Torpedoing Justice: How the State uses Malicious Prosecution against Human Rights Defenders Case studies of people who have been harassed and jailed using false cases and trumped up charges
10, Apr 2018 | CJP Team
The State often uses every institution, mechanism and legal provision at its disposal, to silence dissenters, critics and Human Rights Defenders (HRDs). Following are a few cases where the State itself has used false, fake, malicious or trumped up charges to harass HRDs by either outright incarcerating them or making them run from pillar to post in clearing their name.
Farmers and Villagers of Sonebhadra
Several false cases have been foist upon villagers and farmers in Sonebhadra in Uttar Pradesh for protesting the construction of the Kanhar Dam. The dam’s proposed height has been increased several times over the years and this poses a risk of flooding to nearby villages and settlements. The villagers have joined hands under the All India Union for Forest Working People (AIUFWP) and are also demanding the implementation of the Forest Rights Act. But they often get arrested and carted away by the police who don’t even spare the women. Movement leaders like Roma and Sukalo have often been illegally detained and once even the minor son of a leader named Shobha was forcibly incarcerated. Given how each person has multiple false cases filed against them, it appears that the intention of the authorities is to intimidate and trap them in a legal labyrinth. For more read here.
Villagers and Adivasis of Odisha
402 people have been arrested and warrants are pending against 2000 others for protesting the setting up of a factory on 2700 acres of village and forest land. Some of them are members of the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) that had been formed when Korean company POSCO wanted to set up a steel plant at the same location in 2005. The movement continued even after POSCO dropped its plans as other companies have been eyeing the same land. CJP has written to Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to quash all false FIRs against the protesting villagers and adivasis. Read more about the struggle here. You can read our letter to CM Naveen Patnaik and sign our petition here.
Former Delhi University English professor Dr. G.N. Saibaba has been languishing in Nagpur Central Prison for over 14 months after being convicted of having Maoist links. He was convicted under several sections of the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and Section 120 B of the Indian Penal Code for connections with the banned Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF), an organisation linked with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist). Activists and intellectuals across quarters have criticized the judgement for being flawed. It has been said that the judgment, apart from citing irrelevant documents, has ignored valid evidence and arguments presented by the defence, and accepted dubious versions of the same presented by the prosecution. Prof Saibaba is wheelchair bound and suffers from over 90 percent disability. He requires urgent medical care and surgery for other critical medical conditions. Read more here.
Anti-displacement activist Damodar Turi, who was arrested on February 15 from Ranchi, has been on a hunger strike since March 27, 2018 protesting his and other prisoners’ transfer to solitary confinement. The solitary confinement facility is made of dark, airless and filthy cells. Turi and the other prisoners were dumped into the solitary confinement on March 23. Damodar Turi is the convenor of Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan (VVJVA), an umbrella of 30 organizations across the State, protesting against displacement of villagers. It is believed that Turi’s arrest is an attempt to crush people’s movements against displacements. Read more here.
Chandrashekhar Azad ‘Ravan’
Chandrashekhar Azad is a prominent Dalit rights activist who has been wrongfully incarcerated since June 2017. On May 5, 2017 anti-Dalit violence broke out against the Dalit community members in Shabbirpurand Rampur villages in Saharanpur. Chandrashekhar was arrested by the UP police on June 9, 2017. Apart from multiple criminal cases that were unjustly foist on him, the draconian National Security Act (NSA) was also slapped on him since November 2017… just the day after he was granted bail in 29 other cases. In late January 2018, the government extended the application of the NSA under Section 12(1) of the said Act. His detention has been extended for a period of 6 months starting November 2, 2017 implying that he will be detained till May 2018.
Sheetal Sathe and Sachin Mali
This talented and dynamic duo was once part of the Kabir Kala Manch, a group of artists who used folk music and poetry of marginalised communities to highlight their plight. They were accused by the Anti-Terrorism Squad of the Mumbai Police of being Naxalites and incarcerated in 2013. Matters escalated to a point where Shital was denied bail even when she was eight months pregnant! Right wing goons have routinely tried to disrupt Shital’s performances. Read more here. You can also watch Sabrang India’s interview with the duo here and here.
Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand
In 1993, Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand started publishing Communalism Combat, a magazine that used in-depth investigative journalism to highlight instances of communal violence and its underlying reasons. After the Gujarat genocide of 2002, the duo expanded their work to include fighting for the rights of victims and survivors in the courts and beyond. They did this under the aegis of a collective of civil society members that was named Citizens for Justice and Peace. The group worked in the field of relief, rehabilitation and securing justice. CJP provided legal assistance and moral support to the survivors. Through their tenacity, 172 convictions were secured in multiple riots related cases. But this also earned them the wrath of a vindictive state government that started targeting them using political stooges and false cases. The persecution intensified since 2014, when even the Central Bureau of Investigation was roped in to harass Setalvad and Anand by going after their other organisations such as the Sabrang Trust as well such as the Khoj Foundation. You can read more here.
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