Groups Slam Activists’ Incarceration

BeyondHeadlines News Desk

The founder president of Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, Dr. Sunilam, has been sentenced to life imprisonment in a 14-year-old case of rioting.

Dr. Sunilam, who has been actively working for farmers against the unjust land acquisition, has been sentenced to life along with two others for leading a violent farmers’ agitation against the district administration of Betul on January 12, 1998.

On the other hand, Dayamani Barla, the crusader against the corporations in Jharkhand is being kept in custody by the Jharkhand Government on false charges. She is leading on various fronts, including, the anti land acquisition struggle in Nagadi for setting up of Indian Institute of Management near Ranchi.
NAPM along with other people’s movements is all set to challenge  these wrong judgments in the high court and will continue to struggle against the anti people policies of the government.
A statement by NAPM:
The sentencing of Dr. Sunilam is nothing but a travesty of justice, since those who need to be punished are serving the police force, have been promoted since then and those who were struggling for rights of farmers have been sentenced after 14 years.
The wrong sentence given to Dr. Sunilam and others is one thing but one is left to wonder when will the 24 farmers and their family get justice? Every year on January 14th since then Shahid diwas has been celebrated but till date the government has not given them a memorial place in Multai town. Every year memorial plaque is brought to the groundand is then taken back, since government is refusing them permission to put it in Multai tehsil compound where they all died in police firing.
“We were expecting this. The sentence awarded to me and two of my colleagues Sheshrao Suryavanshi Parmandal and Prahlad Agarwal are an attempt at silencing the ongoing agitation against Adani Power Plant and Pench Power Project in Chindwara district and also Union Minister for Urban Development Mr. Kamal Nath’s constituency. We will not be threatened by this and our struggle will continue under Kisan Sangharsh Samiti with help of all the progressive movements across the country”, Dr. Sunilam wrote from Multai jail.
Dr. Sunilam and KSS has been an enemy of not only Congress government but also of the current BJP government since they have been actively fighting anti farmer’s policies and intervening wherever necessary. Most recently when police fired in Raisen killing Harisingh, former Sarpanch in May 2012 or when police lathi charged and arrested many farmers including Rakesh Tikait of Bhartiya Kisan Union in Anuppur who were fighting against Moser Baer power plant. Dr. Sunilam has been an active proponent of the farmers and workers rights and been organising and most recently constituted anti corruption units in 40 districts of Madhya Pradesh. An active socialist, he travelled across the country as part of the Dr Lohia Centenary programmes and been active as National Alliance of People’s Movements Convener in various movements across the movement.
In May 2011, Dr. Sunilam, Advocate Aradhana Bharagava and other members of KSS were attacked by the goons of Adani in Chindwara, where he sustained severe injuries and many of the villagers were later arrested without any charges on the attackers. It was eight attack on his life, but he survived. In past nine years nearly 1,75,000 cases against the BJP workers have been withdrawn by the BJP government but farmers and others challenging the government continue to languish in jail or are running from Court to Court. What a shame ! It is nothing but a vindictive move on part of the corrupt nexus between bureaucracy, political forces and the administration whose political and economic interests are being hurt due to Kisan Sangharsh Samiti’s (KSS) active opposition to the Adani Thermal Power Plant and Pench Water Diversion Project in Chindwara District and SKS and Maxo Power Plants in nearby districts.
The resistance in Chindwara is against the vested interests of the state government and elected representatives from the region, so every attempt is being made to implicate the KSS leadership in other cases and this seems to be the reason for implicating Dr. Sunilam in this case too. We will not be surprised if in other ongoing cases against him will lead to further  conviction.
The journalist turned anti-displacement, tribal, woman activist from Jharkhand Dayamani Barla, better known as the Iron lady of Jharkhand amongst people’s movements and activists or simply Dayamani Di was granted bail by a local court of Ranchi on Thursday afternoon.
But on Friday, when friends and colleagues of Dayamani reached Jail to receive her, they were told that she is been arrested in a new case and can’t be let off. However, the Jail authorities refused to disclose the details of the case. Yesterday, after the bail order when Jail authorities were approached they denied the release citing some ‘technical reasons’!
She was sent to Jail on Tuesday in fourteen days Judicial Custody, after she surrendered before the court in a matter of 25th April 2006. Six year ago, she was charged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including Section 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), for participating in a protest demonstration, which blocked the road, demanding job cards for rural laborers under the celebrated employment guarantee act, then the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) and now the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). She availed bail in to the matter at that time from the concerned police station and the matter was almost closed.
However, recently, when the State government and its Police were not feeling comfortable with Dayamani’s anti-Displacement activities at Ranchi’s Nagadi village, they chose to re-open the case. They started sending notices at her rented house and harassing her friends, comrades and relatives. One day, the police reached her house to confiscate her belongings. She somehow managed to escape this situation and decided to surrender before a Court, instead of getting arrested by Police. Notably, she was not alone against whom the case was registered in 2006, the case was registered against 10 named persons other than Dayamani and one thousand unnamed persons, but the police chose to act only against her, for obvious reasons. Interestingly, the rural populaces are still facing difficulties in getting job cards, a legal right of every adult citizenry. “While the government is sending me Jail for no crime, but the demands made in the said protest are yet to be fulfilled,” Damayani made this point before leaving for jail while talking to reporters.
Dayamani Barla, one of the leading anti-Displacement activists of our time is fighting many battles against corporate giants and government alike in various parts of Jharkhand. However, her battle is not limited to the state of Jharkhand alone.  As one of the national Conveners of the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), along with Medha Patekar and others and as an Executive Committee Member (also former National President) of the India Social Action Forum (INSAF), she is not only part and leader of various people’s movements and campaigns across India but also represents India at International level. For hundreds of activists across India and abroad, she is one of the sources of inspiration, who got an standing ovation last year at the Tehelka’s THiNK Fest in Goa. Her courage to fight against injustices at various levels is not only exemplary but simply unmatched. She is a tireless and selfless activist, with strong capabilities and guts take on anyone, including governments. She is totally uncompromising, when it comes to displacement. This is what makes government and corporate afraid of her.
Hence, this not the first time when she is intimidated or harassed but the government is leaving no chance to target her. Early this year, on 14th January, in the evening, a Police Mobile Van of Chutya Thana (Ranchi) landed at her hotel (Dayamani for livelihood and family support, along with her life-partner runs a small hotel, dhaba  at Club Road Ranchi) and started to harass her staff asking about her links with anti-social elements, means Maoist. The Sub-Inspector making the ‘enquiries’ neither had any written permission or an order. The following day, when she met SSP Ranchi, Mr. Saket Kumar at latter’s residence to ask why she was being harassed in this manner, his response was that the allegations were being made on the basis of an complaint and the fact that she participated in the “Free Jiten Marandi Convention”, in which Binayak Sen, Gautam Navlakha, Varavara Rao were also present. However, when asked what the crime in that is, the SSP refused to talk.
The recent intimidation and arrest is due to her leading a restless, successful and mostly peaceful (except once when police opened fire on villagers) struggle against the acquisition of fertile land at Nagari, a village situated at few kilometers from the state capital and where government wants to build IIM, IIT and National Law School. Contrary to the propaganda spread by government and its machinery, the protestors do want these institutions to be build but not at the cost of the main source of livelihood of villagers. And they have suggested an alternative as well in neighborhood for the said purpose but the government is adamant. As per modest estimates, at least 500 tribal families and their livelihood will be destroyed, if the land is acquired for said institutions. In January, the state bulldozed farms just around when the winter crops, mostly potatoes and pulses, were to be harvested. Following that, the police filed FIRs against 12 villagers! But even then the struggle is still on. And this is what worrying the government most. The government is desperately trying to crush the movement, by hook or crook.

12 January, 1998 was a black day for the farmer’s movement in the India, when the Congress State Government in Madhya Pradesh under the leadership of Digvijay Singh brutally crushed the non-violent farmers’ movement leading to death of 24 farmers and leaving nearly 150 farmers injured.
The farmers of the district Betul, under the leadership of T.T. Choudhary, had given a memorandum to circle office on 12 December, 1997. In this memorandum they demanded compensation for their crops damaged due to severe cold. But government paid no heed to their demand. On 18 December 1997 they submitted another memorandum and gave a notice to the government threatening to start a massive agitation for their rights. Government ignored their demand. Farmers gathered under the banner of  “Kisan Sangharsh Samiti”. With the formation of KSS agitation gained strength and an indefinite dharna by more than a thousand farmers started in the Tehsil Compound, Multai. The state police continued to ignore and threaten the protesting farmers, even then on 9th January, 1998 around 75000 farmers marched in Betul peacefully. The District Magistrate of Betul then proposed compensation of only Rs. 400 per acre. This little amount was completely inadequate to compensate the losses.
The agitation continued and on 11th January, 1998 they led siege to Multai Tehsil and also in 450 villages of this tehsil. It was a historical Bandh, while police administration tried hard to maintain normal traffic and life. Farmers opposed the intervention of police authorities. In a response police and Congress hooligans set fire to few buses and conspired to blame farmers leaders for this arson. On 12thJanuary 1998, farmer’s under the leadership of Dr. Sunilam decided to enter the Tehsil office but before Dr. Sunilam could reach the venue police had already opened fire on the protesting farmers. Order had directly come from the CM Digvijay Singh and Dr. Sunilam was under target. He was arrested, beaten brutally, kept in police custody for nearly three months and was released only after pressure was brought from Delhi by Human Rights Bodies and other socialist leaders. Late Surendra Mohan travelled to Multai to get him released.
Madhya Pradesh Government lodged 66 cases on 250 farmers along with their leader Dr. Sunilam. There was not a single FIR filed on the police personnel responsible for the incident. An Investigation Commission was setup by the government but no action was taken on that. A RTI query for documents of the Commission met with a response that none of the documents exist, seems the state government has destroyed all the documents which will implicate the guilty police officials and the larger conspiracy. (Courtesy: Pratirodh)

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