Skip to main content

Top Brussels-based rights group seeks release of anti-Adani adivasi woman campaigner

Counterview Desk 

Brussels-based non-profit Front Line Defenders has strongly demanded the release of Hidme Markam, an Adivasi-based human rights defender of Chhattisgarh, known to have been an intensive campaigner advocating for indigenous rights. An anti-mining campaigner, focusing on projects led by large corporations such as Adani Pvt Ltd, which allegedly threaten to destroy a sacred Adivasi hill, considered a local deity by the community, she was arrested by police on March 9 when she was celebrating International Women’s Day.
Calling the arrest “arbitrary”, Front Line Defenders said in a statement, “Multiple cases have been filed against Hidme Markam on charges under the regressive Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and others, a law that is routinely used against human rights defenders in India response to their legitimate human rights activities.”
The statement comes amidst an online campaign addressed to to Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel stating that seeking his immediate intervene to ensure that all “false cases” against Hidme, including UAPA charges, are dropped and that she be released, pointing out, “Hidme is widely respected in the entire region of Dantewada, Sukma and Bijapur for her work as an environmental and anti-displacement activist.”

Text:

On March 9, 2021, woman human rights defender Hidme Markam was arrested by Chhattisgarh police on several charges, including charges under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) anti-terrorism law in relation to her alleged involvement in Maoist activities. The woman human rights defender was arrested during an event in Dantewada in the State of Chhattisharh to mark International Working Women’s Day, and to protest the custodial torture and sexual violence by police against Adivasi women in the State.
Later that day, following her arrest, Hidme Markam appeared before a Magistrate and was remanded for 14 days in Jagadalapur prison. Hidme Markam is an Adivasi woman human rights defender advocating for indigenous rights, against police and state violence, and the impact of mining in the State of Chhattisgarh. She is the convenor of the Jail Bandi Rihai Committee, a platform which advocates for the release of thousands of Adivasi persons, particularly youths, criminalized and branded as Naxals and held in pre-trial detention.
Hidme Markam is an anti-mining campaigner, focusing on projects led by large corporations such as Adani Pvt Ltd, which threaten to destroy a sacred Adivasi hill, considered a local deity by the community. She also campaigns against the detrimental ecological impact of mining for the local area, resulting in the degradation of land and large bodies of water, and the destruction of forests in the region.
The woman human rights defender has also criticised the expanding presence of military, police and para-military in the State. In 2019, she participated in a public campaign against the establishment of a police camp in Potali by the Special Task Force and District Reserve Guards.
Advocating for the promotion of women’s rights and against physical and sexual violence against women by police and military officers is central to Hidme Markam’s work. Women in the State, especially from Adivasi communities, have been disproportionately affected by violence and discrimination by officials.
On March 9, Hidme Markam participated in an event at Sameli, Dantewada to mark International Working Women's Day and to commemorate the death of two young women, one of whom was confirmed to have died whilst in police custody, in Chhattisgarh. The two women were reportedly subjected to torture and sexual violence by officials whilst detained.
Police officers arrested the woman human rights defender at the event where approximately 300 villagers, community leaders and other women human rights defenders from the Jail Bandi Rihai Committee and Chhattisgarh Mahila Adhikar Manch were present.
The Sub-Divisional Magistrate also witnessed the arrest, having arrived at the event to engage with those attending. Fellow human rights defenders and community members who attempted to oppose the woman human rights defenders arrest were violently pushed aside by the police officers.
Multiple cases have been filed against Hidme Markam on charges under the regressive Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and others, a law that is routinely used against human rights defenders in India response to their legitimate human rights activities. The exact charges against Hidme Markam are not yet known, and she remains in Jagadalapur prison, and has been allowed access to her lawyer since her arrest.
Fellow human rights defenders who attempted to oppose Hidme's arrest were violently pushed aside
The woman human rights defender has engaged directly with high ranking state officials including the Chief Minister, Governor and Superintendent of Police of Chhattisgarh to seek redress, realise basic fundamental rights and protection from harm for local communities affected by the mining activities in the region.
She has worked peacefully with local authorities to address violations against these vulnerable and oppressed communities, and represent the voices of members of the communities. Her arrest is in direct reprisal for her work, challenging powerful forces within the State, such as police, military and corporate interests. As a result of this work, the woman human rights defender has faced threats and harassment in the past, culminating in her arrest on March 9.
Front Line Defenders condemns the arrest of woman human rights defender Hidme Markam as it believes she is being targeted as a result of her human rights work, advocating for the protection of the rights of Adivasi communities, especially Adivasi women in Chhattisgarh. Not only her arrest, but also the decision to carry out the arrest during an event marking the custodial torture of and sexual violence against two young Adivasi women, is particularly concerning.
Front Line Defenders reiterates its concern regarding the use of the UAPA against Hidme Markam and other human rights defenders in India, aimed at silencing them and their efforts to promote and protect human rights in the country. Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in India to:
  1. Immediately and unconditionally release Hidme Markam and drop all charges against her, as Front Line Defenders believes she is being targeted solely as a result of of her legitimate and peaceful human rights work;
  2. Guarantee that the woman human rights defender continues to have access to her lawyer, family members, and ensure her safety at all times;
  3. Cease the police, military and judicial harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders in Chhattisgarh;
  4. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in India are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals, and free of all restrictions including police and judicial harassment.

Comments

Mukhtar said…
Hidme is an activist fighting for tribal rights and women’s rights and must be freed.

TRENDING

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

How lead petitioner was rendered homeless when GM mustard matter came up in SC

By Rosamma Thomas*  On January 5, 2023, the Supreme Court stayed a December 20, 2022 direction of the Uttarakhand High Court to the Indian Railways and the district administration of Haldwani to use paramilitary forces to evict thousands of poor families occupying land that belonged to the railways.  Justice AS Oka remarked that it was not right to order the bringing in of paramilitary forces. The SC held that even those who had no rights, but were living there for years, needed to be rehabilitated. On December 21, 2022, just as she was getting ready to celebrate Christmas, researcher Aruna Rodrigues was abruptly evicted from her home in Mhow Cantonment, Madhya Pradesh – no eviction notice was served, and nearly 30 Indian Army soldiers bearing arms were part of the eviction process. What is noteworthy in this case is that the records establishing possession of the house date back to 1892 – the title deed with the name of Dr VP Cardoza, Rodrigues’ great grandfather, is dated November 14

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Tax buoyancy claims when less than 4% Indian dollar millionaires pay income tax

By Prasanna Mohanty  In FY18, the last year for which disaggregated income tax data is available, only 29,002 ITRs declared income above Rs 5 crore, while Credit Suisse said India had 7.25 lakh dollar millionaires (the wealth equivalent of Rs 8 crore and above) that year. Often enough, the Centre claims that demonetization in 2016 raised tax collections, improved tax efficiency, and expanded the tax base. Now RBI Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) member Ashima Goyal has also joined their ranks, attributing the “claims” of rising tax collections in the current fiscal year to “tax buoyancy” brought by the demonetisation . Do such claims have any basis in official records? The answer is unequivocal. The budget documents show the tax-to-GDP ratio (direct plus indirect tax) increased from 10.6% in FY16 (pre-demonetization) to 11.2% in FY17, remained there in FY18 (demonetization and GST fiscals), and then fell to 9.9% in FY20. In FY22, it improved to 10.8% and is estimated to drop to 10.7% in

Cyrus Mistry, PM Modi’s brother: What do these accidents have in common? Merc!

By Rosamma Thomas*  In September 2022, in an accident at Palghar near Mumbai, Cyrus Mistry, former chairman of the Tata Group, died in a road accident . On December 28, 2022, a road accident in Mysore left one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s brothers injured. What is common in these accidents? The car that crashed into the divider on the road, in both these cases, was manufactured by “prestigious” German manufacturer Mercedes Benz. One former dealer of Mercedes Benz cars in India has been raising issues of the threat to the lives of those riding these cars for many years now. Cama Motors, among the oldest dealers of foreign cars, having started business in pre-independence India, noted over 10 years ago that Mercedes Benz was indulging in corrupt practices . The cars are currently priced between Rs 41 lakh and Rs 2.92 crore in India; few people realize that the pride of owning a Merc comes at considerable risk to life. Cama Motors carefully documented several of the flaws on a websi

Gandhian unease at Mahadev Desai book launch: Sabarmati Ashram may lose free space

By Rajiv Shah  A simmering apprehension has gripped the Gandhians who continue to be trustees of the Sabarmati Ashram: the “limited freedom” to express one’s views under the Modi dispensation still available at the place which Mahatma Gandhi made his home from 1917 to 1930 may soon be taken away. Also known as Harijan Ashram, a meeting held for introducing yet-to-be-released book, “Mahadev Desai: Mahatma Gandhi's Frontline Reporter”, saw speaker and after speaker point towards “narrowing space” in Gujarat for Gandhians (as also others) to express themselves. Penned by veteran journalist Nachiketa Desai, grandson of Mahadev Desai, while the book was planned to be released on January 1 and the meeting saw several prominent personalities, including actor-director Nandita Das, her scholar-mother Varsha Das, British House of Lords member Bhikhu Parekh, among others, speak glowingly about the effort put in for bringing out the book, exchanges between speakers suggested it should be rele

Civil rights leaders allege corporate loot of resources, suppression of democratic rights

By Our Representative  Civil rights activists have alleged, quoting top intelligence officers as also multiple international forensic reports, that recent developments with regard to the Bhima Koregaon and the Citizenship Amendment Act-National Register of Citizens (CAA-NRC) cases suggest, there was "no connection between the Elgaar Parishad event and the Bhima Koregaon violence." Activists of the Campaign Against State Repression (CASR) told a media event at the HKS Surjeet Bhawan, New Delhi, that, despite this, several political prisoners continue to be behind bars on being accused under the anti-terror the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Addressed by family members of the political prisoners, academics, as well as social activists, it was highlighted how cases were sought to be fabricated against progressive individuals, democratic activists and intellectuals, who spoke out against "corporate loot of Indian resources, suppression of basic democratic

Kerala natural rubber producers 'squeezed', attend to their plight: Govt of India told

By Rosamma Thomas   Babu Joseph, general secretary of the National Federation of Rubber Producers Societies (NFRPS) at a recent discussion at Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, explained that it is high time the Union government paid greater heed to the troubles plaguing the rubber production sector in India – rubber is a strategic product, important for the military establishment and for industry, since natural rubber is still used in the manufacture of tyres for large vehicles and aeroplanes. Synthetic rubber is now quite widespread, but styrene, which is used in making synthetic rubber and plastics, and also butadiene, another major constituent of synthetic rubber, are both hazardous. Prolonged exposure to these even in recycled rubber can cause neurological damage. Kerala produces the bulk of India’s natural rubber. In 2019-20, Kerala’s share in the national production of rubber was over 74%. Over 20% of the gross cropped area in the state is under rubber cultivation, with total

Bangladesh 'rights violations': US softens stance, fears increased clout of China, India

By Tilottama Rani Charulata*  In December 2021, in addition to the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), the United States imposed sanctions on seven former and current officers of the force, alleging serious human rights violations. Benazir Ahmed and former RAB-7 commander Miftah Uddin Ahmed were banned from entering the US. RAB as an institution was also canceled the support it was getting from the US and its allies. At the same time, those under the ban have been notified of confiscation of assets held abroad. The anti-crime and anti-terrorism unit of the Bangladesh Police, RAB is the elite force consisting of members of the Bangladesh Army, Bangladesh Police, Bangladesh Navy, Bangladesh Air Force, Border Guard Bangladesh, Bangladesh Civil Service and Bangladesh Ansar, and has been criticized by rights groups for its use of extrajudicial killings and is accused of forced disappearances. The government of Bangladesh has been insisting about lifting the ban on RAB, but the US had till recen