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05 Jun 2009

A six member team of two human rights organisations, PUDR (Delhi) and PUCR (Haryana) undertook a fact finding on May 22, 2009 and June 1, 2009 to investigate state repression of individuals, arrest and crackdown on organisations such as Shivalik Jan Sangharsh Manch, widespread use of undemocratic laws such as seditions and UAPA happening in the guise of suppressing the Maoist threat.

In the course of the investigation the team visited Yamunanagar and surrounding villages such as Bhurkalan and Bahadurpur.

In the second phase a 6 member team visited three villages in Jind district – Jheel, Mandi Kalan and Balu.

After speaking to the family members of the accused and officials, it was clear to us that the Maoist threat is more conjured than real. The team is of the opinion that the large scale arrest under the UAPA and uses of charges such as seditions under the Maoist threat is unjustified. It is more politically motivated action against the organisation which are raising genuine demand over the years and also mobilising people against the caste oppression.

The main findings of the team are summarized below:

Current arrests are continuation of arrests started 2 years back:

The arrests and police repression on the activists of people’s organisation such as Shivalik Jansangharsh Manch (SJM) in Yamunanagar and Jagrook Chatra Manch (JCM) in Jind is not a new phenomenon. These arrests and repression started years back. PUDR had pointed this out in 2007 also when activists and sympathisers of these organisations were picked up and charged under several sections of IPC and Arms Act including the charges of sedition. In fact, many of the activists who have been arrested in the past one month esp. during the time and after the elections are common. Secondly, many of these common activists have recently come out of jail when the sections under which they were arrested could not stand in the court. The only difference in the charges invocated recently pertains to the Unlawful Activities and Prevention Act (UAPA). The activities taken up by these organisation in no way warrant such sections as they are largely concerned with the people oriented activities such as struggle for demanding higher wages for agricultural work, release of panchayati land occupied by dominant landowners, demand for implementation of the land ceiling laws, access to village tanks and cultivation by dalits on auctioned panchayati land, and against dominant caste practices that constitute an attack on the dignity of the dalits, especially of dalit women.

Arrests under Unjustified Acts politically motivated:

Most of the arrests shown on in FIRs are on account of possession of some fire arms, literature, posters and pamphlets. All these ought not to invite sections such as sedition charges or even UAPA. They could have invoked Arms Act. Secondly passion of country made pistor and and even unlicensed double barrel guns with few of the boys in rural area belonging to dalit community in a society where caste oppression is considered to be high is not surprising. The anti dalit incidents in the past such as (i) Gohana (Sonepat), 2005; Mehmoodpur Kunjpura (Karnal), 2006; Quila Zafargarh incident in 2006; Salwan (Karnal), 2007 etc. and states failure to protect the dalit community and give justice provide fertile ground for the growth these organisations. Therefore mere possession of arms in no way call for such draconian acts. We think recovery of arms such as country made pistol and even the double barrel guns has been exaggerated are unnecessarily being projected as threat to the Indian state to suggest sedition.

Thirdly, arrest on the basis of literature found with the activists and common people is highly doubtful. We cannot comment on the literature which police claims they found and regards them as incendiary. Mere possession of such literature does not call for sedition or UAPA act. Similarly, what police finds objectionable cannot be removed from the social milieu in which they operate and where dalit and women are at the receiving end.

Illegal detention to prove political motivated arguments

All those who were arrested were kept under illegal detention for many days. As most of the FIRs show the dates of arrest which were contradictory to family members’ statement. The statement extracted during such illegal detention under coercion and torture caste much doubt and also not legally valid in the court. The police in Yamunanagar and Jind had been claiming that those arrested had confessed of their association with Maoist organisation. By claiming this state is merely shirking its responsibility and accountability and sidetracking the main issue of socio economic discrimination in Haryana. Even the past record of administration and Haryana Police in Yamunanagar district (Ismailpur) in dealing with caste conflict and women persecution do not have very record. They have shown their discriminatory approach in the favour of upper caste gujjars. This has been well pointed in our earlier investigation report “Silencing Dissent (May 2007)”

Use of Election boycott call given by people organisation used for further state repression

The administration has used SJM’s Campaigning against elections and call for boycott, which is a democratic right, as a toll for further suppression the genuine struggle of these organisations. This is particularly evident in the use of s125 of RP Act which is more or less the same as s153 A. We are unable to understand how this call can be considered as spreading enmity between communities/groups etc? We consider this step as over reaction by the Haryana Police who took this campaign as incipient sign of rebellion which only paranoiac could see. During our investigation which included seeking reaction of the concerned officials and response of the people in villages, we find that there was nothing in these slogans/ wall wring or parchas which calls for overreaction and panic. Worse things have been said by RSS, VHP, ABVP and Bajrang Dal before, during and after elections which has never invited the attention of the police? Is it that such political acts by underclass invite crackdown whereas that of the upper class mere shrug of shoulder.

Therefore, based on our investigation in the district of Yamuna Nagar and Jind, we think that the authorities are unnecessarily raising the hype in the name of Maoism. There is hardly any evidence the suggest “threat to the India State”

Finally, assuming that the police claims are correct there is need to raise two questions:

What is the best way to wean people away from offering armed resistance? Is it by the state allowing people to articulate their aspirations/ anger/rage etc etc or by constricting the speech? If speech is to be censored then who decides that communal fascist speech which breeds hatred and exclusion is alright but those who preach end of oppression of the underclass are to be banned?
If law is to be applied uniformly against anyone who breaches it then why is it that Haryana boasts of a poor record in terms of registration of crimes under SC ST Act ?

All in all by invoking security laws such as treason, sedition, UAPA etc the cops are investing what is actually small “crime” with exaggerated importance. This is more worrisome then any crime committed or perceived as having been committed by these young boys and girls of these organisations. Instead of recognising the importance of such peoples’ organisation and their role in upholding the democratic values. State should recognise the fact that the young persons associated with these organisations exhibit social conscience and engagement in this age of hedonism but they are being hounded and being invested with imagined acts which in reality were never committed.

Peoples Union for Democratic Rights, Delhi
Peoples Union for Civil Rights, Haryana