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Harassment of Sonebhadra adivasis continues: UP cops detain activists after they meet minister, secretary

AIUFWP leader Roma Mallick
By Our Representative
In a clear example of continued harassment, following last month's controversial clampdown on 12 adivasis, including 10 women, of Lilasi Kala village of Sonebhadra district, Uttar Pradesh, according to reports, the police detained several All-India Union of Forest Working Peoples (AIUFWP) activists Sukalo Gond, Kismati Gond and Sukhdev Gond, when they were on the way back from Lucknow where they had a meeting with state forest minister Dara Singh Chauhan and forest secretary Sanjay Singh.
The activists met the minister and the secretary to lodge a complaint against "police brutality" of forest officials. They were picked up from Chopan station and were held for over 24 hours, during which time they were not allowed to contact their families, lawyers or anyone for for help.
Commenting on the detention last week, AIUFWP leader Roma Mallick said in an email alert, "They were not allowed to inform their family members neither the lawyer. They were abducted by the police and sent to judicial custody. The administrative authority in Sonbhadra is acting against the tribal rights, forest rights and protecting the human rights of the tribal in the district."
In last month's clampdown, around 30 to 40 Uttar Pradesh's police officers barged into tribal women's homes in Lilasi Kala village, which has a population of 1,160, with sticks and a revolver gun, and assaulted them, did not even sparing children as young as 10-years old. One woman was hit on the head so aggressively that she started bleeding profusely.
An AIUFWP statement, protesting against the harassment of activists and adivasis, said, "They did not commit any crime; they filed community resource rights claim along with 16 gram sabhas on March 23, 2018 at the district magistrate's (DM’s) office in Roberstganj."
"One of the claims that were made was that the adivasis of that village had been cutting down trees in a particular area despite forest officials asking them not to. Not only was this refuted by the villagers, they said they were being framed for accessing their own means of survival and livelihood", AIUFWP added.
According to AIUFWP, "These series of arrests and harassment against adivasi women is a retaliation of the state against its people empowering themselves under the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006. Despite the law, the state refuses to acknowledge their rights and has targeted adivasi women again and again, assuming them to be soft targets."
It added, "Even though formal complaints were lodged with multiple State authorities, the police continued to visit the village and bully the villagers, harass the women and threaten their lives. Similar to other adivasi inhabited regions, this seems to be another ploy to stop adivasi communities from acquiring land legally under FRA, 2006."
The harassment has continued, even though, taking cognizance of complaint by AIUFWP leader Roma Mallick, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued notices to the district magistrate and the superintendent of police of Sonebhadra, calling for a detailed report on activities on tribals within four weeks. The report, it said, should include action taken by the administration following the incident.

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