|Bastar adivasi women|
There is flutter around the arrest of the seven-person human rights team consisting of lawyers, activists and journalists belonging to the Telangana Democratic Forum (TDF) and handing it over to the Chhattisgarh police on December 25 for investigation.
India’s premier human rights organization, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), revealing details of the arrest of the team at Dummagudam village of Bhadrachalam district of Telangana, said, the arrest took place even as it was planning to visit Chhattisgarh to enquire into complaints of human rights violations suffered by adivasi villagers at the hands of security forces.
Those who were arrested are Balla Ravindranath, advocate, High Court, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana; Chikkudu Prabhaker, advocate; Durga Prasad, journalist, Hyderabad; Duddu Prabhaker, president, Andhra Pradesh Kula Nirmulana Poratta Samiti; Rajendra Prasad of the Telangana Vidhyarthi Vedika; Nazeer of the Telangana Vidhyarthi Vedika; and activist Ramananda Lakshmay.
They were kept under detention till about 6 pm on December 25, after which they were taken across the border and handed them over to Chhattisgarh police at Kunta police station.
On December 26 morning, said PUCL in a signed statement by Dr V Suresh, national general secretary, and Ravi Kiran Jain, national president, all seven persons were produced before the Sukma court and remanded to custody under the Chhattisgarh State Public Security Act.
“The Chhattisgarh police is reported to have informed the court that the seven persons were arrested in Chhattisgarh state”, it adds.
Expressing “shock” at what it called “the brazen abuse of the law committed by both Telangana and Chhattisgarh police”, PUCL said, “There was no reason to arrest the Fact Finding Team members in Dummagudam in Telangana state.”
It added, “When they were arrested in Telangana by the Telangana police, the courts in Chhattisgarh have no jurisdiction and they should have been produced before a court in Telangana.”
It recalled, the Supreme Court has “clarified” on numerous occasions that “if the persons shown as arrested will not escape or evade justice or threaten witnesses or destroy evidence, there is no reason to remand them to custody and they can be released.”
Condemning the actions of Telangana and Chhattisgarh police, PUCL said, “Such acts of highhandedness and flagrant abuse of law is only possible when the state promises the police total impunity and protection from any prosecution for abuse of law.”
It added, “The action of the police of both states is violative of the fundamental rights to free movement, freedom of speech and expression and the fundamental duty to protect the fundamental rights of adivasis and other local people in Bastar area who are victims of a severely repressive state police.”
PUCL insisted, the Fact Finding team was “seeking to visit villages in Bastar affected by human rights violations in areas which are not declared to be closed for movement of people”, adding, “Such actions of the police are deliberate acts meant to thwart bringing to attention of the people of India the harsh situation prevailing in the villages of Bastar region.”
The arrests have taken place against the backdrop of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) summoning the chief secretary of the Chhattisgarh government and the Inspector General of Police of Bastar, to explain the repression in the region.