the people have been booked meaning sedition, waging war against State, conspiracy and the UAPA sections of being members and supporting a banned organisation that at the minimum anybody arrested will stay in jail for two to three years before they are granted bail.

Courts in this country are not questioning these framed up cases and trials take up so much time. Charge sheets have a large number of witnesses as well as the moment the police feels that the case of the prosecution is getting weak, they are notorious for filing more and more charge sheets. We have seen this pattern in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and now in Gujarat.

Secondly, they also moving with the assumption that following the arrests of activists under these sections the brotherhood and sisterhood of the activist world may be demoralised, they may be gripped by fear and thus they get an edge in the psychological war that is taking place through the media, when every now and then human rights activists are flogged for supporting Maoist violence.

Only the State of Gujarat could have entertained this kind of generalised FIR, a piece of paper devoid of who is committing what crime, so vague that all and sundry could be booked when it says, “this FIR is against the underground leaders and members of banned Naxalite organization CPI (Maoist) who are very secretly active and with the intention of starting anti-national revolutionary peoples war by making at front the people towards”.

The only remand paper that we have is of Avinash which actually throws more light on the fishing expedition. How through the arrest of one of the persons in Orissa, they reach Niranjan Mahapatra, the trade unionist from Surat and then through him they have reached others. They also mentioned that Avinash Kulkarni was with the CPI (Jan Shakti) even before he came and worked in the Dangs in 1989. They go on to say that “Avinash Kulkarni played behind the scene role of instigating tribals to start violent agitation and as he was conducting naxalite activities of instigating the tribals by remaining in touch with CPI (Maoist) through CPI (ML) Janshakti Party”.

Now all of us know that CPI (ML) Janshakti is an over ground party and has been fighting elections for the last fifteen -seventeen years. And if in the past somebody had some association, they have all the right to choose new or redefine their ideologies. Each one has a right to begin lives afresh according to our choice. Regarding Avinash Kulkarni, activists of Gujarat have told us that he was pioneering the entire struggle in the area of implementing the Forests Rights Act and when teh Government had rejeceted over 80,000 claims of tribals, the people had carried out non-violent protest. The Adivasi Maha Sabha has already condmened his arrest.

This style of opening old files and picking up people is what the Andhra Police had also done some time back, when they picked up in 2005 – 2006 activists who in their student or youth days in the eighties had been with some or the other ML group. I was told by Harish Dhawan of the PUDR that the AP police rounded up so many activists that finally Mr. Bal Gopal took the matter up with the Human Rights cell within the Anti Naxalite Operations of AP. ( please note there is this cell in the ANO) following which harassment stopped.

The police learns very fast from each other so the “Fishing Expedition” run by Andhra State Police has been adopted by Gujarat. But this time there is a difference. The Central Government led by Chidambaram and others is vehemently backing such actions of the State police. As well as the more you show that Maoists are at work, it becomes easier for the different States to get money in the name of combating Maoists. We are told that Haryana and Punjab both got Rs. 50 crores in one stroke, after showing some fake cases of people as Maoists.

We had brought up the facts of these arrests clearly in our application to the NHRC. Unfortunately, as I had mentioned in my earlier mails, that the charge sheet was filed against 12 of the people arrested, soon after the NHRC issued notices on the 4th of June, to the Gujarat DG police demanding why they had arrested so many activists from the Dangs. As all of you are aware once a case comes in a court (here the charge sheet), the NHRC does not pursue the case. Although it can, however, it does not wish to petition the court and get orders to continue investigating the case.

The tasks that need to be done are as follows:

– Informing the NHRC about the arrest of Shakeel in the case number 501/6/23/2010/ UC /M-2. This will be done by Pushkar Raj.

– The 1800 page charge sheet should be obtained from the lawyers of the 12 who were charge sheeted in Surat on 12th June.

– We must also collect the remand papers of Kishore Kuruputty, Shakeel from the lawyers in Surat.

– Can somebody put together a short brief of all the persons arrested. We have it for Avinash, Bharat Pawar and Krishna.

– A brief profile on Shakeel somebody should write.

– The profile of the ten others has to come from Gujarat. can somebody take this responsibility and send it to us.

– Coordination with the Gujarat groups including Darshan, PUCL Gujarat, journalists like Nachikea Desai and lawyers like Mukul Sinha and others who called a meeting on 8th June and had set up some committee’s to follow up on these arrsts.

– Participation in the 30th June dharna and rally in Ahmedabad against these arrests. contact person: Hiren Gandhi: 09426181334

And finally, we need to ask ourselves especially when we are on the eve of emergency day, 26th June, thirty five years later, whether we are going to surrender our Constitutional rights of dissenting and holding and expressing views, to the police state that India is becoming.

This is a call for help to all friends that we get together and oppose the terror unleashed by the Gujarat police.

[Kavita Srivastava is the General Secretary of PUCL Rajasthan]