Arrest of Hem Mishra and Prashant Rahi : Press statements and reports

September 5, 2013

Report from the Sep 5 protest at Jantar Mantar

Revolutionary Democratic Front organised a Protest Demonstration at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, condemning the arbitrary arrest of Hem Mishra, a student leader and cultural activist from Uttarakhand till recently studying in JNU, sometime on the 20th of August by the Maharashtra police. Various students’ organizations like DSU, AISA, AISF, SIO, Krantikari NaujawanSabha, Paribartankami Chhatra Sangh, United Dalit Students’ Forum, All India Backward Students’ Forum, Revolutionary Cultural Front, Viplab Sanskritik Manch, Krantikari Sanskritik Manch, Inquilabi Majdoor Sangh, and noted journalists from Uttarakhand Suresh Notiwal, Charu Tiwari, poet Ranjit Verma, DU professors Rakesh Ranjan, Ish Mishra, Anirban Kar and various students and activists from Delhi, Uttarakhand and Punjab came together to protest against the unjust and illegal arrests of Hem Mishra and Prashant Rahi.

Hem Mishra’s arrest was not declared till the 23rd evening when he was finally produced before a magistrate, three days after he was picked up. Meanwhile, Hem was brutally tortured in illegal custody of the Maharashtra police. Over the last two weeks of his custody, Hem was not just tortured but was denied the fundamental right to meet a lawyer. He was finally allowed access to a lawyer after a team of family members, friends, and lawyers reached Gadchiroli court to demand his release. On the 1st of September, Prashant Rahi, a freelance journalist from Uttarakhand was picked up from Raipur and then on the 2nd of September, he was brought to the police station where Hem remains in custody and charged with several sections of UAPA and charges of sedition in the same case. This protest demonstration in Delhi saw several student organisations from DU, JNU, andJamia University, workers organisations from across the city, and democratic rights organisations from Delhi, Uttarakhand, Punjab, and Haryana besides well-known professors, journalists and the family and friends of Hem Mishra come together to condemn the arrests of these student and cultural activists and journalists who have been branded by the police as prominent ‘Naxals’.

The demonstration began with a revolutionary song by Jeetan Marandi performed by Revolutionary Cultural Front (RCF), a cultural group in JNU of which Hem was a part. Hem Mishra’s father, K D Mishra, spoke at length about his visit to Gadchiroli to meet his son in jail. Hem’s father spoke of the difficulties he faced while reaching his son in a remote part of Gadchiroli where the state police and paramilitary have complete control. The people in the region narrated stories of the way in which the police force regularly framed people as ‘Naxals’ to ensure continued flow of funds for anti-Maoist action. He saw that the Gadchiroli court seemed to only cater to cases related to persons accused as ‘Naxals’. Hem’s father appealed to all democratic organisations to come together to struggle against these policies of the state and fight for the release of Hem and other such political prisoners.

Mrigank of Naujawan Bharat Sabha found that the state cannot tolerate dissenting voices and finds ways to criminalize and eventually silence those speaking for people’s struggle by jailing and torturing them. This arrest is a message being sent to those voices that have been standing with the people through songs and cultural activities. Charu Tiwari, a Hindi litterateur, spoke of the exploitation of land and resources of Uttarakhand witnessed and experienced by activists like Hem that influenced his vision to transform society. Arjun Prasad of PDFI focused on the Supreme Court ruling that states that no one can be arrested for holding a political belief or for even belonging to any organisation. He found that the police force, in direct contravention of the Supreme Court ruling, have arrested Hem and other such cultural activists without any legal basis in order to target those raising uncomfortable voices. Anirban Kar, a professor in Delhi School of Economics, drew attention to relation between the exploitation by the ruling class and the intensification of people’s struggles everywhere. Ranjit Verma, a Hindi poet warned that the spaces of protest are decreasing every day and we must prepare to unite and fight as individuals and organisations are being targeted by the state for their views. Rakesh Ranjan, a professor at SRCC, urged everyone to play their part and spread the message of struggle through every platform available and strengthen the bonds of solidarity across democratic and progressive forces. G N Saibaba, a professor in DU, saw these arrests as part of the policy of the state in the on-going war on people codenamed Operation Green Hunt where activists across the country are branded as ‘Naxals’ and arrested in an effort to stem the tide of dissenting voices. This is clear in cases like that of Jayeeta Das in West Bengal, Ispat and Utpal in Jharkhand, and now Hem and Prashant in Maharashtra.

Five years ago, Prashant Rahi was arrested and charged under 121, 121A, 124A, 153B, 120B IPC and section 20 UAPA and was under trial at the Session Court of Rudrapur, Uttarakhand. After languishing in the prison for 3 years and 8 months, he was released on bail on August 21, 2011. Since then he managed to stay in Rudrapur as his trial was continuing there and was supposed to conclude at the end of this month. It goes without saying that the arrest and possible frame-up of Prashant can also prejudice the trial that is about to conclude. Prashant proclaimed in front of the magistrate that he was abducted by the police in Raipur, Chhattisgarh while the police claimed he was arrested from Maharashtra. The police are spreading virulent false lies to club Hem and Prashant and trying to implicate them both in false cases.

A memorandum was submitted to the home minister against these arrests. In the coming days, democratic organizations are going to unite and take up various other programmes till Hem, Prashant and other activists are released.

Text of the memorandum

Sometime between the 20th and the 23rd of August, Hem Mishra, who was till very recently a student of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and is a member of Democratic Students’ Union (DSU) and Revolutionary Cultural Front (RCF) was illegally arrested and detained by the Maharashtra State Police. At the beginning, the police did not produce him within 24 hours of his arrest. Later after being pressurised by media persons they acknowledged that he has been arrested as a ‘prominent Naxal Courier’. This is a ludicrous claim. Hem is a known students and cultural activist in Uttarakhand and Delhi who has been working for the people by raising social issues since his early days in student activism. He is a physically disabled person. Being a sensitive activist and having heard a lot about the Lok Biradari Hospital run by Dr. Prakash Amte, where it is said more than 60000 people visit a year, Hem wished to visit this place in Bhamaragrh. Possibly he was also keen to know if there is any treatment for his persistent pain in the left hand where he had undergone two major surgeries from Vellore in Tamil Nadu. At some point in his journey, he was illegally detained on the 20th August 2013 and till his arrest was declared on the 24th August 2013 he was tortured physically and mentally by the police. He was remanded to police custody for ten days during which time he was not allowed access to a lawyer which is a gross violation of his constitutional rights. It was also reported in the media that two adivasi youths, by the name of Mahesh Tirkey and Pandu Narote were simultaneously picked up by police and were also shown as ‘Naxal Couriers’ along with Hem.

The police are not even disclosing under what charges exactly he has been booked. The only thing that the police have claimed so far is a recovery of an ‘encrypted microchip’ which they have clearly implanted on him. Even on such spurious and baseless grounds he continues to remain incarcerated. Although the police has not officially made it clear what are the charges they have slapped on him, they have informed the local media that a range of cases from several sections under UAPA, sedition, extortion, etc. will be placed on him.

Hem is a well-known student leader and cultural activist. By branding him a ‘courier’ for Naxals, the police and the media intend to spread fears among young activists, threaten people’s leaders, and silence all voices of dissent. This illegal arrest of Hem, denying information to his family and finally producing him before a magistrate three days later and denying him lawyer even within police remand, clearly shows the impunity enjoyed by the Maharashtra state police to spread fear of custodial intimidation and possible torture of a known activist.

On the 2nd September, a freelance journalist and people’s activist in Uttarakhand, Prashant Rahi, was picked up by the police somewhere in Chhattisgarh and then shown as arrested in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra. Prashant Rahi was on his way to visit political prisoners in the various prisons of Chhattisgarh. Media sources and independent civil rights activists confirm that Prashant Rahi was arrested from near by the Raipur Court, Chhattisgarh. He was then produced the next day morning in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra in front of the local magistrate. He has been remanded along with Hem Mishra to police custody for fourteen days. This is a pre-meditated move from the side of the investigating agencies to incriminate both Hem Mishra and Prashant Rahi in a case together. Prashant Rahi a people’s activist was arrested and charged under 121, 121A, 124A, 153B, 120B IPC and section 20 UAPA and was under trial at the Session Court of Rudrapur, Uttarakhand. After languishing in the prison for 3 years and 8 months, he was released on bail on August 21, 2011. Since then he managed to stay in Rudrapur as his trial was continuing there and was supposed to conclude this month end. It goes without saying that the arrest and possible frame-up of Prashant can also prejudice the trial that is about to conclude.

The arrests of Hem and Prashant are not isolated cases. The arbitrary and illegal arrests of activists like Jayeeta Das in West Bengal, the arrest of cultural activist Utpal Bashke from Ranchi, the hounding and attack of Kabir Kala Manch activists by the lumpen goons of ABVP, the brutal killing of RDF Vice President Ganti Prasadam in Nellore in July, and the banning of RDF in Andhra Pradesh are all part of the undeclared war on people codenamed Operation Green Hunt taking on an urban avatar where activists, students and intellectuals are targeted for voicing the genuine demands of the people.

RDF strongly and unequivocally condemns these arrests and detention of people’s activists on fabricated charges and protests this form of repression by the Maharashtra state police and the Indian state. RDF demands the immediate and unconditional release of Hem Mishra, Prashant Rahi and the two other adivasi youths.

Signed by several people’s organisations and democrats

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Statement from teachers of Jawaharlal Nehru University

We, the undersigned teachers of Jawaharlal Nehru University strongly condemn the arrest of Hem Mishra and the subsequent framing of him by the Maharashtra Police as a ‘prominent Naxal courier’. Hem was till recently, a student of JNU, in BA Chinese and a known student and cultural activist. He was abducted by the Maharashtra police sometimes around 20th August, kept in illegal custody for some days and then sent to ten days of police remand, which has now been shockingly extended. He was neither produced within 24 hours of his arrest in court, nor was his family informed about the arrest. We are appalled to know that he was not even allowed to meet his lawyer in custody and that bolsters the possibility of him being physically and mentally tortured in custody. The police have not been able to produce any evidence against Hem for his alleged crime and yet they continue to keep him behind bars.

Arbitrary arrests and framing of democratic rights and cultural activists is nothing new. The intolerance of the state is exemplified by the fact that any voice of dissent or protest is being consistently met with similar repression, slapping of bogus charges and incarcerations. We strongly condemn such false framing of activists and demand Hem’s immediate release.

Signed/

Prof. Kamal Mitra Chenoy, SIS, JNU
Prof. Nivedita Menon, SIS, JNU
Prof. Chamanlal, (retd.) SLL&CS, JNU
Prof. Avijit Pathak, SSS, JNU
Prof. C.P Chandrashekhar, SSS, JNU
Prof. K.J. Mukherjee, SBT, JNU
Prof. Mohan Rao, SSS, JNU
Prof. Arun Kumar, SSS, JNU
Prof. A.K. Ramakrishnan, SIS, JNU
Prof. Tanika Sarkar, SSS, JNU
Prof. G.Srinivas, SSS, JNU
Prof. Supriya Verma, SSS, JNU
Prof. Rohan D’Souza, SSS, JNU
Prof. Arun Kumar, SSS, JNU
Prof. Deepak Kumar, SSS, JNU
Prof. M.S.S. Pandian, SSS, JNU

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COORDINATION OF DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS ORGANISATION (CDRO)

Press Statement
4th September 2013

Arrest of Hem Mishra and Prashant Rahi:
Silencing voices questioning violation of fundamental rights

The CDRO strongly condemns the arrest of Prashant Rahi and Hem Mishra, accusing them of Naxal links. Though the exact date of Hem Mishra’s arrest is yet to be ascertained, he was most probably picked up by the police around around 15th August. Prashant Rahi was on the other hand was arrested on the 2nd September. The allegation against both of them is that they were carrying some documents/ literature. Both have been charged under the notorious Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act [UAPA]. Both are serving a long period of police remand without being provided a lawyer.

Hem Mishra had been active with a student organization in Uttarakhand before coming to Delhi, when he obtained admission at the Jawaharlal Nehru University. In the year 2007/08, a number of activists involved in organizing youth and the rural poor in Uttarakhand were arrested on the allegation of Maoist links. So potent was the terror unleashed, that few would dare to question the allegations or meet the arrested persons for fear of being implicated. Hem Mishra, handicapped in one hand, was the person who visited all the arrested in jail and helped them get legal support. One of the arrested at that time was Prashant
Rahi.

Prashant Rahi (52 years) worked as a journalist in Uttarakhand. He was also passionately involved with a host of protest movements ranging from issues of forest-dwellers, and of rural labour, to the displacement by the Tehri dam. Arrested in December 2007, alleged to be a most-senior Maoist leader, Prashant was kept in solitary confinement through most his 3 year 8 month stay in the jail. Once
released on bail, Prashant took upon himself to visit those imprisoned as Naxalites all over the country and to help them obtain access to a lawyer. To this end, he was regularly travelling to across the country collecting details of cases and reaching the same to lawyers.

That there is no real allegation of any crime against both Hem Mishra and Prashant Rahi, it is evident from the fact that both have been charged solely on the basis of the UAPA. For, it is this law that makes normal social and political activity into a crime solely on the whims and fancies of the police. Banning of political organisations and converting any association with such organizations and their opinions into a crime is what opens the gates to the law becoming an instrument of injustice.

In addition, the illegal, yet reasonably settled practice of the police of not registering a panchnama at the time of the detention,
makes it difficult to ascertain the exact date, time and place of arrest. Such unlawful detention leaves much scope for abuse. It is
ironical, in cases where UAPA is applied, courts have been less critical of the blatant violations of procedure, in the name of larger security concerns.

Thus while the alleged “crime” as well as the circumstances of the arrest remain suspect, a vilification campaign has been mounted by the police that masquerades as information in the newspapers. No doubt, that this has become the preferred method to silence those working for basic civil liberties and implementation of fundamental rights.

Another favourite practice of the police has been to foist new cases against accused, especially under the UAPA and its previous
incarnations, when those accused are either released on bail or else when acquittal in the existing cases is at hand. This has been done ad nauseum to frustrate the bail or acquittal orders of the court and has not yet found serious criticism from the judiciary. In the case against Prashant Rahi too, no incriminating evidence has been found against him in the case in Uttarakhand and he would be acquitted soon.

We therefore demand the immediate dropping of all charges under the UAPA and the immediate release of those arrested.

Kranthi Chetanya (APCLC, Andhra Pradesh), Paramjeet Singh (PUDR, Delhi), Parmindar Singh (AFDR, Punjab), Phulendro Konsam (COHR,
Manipur) and Tapas Chakraborty (APDR, West Bengal)

(Coordinators of CDRO).

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Constituent Organisations: Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (APCLC); Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR, West Bengal); Bandi Mukti Morcha (West Bengal); Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR, Mumbai); Coordination for Human Rights (COHR, Manipur); Human Rights Forum (HRF, Andhra Pradesh); Manab Adhikar Sangram Samiti (MASS), Assam; Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR); Organisation for Protection of Democratic Rights (OPDR, Andhra Pradesh); Peoples’ Committee for Human Rights (PCHR, Jammu and Kashmir); Peoples Democratic Forum (PDF, Karnataka); Peoples Union For Civil Liberties (PUCL, Chhattisgarh); Peoples Union For Civil Liberties (PUCL, Jharkhand); Peoples Union For Civil Liberties (PUCL,Nagpur); Peoples Union For Civil Liberties (PUCL, Rajasthan); Peoples Union For Democratic Rights (PUDR, Delhi); Peoples Union for Civil Rights (PUCR, Haryana) and Campaign for Peace & Democracy in Manipur (CPDM), Delhi

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COMMITTEE FOR THE RELEASE OF POLITICAL PRISONERS
185/3, FOURTH FLOOR, ZAKIR NAGAR, NEW DLEHI-110025
03/09/2013

Condemn and expose the insidious designs of the intelligence agencies to hatch up a case of Hem Mishra and Prashant Rahi together!
Release Hem Mishra and Prashant Rahi Immediately; Unconditionally!

On the 2 September 2013, Chandrakala Tiwari—life partner of Prashant Rahi a journalist and people’s activist—informed the CRPP that
Prashant has been arrested by the Gadchiroli police as she received a call from them. Since then we have been trying to find out WHY, WHERE, WHEN and HOW Prashant Rahi got arrested. Prashant Rahi a people’s activist was charged under sections 121, 121A, 124A, 153B, 120B IPC and section 20 UAPA and was under trial at the Session Court of Rudrapur, Uttarakhand. After languishing in the prison for 3 years and 8 months, he was released on bail on August 21, 2011. Since then he managed to stay in Rudrapur as his trial was continuing there and was supposed to conclude this month end. It goes without saying that the arrest and possible frame-up of Prashant can also prejudice the trial that is about to conclude. He was earning his living through translations and contributing articles to newspapers.
From independent media sources, human rights activists and lawyers we could gather that Prashant Rahi was arrested from somewhere near the Raipur court. If so then why has he been taken to Aheri police station, Gadchiroli district, Maharashtra? The only thing that can be ascertained given the track record of the state/district intelligence agencies, NIA and their like one can be rest assured that this is nothing but to incriminate Hem Mishra, a JNUite and Prashant Rahi in the same case! This is a deliberate attempt from the intelligence agencies desperate to show something ‘big’ in an otherwise instance of frame-up of Hem Mishra. As we may recall Hem Mishra was incommunicado since 20 August 2013 and finally was shown as arrested at Aheri. Since then he has been under police custody. Now with the arrest of Prashant Rahi also being shown at Aheri, both Hem Mishra and Prashant Rahi have been remanded for another 14 days in police custody. Now the police cannot ask as to why Prashant Rahi was in the first place in Raipur?! To randomly pick up someone from anywhere to build up a story that befits the war-cry of the state is nothing but impunity at its worst. This can only lead to criminalisation of all forms of dissent/political opinion. As conscious citizens we need to resist and fight such criminal tendencies from those who are supposed to take care of the law and order.

To add further sensation to the story now the police have set on the grist mill of rumour that Hem Mishra and Prashant Rahi will be taken to Delhi and Uttarakhand for further investigation. Given the track record of the police one can expect activists and intellectuals who have been vocal or otherwise being threatened to cook up evidence against Hem Mishra and Prashant Rahi. The most recent such instance is the case of arrest of Jayeeta Das a people’s activist from West Bengal. How the criminal investigating agencies have gone round threatening people to give evidence against her is very fresh in our memory. CRPP calls upon all democratic and progressive forces to come forward and resist such fascist/authoritarian designs of a penal state and its lawless investigating agencies/police. Once again we reiterate our demand to release immediately and unconditionally Hem Mishra and Prashant Rahi!

In Solidarity,
SAR Geelani
President

Amit Bhattacharyya
Secretary General

Rona Wilson
Secretary, Public Relations