26, Sep 2018 | CJP Team
In a major victory, for the All India Union of Forest Workers (AIUFWP) and CJP, the campaign to free Adivasi Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) has led to success: Sukhdev Gond and Kismatiya Gond have been released on bail, after spending months illegally incarcerated. Now, we await the bail hearing for Sukalo Gond, who serves as Treasurer of the AIUFWP.
Roma, who serves as General Secretary of the AIUFWP, told CJP, “We are very happy at this development. Even for a small thing like bail, it took so much time. But our persistent and collective efforts have finally made it possible. A lot of time was spent, just in the verification of documents. However, despite all hurdles they are finally being released. Now we await Sukalo’s release. All of us are very happy and hopeful.”
This development comes 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’. Advocate Farman Naqvi, who appeared for the petitioners, told CJP then, “As these two women leaders are in Judicial Custody, they can seek remedy [for their release] as per the law applicable for Habeas Corpus petition”.
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 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 said, and verbally directed the state government to take action against the officer. The Court also spoke with Sukalo and Kismatiya regarding the duration of their incarceration, and asked if they had been ‘properly treated’ while incarcerated, and whether they had been subject to torture, etc. The women responded, saying they were not ill treated and were regularly given food, etc. The Court had also granted permission for Sukalo and Kismatiya to meet their families.
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 have 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”.