Repeal AFSPA – Irom Sharmila unhappy with the Centre’s delay

Sharmila unhappy

IMPHAL, Sept 25 – Rights activist Irom Chanu Sharmila, who has been fasting for over 15 years demanding repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), has expressed dissatisfaction over the Centre’s delay in scrapping the law.
“I am not happy with the Centre’s delay,” Sharmila, who appeared before the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate of Imphal East yesterday, told the media waiting outside.

The activist, who is being nose-fed, said though she has been on a hunger strike for more than one and half decades against imposition of AFSPA, her democratic agitation was not honoured.

She said the government has kept her in judicial custody for all these years instead of repealing AFSPA which was against the right to live.

Sharmila said she would continue her movement till the fulfilment of her demand and appealed to the people to work together till the Act was scrapped. – PTI

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Alarming Land Amendments in various states in India – A dangerous proposition for the poor Indian farmers

In the backdrop of the Land Ordinance fiasco at a national level it is imperative to constantly monitor individual states and what they are doing to the land acquisition policies. Draft changes to Land Act  that was presented in state legislature of Rajasthan (THE RAJASTHAN LAND ACQUISITION BILL, 2014) is alarming. According to the latest reports, Gujarat has amended important clauses in Tenancy and Agricultural Land acts. The multiplicity of laws, constant amendments and overall a situation of chaos prevails in the space of land acquisition right now and its a persistent request to citizens of respective states to keep an eye over the existing state land policies, any attempts at amendment, proper implementation/drafting of the rules of RFCTLARR 2013.

Here is a compiled report :

There are 15 different laws under which land can be acquired nationally. Each state has created its own version of the national act (earlier 1894 Act) and widespread confusion reigns over India’s hinterland where different state authorities and private capital are taking advantage of the multiplicity of laws to appropriate land which belongs to the people of this country.

Respective state governments are party to this land grab and only their opinion can’t serve as the justification to dilute RFCTLARR 2013. Here is a ground report prepared with the help of people’s representatives in different states.

Situation in Gujarat

In Gujarat the draconian Special Investment Region Act 2009 bypasses the national land acquisition act and tries to appropriate 50% of land without any compensation. To subvert the RFCTLARR 2013, it is being done in the name of ‘land-pooling’ instead of ‘acquisition’. Farmers across the state, especially from the Dholera region have strongly opposed the SIR notification.

The Gujarat Assembly has, recently, passed some controversial amendments to 4 existing legislations, viz.

  • The Gujarat Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1948
  • The Saurashtra Gharkhed, Tenancy Settlement and Agricultural Lands Ordinance, 1949
  • The Gujarat Tenancy and Agricultural Lands (Vidarbha Region and Kutch Area) Act, 1958
  • The Gujarat Agricultural Lands Ceiling Act, 1960

The thrust of all amendments in these 4 legislations is to make transfer of land to industry and industrialists as easy as possible and at minimum cost to the purchasing industry/industrialist by legalizing any and all (past) illegalities on their part. Not only that, pending legal cases are also to be deemed to have lapsed, bringing into question whether the phrase ‘rule of law’ holds meaning any longer. Moreover, while deciding legality/validity or otherwise of questionable transactions, the government official (Collector/Mamlatdar) have been granted arbitrary powers of the highest degree. The government is also, by law, making it mandatory for itself to ‘rescue’ a rogue industrialist who fails in his/her undertaking to put up an industry and to compensate him/her ‘adequately and appropriately’.

(Source : Persis Ginwallah)

Situation in Maharashtra

Acquisition is on under MIDC Act and National Highway Act which had started before 2013.

In Raigad DMIC area the land was being acquired using MIDC Act and 7/12 extracts carried the stamp. Those stamps are still there and the same acquisition process is on using private negotiation method which means legally they have not withdrawn the earlier notification, nor have they removed the stamps from 7/12 extract, which in a way is pressurising farmers and not allowing any other transaction. At the same time privately negotiating with the land owners by which the MIDC and State Govt. can maintain that there is no forced acquisition.

After 2013 act came into being the same process is continued.

The state govt. has passed the rules and notified on 27th august 2014 and certain amendments have been made again on 26th may 2015.
The consent clause is there only for private land acquisition and there is no mention about PPP projects in the state rules.

Social Impact Assessment clause is same as per the central act. The provision for compensation is also as per the central act.

As per the RFCTLARR Amendment Bill, acquisition for corridors would take place only within range of one km across the designated roads but the acquisition in Raigad is 150 kms away from Dedicated Rail Freight Corridor and in  range of 15 -20 kms  away from national highway. Many villages which are currently under acquisition fall into eco sensitive zone in Western Ghat region but these villages have not been excluded from DMIC.

[Source – Ulka Mahajan, Sarvahara Jan Andolan]

Situation in Rajasthan

The Rajasthan Land Acquisition Bill 2014 (Draft) has been unanimously labelled by people’s movements as more draconian than the 1894 act.

Compensation is to be awarded by multiplying the “market price” by various factors – but the “market price” is supposedly that reflected in average sale deeds (s. 12). sale deeds reflect only a fraction of the real price. And, just to be safe, the bill goes on to say the Collector can ignore any sale deed that actually reflects a high price.

“Resettlement and rehabilitation” will consist of providing 10% more money in some cases and 30% in other cases (s.22). Nothing else will be done for resettling those displaced.

Obstructing acquisition of land” will be punished by at least six months’ imprisonment and a fine of anywhere from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 3 lakh. (s. 70)

Landowners’ consent will only be taken for “purely private projects.” It will not be required for any PPP project that is “needed for the social and economic operation and development of the state” (i.e. anything; read s. 2 and s. 3(f)(xv) together).

[Source – Campaign for Survival & Dignity]

Situation in Telengana

According to Draft Telangana State Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilition and Resettlement Rules, 2014 – In the Rule 11(2) it is provided that, ‘Public hearings shall be conducted in all Gram Sabhas where more than twenty five per cent of the members are directly or indirectly affected by the acquisition of the land’. If we take the example of livestock rearers or agricultural labourers from several surrounding villages who may not add upto to 25% of a single gram sabha but whose numbers may run into several hundred families, this provision could cause an injustice to these project affected people as well as to the central role and prominence of Gram Sabha as a primary democratic institution.

The draft rules make no mention of the detailed rules, requirements and procedures related to seeking the prior consent of Gram Sabha in relation to land acquisition for any project as provided under chapter III, Sections 16-20 along with Part- B of FORM-IV of the central rules. Section 19(1) of the draft State rules makes only a passing reference to the SIA study and consent of the affected persons or Gram Sabha. Also, no format for Gramsabha resolution regarding its consent or refusal is provided in the list of Forms appended to the draft rules.

Rule 29 in the draft rules provides that, ‘The limits on extent of land beyond which provisions of Rehabilitation and Resettlement under the Act in Cases of purchase by a private company through Private Negotiation with the owner of the land shall be 2,000 acres subject to any further notification as may be notified by Government’.

This fixation of limit up to 2000 acres of land for application of Rehabilitation and Resettlement provisions in case of private companies is a total violation of the spirit of the Act. Acquisition of 2000 acres of land at one place and putting the same too non-agriculture use or change from its present use causes adverse impact on the livelihoods of several thousands of families in the area. In these cases, neither the Government nor any private company can abstain themselves from the responsibility of the consequences arising out of such changes in land use. Part of the profits or value addition that accrues form such land use diversion and conversion to the Government as well as to the Private company, shall be used to rehabilitate the affected families as per the provisions of the Act as well as under the principle of equity and justice.

Land Acquisition not to exceed 15% of Net Cultivable Area in State: Rule 31 states that the land acquisition shall not exceed 15% of the net present cultivable area in the State and the limits in the districts shall be prescribed by the District Collectors concerned as contemplated under Section 10(4) of the Act subject to any further notification as may be notified by Government.

Proposed Change: It is unclear on what basis this rule has been framed. There must be a scientific, transparent, context-specific basis and criteria for deciding the threshold levels beyond which acquisition of farmlands will not be permissible at all levels (Village, District, Mandal etc) in the State. As far as possible, lands from existing land banks with various Government Corporations such as TSIIC, housing board, irrigation department etc along with lands acquired by other private companies lying unused and vacant should first be exhausted before considering any fresh acquisition.

[Source – Raghu Pillai]

Situation in Odisha:

The Draft Rules to implement the RFCTLARR, 2013 has formed a Land Bank which will be collection of the Govt. owned waste land, vacant, abandoned, unutilized acquired lands and tax-delinquent properties. The land acquired but not utilized within a period of five years will revert back to the state and deposited in the Land Bank automatically. This will be complete injustice to the people as they give their land in the name of socio-economic development. If the land remain unutilized, there should be provision of compensation and penalty too because of excessive land acquisition and hurting the hopes of local villagers who gave away their lands.

Mayurbhanj, Sundargarh, Koraput (fully scheduled area in these three districts), Raigada, Keonjhar, Sambalpur, Boudhkondmals, Ganjam, Kalahandi, Bolangir, Balasor (parts of these districts only) of the state comes under Fifth Schedule which recognizes the user rights of community on the forests and community land. Under section 42 of the RFCTLARR Act, 2013, the area has been available for acquisition with provisions of, resettlement in the new area with all the benefits, and, will do the payment of monetary benefits assessed for the community rights shared by every individual concerned, who has been displaced due to the acquisition of land in proportion with his share in such community rights. This can lead to violation of the laws and policies for protection of the indigenous rights of STs and other forest dwelling communities and their social structure. The Draft Rules has no mention of the process of acquisition in such areas and what will happen if the rules were violated in the due process (as directed in sub-section (9) of section 41 of RFCTLARR Act, 2013) or after the land remain unutilized after 05 years besides the deposition of land automatically to Land Bank.

The Draft rules also has not made clear about the acquisition or process of acquisition of land titles granted to STs and other Traditional Forest Dwellers, in the name of Forest Rights Rules, 2007, which was stated to subject to acquisition and compensation (as per the notification of Govt. of Odisha, Revenue & Disaster Management Department, No. LA-(C) 19/13(KJR), Source:http://www.odisha.gov.in/revenue//Communications/Circulars/Land_Acquisiton/18034_15_5_13.pdf) for the said land and the ownership of the forest land lies with the Govt. and Kissam of forest remains same in the records.

Apart from this, a lot of struggles are happening against POSCO steel plant, captive port projects in Jagatsinghpur district, the Vedanta alumina refinery project in Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district, the Mittal steel project in Keonjhar and mining in the Khandadhar region. Along with this nearly 30 land acquisition projects in Sundergarh, Sambalpur and Jharsuguda districts including projects related to steel and coal mines is also being reviewed by the State Govt. due to lack of proper environmental and other clearances. The disturbance has already started, because of all these projects in the areas. The people of the state, have also criticized the Special Economic Zone Act, which is displacing the people and snatching the land and livelihoods of people in the name of economic development.

In the same state, the people of 12 Gram Sabha has earlier rejected the proposal of Vedanta, supported by the further rejection of proposal on the ground of Gram Sabha’s rejection, but at the same time, Govt. is providing land for POSCO by excluding the villages earlier planned for acquisition and reduced the total required land from 4004 acres to 2700 acres, to quash the people’s agitation, and provided 28 betelvines for the project area belonged to the government, where the locals used to cultivate betel.

The CAG report also shows high irregularity in land acquisition and a large chunk of land remained unutilized. The development is stalled not because of hurdles in land acquisition rather than due to lack of investment.

Note: The CAG report was done only in Odisha, looking at land acquisition and land use change, if done in many other states, it may be possible to get similar results too on the ground of presence of multiple laws and policies for acquisition of land or conversion of agricultural land into non-agricultural land.

Situation in Madhya Pradesh

Madhya Pradesh Ceiling on Agricultural Holdings (Amendment) Ordinance 2015 will allow industrialists and private developers to easily purchase as much agricultural land as they want for non-agricultural activities. Madhya Pradesh Ceiling on Agricultural Holdings Act, 1960 — required diversion of agriculture land for non-agriculture purpose before it could be purchased by private parties. The ordinance entails the buyer “to intimate in writing the competent authority within 90 days from the date of acquisition that he shall get his land diverted to non-agricultural purpose”.

Such a move again endangers agricultural productivity and is against the norms specified for protection of agricultural land in RFCTLARR 2013.

Situation in Bihar

As per the new land acquisition policy of the Government of Bihar, instead of acquiring land directly, it will act as a link between buyers and sellers. Bihar Industrial Area Development Authority (BIADA) would put the details on its website showing the price quoted by the farmers concerned. There is no proven efficacy of this model and may be used to mislead farmers.

Situation in Uttar Pradesh

Authorities like Greater Noida Industrial Authority are directly negotiating with farmers and acquiring land. This is being done without proper notifications and public hearings even when the land is meant to be used in large scale projects like DMIC.

Situation in Assam

The State Govt. termed the RFCTLARR (Amendment) ordinance, 2014 as anti-farmer and proposed to bring its own bill for acquisition. In 2015, the govt. has tabled the draft rules as per the RFCTLARR, 2013 act and majorly in line with the central rules expect few.

Situation in Punjab

According to Punjab Reclamation of Land Act 1959 State Government can reclaim any area comprising waste land and the intervening cultivated lands by notification and if required by force. The definition of wastelands is open to interpretation as such land is used as community land and used as pastures. The clause of acquiring intervening cultivated lands is also unfair.

Situation in Meghalaya

“No separate state policy existed in the state of Meghalaya for Rehabilitation and Resettlement of project affected families” stated in the Draft Final Report EIA, EMP, R & P of Hydro Power Project in Umngot. Compensation against the land acquisition has been given in accordance to Old Land Acquisition Act, 1894, as per below described acts.

Meghalaya falls under Sixth Schedule and protects the land in the interest of Scheduled Tribes from alienation under The Meghalaya Transfer of Land (Regulation) Act, 1971. Under this no land is transferrable without the consent of individual and even after application to sell or for acquisition by individual to take sanction from the competent authority for the same is required.

Land Acquisition (companies) Rules, 1963 also protects the agricultural land specifically from conversion along with its adherence to The Meghalaya Transfer of Land (Regulation) Act, 1971.

As per the media reports, Mr. R. C. Laloo, The Deputy chief Minister has opposed the RFCTLARR, 2013 on the ground that being under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution; land in the state belongs to the individuals and not the Government. Whereas he also supported for a strong law to protect the alienation and, to ensure the food security of the country.

Situation in Jharkhand

Compensation: calculated according to section 26-30 of the RTFCLARR act read with the frist schedule and will be paid to all parties whose land or other immovable property has been acquired. In rural areas, landowners will be paid 4 times the market rate and in urban areas, twice the market rate will be paid. SIA: Public Hearings to be conducted. RTFCLARR 2015 rules have detailed provisions for public hearings and filing objections. Penalty for refusal to give up land: None Role of local bodies (gram panchayat or urban local bodies): Ceiling on agricultural land acquired: No more than 2% of multi cropped irrigated land will be acquired in any district across the state according to the Jharkhand RTFCLARR 2015 rules.

No more than 1/4th of the total cultivated land (shudh boya kshetra) in any district will be acquired.

 

Why we condemn the hanging of Yakub Memon

Please find pasted in line as well as attached the NTUI statement condemning Yakub Memon’s hanging.

Why we condemn the hanging of Yakub Memon: New Delhi, 30 July 2015: A short while before 7 am this morning, the sole convict of the 1993 Mumbai blasts, Yakub Memon, was hanged until declared dead at the Nagpur Central Jail. Memon was charged under Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act (TADA) for his involvement in acts of terror, which allegedly iNTUI Statement_YAKUB MEMONncluded planning and financing it.

The hanging came at the end of 22 years since the incident in which Memon has already been incarcerated for 21 years. In the 20 hours preceding the hanging, efforts at the highest level of both the judiciary and the government worked to ensure it happened. Two pleas by Memon were rejected by the Supreme Court. A mercy petition was turned down by the country’s President late last night. The Supreme Court, in fact, for the first time ever in its history, ruled at 5 am this morning, but within less than 2 hours the government was ready to hang Memon. This undue haste was neither called for nor justified at the end of a case that has gone on for more than two decades.

Acts of terror by individuals, groups or the state is a threat to democracy and disrupts social life. Terror, directed at innocent people, targets communities and thereby undermines solidarity within the working class by widening divisions within society. While adequate punishment of the guilty is essential, as established by due process of law it is equally fundamental to protect the right of citizens to equality before law. It is not coincidental that the past-decade executions through the death penalty have been exclusively of muslims. It is also not coincidental that except for the left parties, no other political party has stood against capital punishment. It is also not coincidental that due process of law and laws of natural justice were not followed in these cases with the government playing a vengeful role to satisfy ‘collective conscience’. Equally, there is robust evidence now that 9 out of every 10 people who have been hanged in this country are either dalits or muslims.

In sharp contrast, those involved in innumerable instances of riots and pogroms by members of political parties and even legislators, including with the direct or indirect support of government, have in most cases not even been convicted. This inequality perpetuated through the criminal justice system and the judiciary not just amounts to inequality before law but also reflects the lack of autonomy of the judiciary from the executive. The fact that those on the death row have also failed to convince the president of the country to exercise the constitutionally provided power of pardon to protect the constitutionally provided right to life of every citizen also shows the inseparability of the presidential powers from that of the influence of the political class. The fact that 9 out of 10 persons handed out death penalty are muslims and dalits reinforces the inequality in and the deep prejudice of the legal system.

In the law on death penalty the Supreme Court has held, and reiterated, that if indeed there are ‘mitigating’ factors then a death penalty may be commuted. In Memon’s case the critical mitigating circumstance was that he cooperated with the investigative agencies and ensured that several of the accused surrendered. This too was over looked when in fact the power of the presidential pardon is to go into issues such as these that may go beyond the narrow confines of the rule book. If the presidential pardon is to merely mirror the views of the judiciary and the executive then there would have been no need for it. In this sense the President has, and now repeatedly, acted against the spirit of the constitution and democracy itself.

Anticipating protests, government, across the country and especially in Memon’s city, Mumbai, and in the national capital, has deployed its law and order machinery. In the last twenty-four hours demonstrators, against the death penalty have been detained and several hundred have been taken into preventive custody.   Death penalty is today the ultimate instrument to terrorise a community, to crush dissent, and of course to isolate and demonise one community for party political ends and electoral gain.

We oppose the death penalty as it amounts to retribution which is both barbaric and the ultimate denial the right to life.

Gautam Mody

General Secretary

Teesta Setalvad V/s the Indian State

http://hillele.org/2015/07/22/teesta-setalvad-says-she-will-not-be-intimidated-by-cbi-video/

People Rise Up In Solidarity with Teesta Against Witch-Hunt: http://hillele.org/2015/07/23/people-rise-up-in-solidarity-with-teesta-against-witch-hunt/

Immediately Release protesters and activists in Sonbhadra, Uttar Pradesh

Stop promoting illegal land grab

Say no to State violence against democratic protests

Release protesters and activists in Sonbhadra, Uttar Pradesh 

 A joint statement by Forest and Adivasi Movements of India 

July 16, 2015

Today, Indian state is behaving like an autocratic tyrant that will allow no room for democratic dissent. Any attempt at raising objections and questions about what government calls development and growth is met with unprecedented aggression on the part of state: those who object or do not fall in line are being branded as anti-nationals, foreign agents, anti-development and so on.

A situation of all-pervading state terror is being unleashed so that people become afraid of expressing any kind of dissent. Emanating from the highly centralized, anti-democratic as well as coercive government at the centre, this mantra of unbridled and thoughtless corporate land grab in the name of economic growth is being picked up by the states, even those which claim to oppose the centre’s land acquisition policy and other pro-reform measures. State violence has become the order of the day: peaceful democratic protests have to face consistent police persecution, security personnel are killing innocent forest dwellers, adivasis and workers with impunity, activists are being randomly picked up from their offices and homes and thrown into jail, apparently for no reason.

 The latest instance of state violence against activists and democratic people’s protests comes from Uttar Pradesh, where the Samajvadi Party government currently in power continue flexing its muscles to repress a democratic and non-violent movement by oustees of the Kanhar Dam project in the Sonbhadra district of Uttar Pradesh, against illegal land acquisition and forest clearance. Police fired on peaceful adivasi and dalit protestors, which included large numbers of women and children, on the morning of Ambedkar Jayanti (14 April). Many women were injured. Four days later, on 18 April, there was a second instance of police firing in which once again several people were seriously injured and some of the key activists of the movement arrested. These activists are still languishing in Sonbhadra jail since April 14, 2015.

The National Green Tribunal judgment of 7 May 2015 clearly indicates that the construction of the Kanhar dam is illegal and has in effect proved that the demands of the dalit adivasi people protesting from 23 December 2014 were correct. That the project has no appropriate Forest clearance and that the claims of the Uttar Pradesh government are incorrect has also been accepted by the court. The court has also accepted that the project cannot continue without obtaining these Clearances. Sonbhadra district administration’s submission that an insignificant percentage of adivasi population would be affected by this dam has also been proven to be wrong by the court which has categorically said that the project will cause displacement to a large population, the majority of whom are tribal and is likely to evict nearly 7,500 families from 25 villages and that it would be necessary to arrange for their rehabilitation. The NGT has in this judgment expressed serious concern on environmental issues  and has pointed out that Kanhar river is a major tributary of  Son river which is a major tributary of Ganga and due to construction of several dams and water diversion structures on Son including Rihand Dam and Bansagar dam, the river Son is facing great threats in terms of its riverine characteristics – loss of fish species and invasion of exotic fishes in the river, with adverse affects on the river flow, velocity, depth, substratum, pools, ecology and fish habitats of the area.

No consent of the Gram Sabhas of the affected villages have been taken under the Forest Righst Act, 2006.

In a bid to terrorize the activists further and continuing with its repressive tactics, Uttar Pradesh police raided the office of All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUPFW) in Robertsganj, Sonbhadra, on 30 June morning, and after grossly abusing and insulting the activists present in the office, arrested Roma and Sokalo, the two prominent women leaders of the anti Kanhar Dam Movement. Since then, they have been produced in the local Court, where they have been denied bail.

On behalf of various social movement groups, civil society activists and citizens in India and also elsewhere in the world, we demand:

  • Immediate halt to the harassment of activists and local people: we demand an immediate and independent enquiry into the massive irregularities in Kanhar dam project as well as incidents of police excesses and stop the illegal land acquisition process. The enquiry should specifically cover the wrongful arrests, false and fabricated cases slapped against the activists, and police brutality.   The right to peaceful protest is part of the fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution of India and no government can take away or infringe upon this sacred right.
  • Unconditional and immediate release of all villagers and activists, including Roma and Sukolo,  arrested in connection with the agitation against Kanhar Dam
  • Immediate punitive action against the police personnel involved in the firing incidents and the 30 June raid on AIUFWP office at Robertsganj.

The Uttar Pradesh government and its district administration at Sonbhadra, instead of initiating dialogue with the affected people, have taken recourse to violently suppressing peoples’ voice. Constitutional and democratic rights which are the core of our political and social fabric have been wantonly violated at the behest of local land mafia who are eyeing a loot of hundreds of crores of project money, and supporting the administration in going ahead with the illegal construction of the dam.

We hold the Samajvadi Party Government of UP politically and administratively responsible for whatever atrocities have taken place in Sonbhadra. We express our solidarity to the people of Kanhar who are facing the brunt of state aggression for standing up for people’s rights, and against wrongful procedures and illegalities in the name of development.

All India Forum of Forest Movements(AIFFM)

Campaign for Survival and Dignity(CSD)

All India Front of Forest-Rights Struggles(AIFFRS)

Praveen Mote & Devjit Nandi

for AIFFM Secretariat

Bhumi Adhikar Andolan (Movement for Land Rights) PRESS RELEASE: 3 July, 2015

Press Confernce - Bhumi Adhikar Andolan
Bhumi Adhikar Andolan

DSC_6084 DSC_6087 DSC_6090 DSC_6100 DSC_6102 DSC_6103 DSC_6107 DSC_6110 DSC_6119

Bhumi Adhikar Andolan

Movement for Land Rights

Press conference held at Indian Women’s Press Corps, New Delhi on 3 July 2015 – 4.30 pm

PRESS RELEASE

STOP CURBING OF PEACEFUL, DEMOCRATIC DISSENT & THE UNJUSTIFIED ARRESTS OF ACTIVISTS BY UP POLICE
New Delhi (3rd July 2015) : The Government of Uttar Pradesh has showcased its commitment to anti-people policies and disrespect to peaceful and democratic expression of poor and marginalised people, once again.

Early morning of 30th June, just hours before the big dharna and rally in support of the 100 day nationwide campaign for land rights and labour rights in Sonebhadra district of UP, Roma and Sokalo Gond (both office bearers of the All India Union of Forest Working People), along with other activists were arrested and sent to Mirzapur jail. Though many activists were picked up in the early hours on Tuesday morning, except both of them, everyone else was released later in the day.

All allegations of scams in tune of more than 2300 crores by people in the administration and those sitting at high echelons of power in the government, the scammers are rather being protected by the police and administration. Activists and whistleblowers who have attempted to expose these scams, point out police excesses and protest against illegal land acquisition are being termed as ‘miscreants’ and continuously harassed by the UP government.

On the morning of 14th April (Ambedkar Jayanti), the UP police had fired indiscriminately on several hundred dalits and adivasis, including large numbers of women and children; all peaceful protestors against illegal land acquisition for the Kanhar Dam project. Several women were injured in the firing. Following this, false cases were filed against countless unnamed persons. Four days later, on 18 April, there was a second round of police firing in which once again several people were seriously injured and some of the key activists of the movement arrested. Those arrested are yet to be released.

These incidents cannot be seen in isolation but should be looked in the context of the earlier incidents of police firing on peaceful protestors, which has continued now through severe forms of harassment, illegal arrests and false charges. These charges are arbitrary and politically motivated; aimed at crushing the peaceful and democratic struggle against the illegal acquisition of land for the Kanhar Dam project. The Government of Uttar Pradesh has used the police to illegally stop democratic expression against the persistence of land acquisition in scheduled areas. Despite there being court orders, including from the National Green Tribunal, the state government has pursued and targeted activists who are protesting its illegal actions at Kanhar.

At the National level AIUFWP, being part of the Bhumi Adhikar Andolan they have been opposing the amendments to the land acquisition proposed by the BJP government. Roma and Sokalo are strong women leaders who have spearheaded many struggles since more than a decade against the land mafia and the nexus between the forest department and the corporates.

Addressing the press meeting, Hannan Mollah, PB Member CPI-Marxist explained the sequence of events where the police forcibly entered the room where women were sleeping, kept the women police outside the door and harassed women activists even when they repeatedly objected to the use of force against them. These attacks, he said, is also an attack on the leadership of Bhumi Adhikar Andolan which has been protesting against forcible land acquisition at the national level.

Ashok Choudhary [AIUFWP] said that while the nature of arrest shows the disrespecting attitudes of the police against women, it is also the state government which has hastened the process of acquisition, resorting to the use of force, due to the pressures created by Hindalco which needs water from the Kanhar dam for its power projects in Singrauli. The Kanhar dam is neither for irrigation nor serving any other needs of the local people. “These pressure tactics show that the administration has not taken well the fact that adivasi women in the community are taking leader the Supreme Court and National Green Tribunal have asked for stopping the process,” he added.

Veteran activist Medha Patkar said that this indiscriminate use of force to restart the construction of dam, non implementation of the 2013 land acquisition act in UP and the prosecution of peaceful activists are a reflection of how the British treated dissent, and added that such things would amount to much more losses in the electoral process for Mulayam Singh and the Samajwadi Party. The ‘third and fourth front’ thus today need to explain their positions vis-à-vis the government’s not-so-veiled attempts to implement only corporate policies. The DM Sanjay Kumar has explained to the fact-finding team and other activists who met the administration regarding the arrests that ‘no new case’ has been registered against Roma after 2009. On the inhuman treatment meted out to Dalit leaders in the past such as Gambhira Prasad and a trend that has been proven once again, she demanded that the state should be booked for violation of the Prevention of Atrocities Act.

Priya Pillai of Mahan Sangharsh Samiti added that the independent fact finding committee was harassed when it went to enquire of the sequence of events. The members were stopped from meeting people in hospitals and villages. The police officer responsible for the firing on 14th April, Kapil Yadav, made the arrests and the behaviour clearly pointed out to the aspect of ‘revenge’. This suppression by force shows patterns in how the state is extremely intolerant of any form of dissent. Dr. Sunilam of Kisan Sangharsh Samiti said that charges should be filed against the police officer for mistreatment of women and harassing peaceful protestors.

Anil Choudhary of Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF) said that the coal block re-allotments done by the new government has led to hurried construction at Kanhar dam site, in violation of all laws and guidelines. This is also because Hindalco has consumed the water sources and now it needs more water. This illegality and harassment will go on if the forcing of a ‘development agenda’ on poor and marginalised sections continues.

Bhumi Adhikar Andolan demands the stopping of harassment of activists and local people and asks the UP government to take recognition of massive irregularities in Kanhar dam region, police excesses and stop the illegal land acquisition process immediately. An enquiry into the wrongful arrests, false and fabricated cases, and wrongful police action should be made by the government. It extended solidarity to the people of Kanhar who are facing the brunt for standing up for people’s rights, and the adoption of wrongful procedures and illegalities in the name of development

For more details, Contact: 9818864006 ; 9958797409 (Sanjeev) , Saurabh

Bhoomi Adhikar Andolan demands immediate release of Com. Roma and Com. Sokalo

BHOOMI ADHIKAR ANDOLAN    

PRESS STATEMENT

  2nd JULY, 2015                   

Bhoomi Adhikar Andolan demands immediate release of Com. Roma and Com. Sokalo

Stop police crackdown on people’s peaceful and democratic struggle for their rights!

Bhoomi Adhikar Andolan strongly condemns the arrest of activists Roma, General Secretary of All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP), and Sokalo, Adivasi leader of AIUFWP. They were arrested unjustifiably from Robertsganj, Sonbhadra District, Uttar Pradesh on June 30, 2015 early morning. While many other activists who were arrested were later discharged, Comrade Roma and Comrade Sokalo have been sent to Mirzapur jail. The arrests are clearly a planned tactic by the administration to crush people’s struggle for their rights. It needs to be noted that the arrests were done right before the people’s rally to protest against forcible land acquisition was to take place in Robertganj. However,  despite crackdown by the administration and police, the rally was a huge success and saw participation of more than 5,000 farmers, adivasis, dalits and concerned citizens who showed the power of people and resolute to carry on the struggle.

During the last few months, AIUFWP has been organising various mobilisations and protests as part of Bhoomi Adhikar Andolan to challenge the Corporate loot of natural resources and the corrupt nexus between Government-Corporate and the police. It has been holding mass rallies and grassroots programme against the anti-people Land Acquisition Ordinance.  People of Sonbhadra have been facing continued repression in the form of open firing at peaceful protesters at Kanhar dam site on Ambedkar Jayanti as well as constant harassment of leaders and activists. On one hand the CM of UP assured people’s organisations that they would try to “minimize conflict” in the area, and on the other hand, they openly target the people’s movements and arrest its leaders. We condemn this double-talk by the Government and urge them to intervene with fair and just approach.

The Bhoomi Adhikar Andolan demands:

  • Com.Roma and Com.Sokalo be released at the earliest and all the charges be withdrawn immediately. Action should be taken against the officials for their unwarranted and unjustified action.

  • We also demand that the grievances of the people be solved and their rights be ensured.

Vijoo,             Sanjeev,                 Shabnam,           Satyam

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