LOK SWATANTRYA SANGATHAN

(PEOPLES UNION FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES, CHHATTISGARH)

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                                                                                                                                                                Date 20th May 2013

To: The Editor/ Chief Reporter

PRESS RELEASE: FOR FAVOUR OF PUBLICATION

A team consisting of eminent activists and lawyers went for a fact finding mission organized by PUCL-Chhattisgarh to the Edanar and Malmeta Villages of the Edanar Panchayat, Kanker District and the Anjrel Village of Khadkagaon Panchayat, Narayanpur District of North Bastar, on 18th and 19th April 2013.  The purpose of the mission was to investigate and document the unlawful police activities that were exposed by Edanar villagers during a statewide camp by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) conducted on 12th April, 2013 in .   The representation by Edanar village focuses mainly on a police rampage that happened in Edanar and Malmeta Villages in which six villagers were assaulted, two families were robbed, and one innocent man was arrested, and remains in jail till date, after being accused of aiding Naxalites.

However, the 23rd January incident is only a small part of a longer history of militarization and unlawful police activities in this region.  In the Edanar Panchayat (P.S. Tadoki), security forces consisting of CRPF and BSF, accompanied by local police and Special Police Officers (SPOs), conduct combing operations twice a month in which homes are looted and villagers are assaulted, threatened, labeled as “Naxalites”, arrested, charged with very serious offences and some of them even killed. In the Khadkagaon Panchayat (P.S. Narayanpur), villagers are routinely terrorized and even evicted from their homes by local SPOs, despite the order declaring SPOs unconstitutional.

The team documented over 20 such incidents of unlawful activities in both panchayats.  The report also examines the legal issues associated with and the overall context in which these violent attacks have occurred.  It gives special importance to the broader impact of the ongoing militarization of the region including the six BSF camps which are already stationed in Kanker, and the pending construction of 22 paramilitary barracks by the Bhilai Steel Plant to protect the functioning of its Raoghat iron ore mine.

The team releases the attached report,  Guilty Until Proven Innocent :  A Fact Finding Report on Unlawful Police Activities in Two Panchayats of North Bastar, Chhattisgarh with the hope that the media would highlight the situation of the people living in these areas, understand the larger political and economic context of the ongoing violence, and strike a well-educated public discourse around the issue.   We strongly urge correspondents to visit the area and write firsthand accounts of the issues faced by the local villagers.

Team members include: Shishir Dikshit (Lawyer, Janhit Legal Center), Lakhan Singh (People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Chhattisgarh), Somdutt Upadhayay (Lawyer, Bilaspur Social Forum), Tathagata Sengupta (People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Chhattisgarh), Samantha Agarwal (Sanhati), Pinki Verma (Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha-Mazdoor Karyakarta Samiti), and Keshav Sori (Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan). The following report has been jointly prepared by the members of the fact finding team.

For further information contact: Adv. Sudha Bharadwaj (9926603877)

Sincerely,

Sudha Bharadwaj

General Secretary, PUCL-Chhattisgarh

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