Saturday, August 13, 2022
Friday, August 5, 2022
Chhattisgarh Judgment Upends Justice, Fraternity and Basic Common Sense
The police filed FIRs for the killing of villagers only after their kin filed petition, provided an account riddled with inconsistencies, detained the petitioners before their testimony was recorded, yet the Supreme Court chose to believe the state and punish those who knocked on its doors.
The Supreme Court’s judgment in Himanshu Kumar and ors vs the State of Chhattisgarh and ors is another remarkable addition to the developing case law on criminalizing petitioners who dare to approach the courts on civil liberties matters, especially when they happen to come from poor and/or minority communities. While Dr Ambedkar described Article 32 – the right of judicial redress for violation of fundamental rights – as the ‘soul of the constitution’, our judges seem increasingly to feel it is a waste of judicial time.
This case is about excesses by the security forces in the anti-Maoist Operation Green Hunt announced by the police in 2009, in what is now Sukma district of Chhattisgarh. More specifically, it is about what happened over two days – September 17, 2009 in Gachhanpalli and Singanmadgu and October 1, 2009 in Gompad and surrounding villages (Belpocha, Nulkatong, Chintagufa).
Friday, July 29, 2022
La Trobe University: Protest, Dissent, and the Struggle for Justice in India
Protest, Dissent, and the Struggle for Justice in India on 28 July 2022.
In this conversation, Professor Nandini Sundar discussed her widely read 2020 report on threats to academic freedom in India, recent arrests of academics journalists, and activists, and her three decades of writing and scholarship about Adivasi communities in Bastar district, Chhattisgarh. The conversation took place on the two-year anniversary of the arrest of Delhi University professor of English Hany Babu. Professor Sundar discussed his arrest, and the arrests of other lawyers, activists and academics who have been charged in the infamous Elgar Parishad case. The conversation concludes with Professor Sundar’s thoughts on the rights granted to all citizens by the constitution of India.
We are extremely grateful to Professor Sundar, Ian Woolford and Gerald Roche for giving so generously of their time to share their knowledge and expertise with us.
If you were unable to attend the live event or would like to view or listen again, you will find the recording as follows: (you are welcome to share the links)
Tuesday, July 19, 2022
The Mahabharata’s Draupadi Questioned Injustice, India Needs Droupadi, as President, to Do the Same
In the Mahabharata, the strongest character on the Pandava side is Draupadi. She challenges Yuddhistira’s right to stake her at dice, asking how a slave could stake another human being. She was ostensibly ‘rescued’ by Krishna, but her pride and courage in facing that assembly of hostile men and arguing the legal point showed that it was not she who needed saving but the men who were dishonouring her. Similarly, in Mahasweta Devi’s short story, Draupadi, Dopdi Mejhen, a Santhal woman, raped and wounded by the security forces, stands unarmed and naked before the commander and asks why she should be ashamed, when “there isn’t a man here that I should be ashamed.” And for the first time, the commander is “terribly afraid.”
It is these Draupadis the BJP and RSS want to obliterate, by removing Mahasweta Devi’s story from the DU English Honours course in August 2021 or demonstrating against a play in Haryana Central University in 2016. So when they now tell us Droupadi Murmu -- soon to be India’s first Adivasi president -- represents their commitment to the empowerment of tribals, this claim should be taken with a large pinch of salt.
Wednesday, July 6, 2022
Setalvad, Sreekumar's Real 'Crime' Was Raising the Question of Modi's Command Responsibility
It is, perhaps, not a coincidence that Teesta Setalvad and former Gujarat police officer R.B. Sreekumar were arrested on June 25, 2022, the anniversary of the Emergency.
Another former police officer Sanjeev Bhatt, who is already in jail, has also been charged in the alleged common conspiracy to tarnish the image of Gujarat’s administration. They have been booked under Sections 468, 471 (forgery), 194 (fabricating false evidence), 211 (instituting criminal proceedings to cause injury), 218 (public servant making incorrect record or writing with intent to save person from punishment), and 120B (criminal conspiracy). On July 2, they were remanded to 14 days of judicial custody, after four days of police custody.
As a tit-for-tat gesture for their ‘audacity’ in getting the Special Investigative Team (SIT) to question Prime Minister Modi – even such a friendly SIT as the one headed by formerCBI chief R.K. Raghavan – the Gujarat Police has now set up its own SIT to investigate Setalvad, Sreekumar and Bhatt, alleging that they were aided by foreign funds and opposition politicians in their purported enterprise.
The clear signal being sent out by the courts, police and ruling political dispensation alike is that we are in a de facto Emergency, in which a legal fight for constitutional rights or calling the administration to account, is a crime.
Wednesday, May 18, 2022
A Year Into Silger's Peaceful Protest, Demands for Justice Remain Unmet
A year has passed in the life of this country, an entire year of people putting their lives on the line in peaceful protest, an entire year without justice. A year of young people showing the way to hope and a year of old and cynical politicians pointing the other way to despair. For a year now, young people – of whom the eldest is a mere 23-year-old class-12 graduate – have been leading a heroic, non-violent struggle in Silger, where people offer dharna outside a CRPF camp. These are all poor adivasi villagers who take time off from their daily wage labour or farming, students who come when school permits, or women who bring their children because they have nowhere else to leave them. On down days the numbers may be a few dozen, on special days the number swells to thousands. This has sparked off similar struggles elsewhere across the districts of Bijapur, Sukma and Dantewada as well as northern Bastar/Kanker in Chhattisgarh protesting against the security camps that have colonized the landscape, the fake encounters, arrests and injustice that have become woven into everyday existence in this region.