Silencing human rights defenders in India

SANSAD News Release, December 30, 2016

Condemn the silencing of human rights defenders in India

SANSAD condemns the arrest and incarceration of the seven-member fact finding mission of the Telengana Democratic Forum on December 26 in Chhatisgarh, India, on the false charge of carrying Maoist literature and the charge by the Bastar police against human rights lawyer, Shalini Gera on December 28 of exchanging demonetized notes for the Maoists.

The fact-finding mission of Telengana Democratic Forum, comprising high court advocates, research scholars, and journalists, who had set out to investigate the killing of a thirteen-year old Adivasi child by the Chhatisgarh police, was arrested by the Telengana police on December 25 and handed over to the Chhaitsgarh police on December 26. They were then arrested by the Chhatisgarh police under the draconian Chhatisgarh Special Public Security Act on the false charge of carrying recently demonetized currency and Maoist literature and jailed on judicial remand. People’s Union for Civil Liberties has called this arrest, “illegal, unprovoked, and malicious.”
Shalini Gera, a human rights lawyer belonging to the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group that had been set up to provide the only legal aid available to the hundreds of Adivasis incarcerated in Chhatisgarh jails for years without trial, falsely charged,  or even without charges, had been forced to leave the area earlier this year when the legal aid group was driven by harassment, intimidation and evicgtion to close their office in Jagdalpur. The current charges were laid following Gera’s attempt to oversee the postmortem of Somaru Pottam, an Adivasi who had been killed in a fake “encounter” by the police.

These arrests and the patently false charges are a part of the established pattern of state terror in Chhatisgarh, where the state’s counter-insurgency measures in defense of extractive rights of corporations against Adivasi resistance have established a regime of impunity. Under this regime labelling someone “Maoist” is a license of kill and any attempt to bring this violence to light is  criminalized as aiding Maoists.

SANSAD, an organization of the South Asian diaspora in Canada, strongly condemns these arrests and the entire policy of state repression of which they are part. We demand that the charges against the Telengana Democratic Forum fact finding mission and Shalini Gera be immediately dropped and that an independent investigative commission be formed with the mandate of bringing to justice the people responsible for this abuse of law and justice.
Board of Directors, South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD)

Further information: https://thewire.in/90166/human-rights-lawyer-bastar-police-harassment/

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