03, Oct 2018 | Sushmita
Uttar Pradesh (UP) police are allegedly continuing to harass Adivasis in Sonbhadra region. Just days after Kismatiya and Sukhdev Gond were released following three grueling months in prison, the police have started harassing Nandu Gond, another Lilasi villager.
CJP has learnt that the police have pasted a notice outside his house saying, “बेल करवा लो नहीं तो कुर्की कर देंगे (You better get bail for him otherwise we will confiscate his property.)”
CJP is working to defend Adivasi human rights activists who have been targeted with false cases, merely for standing up to fight for their rights, and to secure forest land that is rightfully theirs. We stand with them in the struggle for forest rights; to support our campaign, please donate generously here.
The villagers from Lilasi feel that the police are especially agitated after Kismatiya and Sukhdev were released on bail and Sukalo, the fiery leader of forest rights movement in Sonbhadra is about to walk free soon. Now, they are reportedly unleashing their power in an unchecked, unrestrained manner. Once more, they need our support.
Kismatiya and Sukhdev’s release
In a major victory, for the All India Union of Forest Workers (AIUFWP) and CJP, the campaign to free Adivasi Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) led to Sukhdev Gond and Kismatiya Gond were released on bail, after spending months incarcerated illegally. Now, even as we await the bail hearing for Sukalo Gond, who serves as Treasurer of the AIUFWP, the news of continued harassment is coming in.
This development came after Sukalo and Kismatiya were produced before the Allahabad High Court on September 7, following a Habeas Corpus petition filed by CJP. Then, the Court had allowed both women to seek ‘judicial remedy’.
The Court had at that time also reprimanded the local police for misleading the court in their affidavit: a police official, a constable had tried to pass himself off as a higher officer. “If you dare to mislead the High Court on a sworn affidavit, we can only imagine the terror that you try and spread locally,” the judges had said, and verbally directed the state government to take action against the officer.
Adivasi leaders picked up in clandestine manner in June
Sukalo Gond, Kismatiya Gond, Sukhdev Gond and two others were arrested on June 8. The police in Sonbhadra, Uttar Pradesh picked them up in a clandestine manner at the Chopan railway station, when they were returning from a meeting with the state forest minister Dara Singh Chauhan, and the forest secretary in Lucknow. In fact, at the meeting, Chauhan had promised to look into previous assaults on villagers in Lilasi that were allegedly conducted in connivance with the forest department. The women’s names were not even mentioned in the FIR.
Sukalo and Kismatiya’s ordeal lasted over three months, with CJP and AIUFWP being compelled to file a Habeas Corpus petition with the Allahabad High Court. Following CJP’s and AIUFWP’s campaign for their release, political parties such as the Congress and the Samajwadi Party had also voiced support for their release on social media and other platforms. Congress President Rahul Gandhi tweeted in August that he was concerned about the women and that local Congress leaders should follow up on the matter. Recently, UP MLA Sanjay Garg met the Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath and submitted a letter informing him of the constant police violence that Sonbhadra villagers have faced. He also highlighted the issue of “painting the [AIUFWP] union in bad light”.
However, the progress on taking action to protect the villagers remains slow. In fact the villagers from Lilasi are being intimidated even further. The police can’t digest the fact that due to civil society support, their cases were brought to the High Court and has become vindictive towards the villagers, unleashing a reign of terror. We need to strengthen and raise our voices to make the police accountable against these excesses.