Kolkata – Nonadanga anti-eviction movement : Statements, petitions etc

May 3, 2012

Background: A day long sit-in demonstration to protest against Nonadanga slum demolition and forcible eviction was scheduled to occur on April 8th at Ruby junction. Yet this peaceful demonstration was broken by police and mass detentions ensued. Many detainees were later released except three members of Sanhati and four additional activists; one has been further tagged to a case under UAPA. Next day, police and ruling party goons attacked an assembly of concerned citizens, including APDR activists. On the site of demolitions in Nonadanga an indefinite hunger strike has started by ten residents and activists, with the police on continuous alert and preparation mode on orders from the government, readying to use force. Please continue to watch this page for more information on the activists arrested in the course of the Nonadanga struggle. Updates and documents related to the struggle of the displaced of Nonadanga is now being posted at this link.

Additional articles of interest, providing economic perspectives and accounts of recent urban evictions in Kolkata, can be found on Sanhati at the following links : Report from Nagarik Mancha titled “Canal Bank Dwellers : Displacement In The Name Of Development in Kolkata”; a report from Sangbad Manthan about how the “rehabilitated” residents cope with their new life after being evicted; and a leaflet from Brihottoro Kolkata Khalpar Basti Uchhed Pratirodh Committee (Greater Kolkata Slum Eviction Resistance Committee). Click here for a documentary about rail colony dwellers in Kolkata who fought to hold on to their shanties, in the face of forcible government displacement to make way for beautification.

Click here to read and sign the petition to the Chief Minister

Documents in Hindi - Text of  online petition to the Chief Minister on the Nonadanga, Press Note (Translations have been provided by Priyanka Srivastava, Poonam Srivastava, and Amit Basole.)

Documents in BengaliText of the online petition to the Chief Minister, Sanhati statements, Profiles of the activists, Latest press note, Earlier press note.

Click here for political profiles of the arrested activists

Click here to read the profiles of the persons arrested on April 28

Chronological table of contents :

3 May 2012 : Statement and appeal from Democratic Students Union
3 May 2012 : Statement from Concerned Students and Alumni of Jadavpur University
2 May 2012 : Arresting the poorest of the poor: Profiles from April 28 arrests
1 May 2012 : Pamphlet by Uchched Pratirodh Committee on the ground situation
29 April 2012 : Sanhati statement on fresh police attack and the continued detention of two activists
25 April 2012 : Press release during Delhi protest against evictions and repression
23 April 2012 : Joint press conference in Delhi – Report and press note; Press coverage
23 April 2012 : Nonadanga Eviction: Questioning the Right to the City – Swapna Banerjee-Guha
19 April 2012 : WSS statement on the prolonged detention of Debolina Chakrabarty
18 April 2012 : Sanhati statement on the continued detention of activists and the granting of bail to Partho Sarathi Ray
18 April 2012 : How many ears must one have before people hear our cries ? – Students of North Bengal, Siliguri
17 April 2012 : Release Debolina Chakrabarti, a social activist and people’s leader! – CRPP Statement
17 April 2012 : Press note on Bhubaneswar protest regarding the Nonadanga issue – Basti Surakshya Mancha
16 April 2012 : A report on the APDR-organised Citizens’ Convention against attacks on freedom of expression
16 April 2012 : Statement of solidarity from PPSS and concerned individuals
16 April 2012 : Institute of Physics, Bhubaneswar – Petition on Nonadanga slum demolition
16 April 2012 : Nandigram to Nonadanga – Onslaught against democracy continues unabated – Forum against eviction and mal-development; students of Jadavpur University
16 April 2012 : ANEEK editorial : From Nandigram to Nonadanga
14 April 2012 : PUCL statement on Nonadanga evictions and arrests
13 April 2012 : Sanhati statement on the recent developments related to Nonadanga arrests
12 April 2012 : Krantikari Naujawan Sabha statement
12 April 2012 : The Unforgivable Crime of the Homeless in Nonadanga – Dipanjan Rai Chaudhuri
12 April 2012 : CDRO statement on developments of the day
12 April 2012 : MASUM letter on attack against APDR by TMC goons
11 April 2012 : Joint statement from Delhi organisations
11 April 2012 : Statement from Krantikari Naujawan Sabha
11 April 2012 : Press statement from All India Co-ordination of Slum Dwellers and Homeless People
11 April 2012 : Asian Human Rights Commission : Forced eviction by KMDA and arbitrary arrest of civil rights activists
10 April 2012 : Letter from APDR to Joint Commissioner of Police, Kolkata
10 April 2012 : Statement from PUDR
9 April 2012 : MASUM letter on Nonadanga movement
9 April 2012 : Statement by intellectuals and activists – Sunanda Sanyal et. al.
9 April 2012 : The more things change, the more they remain the same – Statement by intellectuals Meher Engineer et. al.
9 April 2012 : Sanhati statement on Nondanga arrests and evictions
8 April 2012 : APDR Condemns Police Action on Anti-eviction Demonstrators
8 April 2012 : Demonstrators, including Sanhati activists, arrested
7 April 2012 : A short report on the living conditions of Nonadanga – Avisek Mookherjee
7 April 2012 : Letter to CM from residents of Nonadanga
5 April 2012 : Report of brutal lathicharge on protest by evicted slum-dwellers – Partho Sarathi Ray
30 March 2012 : Kolkata slum colony destroyed by KMDA

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Statement and appeal from Democratic Students Union

Nonadanga, a slum area in the Kolkata suburbs has by now become synonymous with many a things in Bengal. It glaringly reflects how despite the so-called ‘change’ in West Bengal government, after three decades of social fascist rule by the CPM, what did not change is the continuous eviction of people in the name of ‘development’, ‘beautification’ and other jargons used to justify the devastation of imperialist capital. It also shows the mounting state repression on people’s activists who chose to stand by the fighting people, incarceration of democratic activists with trumped up charges, and persistent clamp-down on voices of dissent. On the other hand, it exemplifies the continuing resolute fight of the people against the ruling classes, notwithstanding the party in power, carrying forward the legacy of Singur, Nandigram and Lalgarh struggles. While the new chief minister Mamata Banerjee is going ballistic in the media ‘threatening’ people not to raise their voices in protest of any kind against her fascist rule, the people in Kolkata have once again become vocal against the same, particularly the people in Nonadanga made it clear that they are not going to give up. Despite their houses being razed to the grounds with all their belongings, the people have refused to move from their land, trying to reclaim what was forcefully snatched from them. While the state has erected walls around the seized area of the slum and are planning more demolitions and evictions, the people of Nonadanga are resolutely fighting back unitedly with people of other adjoining slums.

The tale of eviction, demolition and dispossession of people will not stop at Nonadanga, unless we resist it now! Apprehending the mass upsurge of people against her ‘development drives’, Mamata is applying all kinds of fascist tactics to throttle all voices of dissent. The incarceration of two student activists, one of them being booked under the draconian UAPA is a part of that fascist design, while the other under sedition charges. The following is an appeal issued by concerned students and alumni of Jadavpur Univesity to demand the unconditional release of Debolina and Abhijnan who have been falsely implicated and arrested for standing with the Nonadanga evictees. The appeal also gives a call for contribution of relief for the fighting people of Nonadanga. DSU is conducting a relief collection campaign, and we request you to contribute for this relief fund. An all India Students team from various universities including JNU will visit Nonadanga on the 8 of May. We appeal to the students, teachers and karamcharis of JNU to contribute for the relief of the evicted residents of Nonadanga and stand in solidarity with the fighting masses and incarcerated activists.

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Call for Solidarity with the evicted people of Nonadanga & for the Unconditional Release of Debolina and Abhijnan

from concerned students and alumni of Jadavpur University

The arrests and continuing incarceration of the people’s activists Debolina Chakrabarti and Abhijnan Sarkar is a matter of concern for one and all. Why is it that Debolina Chakrabarti and Abhijnan Sarkar have become specific targets for the fascist government of Mamata Banerjee? As students of Jadavpur University—Debolina has discontinued her studies while Abhijnan still continues to be a student—both of them have been in the forefront of all people’s movements and their struggle against displacement let alone the policies of loot and plunder of people’s resources aggressively followed by the CPM-led government and now the Mamata Banerjee led regime.

On this occasion both were actively participating in the students and intellectuals’ solidarity with the people of Nonadanga who were forcefully evicted and their settlements demolished by the state forces on 30th March,2012. Nonadanga residents constituted primarily the resettled cyclone victims from Sundarbans or evicted slum dwellers from several other quarters of Kolkata –victims of a manmade catastrophe named ‘development’. The entire 80 acres of land in Nonadanga have been a target for eviction to be handed over to the real estates ever since CPM regime. What is happening today under Mamata is a continuity of the same – exposing her pro-people rhetoric. Ever since the eviction, state forces repeatedly cracked down upon the protesting Nonadanga evictees and its supporters constituting over hundred arrests and lathicharges on April 4th, 8th, 9th, 12th and latest again on 28th. While others have been released eventually after continued public outcry and protests, Debolina and Abhijnan continue to be behind bars.

Debolina and Abhijnan are good examples of students who have conscientiously moved forward from the four walls of their class rooms to the bitter reality of the everyday lives of the toiling masses to be part of them – from Singur to Nonadanga. It is this kind of a political culture in service of the people, to be in solidarity with their struggles to build a new world that Mamata Banerjee is unable to face politically and hence would pull all efforts in her capacity using her lawless police and bureaucracy to criminalise such youth through false cases.

Debolina was a student of the International Relations Department of Jadavpur University. She left her studies to carry on democratic movements and stood by the side of the people. She was associated with the Singur anti-land grab movement that had prepared the ground for Mamata to come to power. When the people of Nanigram raised their voice against the formation of SEZs and Chemical hubs under the notorious Salem industrial group, she went there and took part in the people’s heroic struggle launched by the Bhumi Ucched Protirodh Committee (BUPC) against displacement from their land and habitats and was also instrumental in forming the Matangini Mahila Samiti (MMS). The MMS was a women’s forum that fought against patriarchy, against SEZs and imperialist capital and against CPM hermads. It was associated with the day-to-day struggles against all onslaughts carried out by Lakshman Seth-Binoy Konar-Sushanta Ghosh-Tapan-Sukur-Naba Samanta gang.

After coming to power, Mamata Banerjee turned her ire against the ongoing peoples’ movements and initiated a slander and intimidation campaign by denouncing the Matangini Mahila Samiti as a ‘satanic brigade’. The police as usual described Debolina as a ‘Maoist’ who could be detained, tortured, humiliated and made a prisoner at will. It is crystal clear that the intelligence officials would subject Debolina to brutal mental and physical torture and send her to prison to languish there for as many years as possible. Should we allow such injustice to be done by this vindictive, cruel and anti-people chief minister of West Bengal? Debolina has started a hunger strike to protest against the unjust incarceration.

Abhijnan Sarkar, an engineer and a researcher in the metallurgy department of Jadavpur university, has been a member of the student group RSF and has actively participated in peoples movements in West Bengal for many years, as part of different solidarity fora. He is the editor of the periodical “Towards a New Dawn” in Kolkata which is circulated throughout India. Abhijnan is also associated with the Sanhati Collective and has reported on the police repression on the Nari Ijjat Bachao Committee in Lalgarh. Abhijnan was detained once by West Bengal CID while he was coming to give an interview in ICSSR in Delhi in 2010. He was thoroughly interrogated about his role and involvement in various people’s struggle like that in Nandigram. In 2011 he was once again detained along with a doctor by the notorious joint forces while they were attending a medical camp in the remote villages of Lalgarh. But in both the cases the police could not frame him in any case and were forced to release him. Currently he has been booked under the false bogus cases of Haldia. The draconian sedition act and arms act have been slapped on him.

We appeal to all justice-loving and freedom-loving people of the country to raise their voice against the continuing incarceration of Debolina and Abhijnan on the basis of cooked-up charges and demand their unconditional release. Their only crime is to stand in solidarity with the people of Nonadanga and raise their voices against the gross injustice. As conscious students it becomes our duty to stand up for the right to dissent. By demanding the unconditional release of Debolina and Abhijnan we as students in turn make a significant stride towards strengthening the will of the fighting people of Nonadanga. The smokescreen of the ‘unlawful’ and the ‘illegal’ built around Debolina and Abhijnan by the state is actually a deliberate infringement of the right of students to join hands with the toiling masses against a dog-eat-dog policy of the government in the form of Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation. We must stand against such fascist tactics of muffling the democratic struggles of the poeple. We thereby appeal to all students and intellectuals of other universities also to join this struggle in support of the people of Nonadanga and for the unconditional release of Debolina and Abhijnan. We also appeal for the contribution of relief to be delivered to the Nonadanga evictees in solidarity with their continued struggle.

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Sanhati statement on the fresh police attacks in Nonadanga and the continued detention of two democratic rights activists

April 29, 2012

The evicted residents of Nonadanga slums are under continual assault. TMC musclemen, the law enforcement agencies, property speculators, and KMDA have joined hands to ensure that the residents can’t resume their normal lives. Even as the residents, after their heroic resistance to the earlier phase of eviction, have started reconstructing their dwellings, the KMDA has moved in to fence off the plot of land.

On April 28, when the KMDA attempted to further close off the entry and exit points of the wall that they had constructed around the plot, the people resisted this inhuman move. Then the police attacked them viciously, beat up and manhandled the evictees and arrested five women and six male residents of Nonadanga slums and slapped them with a host of charges, three of which are non-bailable, under various sections of the Indian Penal Code. The arrested persons are: Pratima Baidya, Minati Sardar, Saraswati Dasi, Ranjita Baidya, Pratima Baij, Bapi Mandal, Manindra Mandal, Purna Mandal, Ujjwal Saha, Sona Bar and Rabin Haldar. In fact, during the initial arrests, a woman with an infant was also detained, but was later released and thereafter slapped with some charges.

We condemn the brutal police attack and lathicharge on the evicted residents in Nonadanga on April 28 and demand that the arrested persons be immediately released. The double standards of the West Bengal government is becoming increasingly clear through such actions. While the Chief Minister made claims to the press on Friday that she was pro-poor and anti-eviction, the police and TMC goons came charging on Saturday morning to Nonadanga.

We demand that the ongoing State policy of harassment, intimidation and slow attrition to evict and punish the residents of Nonadanga be immediately stopped. Moreover, we demand that the residents be suitably rehabilitated and compensated for being forcibly evicted from their homes. We also reaffirm our solidarity with the heroic struggle of these vulnerable and destitute residents.

Meanwhile, we welcome the granting of bail, albeit in a staggered manner, to all the seven activists, Debolina Chakroborty, Samik Chakrobarty, Manas Chatterjee, Debjani Ghosh, Siddhartha Gupta, Partho Sarathi Ray, and Abhijnan Sarkar, who had been detained following the mass arrests during a peaceful protest against the evictions at Nonadanga. However, the fabricated cases slapped against these activists are still in place and we demand that the charges be withdrawn immediately to bring an end to this harassment of dissenting voices.

Despite the bail related to the Nonadanga case, two of the activists – Debolina Chakraborty and Abhijnan Sarkar – continue to remain in judicial custody, having been tagged to old cases, including one under the draconian UAPA. We feel that the government has taken advantage of the mass arrests to capture Debolina Chakraborty who is a dedicated grassroots activist and mass organizer and someone whom the security setup has been attempting to put behind bars since the days of the Left Front government, but had been hesitating to do so due to constant public pressure. It also seems that the police has used this opportunity to continue their harassment of Abhijnan Sarkar, a media activist and a member of the Sanhati Collective and someone who has extensively participated in and reported about the people’s movements shaking up contemporary West Bengal. We urge all civil liberties organizations and other democratic voices to join us in demanding that both these activists be immediately released and the cases against them be withdrawn.

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A brief report on the press conference in Delhi on April 23

Click here to read the joint press note released today

Representatives from various organisations who have come together on the issue, not only expressed solidarity with the movement against evictions and state repression in west bengal, particularly Nonadanga, but pointed to the larger question of capitalist development of which it is a part. They also pointed to similar processes of evictions in all cities across the country, and in Delhi, given the current model of development, and how the working class in the urban areas are resisting these attacks.

It was introduced and conducted by Saroj Giri, activist and Associate Professor of Political Science, DU who spoke of the significance of the movement in Nonadanga, and the necessity not to merely reduce it to a anti-Mamata picture. Among the speakers were: Anirban Kar of Sanhati-Delhi, who briefed those present about the current situation and sequence of events in Nonadanga – of the rebuilding of the shanties, and threat of violence from TMC goons, and state repression in the form of continued arrest of activists, particularly Debolina who is now tagged under UAPA; Com. P.K. Shahi of AIFTU(New) spoke of similar processes of evictions in Delhi and other cities of India; Sucheta De, President of JNUSU stressed on questioning the model of development due to which the working class of the urban areas are pushed further away; Alok of Krantikari Yuva Sangathan pointed to the importance of the question of wages and labour reproduction, and labour power which is devalued in such processes; Pothik Ghosh of Radical Notes put these questions on a larger perspective of global economic changes and the importance of generalisation of the struggles of specific locations, and organisational forms emerging.

There is a call for a protest demonstration in front of Banga Bhavan at 11.30 am on 25 April.

(The report was prepared by Nayan)

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Sanhati statement on the continued detention of activists and the granting of bail to Partho Sarathi Ray

18.4.2012

We welcome the granting of bail on April 17, 2012 for the release of Partho Sarathi Ray from Alipore Central Jail, Kolkata. We continue to demand the unconditional and immediate release of the remaining six prisoners arrested on April 8, 2012, for participating in the peaceful anti-eviction movement in Nonadanga, Kolkata. Debolina Chakrabarti, Samik Chakraborti, Manas Chatterjee, Debjani Ghosh, Siddhartha Gupta, and Abhijnan Sarkar, must be immediately released and all the fabricated charges against all of them be immediately dropped.

Sanhati is especially concerned that one of the activists, Debolina Chakrabarti, has been forcibly sent to CID custody for “interrogation” on April 12, 2012, and has been tagged in a murder case under the draconian UAPA. The utter lawlessness that prevails in the halls of power in contemporary India provides ample grounds to understand “interrogation” by the notorious CID as an euphemism for custodial torture. To protest against this unjust incarceration and imposition of UAPA on her, Debolina has started a hunger strike in CID custody. It has been reported in the press that she has developed some eye problems in CID custody. Sanhati extends its unflinching solidarity to Debolina and the other incarcerated activists, demands immediate and proper medical attention for Debolina’s eye problems, and criticizes the police establishment and government machinery of West Bengal in the strongest of terms for its undemocratic and anti-people behaviour.

Reports in the media show that the KMDA is attempting to lease out the land of the evicted slum dwellers to private real estate companies to build multiplexes, hotels, and residential complexes for the wealthy; this confirms our worst apprehensions. It is a matter of concern that while such nefarious moves are going apace, there has been no attempt by the West Bengal to address the just demands of rehabilitation or resettlement of the evictees. And so the struggle of the evicted slum dwellers in Nonadanga is on. It has reached a critical stage with the mass hunger strike entering the 8th day and the call for a mass convention on April 18. We ask all democratic minded persons to attend the Nonddanga convention tomorrow and continue to stand up for the rights of the evictees.

Sanhati

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CRPP Statement demanding the release of social activist and leader Debolina Chakrabarti

COMMITTEE FOR THE RELEASE OF POLITICAL PRISONERS
185/3 Fourth Floor, Zakir Nagar, New Delhi-110025
Press Release
17 April 2012

Free six other activists imprisoned for their participation in the Nonadanga anti-eviction struggle!

On 8th April 2012, a large police force arrested 69 persons from the Nonadanga area of East Kolkata when they were protesting against the eviction of hundreds of people, many of whom were forced to migrate and set up their abodes in that area after the Aila natural disaster. Among the protesters were those who fell victims to this eviction drive initiated by the Mamata Banerjee-led government — men, women and children, as also some activists belonging to different democratic organizations, who thought it just to stand by the side of the victims and join their struggle for rehabilitation. In late evening, all but seven persons were released on PR bond. Among those arrested were Debolina Chakrabarti, Debjani Ghosh, Abhignan Sarkar, Prof. Partha Sarathi Roy, Dr. Siddhartha Gupta, Babun Chattopadhyay and Shamik Chankraborti.

They were produced in court next day and all were remanded to police custody till 12th April. On 12th when they were produced, all of them were sent to jail custody till 21st April in the Nonadanga case. Surprisingly, in the evening when lawyers on the side of the accused have left or were about to leave, the CID put up papers in a secretive manner for the police remand of Debolina Chakrabarti in three other cases — two of which are old and allegedly connected with incidents that supposedly took place in Nandigram and Bishnupur. The magistrate granted the prayer without listening to the response from the side of lawyers who stood by the accused. When it became known, there were protests from the side of other prisoners who took the stand that Debolina should not be taken for police remand and that they would not leave the court for jail unless all seven were taken together. Their resistance continued for some time until Debolina was forcibly taken alone by the CID in a police car to Bhabani Bhawan for interrogation. The other six prisoners were sent to Alipur Central Jail.

Debolina was tagged in a murder case under UAPA.

The story behind the Nandigram case is this. According to the police, one letter allegedly written some years ago by one ‘Debu’ to one Madhusudan Mandal, an alleged Maoist leader (now in jail) during the previous regime when the Nandigram movement was on. The police, without furnishing any evidence, alleged that this ‘Debu’ was none other than Debolina Chakrabarti. One wonders why a person allegedly having links with some underground organization should use one’s own nickname? Should the use of this name, if at all, itself not mean that this so-called ‘Debu’ could only be someone else and not this Debolina Chakrabarti? There is no evidence whatsoever with the police to establish that the said person ‘Debu’ is Debolina. Debolina had been with the people’s movement for quite some years, functioning openly and participating in various mass movements that took place from time to time. She was never arrested earlier. Now she has been picked up during her participation in the Nonadanga anti-displacement movement and tagged in that earlier case for which charge-sheets had already been submitted.

The fact is that the police under the previous Buddhadev-led regime issued threats to arrest her under the draconian UAPA. But protests from different quarters as also hunger strikes started by her and other activists at College Square thwarted such attempts. The new government under Mamata Banerjee – undoubtedly threatening to surpass the brutality and vindictiveness of the CPI(M)-led government – picked up the torn shoes left by her predecessor and completed the process by booking her under this draconian act.

Who is this Debolina Chakrabarti, whom Mamata Banerjee is unable to face politically and whom she has now sent to prison? Debolina was a student of the International Relations Department of Jadavpur University. She left her studies to carry on democratic movements and stood by the side of the people. She was associated with the Singur anti-land grab movement that had prepared the ground for Mamata to come to power. When the people of Nanigram raised their voice against the formation of SEZs and Chemical hubs under the notorious Salem industrial group, she went there and took part in the people’s heroic struggle launched by the Bhumi Ucched Protirodh Committee (BUPC) against displacement from their land and habitats and was also instrumental in forming the Matangini Mahila Samiti (MMS). The MMS was a women’s forum that fought against patriarchy, against consumption of liquor, against CPM hermads, and was associated with the day-to-day struggles against all onslaughts carried out by Lakshman Seth-Binoy Konar-Sushanta Ghosh-Ashok Pattanayak-Tapan-Sukur-Naba Samanta group. In this struggle, the TMC, CPI and other political forces played their part within the BUPC.

After coming to power, Mamata Banerjee turned her heat against the ongoing peoples’ movements and initiated a slander and intimidation campaign by denouncing the Matangini Mahila Samiti as a ‘satanic brigade’. The police as usual described Debolina as a ‘Maoist’ who could be detained, tortured, humiliated and made a prisoner at will. Such a person has now been booked under the UAPA in a most heinous manner. It is crystal clear that the intelligence officials would subject Debolina to brutal mental and physical torture and send her to prison to languish there for as many years as possible. Should we allow such injustice to be done by this vindictive, cruel and anti-people chief minister of West Bengal? Debolina has started a hunger strike to protest against the unjust incarceration and slapping of UAPA on her. We appeal to all justice-loving and freedom-loving people of the country to raise their voice against the imposition of the UAPA on her on cooked-up charges and demand the unconditional release of Debolina Chakrabarti and six other prisoners arrested for standing in solidarity with the people of Nonadanga and raising their voices against injustice.

SAR Geelani
Working President

Amit Bhattacharyya
Secretary General

Rona Wilson
Secretary, Public Relations

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A brief report on the Citizens’ Convention against ‘attacks on freedom of expression’

16.04.2012

A citizens’ convention against ‘attacks on freedom of expression’ organised by the APDR in Kolkata was held in an over-packed Students’ Hall at College Square on Monday. The convention gave a call to “everyone who has faith in democracy” to “unite and raise our voice of protest against every violation of democratic and human rights, including the freedom of expression”. A resolution passed at the meeting iterated that we must be as vocal against rights abuses by the present state government in West Bengal as we had been during the Left Front regime in the past.

Speakers at the convention included writers Nabarun Bhattacharya and Raghav Bandyopadhyay, veteran radical activist Asim Chatterjee, economist and artist Suvendu Dasgupta, Nonadanga Uchchhed Birodhi Committee representative Parag, Jadavpur University Teachers’ Association representative Partha Pratim Biswas and Ambikesh Mahapatra, the JU professor who has been persecuted for circulating a political lampoon on Facebook, besides activists from various people’s organisations. They flayed the government over recent infringement of rights ranging from the prohibition on state-aided public libraries from subscribing to newspapers not always falling in line with the government, the trampling of the anti-eviction movement at Nonadanga and its supporters, and the lampoon episode.

Senior public personalities such as writer Mahasveta Devi, poets Sankha Ghosh and Tarun Sanyal, and economist Ashok Mitra who could not attend the convention because of their age and state of health, sent messages of solidarity which were read out.

The Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee invited all the participants to assemble in strength again at an open convention at Nonadanga on Wednesday, when the hunger-strike protesting the evictions will be completing its eighth day.

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Solidarity statement from PPSS and concerned individuals

We strongly condemn the illegal eviction drive undertaken by the administration in the slums of Nonadanga and the police brutality thereafter. The eviction drive, which is done in name of beautification of city, will leave hundreds of people homeless to face scorching sun and blinding rain and storms, including pregnant and lactating women, children and the aged.

On 4th April 2012, the Kolkata Police brutally lathi-charged peaceful protesters, thus seriously injuring Rita Patra, a pregnant woman among the assembled. To protest police brutality, forcible eviction of slum dwellers without proper rehabilitation, another mass demonstration was held near Ruby Hospital on 8th Apil 2012. This demonstration was broken up by Kolkata Police despite having acquired prior permission and 69 activists of “Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee” (Anti-eviction Committee) of Nonadanga, including women and children, were arrested. Among those arrested was a 9 year old girl, Manika Kumari, daughter of Dilip Shaw. This young child was kept in lock-up for 9 hours which violated the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act. At yet another demonstration on 12th April, peaceful protesters were attacked by thugs later identified as belonging to TMC cadres. However, instead of punishing the perpetrations, several peaceful activists were arrested, including Ms. Rangta Munshi, Advocate & Assistant Secretary of APDR.

All arrested on 8th and 12th April were released after few hours of detention on PR bond except 7 activists – Ms. Debolina Chakraborty, Ms. Debjani Ghosh, Mr. Abhijnan Sarkar, Mr. Samik Chakraborty, Mr. Partho Sarathi Ray, Mr. Siddhartha Gupta and Mr. Manas Chatterjee. They have been detained since 8th April and have been charged under Sections 143, 149, 332, 341, 342, 353 of Indian Penal Code. According to police, the activists were involved with provoking people in wrongful activity, assembling illegally, wrongfully restraining and resisting policemen. All the above allegations charged, as per police record is out rightly false and concocted. We strongly condemn the arrest and continued detention under police custody of these human rights defenders. The seven activists, who have been accorded the status of political prisoners, are on hunger strike in protest of the heinous actions of the state, and are joined by other political prisoners and the evicted slum dwellers.

At this juncture, we urge you to take the following measures to uphold the human rights of citizens.
# Immediate release of seven democratic leaders without any conditions.
# Provide adequate compensation and proper rehabilitation for the evicted families of Nonadanga.
# Take action against the police officials who are culpable for the brutal lathi charge on 4th April and violating the Juvenile Justice Act by holding a minor in detention.

We urge you to take immediate action to restore democracy and respect human rights of all marginalized people in your state.

With Regards,
Abhaya Sahoo, POSCO Pratirodh Sangam Samiti
Prafulla Samantara, Lok Shakti Abhiyan
Sudheer Pattnaik, The Samadrusti
Dhirendra Panda, Odisha Development Review Collective
Pradeep Baisakh, Odisha Development Review Collective
Sirisha Naidu, Minning Zone People’s Solidarity Group
Sandeep Kumar Pattnaik, National Centre For Advocacy Studies

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ANEEK editorial : From Nandigram to Nonadanga
Translated by Debarshi Das

16 April, 2012

In the new regime, the process had started quite some time back. Now with Nonadanga the mask of Ma-Mati-Manush has suddenly fallen off to show its real face. This is the face of authoritarianism. But this was natural. Besides the Mamata-admiring pro-change section, others, for different reasons, also wanted the previous party-dictated authoritarian era to go. This latter section knew that the new dispensation would move along a similar route. The new rulers are votaries of the neoliberal economic strategy. Moreover they are the inheritors of the Congress culture of authoritarianism. However, this section may not have expected the suddenness with which the new government has exposed itself.

The difference between Singur-Nandigram and Nonadanga is little. Here too, in the interest of corporate capital, in the interest of ‘development’ of ‘India’ the interest of the mass-evicted of the country is being trampled upon. In front of the brute power of the state, security of women and children is given a short shrift. Even the constitutionally mandated democratic right to protest is in danger. This is the process that will continue from now on, with all its nakedness. There is a difference, however. For the earlier regime it took two decades for the nature of party authoritarianism to get exposed to most people. The battle at Singur-Nandigram was an explosion of the revolt informed by a prolonged experience. The outburst carried along a large part of the civil society in its wake. At this moment, just within a year, for the majority of the people the real face of the new regime has not been proven yet. As a result there is no possibility of mass-revolt, neither are there chances that the weather cocks of the civil society will take to the streets.

But the principal similarity remains. The Trinamool Congress or the Congress Party cannot be an alternative to the CPI(M), just as they cannot have an alternative in the degenerated force of the CPI(M). So, the main hurdle on the path the positive development of the movement is intact. This is the absence of a revolutionary leadership and a revolutionary organisation, especially the absence of working class as a determining force. Some revolutionary groups had shown activity during the Singur-Nandigram struggle or in its aftermath. But in the final analysis they have not yet proven their ability to lend leadership to a revolutionary struggle. In the past, similar conditions have developed and passed by, propitious revolutionary situations could not be directed towards the desired aim in the absence of correct leadership and programme. To achieve the real emancipation of people parliamentariasm has to be shunned. On the other hand, if the path of people’s movement is not taken in spite of thousands of sacrifices, victory would remain elusive. To win victory in that definitely protracted, deeply significant, complicated, struggle with many a twist and turn, the truly revolutionary communist forces must fight uncompromisingly against rightism and fake leftism, along with forging unity with the remaining revolutionary-minded workers of the degenerated left-forces such as the CPI(M). The fight should be based on a realistic and effective programme. The future of the working people rests with the correctness of the strategy and tactics followed by them, and the realistic mixing of dreams and capacity.

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PUCL press statement

People’s Union for Civil Liberties strongly condemns the State terror unleashed by the West Bengal Government on the protestors of the forced and illegal clearance of Nonadanga hutment. Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority, assisted by a large contingent of armed police force, have reportedly razed down homes, and destroyed or looted properties, of some three hundred families
without following any due process of law. Here, law enforcers, under political leadership, have shown complete and flagrant disregard for democratic values, and violated the rule of law by unleashing physical violence on protesters and making arbitrary and false arrests – actions that requires harshest action, both against those who broke the law and the leadership that sanctioned it. PUCL feels that the actions of KMDA police force are against the constitutional enshrined principles and rights of people – to provide shelter, to allow peaceful protest, to question and oppose. West Bengal State, under its current leadership, seems to have forgotten both the limit of their authority and its sanctions, under law.

PUCL demands the immediate release of all arrested for peacefully protesting and demanding justice on the issue of Nonadanga. PUCL further demands that the State initiates a peaceful dialogue with the people of Nonadanga immediately, and also compensates victims for the vast damage done to their lives and property.

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Sanhati statement on the recent developments related to Nonadanga arrests

13.04.2012

We strongly condemn the continued detention of the seven democratic rights activists, arrested during the peaceful protest on April 8, using fabricated and farcical charges of inciting violence during the April 4 incident when, in fact, the police resorted to a brutal lathi-charge on the rally, injuring people, including women and children. We reiterate our demand that all the detained activists be unconditionally released immediately and all charges against them must be dropped. We also demand the police personnel involved in the April 4 attack be punished without any delay.

We express our concern at the attempts by the police to connect two of the detained activists to old cases, including one that falls under UAPA. We strongly condemn such attempts to gag dissenting voices, by attempting to indefinitely incarcerate grass-roots activists who organize and participate in people’s movements against socio-economic injustices. We demand that all such tactics by the state should stop immediately.

We are shocked at the naked attack by goons, allegedly backed by the ruling Trinamool Congress, on civil liberties activists who had gathered at Jatin Das Park and condemn it in the strongest possible terms. We also strongly condemn the conniving police officials, in front of whom the attack took place and who then proceeded to detain some of the activists, including the assistant secretary of APDR. We demand that the goons be immediately arrested, the police personnel who were present there to be adequately punished and the charges filed against the detained activists be withdrawn.

Our solidarity with the evicted people of Nonadanga continues unabated. KMDA officials have started walling up the cleared lands and a hunger strike is currently going on at Nonadanga, which needs support from all corners, of every kind. We urge all democratic minded people to come and join their struggle, around which the fight to protect the space of democratic rights in West Bengal is gathering momentum.

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12.04.2012

Condemn the Moves of Continued State Repression by the West Bengal Government!

Stand with the struggle in Nonadanga!

To make ‘London out of Kolkata’ and India to ‘develop’, the dirty must be demolished, the working masses have to pay a price with broken homes and pushed further into pauperization, dissent must be crushed. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s zeal to be a lapdog of the capitalists and her use of the entire state machinery to crush all democratic and organized voices of dissent is increasing daily. Post the demolition of houses of 800 dwellers of Nonadanga on 30th March in the name of ‘beautification’, to restructure the city according to the needs of capital, State Repression is continuing to back this up increasingly.

The seven activists of various mass and democratic rights organizations who have stood with the people and thus were arrested on 8th April and sent to Police custody till 12th April were produced in Court today, 12th April. The State Counsel brayed about ‘anti-national activities’, they were denied bail, and sent to jail custody till 26th April. There was talk of ‘re-opening Singur and Nandigram cases’ and Debolina, one of seven arrested, has been sent to ‘CID custody’ where she will be interrogated with allegations of ‘sedition against the state’ and ‘Maoism’ doing the rounds. Today 12th April a protest demonstration called by APDR was brutally also attacked Trinamool goons with the ‘silent approval of the police and the Minister of Transport in Hazra Crossing, and 6 human rights activists were arrested. Meanwhile on the site of demolitions in Nonadanga, where an indefinite hunger strike is on since yesterday by 10 residents and activists, the police is in continuous alert and preparation mode on orders from the government, readying to use force.

The resettled people in Nonadanga, pushed here from the pauperisation in rural areas and the hurricane Aila in 2009, have been further pushed into ‘illegality’ as per the needs of capital and will of the state. What is ‘legal’ may not be necessarily ethical. The residents of Nonadanga are informal sector workers and unemployeds, whose cheap labour runs the economy of the entire city. The government instead of solving questions of housing, water, land and wages, is instead hell-bent on demolishing them, and crushing all voices who speak up.

Recognizing this, we condemn the authoritarian actions of the government and demand that the baseless charges against the arrested activists be dropped, and they be released immediately and the state should stop further harassment of activists and residents. We stand in solidarity with the struggle of the people in Nonadanga for their right to housing and rehabilitation and hope that the struggle is advanced further. Today, 12th April there was a united protest demonstration called by various mass and student-youth organizations in Delhi in front of Banga Bhavan, and further actions will be continued. We call on progressive and concerned organizations and individuals everywhere speak up against these actions of the government of West Bengal which is engaging in developmental terrorism.

Krantikari Naujawan Sabha

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The Unforgivable Crime of the Homeless in Nonadanga

By Dipanjan Rai Chaudhuri

The unforgivable crime of the homeless in Nonadanga is that they formed an organization without links to the CPI(M) or the TMC. The Indian state will listen to the grievances of the dispossessed only if they approach the government via one of the standard voteshops. Otherwise, the temerity of the poor in organizing themselves independently will be punished adequately. The west Bengal government is following this trodden path.

What is alarming is the power granted to the police. The images which emerge from the police action against the homeless of Nonadanga : a little girl behind bars for nine hours, a pregnant women beaten up, arrest of demonstrators even before they started a meeting at College Square, false cases concocted against bhadralok supporters of the movement, including a case against a bright, young scientist, Partho Sarathi Ray, regarding acts purportedly perpetrated by him at a time when he was at his workplace, as evidenced by written submissions of his colleagues.

A milieu is settling in the state with flashes of uncanny resemblance to the authoritarian smothering of democracy in the seventies. The police brought pressure to bear on the intelligentsia and the judiciary, at that time, to support their lawlessness on the ground of suppression of Naxalite violence. The judiciary turned a Nelson eye towards palpably false cases and custodial torture. Today, the excuse is apprehension of Maoist violence. The right to free speech and assembly is being rudely curtailed. While prominent intellectual workers like Sankho Ghosh, Ashok Mitra and Sunanda Sanyal have protested against such curtailment, the spoils of office seem to have paralysed the vocal chords of the horde of pro-‘paribartan’ glitterati who protested against the authoritarianism of the CPI(M) but are silent now.

Nonadanga marks a water-shed in the increasingly impatient, partisan and highhanded style of governance which has started to characterize our unfortunate state.

1. The movement facing this angry suppression was open and peaceful. Indifference of the government and a highhanded police forced the aggrieved towards civil disobedience, they sat down on the road. This is the most that happened. The reaction of the police was disproportionate.

2. The disproportionate reaction of the police can only be explained by political motivation. Nonadanga has been apportioned among big commercial enterprises and is entering a construction boom. The materials supply and ‘protection’ rackets are controlled by a syndicate which forcibly takes ‘vounteers’ from destitute households and trains them into mafiosi. The overlord, named Megha, was a CPI(M) man till a little time before the assembly elections and then switched over to the TMC. Any independent movement jeopardizes the stranglehold of such a syndicate – party nexus on the inhabitants and the police are obliging the nexus by putting down the irritant growth.

3. The police have invented a Maoist conspiracy, having presumably found some such ‘information’ about one or two of the bhadralok supporters. The standard fare to satisfy (and intimidate) intellectual dissent will, from now on, be suspected Maoist connections.

The government is about to take a course veering to authoritarian suppression of all people’s movements (and publications) not approved by the political authority as allowable.

Two thoughts for bhadralok supporters.

One, oppose all curtailment of democracy without discriminating among political labels handed out by the police.

Two, solidarity is admirable but should not be exercised in any way which facilitates branding of people’s movements by the administration.

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Statement from Coordination of Democratic Rights Organisations (CDRO)

The right to dissent will not be surrendered.

CDRO strongly and unequivocally condemns the attack on APDR members protesting against the Nonadanga slum demolition and the arbitrary arrest of anti-eviction activists.

Today, members and supporters of Association for the Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) had gathered at JD Park in South Kolkata, to take out a protest rally and proceed to the nearby Alipore court where the arrested activists were to be produced. Despite following due process of applying for permission, the police stopped them from taking out a rally. To make matters worse, a large group of TMC hooligans also descended on the spot, led by Mr Madan Mitra, the state transport minister. At Mr. Mitra’s instigation, the TMC goon squad physically attacked the APDR activists, encouraged by the police. Eventually, the police arrested six APDR members, including Ms. Rangta Munshi, the assistant secretary of the organisation. This attack and arrests seem to be in line with the draconian and illegal ban declared by the state government on all protests regarding the Nonadanga eviction issue.

Incidentally, the seven anti-eviction arrestees were not produced in court today as scheduled. They were sent to 14 days jail custody in absentia. While there is no shred of evidence to corroborate the accusations against them, the state is using the time-tested trick of crying ‘Maoist’ to distract attention from the substantive issues and to subvert the due process of law. It has also been reported that the state government is trying to implicate two of the activists on old cases pertaining to the Nandigram anti-land acquisition movement. This is doubly shocking, given that the Nandigram movement was one of the crucial stepping stones in Mamata Banerjee and her party’s journey to power.

The Nonadanga slum demolition in Kolkata and its aftermath has revealed the true colours of the present government in West Bengal. After brutally evicting hundreds of families belonging to the poorest sections of society in order to hand the land over to real estate barons, the government is now going after anti-eviction activists with a chilling single-minded focus.

CDRO notes with concern the worsening democratic rights situation in West Bengal, where dissent in all form is under attack in West Bengal, not just by assaults and arrests, but also through illegal crack-downs on strikes and the censoring of newspapers in government-aided public libraries.

CDRO demands:

• The immediate and unconditional release of all arrested activists and the withdrawal of false charges against them
• That the Nonadanga eviction drive be stopped and the demolished slum be rebuilt with proper facilities in the same spot
• That the guilty Kolkata Police officials and TMC goons be prosecuted
•An independent / judicial enquiry be initiated against the minister, Mr Madan Mitra, regarding his role in the assault on democratic rights activists and criminal proceedings started against him
•That the fundamental right of the people to dissent, protest and assembly must be respected, restored and guaranteed by the state government

Asish Gupta & Kranthi Chaitanya
Co-ordinators

Member Organizations: Association for Democratic Rights (AFDR, Punjab), Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (APCLC), Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR, West Bengal), Bandi Mukti committee (West Bengal), Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR, Mumbai), Coordination for Human Rights (COHR, Manipur), Human Rights Forum (HRF, Andhra), Lokshahi Hak Sangathana (LHS, Maharashtra), Manab Adhikar Sangram Samiti (MASS, Assam), Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR), Organisation for Protection of Democratic Rights (OPDR, Andhra), Peoples Committee for Human Rights (PCHR, Jammu and Kashmir), Peoples Democratic Forum (PDF, Karnataka) , Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) Chhattisgarh, PUCL Jharkhand, PUCL Nagpur, PUCL Rajasthan,PUCL Tamilnadu, Peoples Union For Democratic Rights (PUDR, Delhi), Peoples Union for Human Rights (PUHR, Haryana), Assansol Civil Rights Association (West Bengal).

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MASUM letter on attack against APDR members by TMC goons

To

The Chairman
West Bengal Human Rights Commission
Bhabani Bhaban
Kolkata

Respected Sir,

I want to bring to your attention an incident of barbaric and rude physical attack on civil rights activists by the goons attached with Trinamul Congress Party, the ruling dispensation of state government. Today, 12.04.2012 at about 12 noon, score of activists of Association for Protection Democratic Rights (APDR) assembled at Hazra crossing for a protest demonstration. Here it should be mentioned that the organization with other organizations and section of democratic populace are protesting against illegal eviction of marginalized community from Nonadanga. They are also protesting the illegal arrest and detention of 7 activists on 8th of April. The 7 activists are supposedly being produced before the Chief Judicial Magistrate-Alipur Court from police remand. It should be also mentioned here that a large section of democratic community protesting these acts of illegality throughout the country and while I am complaining before you, a big number of students from Delhi are staging protests before Banga Bhaban at New Delhi.

At the said time, while they were assembled at the Hazra Crossing and about to start their procession, the group was attacked by thugs of Trinamul Congress with the active patronage of police. The organization later informed us that they were contacted by the Kalighat Police Station and informed about the programme with a written application for permission to hold the procession. The organization even has a copy of the application from the Kalighat police station. While the activists assembled at the Hazra Crossing and were preparing for the procession, a large police contingent arrived and told the organizers of procession that the Commissioner of Police ordered they could not hold a procession till 17th April. The police failed to show any such written order. Activists were hell bent to hold their scheduled procession and argued with police that they would prefer to be arrested if restricted from hold the procession. In the mean time, the Minister of Transport Mr. Madan Mitra came to the spot and whispered with the Police Officer present. All of a sudden, a band of TMC hooligans arrived and physically attacked the activists in front of the said Minister. The police were mute spectators. It was evidently proved that the Minister swayed their behaviour. It is also obvious that the posted police had certain instructions from the ruling dispensation to be mute during the attack by the thugs and apprehend those who were protesting against an illegal eviction and demanding release of arrested civil rights activists. The police, who were the spectators of these disrupting and savage attacks by ruling party goons, after a while, came into action and shoved the activists into their parked police vehicles. The police did not even informed the activists about the reasons of their arrest. As usual, the police while arresting those human rights defenders did not issue Memo of Arrest. The following persons were arrested from the spot and till the information reached have been detained at Lalbazar, Headquarters of the Kolkata Police :

*** Ms. Rangta Munshi, Advocate & Assistant Secretary, APDR
*** Mr. Chandan Pramanik
*** Mr. Priyabrata Bannerjee
*** Mr. Prabir Das
*** Mr. Subhadip Bera
*** Mr. Sourya Bannerjee

Others were also detained. The whole incident were telecasted in different news channels of Kolkata.

In this context I demand :

*** The overall attack by the ruling dispensation in front of police force on the democratic environ and Constitutional mandates must be protected by the Commission;
*** Right to hold peaceful assembly and protest must be maintained and guaranteed;
*** The role of Mr. Madan Mitra, Minister of Government of West Bengal, during the attack by hooligans of Trinamul Congress must be ascertained and prosecuted according to law;
*** The police personnel present at the place of occurrence and the attackers attached with Trinamul Congress must be identified and prosecuted according to law;
*** An independent investigation over the incident by your Commission must be conducted;
*** The arrested persons must be unconditionally released;
*** The life and liberty of human rights defenders must be protected.

Sincerely Yours
(Kirity Roy)

Secretary, MASUM & National Convenor, PACTI

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Joint Statement from Delhi organisations

The Trinamool Congress-led Government of West Bengal is daily showing its anti-people character. Its Police and the bulldozers of the KMDA (Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority) razed to the ground and burnt the slums and homes of more than 800 people in Nonadanga, Kolkata on 30th March 2012. These are the same people who were resettled after evictions from various canal banks across Kolkata, and from the dispossessed from the hurricane Aila in 2009. A protest march called against the forceful eviction by residents and progressive organisations and individuals on 4th April was also brutally lathicharged by the Police, critically injuring many. Yesterday on 8th April, a sit-in demonstration was violently broken and 67 people were arrested, with false cases pressed on seven activists of various democratic mass organisations supporting the struggle. They have been remanded in police custody till 12th April, and there is an attempt by the state to frame these democratic rights activists, falsely alleging that arms and ammunitions have been found on them. Also on 9th April, 114 demonstrators who were protesting against these moves by the government were arrested from College Street. On 10th April, a huge consignment of police has cordoned off the entire area and the threat of imminent demolition even of the temporary tents and community kitchen looms large, reminding us of the situation in Singur in 2006.

The government had earlier refused to provide even basic amenities like water, school, drainage system and proper housing in these resettlement colonies and pushed them into an `illegal’ existence, and made them dependent on the networks of local Trinamool and CPI(M) goons. And now in the name of beautification, this violent eviction drive is set on the roll on these supposed `illegal encroachers’ whose cheap labour is `legally exploited’ to run the city’s economy. Anyone opposing this kind of violent `development’ of the ruling classes, has been declared to be `Maoists’ and `inciting outsiders’ conveniently by the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee again in her press statements to delegitimize the struggle, while the common lands of Kolkata are handed over to the corporate land sharks in the best traditions set up by the previous CPI(M)-led government.

WE, the undersigned organisations, condemn the arrests made on 8th April of protestors sitting in a demonstration in Ruby Junction, and demand that the 7 activists of various mass organisations who continue to be arrested be released and the false charges against them be dropped immediately, as the government is acting against the democratic right to organize and dissent.

We condemn the action of the Trinamool-led West Bengal Government and the brutal lathicharge on 4th April, and continued harassment by the Kolkata Police on the residents of Nonadanga and those protesting against the ongoing eviction process in the name of `beautification’ of the city, and demand action against the police officers involved.

We stand with the struggle of the residents of Nonadanga and demand an immediate halt to the eviction drive in the city and the anti-people development, and proper compensation and rehabilitation for all the slum dwellers and hawkers in Nonadanga and in the evictions all over Kolkata.

AIFTU (New), AIRSO, AISA, Bigul Mazdoor Dasta, Delhi Metro Kamgar Union, Democratic Students Union, Disha Students Organisation, Inquilabi Mazdoor Kendra, Jamia Teachers Solidarity Forum, Krantikari Naujawan Sabha, Krantikari Yuva Sangathan, Pragatishil Mehnatkash Mazdoor Morcha, Mehnatkash Patrika, Mazdoor Patrika, Mehnatkash Mazdoor Morcha, New Socialist Initiative, Peoples Democratic Front of India, People’s Union for Democratic Rights, Posco Pratirodh Solidarity Delhi, Sanhati-Delhi, Students for Resistance, Vidyarthi Yuvajan Sabha

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Letter from APDR to Joint Commissioner of Police, Kolkata

10 April 2012

Mr Javed Shamim
Joint Commissioner of Police, Kolkata

Sir,

This has reference to our telephone conversation with you this evening. You are aware that some members of APDR accompanying the family members of the seven persons who are in your custody in connection with Case No. 103 of 2012 dated 5..4.12 of Tiljala PS to deliver basic garments and essential medicines to those persons in custody.

Responding to our request over phone, you had sent two of your personnel at the Central Gate of Lallbazar to collect the said articles.

It is unfortunate that during the course of handing over the articles, the two personnel deputed by you suddenly reported that your earlier direction had been recalled and refused to accept the articles from the family members. We thereafter called your office repeatedly but were told that you were not available.

We strongly protest this entire episode. We believe that depriving the persons in custody of their right to get their clothes and medicines is in violation of the International Convention against Torture, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment to which India is a signatory.

We would be grateful if you please take remedial measures and ensure that persons in custody are not deprived of their basic human rights.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Sudipta Sen
Assistant Secretary
APDR

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MASUM letter on Nonadanga movement

9th April 2012

To

The Chairman
West Bengal Human Rights Commission
Bhabani Bhaban
Alipore
Kolkata

Respected Sir,

The outlandish event of forced evictions and state brutality upon the protesting voices is became a harsh reality for the state. Many civil society groups, political formations and individuals showed their resentments over the issue during the earlier regime but in most inexcusable way the present political dispensation ruling the state has not rectified their stances and replicating the wrongdoings of their predecessor.

I failed to resist myself from writing the preview before my actual complain as our state has experienced a sharp reaction over these two issues a year back.

Nonadanga was a hamlet of residents from diverse social identities but with unique similarity of destitution and poverty. The hamlet was resided by nearly 300 households who are living in penury and abject poverty, contrary to remarks made by the government functionaries as the residents are well off. It was not any unique settlement rather a replica of such urban settlements where people are living under hardships and scarce amenities. The place was inhabited by Aila victims from Sundarban as well as rural displaced from Nandigram of East Midnapur. The populace is settled at the place over the time and with a distinction of old and new settlers.

On 30th of March 2012 at about 10 am, personnel from Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA) and police personnel from Tiljala Police Station and Police Head Quarter- Lalbazar with 3 bulldozers, prison vans apart from regular vehicles of police and 3 fire engines, came to the locality. The huge posse of police was armed with firearms and lathis. The KMDA has not served any notice before their eviction drive though they made audio announcement on 28th March at 4.00 pm and asked the residents to vacate the place within 12 hours. The residents tried their best to argue against the proposed eviction but not heeded and all the shanties were razed and gutted in ground making hundreds homeless to face scorching sun and blinding rain and storms. Pregnant women, lactating mothers with their child, aged and school going children with same fate. From the day one, evicted got friends from different civil society groups who are protesting the mindless banishment of poor from their settlements. This make government more irresponsive towards their single demand for resettlement and on 4th April 2012, the police came down heavily upon the protestors, Kolkata Police along with a gang of ruffians (supposedly the ruling party cadres who were without police uniforms) viciously lathi-charged on the dispossessed slum-dwellers while they organized a protest march and demanding for resettlement. A huge police force attacked the protesters and started beating everyone ruthlessly, including women and infants, without any warning. All the belongings, i.e. clothes, stoves, utensils, terpoline, bamboos transistors, wrist watch, voter ID cards, ration cards etc. were looted and taken by the KMDA men with the help of police party. No seizure list was prepared. Ms. Rita Patra; a pregnant woman, wife of Mr. Surajit Patra came from-village-Bonshree Gouri, Debipur, Nandigram, District-Purbo Medinipur was seriously injured in the lathi-charge. Thereafter, she was admitted to Calcutta Medical College and Hospital, where doctors asked her to withdraw her complaint. Another injured was Ms. Rinki Das; aged about 21 years, wife of Mr. Rabi Shankar Das, her complaint has not been registered by the police though attending doctor; Dr. Subhrajit Roy documented details of physical assault on her by the police. We have documented statements of the victims and eye-witnesses.

On 8th April 2011, the Kolkata Police arrested 69 activists of “Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee” (Anti-eviction Committee) of Nonadanga (a common platform of different civil society organizations), including women and kids when they were peacefully continuing a mass demonstration programme at Ruby Hospital crossing of EM Bypass protesting against forcible eviction of slum dwellers and seeking their proper rehabilitation. A day long Sit-in Demonstration to protest against Nonadanga slum demolition and forcible eviction, started at Ruby junctionat 10 am, shortly before noon, a large police force, led by Deputy Commissioner of Kolkata Police Mr. Basab Dasgupta, came to the spot and asked to withdraw the sit in, the protestors denied to lift the sit in.But the police broke their peaceful demonstration alleging it as ‘illegal’ despite police were informed beforehand. 69 protesters including evicted residents of the slum; even anine-year-old Monika Kumari Shaw, daughter of Mr. Dilip Shaw, was arrested. The child was in the lockup with her mother till 9pm with all other arrested agitators violating Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act. Arresting police also deliberately did not issue Memo of Arrest for anybody at the time of arrest. All of the arrested being detained and taken to Crntral lock-Up at Lalbazar. Cases under section 151 are being slapped on the detainees. Later on, at night all captives have been released except 7 civil society activists. The activists still in custody are Ms. Deblina Chakraborty, Ms. Debjani Ghosh, Mr. Abhijnan Sarkar, Mr. Samik Chakraborty, Mr. Partho Sarathi Ray, Mr. Siddhartha Gupta and Mr. Manas Chatterjee. They have falsely been charged with a number of non-bailable criminal charges fabricated by the police in connection with Tiljala police station case no. 103 of 2012 dated 4th April 2012. These seven persons, all are human rights defenders, have been arrested under Sections 143,149,332,341,342 353 of Indian Penal Code. According to police higher ups the activists were involved with provoking people in wrongful activity, assembled illegally, and wrongfully restrained and resisted policemen. All the allegations charged, as per police record, were made for their association with 4th March demonstration with the evictees. On 4th April 2012, Prof. (Dr.) Partho Sarothi Roy, one of the arrested was on his duty at Nadia district.

In this context I demand:-

*** Immediate resettlement and rehabilitation measures must be taken for the evictees of Nonadanga according to R & R policy of Government of India;
*** As the said eviction was against all norms of international and domestic parlance, the government, police, KMDA drive should be condemned;
*** The erring officials of the government, police and KMDA must be booked according to law.
Police officials violated the set procedure of arrest and detention must be booked according to law;
*** The raiding party must be booked for looting and arsoning;
*** The complaint made by Ms. Rita Patra must be investigated by your Commission;
*** The victims must be protected from police wrath;
*** All the human rights defenders be protected;
*** Action must be taken against the delinquent police personnel including Mr. Basab Dasgupta IPS.

Thanking you

Yours,

(Kirity Roy)
Secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) and

National Convenor, Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI)
40A, Barabagan Lane (4th Floor)
Balaji Place, Shibtala,
Srirampur,
Hooghly
PIN- 712203
Tele-Fax – +91-33-26220843
Phone- +91-33-26220844 / 0845
Email : kirityroy@gmail.com

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Statement by intellectuals and activists protesting the police attacks on peaceful protests against the Nonadanga evictions

The police attacks on yesterday’s peaceful sit-in and today’s peaceful procession in connection with the evictions at Nonadanga are assaults on democratic rights. We are shocked by these incidents and protest strongly against them. We demand immediate release of the arrested persons.

Sunanda Sanyal, Sankha Ghosh, Kaushik Sen, Pratul Mukhopadhyay, Mahasveta Devi, Ashok Mitra, Kabir Suman, Tarun Sanyal, Ashim Chatterjee, Jaya Mitra, Nabarun Bhattacharya, Sabyasachi Deb, Debabrata Panda, Dilip Chakraborty, Bipul Chakraborty, Ashis Lahiri, Dipankar Chakraborty, Bolan Gangopadhyay, Ratan Khasnabis, Miratun Nahar, Pranab De, Kumar Rana, Meher Engineer, Salil Biswas, Ashok Chattopadhyay, Subhendu Dasgupta, Gautam Sen, Sumit Chowdhury, Naba Datta, Saswati Ghosh, Ranjit Sur, Tarun Naskar, Arjun Sengupta, Subhasis Mukhopadhyay, Dipanjan Roy Chowdhury, Amit Bhattacharya, Sujato Bhadra, Amitadyuti Kumar, Abhijit Sengupta, Chhotan Das, Tapas Chakraborty, Achintya Sural, Chandana Mitra, Prafulla Chakraborty, Ranesh Roy, Partha Sen, Kallol Bhattacharya, Sathi Mukherjee, Kaushik Ganguly, Sumana Mukherjee, Sukanta Das, Subhasis Bandyopadhyay, Abhik Mukherjee, Amit Roy Chowdhury, Premangshu Dasgupta, Sachidananda Banerjee, Debaprasad Roy Chowdhury.

Issued 9.4.2012

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The more things change, the more they remain the same

30 March 2012 : Senior officials of the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Area (KMDA) and senior police officers evicted a settlement of shanty dwellers, many of them post Aila refugees, and demolished around 200 shanties, in Nonadanga, Kolkata.

April 4: The same police lathi-charged the same shanty dwellers, who were protesting against the eviction drive, allegedly for blocking the E M Bypass at the Ruby Hospital connector. Five persons, including a pregnant woman, were injured.

April 8: A Sunday, therefore not a busy traffic day, the police rounded up 69 agitators, including a nine-year-old girl, near the Ruby Hospital at Nonadanga, locked them up at the Lalbazar police headquarters for nine hours, released 62 of them and detained the rest as ring leaders.

April 9: The police broke up a rally being held at College Square to protest the earlier police actions. 50 or so demonstrators were carted away to Lalbazar.

The Trinamool Congress promised “Pariborton” to the citizens of West Bengal, to come to power in the middle of 2011. Its true colors stand revealed to be identical to those of the previous State Government.

Meher Engineer, Tarun Sanyal, Deepankar Chakrabarti, Salil Biswas, Gautam Sen, Sumit Chowdhury, Saswati Ghosh, Ranjit Sur, Arjun Sengupta, Dipanjan Rai Chaudhuri, Nilanjan Datta.

Issued 9.4.2012

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Sanhati statement on Nondanga arrests and evictions

9.4.2012

Sanhati strongly condemns the detentions of seven activists, including three of its members, and the earlier detention of approximately 70 residents of the Nonadanga slum, who were conducting a peaceful demonstration at Ruby junction in protest against the eviction of hundreds of families in the Nonadanga colony in Kolkata. The arrests follow the brutal attack by the police on a rally by the evicted families at the same location on April 4th, during which several women and children were severely injured. Moreover, the arrests occured when police suddenly declared the demonstration to be illegal despite the fact that the organizers had obtained prior permission from the local police station. This turn of events amounts to a gross violation of the constitutionally guaranteed rights of the people to democratic dissent and protest.

Residents of Nonadanga were protesting against evictions from their homes on March 30th. The land in Nonadanga, which is very close to a major intersection on the E M Bypass, is a prime target of real estate developers and the current state government aims to evict the “encroachers” and make it available for “beautification”. Incidentally, Nonadanga is where slum dwellers, who were evicted from various canal banks of Kolkata, have been resettled over the past five years and hence the use of the term “encroachers” amounts to slander. In addition to putting on display the TMC government’s connivance with real estate developers, yesterday’s arrests and the clampdown on protests is part of the disturbing trend of the current government’s intolerance of dissent and the general deterioration of the democratic rights situation in West Bengal.

We urge all democratic minded people to demand the immediate and unconditional release of all the detainees with annulment of all charges, adequate and proper compensation and rehabilitation for the evicted families, and suitable punishment of all the police personnel responsible for the brutal lathicharge on April 4th.

Sanhati

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APDR Condemns Police Action on Anti-eviction Demonstrators

A delegation of the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights went to the Kolkata Police headquarters at Lalbazar on 8 April 2012 and submitted the following memorandum. A note follows the memorandum.

Dear Sir,

We came to meet you to lodge our strong protest and express our indignation over the police onslaught on a peaceful demonstration of evictees and other people who were protesting against eviction from their bustee dwellings. It need be mentioned that the present government came to power with explicit declaration that there will be no eviction and no attack on democratic movements. Series of such incidents go against such pre-poll promises.

- We learnt that the large no. of arrested persons (about 69) are women including a child – which is a stark reminder of Payel Bag case in Singur.
- We also learnt that there was no prohibitory order in force at the place (Ruby junction) and police onslaught is completely unprovoked.
- We demand immediate and unconditional release of all those arrested and also demand that the govt stop such attack on peaceful movements which is a democratic constitutional right.

Yours faithfully,
Amitadyuti Kumar (Vice-President)

After much dilly-dallying the AC (security) received the memorandum at 2.20 PM. The AC said that 68 people were in the central lock-up. He also denied that a child was also in the lock-up. But, we learnt that the child who was at the central lock-up was Manika Kumari (9 years), daughter of Dilip Shah. The AC said that four persons had other cases and the rest would be charged under section 151 CrPC.

However, when the police let out the arrested persons on PR bond, one by one in presence of APDR members and other activists through the rear gate of Lalbazar around 8.30 PM, it was found that seven of them had not been released. When the released activists and others assembled at the spot became agitated at this unexpected development, they were forced to leave the area by a huge contingent of aggressive police force. APDR members went to the central gate of Lalbazar to speak to the officer in charge and lodge a protest. They were told by the officers on duty that the seven had been charged under various sections including sec. 353, 332, 141, 143, 148 and 149 IPC and would be produced at the ACJM court, Alipore, the next day. The seven were: Partho, Shamik, Abhijnan, Debalina, Manas, Siddhartha and Debjani.

The APDR strongly condemns the anti-democratic high-handed police action and demands unconditional release of all activists.

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Many demonstrators, including Sanhati activists, arrested during protest meeting

KOLKATA (8.4.2012) – A day long sit-in demonstration to protest against Nonadanga slum demolition and forcible eviction was slated for today at Ruby junction. The evicted people have been staying in an open field under the scorching sun and the blinding rain for the last one week, facing police repression, but have refused to move away (see below for earlier reporting).

Star Ananda Video : Evicted slum dwellers of Nonadanga again in agitaion

The peaceful demonstration was broken by police, who describe the gathering as illegal despite having granted prior permission. Around 80 people were arrested and taken to Lalbazar police station, including women and children. Sanhati members Samik, Parag, Abhijnan and Partho were arrested, in addition to many other activists and residents of the slum. Peoples’ spirits are high and the movement will go on.

Images from sit-in demonstration at Ruby junction
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Images from Lalbazar lockup
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A short report on the living conditions of Nonadanga
by Avisek Mookherjee, human rights lawyer, Calcutta, written on 7th April, 2012.
(Translated by Debarshi Das)

1. Most of the residents here are Aila-affected refugees [cyclone Aila devastated south Bengal in 2009]. They were forced to leave their home and hearth due to the devastation caused by Aila. Many of them are from North 24 Parganas district. Some of them are also refugees from Singur and Nandigram.

2. A great many of the people are sick. I saw an old man who has been beaten up severely by the police. He is yet to receive any medical treatment and is in a precarious medical condition. The place is populated with sick elderly people and children.

3. I visited some flats [these are meant for rehabilitation of slum dwellers]. They are tiny, of approximate size around 10 sq. feet. Many people have to share the flats. In one flat as many as ten people were living. I was told that some of the rehabilitated went back to the field [where the slums are] as they could not live in the cramped flats. They rented out the flats when they did so. But most of the people living the field do not have flats, they are living there out of compulsion. They do not have any house to live in. After making a tour of the entire area one realizes after the shanties were demolished, the ‘flat people’ have gone back to the flats once more. Those who have no place to go to are living in the field. Many of the flat people are well-off. Many of them have bought land somewhere else. Some of the houses had TV and fridge.

4. The day when KMDA and TMC goons demolished the slums they also stole household articles. School books of children, examination admit cards were torn. I met a man who used to run a rickshaw. They have broken it to pieces. As a result the people are jobless for all these days. They need money badly. They will have to beg if there is no financial help.

5. Most of these people are daily wage workers, rickshaw pullers, and thela pullers.

6. There are many among them who used to live in some other place. But they could not afford the rent and other expenses and shifted here.

7. Most of them have been living in Nonadanga for last four to five years. There are some who are here for last six months.

8. There have been evictions earlier. An old man told me their shanties have been demolished three times in the past.

9. The tiny shacks where they are living house even six month old infants. Most of these shanties have little children. It is next to impossible to live in such rickety structures in the middle of the Kalboishakhi season (Bengal Nor’westers). The storm has been blowing away the covers, which are to be retrieved in the middle of pouring rain. Low-lying areas are filling up with water. People are being denied of the minimum sustenance of living.

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7 April 2012

Letter to CM from residents of Nonadanga
Translated by Riten Mitra

Dear Sir,

We are a total of about 150 households and Nonadanga grounds has been our home for quite some time. Some of us have been here for the last two years, some six. There is another colony consisting of about 100 families, with an estimated mean population of about seven to eight hundred. We had all come to stay here from different parts of West Bengal. For the last 34 years, we have been victims of severe deprivation, working as cheap labor and trying hard to make ends meet in times of scarcity. Now we are to be ousted again. Where shall we go from here?

It is your government that replaced the old one for one, Tapasi Mallik. Then how could you drive away seven to eight hundred families at one go ? If we were just one or two households, like in the past, the shock would have been less. Are we to understand that the land which was deemed useless by the government, for the last 50 to 60 years, is now suddenly required ?

We are a group of helpless poor who have reached the limits of desperation. We appeal to you for the last time with the hope that you can come here and see our daily living conditions for yourself. If Didi could rush to the scene for one Tapashi Mallik, then she could surely hear the voices of 800 poor people and come here to see us. We look forward to seeing her. We hope that she comes and sees us.

Yours respectfully,

Nonadanga Majdur Palli
Thana-Tiljala
South 24 Parganas

Appendix

[1] Click to read the original letter in Bengali
[2] Click to see a protest poster in English
[3] A partial list (in Bengali) of evicted families

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Report of brutal lathicharge on protest by evicted slum-dwellers
by Partho Sarathi Ray

5 April 2012

Video : Clash at Ruby More

On 4th April, the Kolkata police conducted a brutal lathicharge on a peaceful protest rally of slum dwellers who have been evicted over the past one week from their hutments in Nonadanga in south Kolkata. Nonadanga is the area where slum dwellers evicted from various canal banks of Kolkata are being resettled over the past five years under the BSUP (Basic Services to Urban Poor) scheme of JNNURM. The resettlement projects have been run by KMDA (Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority) and KEIP (Kolkata Environmental Improvement Project) who own the land in the area, although no basic services or amenities for the families sent to this area, such as schools or health services were provided. Nonadanga also became a place where many other families, escaping the ravages of hurricane Aila, or failed crops and indebtedness in their villages, came and settled. They had to pay Rs 5000 to Rs 10000 to the local CPI(M) or Trinamool Congress bosses, in order to be allowed to build hutments on the vacant land lying around. It is these people who are being evicted now, their shanties demolished and burnt down by KMDA and the police, as they are being labeled as “encroachers”. The real reason behind this is that the land in Nonadanga, very close to a major intersection on the E M Bypass, is a prime target of real estate developers, and these “encroachers” have to be removed in order to make this land available for “beautification”.

Last week the KMDA, went on a demolition drive, in spite of an appeal by the slum dwellers to the urban development minister Firhad Hakeem. The latter openly stated that all “illegal” settlers would be evicted. Around 200 shanties were bulldozed, and all belongings of these families were destroyed. Since then, around 150 families are staying out in the open, in the scorching sun, and their only means of sustenance is a public kitchen being run by some Leftist youth and political organizations which have come forward in solidarity with the slum dwellers. Yesterday, the evicted people had tried to take out a rally towards the E M Bypass road, but the police first prevented them from reaching the road, and then lathicharged. The rally, consisting of many women and children, was broken up in this brutal manner and many people have been injured. Women were beaten up mercilessly by male police. A pregnant woman named Rita Patra was injured and has been hospitalized. A 3 year old child Joy Paswan has had his head fractured by a police lathi. Many activists who were in the march were also beaten up in a targeted manner. However, the slum dwellers have not shifted from their demand of proper rehabilitation and compensation and would be marching to the office of the urban development minister today.

The government of “maa, mati, manush” of Mamata Banerjee has shown its true colours, evicting the “manush” from the “mati” and beating up the “maa”, all in order to hand over the commons land of Kolkata to the corporate land sharks in the best traditions set up by the previous CPI(M)-led government.

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