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Detained "without charges", Allahabad HC orders police to produce adivasi women rights activists by Sept 7

Sukalo Gond
By Our Representative
In a major breakthrough, the Allahabad High Court has directed the superintendent of police (SP), Sonbhadra district, to produce adivasi human rights defenders, Sukalo and Kismatiya Gond, detained for more than two months now, in the court on September 7.
The order was issued in a Habeas Corpus petition filed by the Citizens for Peace and Justice (CJP), which is led by well-known rights activist Teesta Setalvad, and the All-India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP), on June 29. They were detained “illegally” on June 8, CJP said in a statement.
The detention followed a controversial clampdown May this year on 12 adivasis, including 10 women, of Lilasi Kala village of Sonebhadra district, Uttar Pradesh. They were detained on their 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 reportedly 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 help, after which they are said to have been “missing", with the police refusing to divulge their location.
Arguing in the court, advocate Farman Naqvi, who appeared for CJP and AIUFWP, has been quoted as saying, “Firstly they never stated the reason for custody or under what charges these women were being held. Sukalo's and Kismatiya’s names were not even mentioned in the FIR which is why they remained untraceable necessitating a Habeas Corpus Petition.”
Naqvi is also said to have highlighted the instances of how the UP Police made two different contradictory statements. “They made an oral submission in court on July 9 that both women had been taken into custody under section 151 for causing breach of peace, but later released. This submission was recorded by the court in the order sheet”, he said.
“However”, Naqvi added, “In the last week of July they submitted that both women were indeed arrested on June 8 and are presently in custody! We highlighted this anomaly in their statement during our arguments in court today.”
Closely following how adivasi women of Sonbhadra, UP, CJP said in a statement, they are part of a peaceful struggle for land rights and are being “systematically bullied and harassed. Many of them have fake cases filed against them on false or trumped up charges.”
Supporting AIUFWP in their demand for the immediate implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006, CJP said, “UP cops have continued to play dirty, just to ensure that these brave women stay behind bars. CJP and AIUFWP have filed a rejoinder to the Counter Affidavit filed by the Inspector of Police, Rupesh Kumar Singh of Muirpur Police station, in the order passed on Habeas Corpus Petition (No 3332/2018 filed by CJP) hearing on August 14, 2018.”
Pointing out that rejoinder “bats for their release while highlighting several serious flaws in the Counter Affidavit”, CJP said, “Referring to several committee recommendations passed in the past, the rejoinder draws attention to the plight of adivasis and their struggle for their rights and dignity, and the specific historical context of Sonbhadra and its Adivasis.

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