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Letter by concerned academics to the Director-General of Police, Chhattisgarh

September 27, 2008

Berkeley, California
To: 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-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 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, Dr. Sen’s and PUCL’s investigations 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. The State Human Rights Commission took note of this investigation, and ordered 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 harassed 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 in the name of Salwa Judum, an organization whose violent activities are so distasteful and blatant that the Supreme Court of India recently noted that support of Salwa Judum by the state amounts to abetment of murder by state officials, and whose excesses as documented in a recent NHRC report were deemed “very painful to read” by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India.

• Drop all charges against political prisoners, including Dr Binayak Sen, filmmaker Mr.  Ajay TG, journalist Mr. Sai Reddy, release them unconditionally, pay compensation for the harassment and loss of liberty they have suffered due to their unwarranted detention, and arrest and prosecute all police officers involved in arresting and holding all these political prisoners.

• Stop victimizing dissenters in Chhattisgarh;
• Ensure a just and honest governance that improves the lives of millions of desperately poor people in Chhattisgarh.

EndNotes
1 http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2008/07/14/india19345.htm
2 http://www.rsf.org/IMG/pdf/Report•Chhattisgarh-2.pdf
3 http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA20/013/2007/en/domASA200132007en.html
4 http://www.phmovement.org/cms/en/node/751
5 http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/a•ccpr.htm

——

Signed,

Concerned Faculty of Universities and Academic Institutes
Itty Abraham
Associate Professor of Government
Director of South Asia Institute
University of Texas at Austin

Meena Alexander
Poet & Distinguished Professor of English
Hunter College, City University of New York

Bernardo Attias
Professor and Chair of Communication Studies
California State University, Northridge

Niharika Banerjea
Assistant Professor, Sociology
University of Southern Indiana

Pranab Bardhan
Professor of Economics
University of California at Berkeley

Dilip Basu
Professor and Founding Director
Satyajit Ray Film and Study Center
University of California at Santa Cruz

Amitabh Behar
Executive Director
National Centre for Advocacy Studies, Pune

Kim Berry
Associate Professor of Women’s Studies
Humboldt State University
Arcata, California

Satindar Mohan Bhagat
Professor of Physics
University of Maryland College Park

Nirveek Bhattacharjee
Senior Research Fellow
University of Washington

Arabinda Bhattacharya
Reader in Statistics & Business Management
Calcutta University

Purnima Bose
Associate Professor of English
Indiana University

Peter E. Caines
Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering
McGill University
Montreal, Canada

Mia Carter
Associate Professor of English
University of Texas at Austin

Rabin Chakraborty
Reader in Applied Physics
Calcutta University

Nandini Chandra
Visiting Assistant Professor of Asian Languages and Literature
University of Minnesota

Shefali Chandra
Assistant Professor of South Asian History
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Sharad Chari
Assistant Professor of Geography
London School of Economics

Angana Chatterji
Associate Professor of Anthropology
California Institute of Integral Studies
San Francisco

Indrani Chatterjee
Associate Professor of History
Rutgers University, New Jersey

Kalyan Chatterjee
Distinguished Professor of Economics and Management Science
Pennsylvania State University

Kumkum Chatterjee
Associate Professor of History
Pennsylvania State University

P.S. Chauhan
Professor of English
Arcadia University
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

B. J. Cherayil
Associate Professor of Pediatrics
Harvard Medical School
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Lawrence Cohen
Associate Professor of Anthropology and South & Southeast Asian Studies
University of California at Berkeley

Dia Da Costa
Assistant Professor
Queens University
Kingston, Canada

Om Prakash Damani
Associate Professor of Computer Science
Indian Institute of Technology Bombay

Veena Das
Professor of Anthropology;
The Johns Hopkins University
Baltimore, Maryland

Soumya Datta
Lecturer in Economics
University of Delhi

Monimalika Day
Assistant Professor of Education and Human Development
George Mason University
Washington, DC

Mara de Gennaro
Assistant Professor of English
Bucknell University
Lewisburg, Pennsylvania

Hemang Desai
Robert B. Cullum Professor of Accounting
Southern Methodist University
Dallas, Texas

Parijat Desai
Fellow, Institute for Diversity in the Arts Stanford University

Amiya Dev
Professor of Comparative Literature (Retired)
Jadavpur University, Kolkata

J. Devika
Associate Professor
Centre for Development Studies
Trivandrum

Ganesh Devy
Professor of Humanities
Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology
Gandhinagar, Gujarat
Aparna Dharwadker
Associate Professor of English
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Vinay Dharwadker
Professor, Languages and Cultures of Asia
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Pawan Dhingra
Associate Professor of Sociology
Oberlin College
Ohio

Anuradha Dingwaney Needham
Longman Professor of English
Oberlin College, Ohio

Shahnaz Duara
Professor of Pediatrics, Obstetrics & Gynecology
University of Miami Miller School of Medicine

Arindam Dutta
Associate Professor of Architectural History
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Indranil Dutta
Lecturer, Center for the Study of Languages
Rice University
Houston, Texas

Meher Engineer
President-Elect
Indian Academy of Social Sciences

Mary Ganguli
Professor of Psychiatry, Neurology, and Epidemiology
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

M.K.George S J
International Visiting Jesuit Fellow
College of the Holy Cross
Worcester, Massachusetts

Anuradha Ghosh
Lecturer in English
Jamia Millia Islamia
New Delhi

Kaushik Ghosh
Assistant Professor of Anthropology
University of Texas at Austin

Saroj Giri
Lecturer in Political Science
University of Delhi

Michael Goldman
Professor of Sociology and Global Studies
University of Minnesota

Sumanth Gopinath
Assistant Professor of Music Theory
University of Minnesota

Patricia Gruben
Associate Professor of Film
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada

Jeanette Herman
Lecturer, Asian American Studies
The University of Texas at Austin

Robert Jensen
Associate Professor of Journalism
University of Texas at Austin

Manas Joardar
Reader in Applied Physics
Calcutta University

Mary E. John
Director and Senior Fellow
Centre for Women’s Development Studies
New Delhi

Vinod John
Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering
Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore

Sreevidya Kalaramadam
Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies
William Paterson University of New Jersey

Sangeeta Kamat
Associate Professor of International Education & Educational Policy
University of Massachusetts Amherst

Suvir Kaul
A. M. Rosenthal Professor and Chair
Department of English
University of Pennsylvania

Nadia Y. Kim
Assistant Professor of Sociology
Loyola Marymount University
Los Angeles, California

Jesse Ross Knutson
Visiting Lecturer in Sanskrit
Department of Asian Languages and Literatures
University of Minnesota

Vinay Lal
Associate Professor of History
University of California at Los Angeles

Vincent A. Lapomarda
College of the Holy Cross
Associate Professor of History
Worcester, Massachusetts

Jinee Lokaneeta
Assistant Professor of Political Science
Drew University
Madison, New Jersey

Amman Madan
Professor of Humanities & Social Sciences
Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur

Mokshay Madiman
Associate Professor of Statistics
Yale University
New Haven, Connecticut
Sunaina Maira
Associate Professor of Asian American Studies
University of California at Davis

Biju Mathew
Associate Professor of Information Systems
Rider University New Jersey

Mary Jo Maynes
Professor of History
University of Minnesota

Sharmistha Majumdar
Research Scholar of Molecular & Cell Biology
University of California at Berkeley

Ernestine McHugh
Associate Professor of Anthropology and Religion
University of Rochester
Rochester, New York

Nivedita Menon
Professor of Political Thought
School of International Studies
Jawaharlal Nehru University

Ali Mir
Professor of Management
William Paterson University of New Jersey

Raza Mir
Associate Professor of Management
William Paterson University of New Jersey

Ish Mishra
Professor of Political Science
Hindu College, University of Delhi

Amitabha Mukerjee
Professor of Computer Science
Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur

Richa Nagar
Professor of Women’s Studies
University of Minnesota
C. M. Naim
Professor Emeritus
South Asian Languages and Civilizations
University of Chicago
N.K. Nandan
Professor of Hindi
BBA Bihar University

Dev Nathan
Visiting Professor
Indian Institute of Public Administration

Balmurli Natrajan
Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Director, Gandhian Forum for Peace and Justice
William Paterson University of New Jersey

James Nye
Director, South Asia Language and Area Center
University of Chicago

Rupal Oza
Director, Women and Gender Studies
Hunter College, City University of New York

Gyanendra Pandey
Distinguished Professor of History
Emory University
Atlanta, Georgia

Kavita Philip
Associate Professor, Women’s Studies
University of California at Irvine

Shiv Pillai
Associate Professor of Medicine
Harvard University
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Veena R Poonacha
Director, Research Center for Women’s Studies
SNDT Women’s University
Mumbai

Gyan Prakash
Dayton-Stockton Professor of History
Princeton University

Ashok Prasad
Research Scientist in Physics
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Gautam Premnath
Assistant Professor of English
University of California at Berkeley

Jyoti Puri
Chair and Professor of Sociology
Simmons College
Boston, Massachusetts

Bandana Purkayastha
Associate Professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies
University of Connecticut

Imrana Qadeeroy
Emeritus Professor of Social Medicine and Community Health
Jawaharlal Nehru University
New Delhi

Mridu Rai
Associate Professor of History
Yale University
New Haven, Connecticut

Bhagavati Ramamurthy
Associate Research Scientist
Yale University
New Haven, Connecticut

Bhaskaran Raman
Assistant Professor of Computer Science
Indian Institute of Technology Bombay

Ashwini Rao
Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy
Columbia University
New York, New York

Nagesh Rao
Assistant Professor of English
The College of New Jersey
Velcheru Narayana Rao
Professor, Languages and Cultures of Asia
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Raka Ray
Professor and Chair, South Asia Studies
University of California at Berkeley

Chandan Reddy
Assistant Professor of English
University of Washington Seattle

Modhumita Roy
Professor of English
Tufts University
Medford, Massachusetts

Sharmila Rudrappa
Associate Professor of Sociology
University of Texas at Austin

P. Sainath
Lecturer in Journalism
University of California at Berkeley

Mahua Sarkar
Associate Professor of Sociology
State University of New York Binghamton

Sumit Sarkar,
Professor of History (Retired)
University of Delhi

Tanika Sarkar
Professor of History
Jawaharlal Nehru University
New Delhi

Simona Sawhney
Associate Professor of Asian Languages and Literatures
University of Minnesota

Meera Sehgal
Assistant Professor of Sociology
Carleton College
Northfield, Minnesota

Sagaree Sengupta
Translator and Lecturer in Asian Studies
Bates College
Lewiston, Maine

Manisha Sethi
Lecturer in Comparative Religion
Jamia Millia Islamia
New Delhi

Hemant Shah
Professor of Journalism
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Aradhana Sharma
Associate Professor of Anthropology
Wesleyan University
Middletown, Connecticut

Hari P. Sharma
Professor Emeritus of Sociology
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada

Jayeeta Sharma
Assistant Professor
History and Global Asia Studies
University of Toronto

Magid Shihade
Visiting Scholar, Middle East & South Asia Studies
University of California at Davis

Amritjit Singh
Langston Hughes Professor of English
Ohio University

Harjinder Singh (Laltu)
Professor of Computational Natural Sciences
International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad

Subir Sinha
Sr. Lecturer in Development Studies
School of Oriental and African Studies University of London
Ramesh Sitaraman
Professor of Computer Science
University of Massachusetts Amherst

Ajay Skaria
Associate Professor of History and Global Studies
University of Minnesota

Nigamanth Sridhar
Assistant Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering
Cleveland State University

Nidhi Srinivas
Assistant Professor of Management
The New School of Management and Policy
New York, New York

Aparna Sundar
Assistant Professor of Politics and Public Administration
Ryerson University
Toronto, Canada

Lisa Sun-Hee Park
Associate Professor of Sociology
University of Minnesota

Abha Sur
Lecturer in Women & Gender Studies,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Mriganka Sur
Newton Professor and Chair of Neurosciences
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Gitam Tiwari
Professor of Transportation Engineering
Indian Institute of Technology Delhi
Achin Vanaik
Professor and Chair of Political Science
Delhi University

Ajit Varki
Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Cellular & Molecular Medicine
Associate Dean for Physician-Scientist Training
University of CaliforniaSan Diego

Rashmi Varma
Associate Professor in English
University of Warwick, UK

Supriya Varma
Associate Professor of History
Jawaharlal Nehru University
New Delhi

Rahul Varman
Professor of Industrial Engineering
Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur

Ramaa Vasudevan
Assistant Professor of Economics
Colorado State University

Mahendra K. Verma
Professor of Physics
Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur

Kamala Visweswaran
Associate Professor of Anthropology
University of Texas at Austin

Chetan Sethi Zaidi
Associate Professor of English
University of Delhi

Stephen Zavestoski
Associate Professor and Chair
Sociology and Environmental Studies
University of San Francisco
See fully formatted (PDF file) with names of 139 signatories from around the world.