Statements concerning the arrest of Lingaram Kodopi by the Chhattisgarh police

September 15, 2011

Press Note from Coordination of Democratic Right Organisations

Kolkota, 10 September 2011

The Coordination of Democratic Right Organisations and its member organisations condemn the arrest of Linga Kodopi by the Dantewada Police, from his grandfather’s village, on the 9th of September, 2011. This act by the police is shocking and vindictive as Linga had been challenging the Chhattisgarh police through his work of resettling Salwa Judum displaced persons and also documenting and exposing atrocities committed by the SPOs, police and the paramilitary on the poor Tribals through their various operations including the Operation Green Hunt.

Linga, an activist of Vanvasi Chetna Ashram and a student of journalism from an institute in Delhi, had been facing police persecution since August 26, 2009 when they picked him up from the his village Sameli and detained and tortured for 40 days forcing him to become an SPO. He was released when his family approached the Chhattisgarh High Court in Bilaspur and filed a habeas corpus petition. In an order dated October 6 2009, the High Court directed that Lingaram be allowed to return to his family. Linga left Chhattisgarh for Delhi sometime in January, 2010 but the Chhattisgarh police had been after him.

In July, 2010 the SSP of Chhattisgarh, Dantewada district, S.R.P Kalluri, claimed that Linga was the prime suspect behind the July 6, 2010 attack on the house of Congress worker and civil contractor Avdesh Singh Gautam. According to a press release circulated by the Chhattisgarh police, “this attack was masterminded by Lingaram Kodopi, a resident of Sameli village.” The SSP had also made bizzare charges that he had received training in terrorist acts in Delhi and Gujarat. Linga had addressed a press conference and appealed against his continuous persecution. He had also avoided going back to his home.

The recent arrest of Linga is under another bizzare story of him being a Maoist courier who had to receive Rs. 15 lakh Rupees from a contractor. According to the police they picked him from the Palnar weekly bazaar when they actually picked him up from his grandfather’s house

The CDRO demands the release of Linga and the dropping of all charges in this matter. We also demand that the Chattisgarh state Government book the Police officers involved in this false case filed against Linga which has resulted in his illegal arrest and prosecute them. Meanwhile we have lodged a complaint with the NHRC for restoration of civil liberties of Linga and dropping of charges filed against him.

Asish Gupta
Co-ordinator

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People’s Movements, Concerned Citizens & Civil Rights Groups Demand Chhattisgarh Release Adivasi Journalist Lingaram Kodopi immediately

New Delhi, September 14: “It is the classic case of witch-hunt by the Chhattisgarh government of a tribal youth who managed to empower himself by becoming a journalist and working for exposing the state atrocities against his community” – said Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan while addressing media person in Delhi. The others who spoke at the Press Conference at New Delhi Press Club included author Arundhati Roy, Adv. Vrinda Grover and Mr. Himanshu Kumar (associated with Vanvasi Chetna Ashram, Dantewada).

Lingaram Kodopi was arrested from Dantewada on 9th September, 2011 on the charges that he was collecting money for Maoists. He has now been sent to judicial custody in Dantewada and charged under UAPA, CSPSA and Sections 121, 124A and 120B of the Indian Penal Code – criminal conspiracy, sedition and waging war against the State.

This is nothing new and the Chhattisgarh police has a well-established record of imprisoning social workers and activists on trumped up charges, detaining them for prolonged periods, and dragging their trials out for as long as possible. Kopa Kunjam, Binayak Sen, Sukhnath Oyame, Kartam Joga and Ajay TG are a few who have been subjected to this treatment. On 5th September, 2011, 59 organizations in India and internationally called for the unconditional release of Kopa Kunjam. The arrest and the outlandish allegations against Lingaram Kodopi fit this pattern.

Condemning the politically motivated arrest of adivasi journalist Lingaram Kodopi, speakers at the Press Conference pointed out that the charge against him of collecting money for the Maoists is completely fabricated and that they fear for the safety of Lingaram in custody.

In a similar attempt at harassment, the Senior Superintendent of Police SRP Kalluri had named Lingaram as the prime suspect behind an attack on the house of Congress worker and civil contractor Avdesh Singh Gautam on 6th July 2010. He also claimed that Lingaram was to succeed former Communist Party of India (Maoist) spokesperson, Azad. These charges were later withdrawn, since the police did not have a shred of evidence. Then on 13 July 2010 Lingaram held a press conference at Delhi with Advocate Prashant Bhushan and Swami Agnivesh and publicly stated how he was tortured and was now being victimised by the Chhattisgarh police.

In September 2009, Dantewada police had detained Lingaram for 40 days, pressurising him to become a Special Police Officer (precisely the sort of appointment against which the Supreme Court issued severe strictures in its 5th July 2011 Judgement). He was released only after a habeas corpus petition was filed in the Bilaspur High Court. Since then, Lingaram and his family have been repeatedly and systematically harassed.

At the Independent People’s Tribunal held in Delhi in April 2010, Lingaram spoke about how the Gram Panchayats were mute to the cause of the tribals, and questioned the enormous amount of money spent on the ‘welfare plans’ for the tribals and the lack of any progress. Lingaram also translated for several young tribal women who said they were victims of police atrocities. In retrospect, all those surely add up as the key crimes he committed against the masters in state police and political leadership.

Of particular significance in this context is Lingaram’s visit to the Chintalnar area of the Dantewada district as a journalist, documenting the impact of attacks by COBRA and the Koya Commandoes, SPOs and the Salwa Judum on the villages, Morpalli, Tadmetla and Timmapuram in March 2011.

We are also concerned by news reports that Soni Sori, Lingaram’s aunt, is being targeted by the police. Soni Sori is a respected superintendent of a residential school for adivasi children run as part of the tribal development programme in Chhattisgarh. Recently, she also became known for her work delivering food to the children of the three villages attacked by the security forces. We fear she might be arrested by the police too.

Organisations across India including National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers (NFFPFW), People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR), Campaign for Peace and Justice in Chhattisgarh (CPJC), Citizens’ Initiative for Peace, etc condemned the arrest of Lingaram and demanded:

– the immediate and unconditional release of Lingaram Kodopi.
– In the total absence of any credible evidence, the allegations against him should be withdrawn immediately.
– the police must stop intimidating Lingaram Kodopi and harassment of Soni Sori.
– State government must immediately be pulled up by authorities for the witch-hunt of activists and those who are standing up for the rights of adivasis.

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Release Lingaram Kodopi Immediately and Unconditionally

September 13, 2011

We condemn the politically motivated arrest of adivasi journalist Lingaram Kodopi from Dantewada on 9th Sept, 2011. We believe that the charge against him of collecting money for the Maoists is completely fabricated and fear for the safety of Lingaram in custody.

In a similar attempt at harassment, the Senior Superintendent of Police SRP Kalluri had named Lingaram as the prime suspect behind an attack on the house of Congress worker and civil contractor Avdesh Singh Gautam on 6th July 2010. He also claimed that Lingaram was to succeed former Communist Party of India (Maoist) spokesperson, Azad. These charges were later withdrawn, since the police did not have a shred of evidence.

In Sept 2009, Dantewada police had detained Lingaram for 40 days, pressuring him to become a Special Police Officer (precisely the sort of appointment that has been outlawed by the Supreme Court Judgement of 5th July 2011). He was released only after a habeas corpus petition was filed in the Bilaspur High Court. Since then, Lingaram and his family have been repeatedly and systematically harassed.

At the Independent People’s Tribunal held in Delhi in April 2010, Lingaram spoke about how the Gram Panchayats were mute to the cause of the tribals, and questioned the enormous amount of money spent on the ‘welfare plans’ for the tribals and the lack of any progress. Lingaram also translated for several young tribal women who said they were victims of police atrocities. On 13 July 2010 Lingaram held a press conference at Delhi with Advocate Prashant Bhushan and Swami Agnivesh and publicly stated how he was tortured and was now being victimised by the Chhattisgarh police.

The Chhattisgarh police has a well-established record of imprisoning social workers and activists on trumped up charges, detaining them for prolonged periods, and dragging their trials out for as long as possible. Kopa Kunjam, Binayak Sen, Sukhnath Oyame, Kartam Joga and Ajay TG are a few who have been subjected to this treatment. On 5th Sept, 2011, 59 organizations in India and internationally called for the unconditional release of Kopa Kunjam. [Read the statement here]. The arrest and the outlandish allegations against Lingaram Kodopi fit this pattern.

Of particular significance in this context is Lingaram’s visit to the Chintalnar area of the Dantewada district as a journalist, documenting the impact of attacks by COBRA and the Koya Commandoes, SPOs and the Salwa Judum on the villages, Morpalli, Tadmetla and Timmapuram in March.

We are also disturbed by news reports that Soni Sori, Lingaram’s aunt, is also being targeted by the police. Soni Sori is a respected superintendent of a residential school for adivasi children run as part of the tribal development programme in Chhattisgarh. She is also known for her work delivering food to the children of the three villages attacked by the security forces.

We demand the immediate and unconditional release of Lingaram Kodopi. In the total absence of any credible evidence, the allegations against him should be withdrawn immediately. The police must stop intimidating Lingaram Kodopi. The police must also stop the harassment of Soni Sori.

Signed:
Bela Bhatia, Writer & Human Rights Activist
Himanshu Kumar, Social Worker
Kavita Srivastava, General Secretary, PUCL Rajasthan
Prashant Bhushan, Adv. Supreme Court
Vivek Sundara, HRA,Mumbai

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Press Release from People’s Union for Democratic Rights

11 September 2011

People’s Union for Democratic Rights, Delhi (PUDR) condemns in the strongest terms the arrest of Lingaram Kodopi on 9 September 2011 by the Chhattisgarh police from his village Sameli in Dantewada district. The police team continues to be present in the village since then and there is fear that the police intends to arrest his aunt Soni Sori too. This arrest comes immediately on the heels of the Chhattisgarh government’s attempt to undermine the Supreme Court order disbanding the practice of exploiting SPOs to fight the Maoists.

Lingaram Kodopi was picked up by the Chhattisgarh police from his village in September 2009 and kept in illegal detention for 40 days. During this period he was tortured to force him to become an SPO. A habeas corpus petition was filed by his brother Masaram Kodopi in the High Court. It was due to the court’s intervention that Lingaram was released and allowed to return to his village.

Since then Lingaram has been in Delhi much of the time and has also enrolled in a journalism course at the International Media Institute of India at Noida. In April 2010 he had appeared before the Indian Peoples Tribunal at Delhi on the atrocities being conducted by the Salwa Judum and the security forces as part of the Operation Green Hunt.

On 11 July 2010, the Senior Superintendent of Police of Dantewada district held a press conference to alleging that Lingaram was the prime suspect for the attack on the house of Congress worker and civil contractor Avdesh Singh Gautam. The police also made ridiculous claims that Lingaram was the Chattisgarh Incharge of the CPI Maoist and was tipped to succeed as the Central Spokesperson of the CPI Maoist party.

Lingaram held a press conference at Delhi on 13 July 2010 with Advocate Prashant Bhushan and the then peace negotiator Swami Agnivesh and publicly stated how he was tortured and was now being victimised by the Chhattisgarh police.

The arrest of Lingaram on 9 September is an attempt by the Chhattisgarh police to declare their total contempt for the Constitution of India and the established law of the land.

PUDR demands an immediate and unconditional release of Lingaram Kodopi and the withdrawal of police and security forces from his village.

Paramjeet Singh
Harish Dhawan
Secretaries