Brief report of public meeting with Ajay TG in Pune

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.

Ajay emphasised the fact that major MOUs were signed between the Chhattisgarh government and Tata and Essar groups allowing setting up of major steel industries in the Dantewada-Bastar area in June 2005, and it was exactly at the same time that Salwa Judum was launched in Dantewada. While ostensibly launched to ‘combat Maoism’, in fact Salwa Judum is a land clearing operation on a colossal scale, with over 350 villages having being cleared of their inhabitants, opening the way for the large steel industries to occupy the land of the adivasis, while avoiding any of the genuine issues of people’s rights and rehabilitation.

Asim Sarode made a detailed analysis of the provisions in the ‘Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act’ (CSPSA) highlighting how this repressive act enables the state to imprison practically anyone just on the basis of ‘suspicion’, for upto seven years. Anand Patwardhan noted that making such repressive laws does not reduce terrorism, in fact the victimisation of large numbers of innocent people provides the basis for even more social discontent. Justice Sawant, in his detailed address as a former senior member of the judiciary, tore to shreds the charges being made against Binayak and dissected the chargesheet to demonstrate that there is in fact no effective legal case against Binayak. He also pointed out the genuine social grievances underlying the spread of Naxalism, and the need to address the underlying socio-economic issues rather than resorting to widespread and indiscriminate repression.

The presentation by Ajay TG was an eye-opener for many of us, and struck the audience with the immediacy of the growing reality of overwhelming repression, the seriousness of which we have perhaps not fully grasped yet. It is hoped that before it is too late, all of us will be able to come together to escalate the struggle to defend democracy and human rights, which underlie all human values and without which all our other social endeavors will be in vain.