Archive for August, 2008
Aisa Kyon (Why?)
Short drama devised and shot by girls at the school run by Ajay TG.The brief was to focus on an issue which affects them. In this film they chose discrimination in education. It was to have been the first of a series of such short dramas on various issues but project has been interrupted by Ajay’s imprisonment
Mukul Sharma in Kafila
The right to a fair trial is a cornerstone of democratic societies. How a person is treated, when accused of a crime, provides a concrete demonstration of how far a State respects human rights. Detention is ‘arbitrary’, where there are often grave violations of the right to a fair trial. Detention and imprisonment, which may be lawful under national standards, are considered ‘unlawful’ under international standards. A fair trial is indispensable for the protection of other rights, such as the right to freedom from torture, the right to life, and the right to freedom of expression. This right should never be compromised. However, throughout the country, people are being detained and imprisoned without a fair trial. In these circumstances, many face torture and other forms of ill-treatment. The continued detention of Dr. Binayak Sen, Vice-President of India’s leading human rights organization, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), should trigger a debate, not only in Chhattisgarh, but also around the country, about whether and to what extent the right to a fair trial may be compromised in the name of security.
Dr. Sen was detained on 14 May 2007. However, charges were not filed properly for seven months. In the meantime, he was denied bail, and was kept in solitary confinement for three weeks in March-April 2008. Much delayed, his trial commenced on 30 April 2008 and was adjourned till July. Before the trial began, the presiding judge announced that only one human rights activist could attend the hearing at a time, though he later relented, making the trial public. In jail, Dr. Sen continued to suffer from severe gout, which posed difficulties for him to take care of his daily needs. He also suffered from frequent micturation, indicative of a prostrate problem. Despite appeals to organize proper medical treatment as per the jail rules, no concrete action came from the trial court. Before and during the trial proceedings, the prosecution and the police were attempting to intimidate the family members and colleagues of Dr. Sen. The police so far has not produced any evidence from the materials in its possession, including a computer hard disk that they had seized from Dr. Sen’s residence and clinic. The police have yet to return the computer disk, ten months after getting it examined from the Hyderabad-based Forensic Science Laboratory, giving rise to doubts that it was being tampered to manufacture evidence. On every occasion that Dr. Sen was brought to the court, there was massive police presence, leading to an atmosphere of fear and intimidation. Dr. Sen has been charged under several sections of the Chhattisgarh Public Security Act, 2005 (CSPSA), the Unlawful activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967, and the Indian Penal Code. Both the CSPSA and the UAPA contain vague and sweeping definitions of ‘unlawful activities’, for which organizations may be rendered ‘unlawful’, such as ‘uttering words…which propound the disobedience of established law and its institutions’. If convicted, Dr. Sen could be sentenced to life imprisonment.
Abuse of the criminal process in a trial has a number of different, but related, aspects. Delay in the procedure, loss or destruction of evidence, abuse of power by the executive, use of unlawfully obtained evidence, prosecutor’s improper motives, denial of the rights of victims — these are some of the several serious concerns raised, regarding the everyday practices of the criminal justice system in the country. Delay is a cause of serious injustices in India. Lengthy periods of per-trial imprisonment, anxiety, expenses, loss of days and memory — all lead to a situation where the accused cannot get justice. Further, in criminal cases the prosecution has a virtual monopoly on investigation. It is therefore axiomatic that the prosecution should not be able to evade their duties of disclosure, by suppressing, loosing, preventing or destroying evidence. Prosecutions in various situations, including in conflict zones, are resulting in an abuse of power by the executive, where unlawfulness or breach of law by the State agents has made it virtually impossible to give the accused a fair trial. So many times the evidences are obtained unlawfully, the admission of which has an adverse effect on the fairness of the proceedings. Not only this, the circumstances in which evidences are obtained are crucial. For example, in any proceedings, international law strictly prohibits the admission of evidence of statements obtained by torture.
Against these methods, there are various kinds of international human rights standards, national laws and court judgments, relevant to fair trials. Impartial, constitutional bodies exist, that give authoritative guidance on how to interpret these standards. Pre-trial rights (the right to liberty, the right of people in custody to information, the right to legal counsel before trial, the right of detainees to have access to the outside world, the right to be brought promptly before a judge or other judicial officer, the right during interrogation, etc.), and rights at trial (the right to trial by a competent, independent and impartial court, the right to a fair hearing, the right to a public hearing, the presumption of innocence, the right to be tried without undue delay, the right to be present at trial and appeal, the right to call and examine witnesses, etc.), are many. Thus, assessing the fairness of a criminal trial, and establishing peoples’ rights is complex and multi-faceted. The severe shortcomings in our criminal justice system, and the unaccountability of the police, administration and judiciary, makes it virtually impossible to establish the right to a fair trial in contemporary India.
The screening of Ajay T.G.’s short films and the accompanying talks raised uncomfortable questions on terrorism
Terrorism is a buzzword these days but how much attention do we pay to the concept of “state terror”? This was the discomfiting question raised during a screening of Ajay T.G.’s short films at Centre for Film and Drama (CFD) organised by Pedestrian Pictures. The Chhattisgarh government’s arrest of film-maker and human rights worker Ajay T.G. on the basis of alleged Maoist links has been creating a mini-storm in the country. The audience at CFD was sizeable—it spilled out of the seats and onto the stage—and the mood was, expectedly, solemn.
The screening began with some of Ajay’s earlier films on socio-political issues in Bhilai and Jharkhand and was rounded off by “Anjam”, the contentious film on Binayak Sen. It was interspersed with a talk by historian Ramachandra Guha and Arvind Narrain of the Alternative Law Forum.
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THIRD EYE Ajay T.G.’s films reveal a socio-political insight into the state of Chhattisgarh
Ajay T.G.’s films are simple and telling. Screened recently by Vikalp Bengaluru, Alternative Law Forum and Pedestrian Pictures, five short films by the 35-year-old Chhattisgarh-based filmmaker drew crowds at the Centre for Film and Drama in Ban galore. Ajay T.G. and Dr. Binayak Sen have been arrested and charged under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA). Several well-known filmmakers, film societies, writers, thinkers and journalists have expressed publicly, the demand for Ajay’s release and his right to make films by screening his films and holding discussions in some parts of the country.
“Anjam” was an informative film about the life and work of Dr. Binayak Sen at the Shaheed Hospital in Rajhara. As patients pour in, nurses, workers and doctors give personal accounts about Dr. Sen’s contribution and efforts. Newspaper-clippings and certificates float on the screen — going back to Dr. Sen’s role and phenomenal achievements as a student at the Christian Medical College, Vellore and Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi where he studied social medicine. Fifty six-year-old Binayak Sen has been in jail for more than a year for working for more than 30 years with the tribals of Chhattisgarh. On May 14, Ajay was arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the Chhattisgarh Special Security Act after publishing
“Hathaure Wala” (Man with the Iron Hammer) was short and revealing. Mid-long and life-size shorts of an ageing blacksmith working in the shadow of the Bhilai Steel Plant brought the audience in close proximity of his life and occupation.
Again, a short film, “Jeet” was a pre-rehearsed film by Jandarshan — a video-training project under the European Union-India Economic Cross Cultural Programme and Raipur-based Hindi daily “The Deshbandhu”. The student film captured a malaria-prevention drive in a village — very similar to a government movie on healthcare. Simple and straightforward for a target audience, “Jeet” portrayed the dichotomy of modern medical treatment and ancient myths.
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Times of India
BANGALORE: Students, writers and film-makers thronged the Centre for Film and Drama (CFD) on Monday to express support towards and watch films made by journalist Ajay T G, who has just been released by the Chhattisgarh police on bail after being arrested on charges of Maoist links.
The CFD screened four films shot on life in Bhilai and Jharkhand, reflecting the varied working conditions of people – from ironsmiths to hospital workers – and different societal expectations on family, marriage , gender progress and community life.
Ajay, who hails from Kerala, stayed in Bhilai for almost two decades. The photojournalist is also part of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), which is spearheading a campaign for human rights in Chhattisgarh. His PUCL colleague, Binayak Sen, is in a Chhattisgarh jail on charges of lending covert support to Maoists.
Writer and historian Ramachandra Guha, who spoke soon after the screening, said Chhattisgarh was caught in a cycle of violence between the police, Salwa Judum and Maoists. “Adivasis are most affected. Dantewada district, in particular, has been hit badly. The arrest of Sen and Ajay reflects the conditions prevailing in Chhattisgarh,” Guha said.
Ajay was picked up after his camera was allegedly found in the Maoists’ possession. He will address a meet in Delhi on his arrest, the reasons given and the circumstances under which he was jailed.
Filmmaker Ajay TG tells SHOBHITA NAITHANI it is important he speaks out, even if it means going back to jail
In May 2008, the Chhattisgarh police arrested freelance journalist and filmmaker Ajay TG in Raipur. The charges against Ajay: violating the provisions of the draconian Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005 (CSPSA) which allows the police to arrest anyone with political associations that dispute state policies. Ajay was released on conditional bail on August 5 after the police failed to file a charge sheet against him within the stipulated 90 days. After his release, the filmmaker spoke about his incarceration, his work and starting life afresh.
Now that you’re out of jail, do you feel free?
Not at all. The police haven’t closed the case against me yet. I don’t know what their next step will be. I have to think twice before I say something. I can be thrown back into jail if I make a statement that disconcerts the government or the police.
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Indian Doctor in Jail: The Story of Binayak Sen
Doctors in Defence of Binayak Sen
Promilla & Co Publishers in association with Bibliophile South Asia
Pediatrician, public health professional and civil rights activist, Binayak Sen, was arrested by the Chattisgarh police on 14 May 2007. Asked by the superintendent of police to appear for recording a statement he was placed under arrest when he reached the police station. Given his outstanding role as a public health professional and development activist his arrest has came as a surprise to many. The Global Health Council has selected Dr Sen for the Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights recently. However, it seems that the state government could hardly tolerate his relentless exposure of human rights violations in Chattisgarh. This book weaves together essays by eminent doctors in defence of Dr Sen and his agenda. It also contains essays by Dr Sen on the interrelationship between health and human rights and people’s healthcare initiatives in Chattisgarh. The collection presents the facts and circumstances that have led to his illegal arrest, detention and charge sheet. In doing so it not only seeks to uphold the dignity of a humanitarian cause and a philanthropic doctor’s noble mission but also the rights and duties of every Indian citizen as enshrined in the Constitution.
As most of you are aware, around 5000 families protesting in Chengara are facing violence and are completely cut off even from basic necessities like food and medicine by a bunch of goons with the connivance of the Government of Kerala.
There are several activities taking place on the ground to provide some relief to the protestors. In addition, we thought it is important to show solidarity in the form of a petition addressed to Constitutional authorities in this country, to put pressure on the Government of Kerala to act immediately and secure justice for the peaceful protestors.
Please do sign this petition and circulate it widely amongst your contacts.
The petition can be found at http://www.petitiononline.com/chengara/petition.html
Incarcerated for 93 days on charges of being a Maoist, independent documentary filmmaker Ajay TG has vehemently denied the label, saying he will fight for repealing the draconian law under which he was arrested.
“I am no Naxalite (Maoist). I have never been associated with any acts of insurgency or terror. I don’t know what I am being charged with,” Ajay, who was held under the notorious Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA) and accused of sedition, said.
He was released on conditional bail after the police failed to file a chargesheet against him in court within the stipulated 90 days. The case against him has not been closed and he has to report to the police in Bhillai town every alternate Monday. He has also been barred from leaving the country.
“There is no FIR (first information report), no charge sheet. How do I defend myself?” asked Ajay, who is a member of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL). He was in the capital to attend a meeting convened by the Committee for the Release of Ajay TG, to celebrate his release.
Ajay was released on August 5 but another prominent rights activist, Binayak Sen, who was arrested under the same act on May 14, 2007, is still in jail. Sen is the PUCL’s general secretary.
Express news service
Posted online: Wednesday, August 13, 2008 at 0047 hrs IST
New Delhi, August 12
“It’s not the first or the last time someone has been arrested in Chhattisgarh,” said human rights lawyer Vrinda Grover, setting the tone for a public meeting at the Constitution Club in New Delhi on Tuesday to mark the release of documentary filmmaker and journalist Ajay T G.
On May 5, Ajay was arrested and sent to jail by the Chhattisgarh police on allegations of involvement with Naxals and sedition against the Indian Government. When the police failed to find any evidence to support these charges within the mandatory 90 days period, Ajay was granted statutory bail and released on August 5. Yet despite being unable to file a chargesheet, the police have not closed the case against him.
After spending 93 days in prison, Ajay said, “I still don’t feel free. And I’m not the only one, there are so many more imprisoned like me.” His bail conditions require him to report to the police station every second Monday.
Warned by the police not to travel to Delhi or speak to the press, Ajay and his wife, Shobha, attended Tuesday’s meeting at their own risk.
Although the family lives in fear of retaliation from the state, said Shobha, “we were excited about the opportunity to come to Delhi and speak out”.
Led by the Committee for the Release of Ajay T G, human rights activists, journalists and writer Arundhati Roy were among those who spoke of the wider ramifications of his arrest.
Based on her research in Chhattisgarh, Nandani Sundar, sociology professor at the University of Delhi, spoke of the climate of fear in the state as a result of the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security (CSPS) Act, 2006, and on the blackout of the violence perpetrated by the Salwa Judum. Speaking at the event, independent law researcher Usha Ramanathan said: “Critiquing this law, as we are now, is illegal under the CSPS, a clear indication we’re moving away from the rights of people.”
Following the meeting, Ajay T G’s film on the life and work of Dr Binayak Sen, who was also arrested under the CSPS Act, on 14 May 2007, was screened. In a fitting concluding note, Sen’s wife, Ilina, said, “We cannot individualise cases, we have to look beyond this.”