Skip to main content

'Insidious': Arrest of Sarju Tekam for raising awareness on jal-jangal-jameen in Bastar?

Counterview Desk 

Civil rights network* Campaign Against State Repression (CASR), condemning the continuous arrests and harassments of democratic rights activists such as Tirumal Sarju Tekam and fake encounters of Modu Ram and Kanha Ram in Chhattisgarh, has regretted in a statement that those fighting for democratic and civil liberties, human rights and labour rights, anti-caste and women’s rights, Marxist-Leninist and Gandhian ideologies are being labelled as potential Maoists.


On 28th October 2023, at around 4 am in the morning, Sarva Adivasi Samaj State Vice President and Bastar Jan Sangharsh Samanvay Samiti Convenor Tirumal Sarju Tekam was arrested by the police on trumped up charges from his residence in Manpur district, Chhattisgarh. He has been arrested under section 295A, 153A, 506B. 435, 34 of the Indian Penal code for his alleged speech in a programme. Sarju Tekam has been a vocal voice against the corporatization and militarization occurring in Bastar, the natural resource-rich belts of India. 
He has been active in the democratic rights struggle against the creation of military camps in Chhattisgarh which have displaced numerous Adivasis and facilitated the loot of land and natural resources in the region. Around the same time period, on 22nd October in Kanker district, farmers Moda Ram Pada and Kanha Ram were murdered in a fake encounter under the allegation of being Maoists when they were travelling back from a trip to buy rice. Their family members allege that after being killed, the two were dressed in Maoist uniforms. One of them, Moda Ram, was just 18 years old.
The anti-camp movement in opposition to the overt militarization of Chhattisgarh sprouted after the police fired on unsuspecting Adivasis in Silger. It is currently still active in seven districts of Chhattisgarh, including Bijapur, Kanker, Narainpur, Sukma, Dantewada and Bastar. Tens of thousands of Adivasis have participated in this movement where the large-scale sit-in protests have been taking place against big corporations displacing Adivasis for the sake of looting natural resources and grabbing their lands with the military assistance of the Indian state. 
For this purpose, the Indian state has even undertaken cross-state border operations with Maharashtra police coming into Ambelli, Bijapur district where anti-camp movement is going strong. One of the successes of the movement can be seen in Bechaghat, Kanker where the contract for a highway that would have displaced numerous Adivasis was cancelled after an 18-month sit-in protest against the camps and the highways which connect the mines and the camps. Democratic rights activists taking part in this struggle have had to face all sorts of police violence, be it false charges, abductions or arrests and fake encounters. 
What is even more insidious is that the arrest of Sarju Tekam is the third arrest from a team of activists which had come to Delhi last year for raising awareness of the struggle for Jal-Jangal-Jameen in Bastar. There is a concerted attempt by the Indian state to silence journalists and activists who are trying to raise their voices against state repression in Bastar and the arrests of these activists ensures a “chilling effect” to create fear among others who wish to raise their voices against state repression.
Arrests, raids, false encounters and red scare tactics are currency of Indian state when it comes to democratic dissent
At the same time, fake encounters have become commonplace in Chhattisgarh. In 2012, a judicial probe led by Justice Vijay Kumar Aggrawal had found that 17 villagers were killed in a completely staged gunfight by the police in the name of fighting Maoists. In 2018, independent media outlet Newslaundry also published a ground report exposing how the police’s claim of killing 15 Maoists in an encounter in Sukma was actually a case of police firing upon unarmed civilians to prop up their numbers regarding Naxal deaths, a statistic built on the corpses of hundreds of unarmed civilians killed in many such fake encounters. 
In a manner highly similar to the encounter in Kanker, Sodhi Deva and Rava Deva were killed in Chintafuga police station and dragged to the forests as purported Maoists in Tadmetla district last month. Large scale protests took place as people gathered from 25 villages in opposition to these fake encounters. Along with these activities, the NIA has committed raids all across the country, with the neighbouring state of Jharkhand witnessing 64 organizations, ranging from democratic, civil liberties, human rights, labour rights, anti-caste, women’s rights, Marxist-Leninist to even Gandhian ideologies being labelled as part of a list of potential Maoist-linked organizations. Arrests, raids, false encounters and red scare tactics are the currency of the Indian state when it comes to democratic dissent, of which Tirumal Sarju Tekam is the latest victim.
Campaign Against State Repression (C.A.S.R.) strongly condemns the continuous arrests and harassments of democratic rights activists such as Tirumal Sarju Tekam as well as the fake encounters of Modu Ram and Kanha Ram.
CASR demands the immediate and unconditional release of Tirumal Sarju Tekam, independent inquiry into the state-sponsored murders of Modu Ram and Kanha Ram and the end of state repression upon the democratic struggle in Chhattisgarh.
*AIRSO,AISA, AISF, APCR,BASF, BSM, Bhim Army, Bigul Mazdoor Dasta, bsCEM, CEM, CRPP, CTF, Disha, DISSC, DSU, DTF, Forum Against Repression Telangana, Fraternity ,IAPL, Innocence Network, Karnataka Janashakti, LAA,Mazdoor Adhikar Sangathan, Mazdoor Patrika, , Morcha Patrika, NAPM, NBS, Nishant Natya Manch, Nowruz, NTUI, People’s Watch, Rihai Manch, Samajwadi Janparishad, Samajwadi Lok Manch, Bahujan Samjavadi Mnach, SFI, United Against Hate, United Peace Alliance, WSS, Y4S



Vaccine nationalism? Covaxin isn't safe either, perhaps it's worse: Experts

By Rajiv Shah  I was a little awestruck: The news had already spread that Astrazeneca – whose Indian variant Covishield was delivered to nearly 80% of Indian vaccine recipients during the Covid-19 era – has been withdrawn by the manufacturers following the admission by its UK pharma giant that its Covid-19 vector-based vaccine in “rare” instances cause TTS, or “thrombocytopenia thrombosis syndrome”, which lead to the blood to clump and form clots. The vaccine reportedly led to at least 81 deaths in the UK.

'Scientifically flawed': 22 examples of the failure of vaccine passports

By Vratesh Srivastava*   Vaccine passports were introduced in late 2021 in a number of places across the world, with the primary objective of curtailing community spread and inducing "vaccine hesitant" people to get vaccinated, ostensibly to ensure herd immunity. The case for vaccine passports was scientifically flawed and ethically questionable.

'Misleading' ads: Are our celebrities and public figures acting responsibly?

By Deepika* It is imperative for celebrities and public figures to act responsibly while endorsing a consumer product, the Supreme Court said as it recently clamped down on misleading advertisements.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Magnetic, stunning, Protima Bedi 'exposed' malice of sexual repression in society

By Harsh Thakor*  Protima Bedi was born to a baniya businessman and a Bengali mother as Protima Gupta in Delhi in 1949. Her father was a small-time trader, who was thrown out of his family for marrying a dark Bengali women. The theme of her early life was to rebel against traditional bondage. It was extraordinary how Protima underwent a metamorphosis from a conventional convent-educated girl into a freak. On October 12th was her 75th birthday; earlier this year, on August 18th it was her 25th death anniversary.

Palm oil industry deceptively using geenwashing to market products

By Athena*  Corporate hypocrisy is a masterclass in manipulation that mostly remains undetected by consumers and citizens. Companies often boast about their environmental and social responsibilities. Yet their actions betray these promises, creating a chasm between their public image and the grim on-the-ground reality. This duplicity and severely erodes public trust and undermines the strong foundations of our society.

'Fake encounter': 12 Adivasis killed being dubbed Maoists, says FACAM

Counterview Desk   The civil rights network* Forum Against Corporatization and Militarization (FACAM), even as condemn what it has called "fake encounter" of 12 Adivasi villagers in Gangaloor, has taken strong exception to they being presented by the authorities as Maoists.

Mired in controversy, India's polio jab programme 'led to suffering, misery'

By Vratesh Srivastava*  Following the 1988 World Health Assembly declaration to eradicate polio by the year 2000, to which India was a signatory, India ran intensive pulse polio immunization campaigns since 1995. After 19 years, in 2014, polio was declared officially eradicated in India. India was formally acknowledged by WHO as being free of polio.

No compensation to family, reluctance to file FIR: Manual scavengers' death

By Arun Khote, Sanjeev Kumar*  Recently, there have been four instances of horrifying deaths of sewer/septic tank workers in Uttar Pradesh. On 2 May, 2024, Shobran Yadav, 56, and his son Sushil Yadav, 28, died from suffocation while cleaning a sewer line in Lucknow’s Wazirganj area. In another incident on 3 May 2024, two workers Nooni Mandal, 36 and Kokan Mandal aka Tapan Mandal, 40 were killed while cleaning the septic tank in a house in Noida, Sector 26. The two workers were residents of Malda district of West Bengal and lived in the slum area of Noida Sector 9. 

India 'not keen' on legally binding global treaty to reduce plastic production

By Rajiv Shah  Even as offering lip-service to the United Nations Environment Agency (UNEA) for the need to curb plastic production, the Government of India appears reluctant in reducing the production of plastic. A senior participant at the UNEP’s fourth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-4), which took place in Ottawa in April last week, told a plastics pollution seminar that India, along with China and Russia, did not want any legally binding agreement for curbing plastic pollution.