Posts Tagged ‘Ajay TG
Indian Express > Op-Ed >
Posted: Apr 04, 2009 at 0122 hrs IST
On Monday, March 16, the first batch of satyagrahis marched through Raipur towards the Central Jail where Dr. Binayak Sen has been wrongfully incarcerated for almost two years.
Flanked by the police, we walked for 2 kilometres with our banners, shouting “Free Binayak!” Onlookers seemed surprised by our open support of someone who has been painted a dreaded “Naxalite” but slowly, caution seemed to dissipate and I noticed a few nods and fleeting smiles.
Chhattisgarh’s long history of progressive struggles is evident in the many statues of Bhagat Singh and Veer Narayan Singh that dot Raipur. But today fear is in the air. The state is in a brutal fight against Naxalites and even mildly Left political opinion and all criticism of police atrocities is relentlessly crushed.
The story of a doctor locked up for years for speaking up for the voiceless poor is a morality play with implications for all of us
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 2 April 2009 22.00 BST
As the world’s financial and political elites ponder our economic futures, having whipped themselves into a frenzy about projected violence by the discontented, the case of an imprisoned Indian doctor teaches us something about power and impunity in our times. In our world, a select few – state actors and powerful corporations – seem authorised to enact their own forms of violence, destroying lives, life savings and livelihoods without brooking challenge or fearing punishment. Speaking up against these impunities can result in anything from intimidation, blacklisting and suspension to incarceration and, as the tragic instance of Ken Saro-Wiwa in Nigeria showed, even simple murder.
For two years now, Dr Binayak Sen, an award-winning physician and civil rights activist practising in the Indian state of Chattisgarh, a resource-rich yet economically deprived region, has been rotting in prison. The charges levelled at him by the state are flimsy and the evidence even thinner. Caught, like other Chattisgarhis, in a virtual civil war between Naxalites, Maoist-inspired militants and a state-backed vigilante paramilitary known as the Salwa Judum, Sen has been accused in vaguely speculative terms of supporting the former. The case drags on with neither credible evidence on offer nor a determinate end in sight. A now seriously unwell Sen has also been denied bail and appropriate medical treatment for a heart condition.
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Statement read out by Dipti Bhatnagar
Students for Justice in Chhattisgarh, UC Berkeley
The Berkeley Conference on Indian Democracy
Saturday 9/27, 2:00 pm
8th Floor, Barrows Hall
I appreciate this opportunity to express our views and ask some questions of Mr. Vishwa Ranjan, the highest police official of Chhattisgarh.
Others have talked about the broader issues, I wish to talk about the intimidation, the silencing of those who dare to speak out against the trampling of rights by the state. The best known example is perhaps Binayak Sen, an acclaimed doctor currently languishing in the Raipur jail. Binayak Sen has spent more than 25 years serving the poorest and the most marginalized communities of Chhattisgarh. He has also actively worked with these communities in their struggles to protect their rights and dignity, and is the national vice-president of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties. An outspoken critic of the Salwa Judum, and of the reign of terror spread by state forces in the name of countering the Maoist insurgency, what has been Binayak Sen’s reward? He gets arrested and thrown into jail by the police. Another political prisoner paying the price for having a conscience!
Sixteen long months later, Dr. Sen continues to be held behind bars. Why, you may ask? Well, first it took almost a year before the trial even started. And during this year he had to spend 3 weeks in solitary confinement, a confinement that was illegal, without court approval. Once the trial did start, the police was unable to present any credible evidence, and the prosecution witnesses, nearly two dozen so far, have turned hostile. So what do the police and prosecutor do? They start fabricating evidence. A mysterious letter appears in the supposedly sealed evidence bag produced in court. A letter not listed on the search memo or mentioned in the charge sheet. Not properly authenticated. Conveniently for the state’s case, this letter is from the Maoists, thanking Dr. Sen for his help.
Mr. Vishwa Ranjan, can you tell us why the police feel compelled to fabricate evidence?
Another, and related, case of intimidation by the state is that of Ajay TG, a young film maker and Binayak Sen’s colleague in the PUCL. Ajay’s mistake was making a film about the strange circumstances surrounding Binayak Sen’s arrest and incarceration. So of course, Ajay too was arrested as a threat to the security of the state. In this case, the police couldn’t even produce a charge sheet, even after 90 days, the statutory maximum period someone can be held without charge. But even though they had to let Ajay out on bail, the police haven’t given up.
Mr. Vishwa Ranjan, why have you not dropped the case if you still haven’t come up with a charge sheet against Ajay, 150 days after his initial arrest?
Of course, Ajay TG and Binayak Sen, are not isolated cases of critics being intimidated and harassed into silence by the police. Equally egregious, even if less visible, is the continuing reign of terror in the lives of large swaths of tribal communities in Chhattisgarh. One of the most blatant instances of state intimidation is the case of Nendra village in Dantewara. Villagers from Nendra had been attacked multiple times by the forces of Salwa Judum, had 150 dwellings burnt, 4 women raped and 27 inhabitants, including 9 children, killed. On 10th June 2008, they testified before the visiting fact- finding team from the National Human Rights Commission investigating Salwa Judum atrocities. Five days later, the Salwa Judum forces exacted revenge on this village by attacking it yet again and burning 11 homes. And the police response? They shrugged off this case of arson, saying that Nendra was abandoned and the houses were likely Maoist hideouts.
Mr. Vishwa Ranjan, can you tell us why the police cannot even guarantee the safety and security of witnesses testifying before a team sent into the state under orders from the Supreme Court?
In the name of fighting the Maoists, the police and administration in Chhattisgarh have turned the state into a human rights nightmare.
I, and the other groups and individuals I represent at this podium, demand the repeal of Chhattisgarh’s Black Laws, we demand that the Salwa Judum be disbanded, all political prisoners, including Dr. Binayak Sen be released by the state and democracy be restored in Chhattisgarh.
Alliance of South Asians Taking Action
Association for India’s Development
Campaign to Stop Funding Hate
Friends of South Asia
International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal
People’s Health Movement
Mr. Vishwa Ranjan, Director-General of Police, Chhattisgarh
We, concerned members of university and college faculties, write to condemn the ongoing violations of the human and civil rights of its citizens by the state of Chhattisgarh, primarily through the agency of your department, the Chhattisgarh police force. These violations include the arbitrary arrest and indefinite detention of hundreds of people, including Dr. Binayak Sen, an internationally respected provider of medical services to Chhattisgarh’s tribal communities, threats and assaults against civil liberties activists, lawyers and journalists, and most egregious of all, the growing depredations of the state security forces, including the police and the so-called special police officers (SPOs), as well as the state-sponsored violent militia known as the Salwa Judum. We regret to note that not only have you been unsuccessful in halting these violations of human rights, but you have actively justified them and accused anyone opposing them as “demoralis[ing] the state machinery.”
In a report released this past July, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has documented in detail the human rights abuses committed by the Salwa Judum against civilians in Chhattisgarh. HRW’s report gives the lie to your oft repeated claim that the Salwa Judum is a spontaneous unarmed peaceful anti-Naxalite movement by documenting eyewitness accounts of “police participating in violent Salwa Judum raids on villages – killing, looting, and burning their hamlets.”1 Similar to earlier investigative reports by the Independent Citizen’s Initiative and a joint report by the People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) and People’s Union for Democratic Rights, among others, the HRW report also documents the arbitrary detentions and torture of villagers by the Chhattisgarh police. Reporters without Borders noted with concern that “[journalists] are prevented from reporting and investigating by corrupt politicians, police and Salwa Judum members, many receiving harassment, intimidation and beating … Currently journalists report from press releases produced by the government or risk their life and career by reporting objectively both sides of the struggle.”2
Perhaps the best-known case of a non-violent dissenter being arrested and jailed in Chhattisgarh is that of Dr. Binayak Sen, a prominent and early critic of the Salwa Judum and of state violence. Dr. Sen, a physician serving the poorest and most marginalized communities in the interior and tribal areas of Chhattisgarh for more than 25 years, has been a guiding light for peace and community health. He has won many awards for his work, including the Paul Harrison Award in 2004 from CMC Vellore, his alma mater, from which he had been graduated over 30 years ago following a most distinguished academic career, and most recently the Jonathan Mann Award from the Global Health Council in May 2008. Binayak Sen appears to have earned the government’s ire by being a vocal critic of the high-handed and illegal ways adopted by the state in the name of suppressing the Maoist insurgency in Chhattisgarh. For instance, investigations by ETV-Madhya Pradesh and others had exposed that 12 alleged Maoists, killed by the police in Santoshpur village in a supposed gunfight on March 31, 2007, were unarmed tribals executed at close range. Dr. Sen’s insistence, along with others, finally forced the Chhattisgarh State Human Rights Commission to take note of this investigation and order the bodies of the victims exhumed. Shortly afterward, Dr. Sen was arrested.3 Not only have you and the state prosecutor failed to present any legally valid evidence against Dr. Sen, the responsible police officers appear to be blatantly concocting fables and planting false evidence.4
Other citizens who have been harrassed by the police include: Amarnath Pandey and DP Yadav, two lawyers who had filed lawsuits regarding the ‘encounter killing’ of one Narayan Khairwar and the custodial rape of one Ledha Bai; filmmaker Ajay TG, a member of the State Executive Committee of the Chhattisgarh Unit of PUCL, and journalist Sai Reddy, both of whom had to be released on bail when the police failed to file a chargesheet even after ninety days; Himanshu Kumar of the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram, an NGO that implements implements government programs on health, nutrition, and education, for the ‘crime’ of assisting fact-finding teams investigating human rights abuses; journalists Santosh Poonyem and Kamlesh Paikra for daring to write about the violence committed by Salwa Judum; and even the participants at the third annual meeting of Chhattisgarh Net (www.cgnet.in), an online citizen journalism initiative.
It bears noting that such actions by the law enforcement machinery of any state are not only in violation of the laws of India, but also run counter to India’s international treaty obligations. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR), which India acceded to in 1979, declares in relevant part that:
- All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development. (Article 1.1)
- Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life. (Article (6.1)
- No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. (Article 7)
- Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. (Article 9.1)
- Anyone who has been the victim of unlawful arrest or detention shall have an enforceable right to compensation. (Article 9.5)
- All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person. (Article 10.1)5
We strongly urge you, as the highest police official in the state of Chhattisgarh, to:
- Follow in letter and spirit, the values enshrined in the Indian Constitution and the CCPR.
- Stop encouraging an all-out civil war in Chhattisgarh through your support of the Salwa Judum. The extra-judicial killings by the state security forces and the SPOs are so distasteful and blatant that the Supreme Court of India recently noted that this amounts to abetment of murder by state officials. Excesses committed by the security forces, as documented in a recent NHRC report, were deemed “very painful to read” by the Chief Justice, Supreme Court of India.
- Stop victimizing dissenters in Chhattisgarh. Drop all charges against political prisoners, including Dr Binayak Sen, filmmaker Mr. Ajay TG, journalist Mr. Saii Reddy. Release all political prisoners unconditionally, pay compensation for the harassment and loss of liberty they have suffered due to their unwarranted detention, and arrest and prosecute state officials and police officers involved in harassing, arresting and holding all these political prisoners.
- Ensure a just and honest governance that improves the lives of millions of desperately poor people in Chhattisgarh.
This Saturday, come question Vishwa Ranjan, the head police official in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh, where police are responsible for:
- jailing public health activist and civil rights leader Dr. Binayak Sen
- widespread violence & brutality against the states’s Tribal communities
- supporting and arming a militia which has razed 100s of villages and uprooted several hundred thousand people from their homes since 2005
Ranjan will be speaking at a conference at UC Berkeley on Saturday, and we need your help to ask him the tough questions that his local critics haven’t been able to ask. Join us, in solidarity with the embattled Tribal communities of the Indian state of Chhattisgarh!
Stand up to Chhattisgarh DGP Vishwa Ranjan
The Berkeley Conference on Indian Democracy
Saturday 9/27, 2:00 pm
8th Floor, Barrows Hall
Call for endorsements:
critical for us to speak out.
We ask you to:
1. Endorse our flyer by sending email to firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Express your solidarity with the people of Chhattisgarh by attending the panel and supporting our representative who has been invited to participate in the panel to challenge the DGP:
Barrows Hall, UC Berkeley
Saturday, September 27, 2:00pm (show up at 1:30pm)
STOP supporting Salwa Judum,
STOP imprisoning human rights activists,
STOP silencing voices of dissent in Chhattisgarh
DROP CHARGES against and RELEASE political prisoners,
A brief report of the public meeting with Ajay TG in Pune, organised the day before yesterday.
Public meeting with Ajay TG in Pune on 20th September
Yesterday (20th September 08) the ‘Release Dr. Binayak Sen committee’ in Pune organized a well attended public meeting and also a separate smaller discussion with activists, with Ajay TG as the main speaker. As we all know, Ajay TG is a film maker and PUCL activist from Bhilai who was imprisoned for three months by the Chhattisgarh government, and was released recently since there was no evidence and the police could not even file a chargesheet against him.
The public meeting was attended by over a hundred citizens of Pune and was presided over by Justice PB Sawant, retired Supreme court judge. Besides Ajay, the meeting was also addressed by the noted film maker Anand Patwardhan and the human rights lawyer, Asim Sarode, and was moderated by Anant Phadke. The meeting started with screening of the films ‘New State, Old Problems’ and ‘Anjaam’ (directed by Ajay TG) which graphically depicted the growing repression in Chhattisgarh, the problematic nature of Salwa Judum and of course the background to Binayak’s arrest.
In his address, Ajay TG brought home to the audience very effectively the almost surreal circumstances of his arrest and imprisonment. With no charges, no evidence and no basis to even suspect his doing anything illegal, he was picked up on 4th May and put in jail, without even allowing him to meet his lawyer or family. He described the sub-human circumstances in the jail, the tremendous demonisation by media of himself and his family leading to cutting off all forms of social support, and the highly biased nature of the entire law and order machinery in the state. His only ‘crime’ was that he was persistently attending Binayak’s trial hearings and as a PUCL activist he dared to not be cowed down despite the widespread repression.
When the police finally realized that they had nothing that could be held against Ajay, and he would have to be released, in a last-ditch attempt the police tried to make him sign on a document indicting Binayak of having links with Maoists, which Ajay bravely refused to comply with. Delivered in a simple and straightforward style, Ajay’s story was really chilling since it gave a glimpse of the kind of ‘undeclared Emergency’ that today prevails in Chhattisgarh, and seems to be rapidly developing in many other parts of the country.
Events of the Third Phase of Dr. Binayak Sen’s Trial & Incidents Preceeding Ajay TG’s Bail
Since Dr. Sen’s trial is disproving the prosecution’s case the police is openly trying to fabricate evidence both inside and outside the court. The police even tried to use Ajay’s TG legitimate release against Dr. Sen, hence the events of both the cases have been written together
The third phase of the trial of Dr. Binayak Sen case began on the 29th of July and lasted till July 31st. The key witnesses, the material witnesses had already deposed in the first two phases of the trial and some were tendered off. The subsequent witnesses were to be mostly seizure witnesses or police and jail personnel. Since most of the 20 witnesses who had deposed in the first two rounds of the trial had in no way confirmed the police case, the prosecution in an act of desperation had filed an application of recalling three of the witnesses who had deposed in the second phase between the 1st of July and the 4th of July. This was slated for argument in the course of these three days.
This was also the period when it became clear that charge sheet was not being filed in the Ajay TG case and that statutory bail was imminent however, we were suddenly filled with the hope that perhaps the case itself would be closed as Ajay had not committed any criminal act and hence there was no evidence to that effect.
29th July. 2008
No hearing happened as a senior member of the bar had passed away. Before we reached the Court, Dr. Binayak Sen, Pijush Guha and Narayan Sanyal had been already taken away to the jail. We were very disappointed that we had missed him.
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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
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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