Archive for December 14th, 2009

Opportunity to sign the Petition to allow peaceful padyatra in Dantewada

14 December 2009
Sequence of events since the announcement on 1st December of program of peaceful protests for highlighting the accentuated sufferings of the tribals of Bastar, left no doubt in mind that Chhattisgarh Government was not prepared to let any form of even legitimate democratic dissent to gather momentum. The day Salwa Judum rally was organized in Dantewada on 10th December to oppose peaceful padyaatraa commencing on 14the December; Kopa Kunjam – an activist with Vanvasi Chetna Manch – and Alban Toppo – a lawyer with Human Rights Law Network – were taken into custody and were assaulted.
Now the people from different parts of India who were travelling to Dantewada to participate in the padyaatraa have been prevented from doing so.
“A group of nearly 35 women and 6 men from different parts of India, going to Vanvasi chetna Ashram to join Himanshuji in the padyatra is stopped by the police on 13th Dec at 11PM,and they were asked to get out of the private vehicles in which they were travelling(from Raipur) near CHARAMA police station. Later when they got into a bus, they were stopped at Kondagaon police station in the early hours of 14 Dec and asked to get out of the bus at 7AM. Now they are asked to wait till the S.P. comes. Please show your solidarity whichever way possible  – Josy Abraham”.
If you want to register your opinion, here is the chance to sign a petition online that will send an email as well as facsimile to CM & Governor – Chhattisgarh, Congress President and Home Minister of India. Please read on.
  Demanding Justice in Chhattisgarh, immediate release of Kopa Kunjum, safe passage of padyatris in Dantewada!

To: Dr. Raman Singh, Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh

Cc: P. Chidambaram, Home Minister of India
Cc: ESL Narasimhan, Governor of Chattisgarh
Cc: Joy Oomen, Chief Secretary of Chattisgarh
Cc: Shrimati Sonia Gandhi President of Congress Party

We are watching with alarm the intimidation of individuals and peaceful civil society groups in Chhattisgarh. There appears to be a deepening pattern of violations of basic human rights. The state has first bulldozed the premises of Vanvasi Chetna Ashram (VCA) on May 17th, threatened its volunteers and on December 10th, the International Human Rights Day, arrested VCA volunteer Kopa Kunjum and his lawyer Alban Toppo of Human Rights Law Network without being presented the reasons for their arrest.
There has been a severe erosion of civil rights in Chhattisgarh. Although Alban has been later released, we have learned that both of them have been beaten up in police custody. Social workers like Dr. Binayak Sen and Ajay TG, who have sought accountability from the state have been harassed systematically. Others, like Manish Kunjam, the President of Adivasi Mahasabha, have had security withdrawn by the administration despite receiving death threats.
The Salwa Judum rally on Dec 10th issued open threats to Himanshu Kumar of VCA. The rally also coincided with the date when six women, raped by Salwa Judum activists were supposed to depose in court. These women have been facing constant intimidation.
The district administration has been carrying out a series of efforts to scuttle the peaceful padyatra in the Gandhian tradition planned by VCA in Dantewada to bring normalcy back to the region and to highlight the atrocities meted out to the adivasi communities.

I, the undersigned, extend my fullest support to the padyatris in Dantewada, and demand that the government of Chattisgarh take immediate steps to:
1. The immediate release of Kopa Kunjam and the protection of his life
2. Bring the police personnel to book who are responsible for the beating up of Kopa Kunjum and Alban Toppo in custody
3. Ensure the safety of the padyatris in Dantewada from attacks by any groups
4. Ensure the safety and justice of tribals who have lodged complaints, such as the rape victims

Yours Sincerely,

Further reading material:
[2] Protect Civilians in Anti-Maoist Drive [HRW Nov 5, 2009]
[3] Dangerous Duty: Children and the Chhattisgarh Conflict [HRW Sept 5, 2008]
[4] Protect Those Displaced by Chhattisgarh Violence [HRW July 20, 2008]
[5] End State Support for Vigilantes [HRW July 15, 2008]
[6] Being Neutral is Our Biggest Crime [HRW July 14, 2008]

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Below is photo of Advocate Alban Toppo showing injuries received in beatings during illegal detention at Police Station Bhairamgarh.