Chhattisgarh – Statement on the arrest of Advocate Rekha Parganiha

March 8, 2012

by Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression

WSS is alarmed to hear that Rekha Parganiha, an advocate from Bhilai, has been arrested on Sunday 4th March, for possession of “incriminating documents,” consisting of Bertolt Brecht, Bhagat Singh, Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx !

She has been produced in court on March 5th and has been remanded in police custody for 5 days till March 10th. We are concerned that the police custody seems to be overly long, and after Soni Sori’s experience with Chhattisgarh police, we are worried about the safety of all women activists taken into custody in Chhattisgarh, especially those charged with political offences.

The following letter has been submitted to the NHRC today and has been assigned complaint number 27592/CR/12

Date: 07.03.2012

To,
The Honourable Justice KG Balakrishnan
Chairperson
National Human Rights Commission
Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg
New Delhi – 110 001

Dear Justice Balakrishnan,

Subject: Please ensure safety of Advocate Rekha Parganiha in police custody in Bhilai, Chhattisgarh

We, the members of WSS, a national platform of women’s group, are alarmed at the news of another woman activist, Advocate Rekha Parganiha, arrested in Chhattisgarh in relation to suspected Maoist links. A newspaper story indicates that Advocate Parganiha was picked up from her house in Bhilai on Sunday (March 4th) and was remanded into police custody on March 5th for 5 days, until March 10th. We are deeply concerned at the long duration of police remand, especially in the wake of recent reports of custodial sexual violence perpetrated by Chhattigarh police, and considering that the only evidence that exists against the accused so far consists of writings of Bertolt Brecht, Bhagat Singh, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

We would like to remind you that Chhattisgarh police has a track record of subjecting women undertrials, especially those accused of political offences, to brutal torture. Soni Sori, an adivasi school teacher, was subjected to extreme sexual violence by the Chhattisgarh police while she was in their custody in October 2011. As her letters later revealed, she was verbally abused, stripped naked, electric shocks were applied to her and stones, pebbles, batons were inserted into her vagina and rectum. This was also corroborated by an independent medical examination conducted by a Government Hospital in Kolkata under the directions of the Honourable Supreme Court. In her letters, Soni Sori reveals that many women prisoners in Chhattisgarh jail have been subjected to similar torture and brutalization.

Please recall that we had urged you to intervene in Soni Sori’s matter in order to ensure that the perpetrators of such violence are punished, and that Soni Sori receives the medical treatment that she so urgently needs. However, the NHRC refused to intervene maintaining that the fact that Soni Sori’s matter is sub-judice precludes any intervention by the Commission.

However, in the case of Advocate Rekha Parganiha, where similar apprehensions of torture exist, the limitations of the matter being sub-judice do not arise. Hence, we request the NHRC to take appropriate and immediate steps to ensure the safety of Advocate Parganiha during police custody. We also urge you to look into the growing phenomenon of arresting women activists in Chhattisgarh under serious criminal charges on the basis of flimsy evidence, such as the “incriminating documents” in this case – which consist of literature by Bertolt Brecht, Bhagat Singh, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, which is not only widely available publicly, but is included in the canons of great world philosophy and literature. Such infringements of the constitutionally guaranteed rights to life and liberty, and of freedom of thought and expression are unacceptable.

Yours Sincerely,

Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS)