Appeal For Justice To Prashant Rahi

April 5, 2014

Cover of our Banner

1. Background of the case
2. Urgent Appeal for Justice
3. Sample Letter to be sent to authorities
4. Prashant Rahi’s letter from Nagpur Jail

Release Prashant Rahi
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My Fellow Brothers and Sisters,
“A society which remains silent even when grave injustice is being done to those who fought for the justice of others, there justice is dying. That society is infected with the decease of cowardice and negligence. People in it are not free beings but savage beasts.”

Here is such a tale of injustice that any individual will be forced to question the meaning of justice, right and humanity itself in democracy like India.

Born in a middle class family, Prashant Rahi was a bright student who completed his B.Tech (1982) and M.Tech(1991) from IIT-BHU.In his +10 years period here in BHU he was highly active in uplifting peoples of villages around BHU and enlightening them of their rights. Instead of blindly following the rat-race to take lucrative jobs in big companies & living a luxurious life,he pursued the noble but difficult path of social activism journalist and went to Uttarakhand.
In Uttarakhand Prashant Rahi worked as a social & political journalist whose articles were printed regularly in many prominent newspapers like Statesman etc. He was a prominent figure in the movement demanding separate statehood for Uttarakhand. Prashant was the leading person in organising the movement for demanding rights and lands for tribals & villagers displaced by Tehri Dam. Thus, he remained highly active in social welfare serving and fighting for the rights of deprived. Prashant’s selfless & fearless social activism drew the ire of powerful people whose interests were hampered by his outright activism. Starting from 17th Dec. 2007 a chain of events happened to him which sends chills even to bravest souls.

On 17thDec, when Prashant Rahi was walking on a prominent street in Dehradun, he was kidnapped by 4-5 men in civil dress in broad daylight. He was blindfolded & taken to a forest near Haridwar where he was beaten mercilessly with sticks. It was only when on 18th December when his blindfold was removed for the first time he released his kidnappers are none other than police.He was taken to different places and interrogated,tortured by 3rd degree in most brutal & devious ways by unidentified policemen. In his words “They brutally hit me all over my body, including my private parts. The officials also threatened to pump kerosene up my anus and tie me to ice slabs.”

On 20th December, 2007 Prashant Rahi was bought to Nakmatta police station in Udham Singh Nagar some 350 km away from Dehradun. So brutal was his torture that police had to wait for two days for him to recover and on 22ndDecember an arrest was filed under IPC sections 121(waging war or abetting the waging of war against state), 121A(conspiring against state),153B(threatening the perseverations of nations sovereignty and unity), 120B(criminal conspiracy), UAPA section, 20(member of terrorist organisation).

Interestingly on 20th December B.C. Khunduri, the then CM of Uttarakhand demanded 208 crores from centre in a conference with PM, Manmohan Singh to combat Naxal treat in Uttarakhand and mere two days after that on 22th Dec, Uttarakhand police claimed to arrest the Naxal Zone commander Prashant Rahi, in Hanspurkhatta near Nakmatta police station that too alone without firearms,ammunition or explosives.

It was only after dedicated efforts of many civil & social rights organisations which include one lead by his daughter, Shikha Rahi, that he was released on bail on 21th August, 2011 after languishing in jail for 3 years and 8 months.

The virtue of courage and sense of justice is so strongly embedded in Prashant Rahi that even by being tormented for almost 4 years in jail and bearing all kinds of horrible tortures he came out with stronger and bolder resolve to fight injustice .Witnessing himself how the state and police incarcerate innocent tribal youth, social activists and journalists on false charge using black laws for selfish gains and sabotage their dignity and rights by brutal torture. He started fighting for justice by providing legal assistance to these victims of the tyranny of the system; he helped many of them to get bail, acquittal and speedy trails for them.

Owing to such a case Prashant Rahi went to Raipur to get some legal documents but little did he know what was in wait for him. On 1st Sept, 2013 Prashant Rahi was abducted by Maharashtra state police in most innocuous circumstances in gross of violation of Criminal Procedure Code. He was brought to Aheri police station, Gadchirolli and booked under 120B,IPC(criminal conspiracy) to commit some unlawful actsec 13 UAPA),a member of terrorist organisation (sec 20 UAPA),eliciting support for the CPI (Moist)(sec39 UAPA). He was brutally tortured both physically & mentally on 1stsept and produced before the magistrate on 2ndsept where the case was filed. Now Prashant Rahi, still languishes in solitary confinement in Nagpur central jail. An interesting fact to be noted here is that Prashant Rahi was to having final hearing of his 2007 case on 2nd Sept. and chances of his acquittal was very strong but he could not attend his hearing because as you know by now that he was abducted just a day before it.

Whenever we hear a Naxalite Zone all that comes into our mind is an excluded underdeveloped forested region with Naxals moving around with guns & terrorising the people. But by reference of Prashant Rahi account reality is different. In fact usual judiciary & administration powers are given to police who in turn move around towns & villages like an occupation army, enhanced 150% salaries incentive, out of turn promotion, allowances & overriding powers to lord over the common masses. Infact Naxal area seems like a golden goose for police officials to earn more, and enjoy excessive powers with impunity.

Police and the government are for the security and service of the people. When the people from these sacred institutions bewitched by their greed and blinded by their excessive powers starts to exploit the common masses, fringe upon the liberty of innocent individuals and target those who tries to bring justice to these victimized masses then that country is leading to its self destruction. Therefore as a responsible citizen of India it is our duty to voice our opposition to injustice, oppression and corruption in any form in any part of our country.

My fellow countrymen, it is not only the question of Prashant Rahi, a social activist but also the guiding principles of liberty, equality, justice and fraternity on which foundation of our Democratic India was laid. We are resolved to get our demands accepted and these demands are,
1) Immediate release of Prashant Rahi on bail.
2) Drop the false charge fabricated on him.
3) Repeat the UAPA or at least its 2008 and 2013 amendments.
4) Speedy trials and independent investigation for people charged under black laws.
5) Implement forthwith the provision of the international & political rights, covenants on civil on prisoner’s right and on Detention centres.

Monish Babbar
Nikhil Jain
Sandeep Pandey
_______________________________________________________
Urgent Appeal: 23 March-2014
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INDIA: Illegal arrest of Prashant Rahi and his co-accused under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act [UAPA], 2008 and their continued incarceration at Central Prison, Nagpur.

ISSUES: Conspiracy of intelligence and police agencies, Arbitrary detention; Brutal torture, Inhuman and degrading treatment; Police Impunity; Persecution of political dissents; Harassment.
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It is informed that a social activist and journalist Prashant Rahi and his co-accused Hem Mishra, the J.N.U. student of Chinese, and 3 other most innocuous adivasi (tribal) youth, were illegally arrested from different places by Maharashtra police, brutally tortured and treated in the most inhuman and degrading manner, before being framed under draconian law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, (UAPA in short) and Indian Penal Code (IPC in short) for no offence other than their political ideology. It is also informed that for last 8 to 10 years trends of the militarization/excess policing in India has led to the incarceration of not less than 3000 alleged Maoists, an overwhelming majority of them framed with fabricated charges, brutally tortured and inhumanly treated in police custody. It is also informed that the districts, particularly, inhabited by the tribal people, are officially notified as police districts, whereby usual District Administration, Judiciary and “Development Activities” are controlled by police officials, who in turn move around in the towns and roadside villages like an occupation army, enjoying overriding powers to lord & torment over the populace on their wimps.

CASE DETAIL:
Prashant Rahi, a qualified electrical engineer from IIT-BHU in 90’s and a social activist by choice, was living and working in Dehradun since 1991. There he participated in separate statehood movement for Uttrakhand, mobilizing to help the farmers displaced by Tehri Dam construction and worked to uplift people from different walks of life. But his popularity amongst the masses and his left wing ideas got the ire of the state and on 17th December 2007, Prashant was picked up from a prominent street in broad daylight, close to Ara Ghar, after being attacked by several men all of a sudden, manhandled, blindfolded and carried away in a speeding car, first to a forest in the neighboring Haridwar district, beaten up with sticks all through the first night, after which he collapsed.

The next day, he was shifted to a Provincial Armed Constabulary campus of the Uttarakhand Police in Haridwar in a restricted part of Roshanabad, brought to a “PAC Conference Room”, where the blind-folding was first removed on the 18th night. There, he was tortured and harassed continuously till the 20th in various devious and inhuman ways, which is being omitted here to save space and for decency’s sake. On the 20th morning, he was again blindfolded, put into a car and driven several hours to be brought to Udham Singh Nagar, and hidden in a room of the residential quarters within the premises of Nankmatta Police Station, some 350 km. to the east of Dehradun. There, he was tortured by a different set of police personnel, until they could make up a story to show his arrest on the 22nd under the IPC Sections 121 (waging war or abetting the waging of war against the state), 121A (conspiring against the state), 124A (sedition), 153B (threatening the preservation of the nation’s unity and sovereignty), 120B (committing the above offences as part of a criminal conspiracy), and under the UAPA Section 20 (member of a terrorist organization). Till the 5 days and 5 nights that elapsed after he had been picked up and illegally confined, he had not been allowed even a wink’s sleep. After informing his daughter Shikha Rahi, based in Mumbai, of his arrest on the 22nd evening, he was produced at a Magistrate’s Court on the 23rd Dec.

The arrest story was that he was accosted in the forests near Nankmatta during a combing/search operation by a police party for a Maoist training camp, as reported in a F.I.R. lodged on the 20th, around the time he was brought to the police station premises from Haridwar, which 4 others, who were with him, fled the scene. Later, he allegedly helped recover a broken laptop, a pen drive and some printed material from the same forest (which he had never seen before, nor was he taken out there then), and the IO wrote out other cock and bull descriptions about an imagined 3-month long CPI (Maoist) military training camp, and now all the cadres and military trainers with their equally imaginary arms and ammunitions had vanished – all except him (who was already in their custody on the date of filing the FIR)!

The case with Cr. Case No. 3222/2007 was taken up for trial 8 months later, as S.T. No. 83/2008, and the trial has not yet concluded. Prashant could get bail only after 3 years and 8 months, that too only because the UAPA invoked against him and his co-accused was the 2004 version, not the 2008 one, and also due to the dedicated efforts of many social rights organizations. The others who were subsequently arrested from home, a court premises and one from a railway station a year or so later, were respectively, Gopal Bhatt, Dinesh Pandey and Chandrakala, all well-known social activists of Uttarakhand. 3 others were proclaimed as absconders. All the 3 who were arrested after him were released first, and he too was released on bail on August 21, 2011.

Soon after his release on bail, Prashant having realized the horrific conditions in jails during his own detention and also having realized the vulnerability and helplessness of the poor political prisoners framed under UAPA and other draconian laws, languishing in different jails for a long time, decided to work for the cause of these political prisoners. Due to his continuous and tireless work (before his second time abduction and illegal arrest on 1st September 2013), he had been enormously successful, either in getting a good number of them bailed out or speeding up their trials, which resulted in their acquittals.

For this very human rights activism of providing legal aid to political prisoners, Prashant Rahi was abducted on 1st September, 2013 by the Maharashtra police from Raipur where he had gone to collect some papers related to a case for which he was engaged professionally as to translating those papers and to hand it over to a lawyer engaged in filing a Special Leave Petition in the Apex Court of the country.

Apart from the police story, Prashant Rahi was arrested from Raipur of Chhattisgarh state in the most innocuous circumstances, far beyond the State of Maharashtra well before September 2 (the claimed date of his arrest in Gondia); forcibly thrust into a dark-colored van bearing fake number plates and shaded glass for its windows; and forced to travel with his abductors who turned out to be employees of the Maharashtra police. They had transgressed their specified area of jurisdiction, with orders from their superiors to facilitate Prashant’s fake arrest, in gross violation of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr. P. C.) and specific directions on procedure for arrest issued by the Supreme Court of India. Prashant Rahi was driven over a full day and night, straight to Aheri police station, having crossed several district and State borders.

At Aheri Prahsant was first produced in a Magistrate Court on precisely that day, by the Investigating officer (IO) in Cr. Case No.3017/2013, Suhas Bavache, a Deputy Superintendent of Police. The IO, Suhas Bavache. hoodwinked the Courts so that cognizance be taken of Prashant’s fake arrest and his allegations against Prashant about a criminal conspiracy (Section 120B, IPC) to commit some unlawful acts (Sec.13,UAPA), as a member of terrorist organization(Sec. 20, UAPA) and eliciting support for the CPI (Maoist) (Sec. 39, UAPA).

It is reported that Prashant and his co-accused were badly tortured by the IO, Suhas Bawache. All of the accused were tortured in the most inhuman manner. Mr. Bawache personally used brute force against Prashant and the others, violated their minds and body, abused them, tormented and harassed them all through the days and nights over several weeks of their PCR, i.e. Police Custody Remand. Hem Mishra, Pandu Naroti and Mahesh Tirki, who were actually picked up from different places at Ballarshah in Chandrapur District of Maharashtra within the railway station premises on August 20, where badly mauled during 2 days of their illegal custody prior to the stipulated 24 hour period within which accused persons are required to be presented before a judicial court.

It is also reported that apart from the Deputy Superintendent of Police, Suhas Bawache and his subordinates who physically and mentally tortured Prashant, Hem and the others, senior officials like the Deputy Inspector-general of Police, Ravindra Kadam; and an Inspector-general who called himself Anup Kumar were directly responsible for the entire episode and for implicating Prashant unlawfully and for showing their arrests incorrectly and falsely.

Again, as reported, none of the accounts of the victims’ interrogation during illegal and legal custody of the police carried by the newspapers are true and complete. Prashant and his co-accused did not get any opportunity to freely and sufficiently interact with journalists. There is not even an iota of truth in the claim that Vijay Tirki from Kanker District of Chhattisgarh received Prashant at Raipur in that State, and thereafter escorted him up to a certain Devri–Chichgadh T-junction in Gondia, Maharashtra, enroute to Abujhmaad.

The fact is that Vijay Tirki was arrested separately, somewhere in Raipur, and he had no plan to escort Prashant, nor did Prashant approach him to be escorted to any destination. The first time that Prashant met a person by this name from Kanker District of Chhattisgarh was several hours after Prashant was dumped into the Aheri Police Station around midnight of 1st/2nd September 2013, when Vijay Tirki too was thrown inside. As has already been reported, Prashant was engaged in professionally translating some case papers for a lawyer; after meeting another lawyer who was his source for those papers, he was to collect some more papers from him shortly after the time of Prashant’s abduction, and before proceeding to return to Uttarakhand to be present at an important hearing of his ongoing trial in Udham Singh Nagar District on September 2, 2013.

It is informed that at the end of November, 2013, around 90 days after Prashant’s arrest, Suhas Bawache submitted an interim report of his investigations to the learned Court of the Principal District and Sessions Judge at Gadchiroli, in a successful bid to seek extension by a further 90 days of the period for submitting a charge sheet against him, failing which he could be entitled automatically for release on bail under section 167, Cr. P.C. The learned Judge heard Prashant’s contention that the investigation was being delayed deliberately on spurious grounds, his arguments having been given as written ‘Say’ filed among the case record. However, the provisions under Sec. 43 (d) 2 of UAPA gave the IO the right to prolong his detention over a period of 180 days without being served a charge-sheet.

A similar 90 days extension had been permitted by the same Court to submit a charge-sheet against Hem Mishra and his two alleged escorts, Pandu Naroti and Mahesh Tirki, residents of a Gadchiroli village, all three having been shown arrested at Aheri Bus Stand on August 22, 2013. The interim investigation report submitted to the court by Suhas Bawache in support of this extension plea was identical, in fact a true copy of that submitted in Prashant’s case a week later.

Thus, effectively, the IO has secured time until February to prepare his charge-sheet against them, following which, as per the only modicum of safeguards guaranteed by the UAPA, the sanctioning authorities of the Maharashtra State Government and/or the Government of India would have to conduct a review of the investigation, independent of Suhas Bawache and his superior authorities of or above the rank of Deputy Inspector-general of Police, before granting sanction in order to prosecute them. Once this procedure is completed according to the specified process, and a valid Case Diary is prepared by the IO, recording the procedure followed, even a higher court would be obliged, as per the 2008 insertion into UAPA under its Section 43 (d), Sub-section 5 to take an adverse view of their bail petitions.

Had he not been framed up in second case, the Uttrakhand case could have ended in acquittal latest by the end of 2013. So, there would be calculations and speculations on the part of both the police IOs, and indeed their superiors, as to how one case could be made use of to lend weight and credibility to the other.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write to the authorities mentioned below demanding immediate release of Prashant Rahi and his co-accused framed under UAPA and to withdraw the cases pending against Prashant Rahi in the states of Uttarakhand and Maharashtra. Join and participate in online signature campaign by Amnesty International. You may also demand to repeal the UAPA or at least withdraw its 2008 and 2004 amendments.

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SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ______,

INDIA: Release Prashant Rahi and his co-accuseds’ immediately and withdraw cases pending against Prashant Rahi in the states of Uttarakhand and Maharashtra. .

Name of the victims
1. Prashant Rahi, a social activist and free lance journalist, Haldwani, Uttarakhand
2. Vijay Tirki, a resident of Gadchiroli village, Maharashtra
3. Hem Mishra, a cultural activist and the JNU student of Chinese
4. Mahesh Tirki, a resident of Kanker District of Chhattisgarh
5. Pandu Naroti, a resident of Gadchiroli village, Maharashtra

Name of the alleged perpetrators:
1. Mr. Suhas Bawache, Investigating officer in Criminal. Case No. 3017/2013 registered at the Aheri police station, Gadchiroli, Maharashtra.
2. Mr. Ravindra Kadam, Deputy Inspector-general of Police, Maharashtra.
3. Mr. Anup Kumar, Inspector-general of Police, Maharashtra, who was directly responsible for the entire episode and for implicating the victims unlawfully and for showing their arrests incorrectly and falsely.

Date and place of the incident: Since 1st September, 2013 at different places of Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra States.

I am writing to you with keeping in view the grave concern regarding illegal arrest, brutal torture, inhuman and degrading treatment as well as violation of civil and democratic rights of a journalist and social activist Prashant Rahi, even if for the second time—this time after 10-11 days’ mauling of a distantly acquainted, handicapped JNU student and two, most innocuous, adivasi youth, hours before a third was picked up from yet another location.

I am also writing to you with keeping in view the consideration that the many unwarranted dimensions that the police are trying to add in order to erect an edifice for their fake, tall claim of having busted some huge “terrorist”, “anti-national” conspiracy—in a profane bid to lend veracity to Prashant’s and his co-accuseds’ case, and to extend the stipulated period for submitting the primary charge-sheet from 90 days to 180, as permitted under the latest UAPA version—so as to deny them bail on the grounds of detention without charges.

Apart from the prevailing proliferation of pliant, politically prejudiced police story to comply with the draconian, many-faced state, to defame and denigrate the nobler, unbending dissenting political stream of which Prashant considers himself, I am fully aware of his surreptitious pre-arrest abduction (second arrest) by the Maharashtra Police, far beyond their jurisdiction and in blatant violation of the law as outlined clearly, and the inevitable vicious mental and physical torture inflicted upon him. Keeping in view the grave impunity on the part of the police, Maharashtra government as well as Indian government is obliged to make some minimum clarification pertaining to the UAPA which breeds this lawlessness, undemocratic, conspiratorial or vindictive actions and trends at any level, both within and without.

I also hold the opinion, keeping in view the grave impunity, that Maharashtra government as well as Indian government is obliged to make some minimum clarification pertaining to the Act which breeds this lawlessness, undemocratic, conspiratorial or vindictive actions and trends at any level, both within and without.

I have also noted the misreporting by the media or follow-up interrogation by any of the plethora of investigation agencies—all of whom would generally tend to distort the facts and circumstances of such cases and the victim’s real version, even to the extent of entirely concocted cock-and-bull statements and allusions.

I also firmly hold the opinion that it is the responsibility of the Maharashtra government as well as Indian government to prevent each and every excess, given the increasingly repressive apparatus, particularly that following the post-American 9/11 and post-our own 26/11 enactments and amendments by successive NDA and UPA regimes through some politically sterile and paranoid parliamentary machinations, in the form of POTA to begin with, and then the ubiquitous UAPA. The first Act we could successfully throw out all together, in the course of a regime change. The second still begs far more discourteous resistance than the cursory derision or ecclesiastic condemnation we have offered it so far. The real encumbrance to any pretence of a democracy is the incumbent UAPA regime indeed.

I am also aware of the 31st December 2008 amendments in the UAPA is of serious nature, especially those pertaining to the very definition of “terrorism” in the Act and the stiff resistance to granting bail, which has been instituted within the statute book (where the Act is invoked).

I am also aware that in the UAPA of 2004, it was imperative that only such acts, where” bombs, dynamite or other explosive substances or inflammable substances, firearms or other lethal weapons or poisons or noxious gases or other chemicals or by any other substances (whether biological or otherwise) of a hazardous nature” were used, could be described as terrorist acts. By this definition, even in such serious cases as Prashant’s no ‘terrorist act’ can be alleged to have been resorted to. For there is no allegation of any weapon or substance “of a hazardous nature”, or at least no evidence of such use has been produced.

In addition to the above, I am also informed that by 31st 2008 amendments, 2 very short phrases have been added to lengthy definition of “terrorist act” under section 15 of UAPA, 2004, which have drastically broadened the scope of the people, and more importantly, innocent people, who may be targeted by the state or the police or the ruling government. Now the 2008 amendments adds the phrase “or by any means of whatever nature”, which is a vague and blanket description which can include anything under the sky, including mere ideological conversations, talks or literature. Meaning thereby, merely use of vocal means or literary means could be defined as a “terrorist act”, and held the speaker or writer liable for punishment under section 16, UAPA, which may amount to not less than five years and extending to a life term.

I, with these concerns, urge you to:

1. Grant Prashant Rahi and his co-accused immediately and withdraw cases pending against Prashant Rahi in the states of Uttrakhand and Maharashtra.
2. Repeal the U.A.P.A. or at least withdraw its 2008 and 2004 amendments.
3. Ensure speedy trials for all UAPA accused and summon prosecution witnesses without delay.
4. Ensure freedom of speech and expression of those booked under U.A.P.A.
5. Do not adopt video conferencing as the means to conduct court trials. Stop this practice forthwith wherever in force.
6. Implement forthwith the provisions of the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights, on Prisoners’ Right, and on Detention Centres.

Sincerely,

Write letter (as given above the sample) to the following authorities:

1. Mr. Sushil Kumar Shinde
Home Minister
Government of India
Ministry of Home Affairs
North Block, New Delhi 110003
INDIA
Fax: + 91 11 23093750 / 23092763
Email: hm@nic.in

2. Home Minister, Maharashtra
R.R Patil, Home Department
7th Flr, World Trade Centre,
Cuffe Parade, Mumbai 400005
India.
Fax: (via Home Secretary)
+91 22 2215 1733
022-22027174, 22029742
022-23637491, 23631505
Email: min.home@maharashtra.gov.in

4. Justice S.R.Bannurmath,
Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission
9, Hazarimal Somani Marg,
Opp. Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai 400 001

5. Chairperson
National Human Rights Commission
Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg
New Delhi 110001
INDIA
Fax: + 91 11 2338 4863
E-mail: _ HYPERLINK “mailto:chairnhrc@nic.in” _chairnhrc@nic.in

6. . The Chief Justice,
Supreme Court of India,
Tilak Marg, New Delhi-110 001 (India)
FAX: +91 11 23381508
Email: e-mail at: supremecourt@nic.in

7. Aheri Sub-divisional Officer of Police
Suhash Bawche
Aheri Police Station
Aheri
Maharashtra 442705
India
Fax: (via Gadchiroli Police Station)
+91 7132 222159

8. Superintendent of Police
Suvez Haque
Gadchiroli Police Station
Near Telecom Office
Rampuri, Gadchiroli,
Maharashtra 442605
India
Fax: +91 7132 222159
Email:sp.gadchiroli@mahapolice.gov.in

9. Director General of Police,
Maharashtra State,
Mumbai 91-022-22026672

10. Superintendent of Police,
Chandrapur 91-07172-255100

11. Superintendent of Police,
Gondia 91-07182-236293

12. Superintendent of Police,
Gadchiroli 91-07132-222151

13. Dr. Rameshwar Oraon
Chairperson
National Commission for Scheduled Tribes
6th Floor, ‘B’ Wing, Loknayak Bhawan, Khan Market
New Delhi -110003
INDIA
Fax: +91 11 2462462
Email: chairperson@ ncst.nic.in

14. Honourable V. Kishore Chandra Deo
Union Minister of Tribal Affairs
Sansad Bhwan, Room number 105-A
New Delhi
INDIA
Fax: +91 11 2307 0577
Email: jk.popli@ nic.in

15. Mr. Arvind Kumar Chugh
Secretary, Government of India
Ministry of Tribal affairs
Shastri Bhawan, Dr. Rajendra Prasad Road
New Delhi- 110001
INDIA
Fax: +91 11 2307 3160

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Letter from Prashant Rahi on Imprisonment and Toruture, and Appeal for Campaign Against UAPA
By Prashant Rahi

Authors note: ALL QUERIES ABOUT MY LEGAL ISSUES AND NEEDS BE DIRECTED TO MY ADVOCATE SHIV PRASAD SINGH, WHO IS AVAILABLE AT : Tel. +918303481839; Email : shivpsingh@gmail.com
– PRASHANT RAHI

Dated : January 07, 2014

Dear friends,
Heart-felt greetings at the onset of yet another tumultuous years of struggle for civil and democratic rights, which are increasingly threatened the world over by police atrocities perpetrated here as a normal course, and there as barbaric exceptions, in a setting of the yet retained post- 9/11 anti-terror laws in India and other parts, even though the U.S. imperialists seem to be back-tracking on their aggressive invasions in Iraq and Af-Pak! We, Indian activists, remain vulnerable, with none of the Parliamentary political forces even bothering to promise to repeal the 2008 and 2004 amendments in our Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act – UAPA of 1967, which was indeed superfluous with the colonial Indian Penal Code (IPC) already draconian enough to stifle any serious political dissent. My arrest and torture in custody, as also that of Hem Mishra, the J.N.U. student of Chinese, which so many of you have cared to express concern about, according to newspaper reports, could be just the tip of an ugly iceberg. Even so, you might need to be apprised of the facts of our cases, and those of my ongoing Uttarakhand post-torture trial, so as to direct the raging passions in more effective ways.

It is with this view that I am putting across the following facts regarding what befell us:-

1. Aheri, where our case is registered as a Criminal Case No. 3017/2013, with the charge-sheet yet to be submitted and not likely to be served until 6 months after our arrest, owing to the 2008 insertion of Section 43 (d), with its Sub-section-2, in the UAPA, is a backward and remote interior of Gadchiroli, where the state, with its heavy deployment of specialized police and paramilitary forces and helicopter squadrons, appear to have got an edge over the Maoist People’s Liberation Guerilla Army, well entrenched in expansive forests of South Chhattisgarh among the adivasi (aboriginal tribes) peasants, across the Maharashtra-Chhattisgarh State border. Part of Gadchiroli district is officially notified as a Police District, whereby the usual District Administration, Judiciary and “Development Activities” are controlled by police officials, who in turn move around in the towns and roadside villages like an occupation army, the citizens compelled to finance their pay packets, enhanced 150 percent as incentive, in addition to out of turn promotions and other allowances, and overriding powers to lord over the populace.

The “free press”, even correspondents of reputed dailies, is a mere subservient tool of the security forces, eager to serve the propaganda and psychological needs of their war against “left-wing extremists”, also called Naxalites or Maoists, a war wherein the people’s guerillas seldom come face-to-face with the security forces, the latter victimizing the villagers, among whom the former mingle, feed and organize; compelling retired and weakened guerillas to defect (referred to, more often, as “surrender”). The funds, another largesse borne by the citizens, at the disposal of the police are enormous. Aheri, where we were forcefully and illegally brought to by this very police force, is one of the bases of Gadchirdi’s famed counter-insurgency operations, which, in the wake of our arrests, was lauded at a meeting of State Police Chiefs, chaired by the Union Minister of Home Affairs, Sushil Kumar Shinde, as a “role-model” for combat forces engaged in anti-Naxalite “area domination” tactics for the country. My arrest hardly 10 days after Hem’s may appear to many as a well-scripted drama, climaxing in the conferring of that status upon Gadchiroli, after news of “Maoist supporter” from afar being implicated here had set the pace.

One would tend to believe that the Congress-led Governments of New Delhi could have found it convenient to co-ordinate tacitly with police forces in Uttarakhand and Maharashtra, both having Congress-led State Governments, as also with some coverts, or semi-coverts, within apparently friendly forces, to forcefully lead me or carry me to this part of the country, which could not have been on my itinerary at this conclusive and crucial stage of my 2007 Uttarakhand case, Criminal Case No. 3222/2007, Sessions Trial No. 83/2008, registered at Nanakmatta Police Station in Udham Singh Nagar district of that state. That too when I was awaited for the hearing of this trial on September 2, 2013, and due to head for Uttarakhand!

2. At Aheri, I was first produced in a Magistrate Court on precisely that day, the 2nd of September by the Investigating Officer (IO) of Cr. Case No. 3017/2013, Suhas Bawache, a Deputy Superintendent of Police.

3. I was shown arrested in the neighbouring Gondia district of Maharashtra State.

4. Actually, I have never been to Gondia district, nor seen the spot of arrest, as is claimed. Indeed, I had been abducted in the most innocuous circumstances, far beyond, the State of Maharashtra, well before September 2 (the claimed date of my arrest in Gondia); forcibly thrust into a dark-coloured van bearing fake number plates and shaded glass for its windows; and forced to travel with my abductors who turned out to be employees of the Maharashtra Police. They had transgressed their specified area of jurisdiction, with orders from their superiors to facilitate my fake arrest, in gross violation of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr. P.C.) and specific directions on procedure for arrest issued by the Supreme Court of India. I was driven over a full day and night, straight to Aheri Police Station, with no one else being arrested along with me, having crossed several district and State borders.

5. The IO, Suhas Bawache knowingly hoodwinked the Courts so that cognizance be taken of my fake arrest and his allegations against me about a criminal conspiracy (Section 120B, IPC) to commit some unlawful acts (Sec.13, UAPA), as member of a terrorist organization (Sec. 20, UAPA), eliciting support for the CPI (Maoist) (Sec. 39, UAPA).

6. Subsequently, at the end of November, 2013, around 90 days after my arrest, Suhas Bawache submitted an interim report of his investigations to the learned Court of the Principal District and Sessions Judge at Gadchiroli, in a successful bid to seek extension by a further 90 days of the period for submitting a charge sheet against me, failing which I could be entitled automatically for release on bail under section 167, Cr. P.C. The learned Judge heard my contention that the investigation was being delayed deliberately on spurious grounds, my arguments having been given as written ‘Say’ filed among the case record. However, the provisions under Sec. 43(d) 2 of UAPA gave the IO the right to prolong my detention over a period of 180 days without being served a charge-sheet.

7. The IO pleaded in his interim report that it was taking long to study, and gather some incriminatory evidence against me, from the contents of a 16 GB memory card allegedly seized from Hem Mishra, and from 4 Terra Bytes of data from the hard disc and other storage devices allegedly seized in the second week of September from the residence of Dr. G.N. Saibaba, an English Associate Professor at University of Delhi. He also sought time to apprehend some alleged “absconders”, such as Dr. Saibaba; two persons alleged to have travelled, as Hem did and allegedly intended to, some months ago; one Maoist leader named as Narmada Akka to whom Hem was allegedly intending to deliver the 16 GB memory card; and the General Secretary of the CPI (Maoist), to visit whom in the Abujhmaad stronghold of the Maoist, Hem and I were allegedly “sent by Saibaba”, in connection with this case.

8. A similar 90 days extension had been permitted by the same Court to submit a charge-sheet against Hem Mishra and his two alleged escorts, Pandu Naroti and Mahesh Tirki, residents of a Gadchiroli village, all three having been shown arrested at Aheri Bus Stand on August 22, 2013. The interim investigation report submitted to the court by Suhas Bawache in support of this extension plea was identical, in fact a true copy of that submitted in my case a week later.

9. Thus, effectively, the IO has secured time until February to prepare his charge-sheet against us, following which, as per the only modicum of safeguards guaranteed by the UAPA, the sanctioning authorities of the Maharashtra State Government and/or the Government of India would have to conduct a review of the investigation, independent of Suhas Bawache and his superior authorities of or above the rank of Deputy Inspector-general of Police, before granting sanction in order to prosecute us. Once this procedure is completed according to the specified process, and a valid Case Diary is prepared by the IO, recording the procedure followed, even a higher court would be obliged, as per the 2008 insertion into UAPA under its Section 43 (d), Sub-section 5 to take an adverse view of our bail petitions.

10. Should bail be denied, the circumstances of trials being conducted by the Gadchiroli Sessions Court of incarcerated alleged extremists, meaning UAPA detenues, are such that the chances of a fair trial would only be slim and exceptional. This is so because of the current practice of conducting trials by video conference, whereby the accused persons do not normally get a change to interact with their defence counsel, least of all interact with her/him with the due freedom and confidentiality.

11. The prevailing system of prisoners being visited by their lawyers, relatives and friends is so full of hindrances and disturbances, far more so for UAPA detenues, that it violates the very essence of the Maharashtra Prison Act, which provides for considerable freedom and space to interact with and receive a wide range of visitors, as would be necessary to overcome our anxieties and tensions and maintain a normal and balanced state of mind.

12. Incidentally, it would be far from the truth to state or presume that I and my co-accused were not badly tortured by the IO, Suhas Bawache. All of us accused were tortured in the most inhuman manner. Mr. Bawache personally used brute force against me and the others, violated our minds and body, abused us, tormented and harassed us all through the days and nights over several weeks of our PCR, i.e. Police Custody Remand. Hem, Pandu, Mahesh, who were actually picked up from different places at Ballarshah in Chandrapur District of Maharashtra within the railway station premises on August 20, where badly mauled during 2 days of their illegal custody prior to the stipulated 24 hour period within which accused persons are required to be presented before a judicial court.

13. None of the accounts of our interrogation during illegal and legal custody of the police carried by the newspapers are true and complete. We did not get any opportunity to freely and sufficiently interact with journalists. Not even The Times of India could get free and sufficient access to talk with me.

14. Apart from the Deputy Superintendent of Police, Suhas Bawache and his subordinates who physically and mentally tortured me, Hem and the others, senior officials like the Deputy Inspector-general of Police, Ravindra Kadam; and an Inspector-general who called himself Anup Kumar were directly responsible for the entire episode and for implicating me unlawfully and for showing our arrests incorrectly and falsely.

15. There is not even an iota of truth in the claim that Vijay Tirki from Kanker District of Chhattisgarh received me at Raipur in that State, and thereafter escorted me up to a certain Devri–Chichgadh T-junction in Gondia, Maharashtra, enroute to Abujhmaad.

16. The fact is that Vijay Tirki was arrested separately, somewhere in Raipur, and he had no plan to escort me, nor did I approach him to be escorted to any destination. The first time that I met a person by this name from Kanker District of Chhatisgarh was several hours after I was dumped into the Aheri Police Station around midnight of 1st/2nd September 2013, when he too was thrown inside. As has already been reported, I was engaged in professionally translating some case papers for a lawyer; after meeting another lawyer who was my source for those papers, I was to collect some more papers from him shortly after the time of my abduction, and before proceeding to return to Uttarakhand to be present at an important hearing of my ongoing trial in Udham Singh Nagar District on September 2, 2013.

17. It was precisely on the basis of the above factual truth that I could withstand all the coercion by Suhas Bawache and his superiors to make out a fake confession about the imagined journey to Abjuhmaad, as per their will and desire.

18. I am not aware of any personal or organizational relationship between Hem Mishra and Dr. G.N. Saibaba, as is alleged. However, as far as I am concerned, there was no such relationship between the English Professor or his mass organization and me that he would “send” me somewhere, and I would agree, or that he or his comrades would depute me with couriering, or any task for that matter, and I would agree. In fact, the allegation that I saw him a couple of days before my formal arrest is absolutely baseless. I consider him and Hem mere acquaintances, not even friends of any significance that would lend credibility to any police claims.

19. With that, let me come to my Uttarakhand case, and torture in 2007. As is well-known I was living and working in Dehradun since 1991, and so was I all of the 2 or 3 months prior to my arrest in December, 07. On the 17th of December, I was picked up from a prominent street in broad daylight, close to Ara Ghar, after being attacked by several men all of a sudden, manhandled, blindfolded and carried away in a speeding car, first to a forest in the neighboiring Haridwar district, beaten up with sticks all through the first night, after which I collapsed. The next day, I was shifted to a Provincial Armed Constabulary campus of the Uttarakhand Police in Haridwar in a restricted part of Roshanabad, brought to a “PAC Conference Room”, where the blind-folding was first removed on the 18th night. There, I was tortured and harassed continuously till the 20th in various devious and inhuman ways, which I am omitting here to save space and for decency’s sake. On the 20th morning, I was again blindfolded, put into a car and driven several hours to be brought to Udham Singh Nagar, and hidden in a room of the residential quarters within the premises of Nankmatta Police Station, some 350 km. to the east of Dehradun. There, I was tortured by a different set of police personnel, until they could make up a story to show my arrest on the 22nd. Till the 5 days and 5 nights that elapsed after I had been picked up and illegally confined, I had not been allowed even a wink’s sleep. After informing my daughter Shikha Rahi, based in Mmbai, of my arrest on the 22nd evening, I was produced at a Magistrate’s Court on the 23rd.

20. The arrest story was that I was accosted in the forests near Nankmatta during a combing/search operation by a police party for a Maoist training camp, as reported in a F.I.R. lodged on the 20th, around the time I was brought to the police station premises from Haridwar, which 4 others, who were with me, fled the scene. Later, I allegedly helped recover a broken laptop, a pen drive and some printed material from the same forest (which I had never seen before, nor was I taken out there then), and the IO wrote out other cock and bull descriptions about an imagined 3-month long CPI (Maoist) military training camp, and now all the cadres and military trainers with their equally imaginary arms and ammunitions had vanished – all except me (who was already in their custody on the date of filing the FIR)!

21. A case was made out under the IPC Sections 121 (waging war or abetting the waging of war against the state), 121A (conspiring against the state), 124A (sedition), 153B (threatening the preservation of the nation’s unity and sovereignty), 120B (committing the above offences as part of a criminal conspiracy), and under the UAPA Section 20 (member of a terrorist organization).

22. I could get bail only after 3 years and 8 months, that too, only because the UAPA invoked against me and my co-accused was the 2004 version, not the 2008 one. The others who were subsequently arrested from home, a court premises and one from a railway station a year or so later, were respectively, Gopal Bhatt, Dinesh Pandey and Chandrakala, all well-known social activists of Uttarakhand. 3 others were proclaimed as absconders. All the 3 who were arrested after me were released first, and then I too was released on bail on August 21, 2011.

23. The case with Cr. Case No. 3222/2007 was taken up for trial 8 months later, as S.T. No. 83/2008, and the trial has not yet concluded. Had I not been framed up in another case, the Uttarakhand case could have ended (in acquittals) latest by the end of 2013.

24. Ever since my incarceration at Central Prison Nagpur, I have not been able to attend any of the trial hearings in Uttarakhand. The Maharashtra Police refuses to provided me the necessary escort to travel to Uttarkhand, this being one of the main reasons for the trial being held up these past 4 months. It is likely to be so for an indefinite or uncertain time period.

25. There would be calculations and speculations on the part of both the police IOs, and indeed their superiors, as to how one case could be made use of to lend weight and credibility to the other. On the basis of the above series of facts, circumstances and observations that are humbly placed before all of you, I would urge you, friends, to direct your energies and passions now at the basic causes of the above tribulations, rather than expecting the officials of the Indian state to take any serious cognizance of your appeals not to torture Hem and me, to ensure a fair trial, or to punish the officials responsible for my/our torture in Maharashtra or in Uttarakhand State. Even if the issue be primarily of the nature of civil and democratic rights, in other words, human rights, the targets, in accordance with the basic causes of such adverse occurrences, ought to be socio-political. It is the anti-people nature of the Indian state, and its various organs that ought to be brought into question. As the country goes to the polls to reconstitute its parliament, would it not be pertinent to ask as to why no vote-garnering political campaign, not even that of the “common man’s” Aam Aadmi Party has an agenda to dimilitarize the state’s operations against its own people, and to reverse this trend of the last 8 to 10 years, which has led to the incarceration of not less than 3000 alleged Maoists, an overwhelming majority of them framed up with fabricated charges and brutally tortured and inhumanly treated in both police and judicial custody.

With these concerns, it would serve a larger cause if the thousands who have reportedly expressed moral support to me and Hem Mishra would bombard the powers -that- be in New Delhi, Mumbai, Dehradun, Raipur, Ranchi, Patna, Kolkata, Lucknow, Chandigarh, Bhopal, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Bangaluru, Bhubhaneshwar, Chennai, Thiruvananthapuram and Guwahati with millions of letters and slogans to :-
1. Repeal the U.A.P.A. or at least withdraw its 2008 and 2004 amendments.
2. Withdraw the ban on organizations which are attempting to lend a voice to the impoverished and deprived lot, irrespective of whether they resort to counter-violence against state repression.
3. Redefine terrorism! Get out of the nomenclature imposed on the world by the likes of Bush and Obama, and Putin and Angela, and Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi! Do not equate revolutionary violence with terrorism!
4. Release all the alleged Maoist prisoners incarcerated as a result of the draconian laws and amendments, and all other innocents framed up for political reasons and as part of the conspiracies of intelligence agencies, the bosses of ATS’, IBs and the NIA!
5. Stop forthwith government sanctioning of all prosecution of persons accused under UAPA, especially those not active in combatant roles and common villagers, adivasis and dalits, and ordinary women.
6. Ensure speedy trials for all UAPA accused. Summon prosecution witnesses without delay.
7. Ensure production of all UAPA accused in their cases pending in courts of various States and districts. Stop using “security reasons” as the excuse to delay and deny trials.
8. Accord political prisoner status in all States on the lines of the West Bengal Correctional Services Act.
9. Amend Jail Manuals in all States on the lines of the West Bengal Correctional Services Act.
10. Do not adopt video conferencing as the means to conduct court trials. Stop the practice forthwith, wherever in force.
11. Stop erecting barriers in the form of wire meshes, glass panes, etc. in visitors’ enclosures in prisons in the name of security. Let jail interviews be held in a humane manner. Allow UAPA accused the right to access the Press.
12. Implement forthwith the provisions of the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights, on Prisoners’ Right, and on Detention Centres.

Let this be an open-ended campaign, and do keep me informed, please.

In Solidarity,
Prashant Rahi
Address for correspondence:
PRASHANT RAHI
UNDER TRIAL SECTION, BARRACK No. 8,
CENTRAL PRISON, NAGPUR-40020