08, Jan 2018 | Sushmita
Shobha, a resident of village Baadi, post Daala, and district Sonebhadra, is one of the key women leaders of the ongoing people’s movement in the Sonebhadra district against the illegal construction of the Kanhar dam. She is also part of the movement to implement the Forest Rights Act, 2006. She has now alleged that she is being consistently harassed by the police. Shobha alleged in her complaint letter, dated December 24, 2017 addressed to the Police Superintendent, that the Chopan police picked her minor son on December 22, 2017 on fabricated charges without proper investigation and beat him up in the police station.
In September 2017, Justice PB Sawant, Justice Kolse Patil and human rights activist, journalist and educationist Teesta Setalvad wrote a letter to the District Magistrate, Pramod Kumar Upadhyay of the Lodhi village in district Sonebhadra, Uttar Pradesh (UP) urging that senior officers of the police and administration look into all the alleged false and frivolous cases and serious charges put by the administration against Adivasi and Dalit women leaders of Sonebhadra and their union leader Ms. Roma. However, the local administration has continued exploiting the community and especially the women leaders of the area.
Shobha alleged in the letter that the police has been continuously harassing her for many years. On December 22, 2017 at around 7 pm, when Shobha’s 15 year old son Suraj, along with his elder brother Ravi was returning after the day’s work, he was allegedly caught by the temple priest Shrikant, the temple shopkeeper Munna and one more person, Rajesh. All of them charged upon Suraj saying that he has stolen a mobile and an amount of Rs. 6000. Suraj kept pleading that he knew nothing about the mobile or the money, but Shrikant dialed 100 and called the police.
Shobha kept pleading to the policemen that only after investigation can Suraj’s crime be ascertained and that there is no justification for picking up a minor in this manner. But the police did not pay heed to Shobha’s requests and took him to the police station in the night itself. Reportedly, Suraj was beaten in the police station on the instructions of the Station In-charge and the S.O. The police allegedly stepped upon him and kicked him on his cheeks and thighs and they forced him to make a confession about the crime. The police allegedly abused Shobha and her daughter in front of Suraj.
Shobha alleges in the letter that she is aware that this has been done to her in a spirit of revenge as the contractors and local goons do not want her to organise “The poor people in the area on issues of women’s rights, forest rights and land rights.” Shobha mentioned in the letter that she is a national level member of All India Union for Forest Working People (AIUFWP) working on the rights of forests working people since 2006.
After this incident, Shobha reached the police station early next morning with other Dalit and Adivasi women to talk to the S.O. Reportedly, the police misbehaved with the women and did not let them enter. The station In-charge snapped his fingers and asked them, “Go away, why do prostitutes need to come to the station?” Shobha said that her son was innocent and if the police does not leave him then the women will not leave the station. Noticing the women outside the station, other people started gathering. On seeing this, the police got apprehensive and S.O. Mr. Chopan gave orders to Station In-charge for Suraj’s release. They left Suraj by morning 9 am.
Shobha said in the letter that though the police was aware that Suraj is innocent, they detained him illegally and kept a minor in the police station. This was clearly against D.K. Basu guidelines. She added that though she is a poor woman, she has to face such harassment by police and goons frequently. Despite having written to the district collector on several occasions, the harassment has not stooped. Shobha has demanded a high level inquiry into this matter alleging illegal detention of a minor all night in the police station, physical torture, usage of abusive language against women and specifically the derogatory remarks against Shobha and her daughter. She demanded that the station In-charge and S.O. should be immediately suspended from their duties and responsible and sensitive police officers should be placed in place of them.
A copy of the letter is reproduced below: