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People’s artiste Jeetan Marandi demands justice!

The one who gave cultural expression to the pain and anguish of the working
people and their struggles… who moved around with his cultural troupe from
the fields, factories and mines to the villages, suburbs, and cities singing
songs on peoples’ culture… he who rekindled the hopes of Hul-Ulgulan
–rebellion against exploitation– for the rights over Jal-Jangal-Zameen and
life among the oppressed and discriminated adivasis and the labouring
people… he who filled the hearts of the people, plundered and deceived by
the government, with a craving for social transformation to reclaim the
right to a life of dignity, land and wellbeing… one who became the lyrical
consciousness of the struggle to build a new society and a new power, the
struggle of light against darkness, of the hungry against hunger…

…such an artist, Jeetan Marandi, is pronounced guilty of murder
after implicating him in false cases and accusations under a well
thought-out conspiracy. An innocent is condemned to death on 23 June 2011
for the crime of murder which he did not commit. The one who has always made
the drum, the flute, the pen his weapon has become the target of the
so-called ‘war against terror’, condemned to the gallows on the basis of
trumped-up-charges and fabricated witnesses. As a peoples’ artist, he has
walked the same trail in upholding peoples’ culture that was blazed by
Kabir, Ravidas, Premchand and Nagarjun… He espoused the spirit and resolve
of the teachings of the martyrs Sidhu-Kanu, Birsa Munda and Bhagat Singh.
This is what the forces of darkness could not tolerate.

The famous peoples’-musician Shailendra wrote years back:

*“Bhagat Singh, don’t take birth as Indian this time,*

*Even today, the punishment for loving your country is death!” *

Indeed, this is what is happening with Jeetan Marandi! Because he too had
ignited the flames of cultural resistance against the state machinery and
the ruling-class culture that has mortgaged the people’s sovereignty,
independence and democracy.

Let us be part of the mass upsurge against this grave injustice! Let us all
unitedly demand justice for Jeetan Marandi and to revoke his death sentence!

*An appeal from:*

Dr. B. P. Kesari (Senior Writer), Sten Swamy (Human Rights Activist), Sashi
Bhushan Pathak (PUCL), Anil Anshuman (Cultural artist), Prof. Ravi Bhushan
(Writer), Dr. Rose Kerketta (Linguist), Dr. Shambhu Badal (Editor,
‘Prasang’), Prof. Vidya Bhushan (Writer), Meghnath (Film-maker), Nirmala
Putul (Poet), Shishir Tudu (Writer), Prof. Maya Prasad (Writer), Mukund
Nayak (Peoples’ Artist), Prof. Ramesh Sharan (Economist), Sudhirpal
(Journalist), Prof. Mithilesh (Teachers’ Leader), Virendra (Editor,
‘Gotia’), Sitaram Sastri (Social Activist), Sanjaya Basu Mallick (Jangal
Bachao Andolan), Dayamani Barla (Social Activist), , P. P. Verma (Social
Activist), Arvind Avinash (Nagarik Adhikar Andolan), Xavier Kujur (JGSM),
Sunil Minz (Journalist), Aloka (IPTA), K. N. Pandit (VVJVA), Damodar Turi
(VVJVA), Sunita (AIPWA), Jharkhand Jan Sanskriti Manch, Jharkhand Bachao
Andolan, Jangal Bachao Andolan, Jharkhand Alternative Development Forum,
Trivani Singh (Editor, ‘JanJwar’), Munni Kachap, (Mahila Ulgulan Sangh),
Aarti Kujur,(Member,Jila Parisad), Sambhu Mahto(CPI(ML)), Keya Dey(All India
Mahila Sanskritik Sanghatan, SUCI), arun Jyoti(social activist), Sudhir
Tete( social activist), Amar Kumar (Advocate, Ranchi Civil Court), Susanto
Chaterji (Marxvadi Samanvay Samiti), Ahmad Rajja(Advocate,HRLN), KD Singh(
CPI, Joint State Secretary), Rajdev Prasad Chandarvansi (Advocate), Hul
Jharkhand Kranti Dal, Anjani Pandey (CPI(ML))

,

*Join** **PEOPLES’ CONVENTION*

*11 am – 5 pm, 12 November ’11,*

*Social Development Center (SDC) Hall, Purulia Road, Ranchi*

Organised by

*Forum for the Release of Peoples’ Artist Jeetan*

Contact: Sashi Bhusan Pathak, D.T. 1070, Dhrva, Ranchi, Jhakhand, Mob.
9431364285/9939081857

Jiten Marandi – The Fate of an Openly Political Cultural
Activist

*September 18, 2011*

*September 18, 2011*

by Prasant Haldar (Translated by Amit Basole)

[image: jitenmarandi.jpg]

[*Jiten Marandi is a cultural activist from Jharkhand and also one of the
secretaries of Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners. He was
arrested in 2008 and accused by the police of being involved in the murder
of 20 villagers, including the son of former Jharkhand chief minister
Babulal Marandi, in Chilkari in 2007. He was sentenced to death in June 2011
by a lower court in Jharkhand. He has been an active participant in the
movements against forcible land acquisitions in Jharkhand - and was actually
arrested while he was on the way back from one such rally organized by the
Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikash Andolan, almost an year after the killings. The
police chargesheeted him under various clauses of the penal code, and it has
also been alleged that false witnesses were brought forth during the trial,
leading to the death-sentence. This case falls into the larger pattern of
victimization of the cultural political activists as well as those adivasi
voices who are resisting the various injustices being inflicted by the
state. The following article, written in Hindi, is one of the first detailed
expositions of the case. - Ed*]

Click here for reading the article (in Hindi)

One may recall that recently when a Raipur court sentenced Dr. Binayak Sen,
the human rights activist from Chhattisgarh, to life imprisonment, protests
came from all corners of the world. Subsequently the Supreme Court granted
him bail. Now, after a court in Jharkhand’s Giridih district has sentenced
folk artist Jiten Marandi together with Manoj Rajwar, Chhatrapati Mandal and
Anil Ram to death, protests have again gained strength. Reactions are being
expressed form different directions.

This sentence has been handed down for a massacre that took place on 26 Oct,
2007 in Chilkhari village of Jharkhand’s Giridih district in which Anup
Marandi, the son of ex-Chief Minister Babulal Marandi was killed along with
19 others. It is said that the massacre was carried out by the Maoists. It
is beyond dispute that whoever was responsible for it, it was a
reprehensible act which cannot be condemned enough. But it would be even
worse if innocents are punished instead of the perpetrators.

After this incident, on 28th Oct. an FIR was registered by one Puran Kisku,
the bodyguard of Nunulal Marandi, borther of Babulal Marandi, accusing one
Jiten Marandi and ten others. But no details were given regarding the
hometown or father’s name of the accused. Subsequently, on 29th Oct, the
Ranchi-based daily “Prabhat Khabar” published a news item with the headline
“Naxalite Attackers Identified” and named Jiten Marandi as the leader of the
squad that carried out the killings and also alleged that he had
participated in a rally of the Committee for Release of Political Prisoners.
The newspaper also published his photograph. The very next day, that is on
30th Oct, Prabhat Khabar published a correction to the news item saying that
the Jiten Marandi depicted in the photograph is not the same as the one
named in the FIR. The person in the photograph is the one who recently gave
a speech in a rally for the release of political prisoners and who often
participates in such programs. The newspaper apologized for the serious
mistake.

Along with correcting their mistake Prabhat Khabar also brought to light he
fact that there are two people named Jiten Marandi. There was turmoil among
the police. This revelation had put a question mark on their claim that they
had identified the accused. This was published in other newspapers and the
news eventually ran out of steam.

All of a sudden, five months later, on 5th April 2008, on Rachi’s Ratu Road,
plain clothes policemen arrested the same Jiten Marandi who had spoken at
the rally for release of political prisoners. Delivering an inflammatory
speech and causing road blocks were given as reasons for his arrest. He was
sent to Hatwar Jail in Ranchi. Before he could get bail, on 12th April
Giridih police remanded him to custody for the Chilkhari massacre. Rendering
the correction offered by Prabhat Khabar meaningless, the police made him an
accused in this matter.

Aparna Marandi, Jiten’s wife along with several groups from Jharkhand, spoke
out that Jiten Marandi was being framed and that he was innocent. These
claims of innocence were made much before the handing down of the death
sentence. Ever since the arrest, people have been saying that he has been
framed making use the fact that he shares a name with a Naxalite. Dr. Sawa
Ahmad, vice-president of Jharkhand Vikas Morcha and aslo an ex-minster asked
for a CID investigation into the Chilkhari incident alleging that: “the
police have arrested cultural worker Jiten Marandi instead of another person
of the same name. To save their own skins, the police have ensnared innocent
Jiten in half a dozen Naxalite cases.” These are not just empty allegations.
Many things become clear if we pay attention to the dramatic nature of his
arrest, the police diaries, the court hearing and the witnesses.

In Paragraph 37 of the log for Case 167/07, relating to an incident in
Devri, one finds written that “A report was prepared by the Devri police
station to be sent to the Station In-Charge at Nimiyaghat, in Dist. Giridih
in the form of letter no. 205/08, dated 21-2-2008, which asked that a search
and arrest warrant by issued in the name of the accused Jiten Marandi aka
Shyamlal Kisku, son of Kati Kisku, village Thosaphuli, police station
Nimiyaghat, Dist. Giridih.” It is clear that instead of arresting the Jiten
Marandi that police was searching for, they arrested a Jiten Marandi who is
the son of Budhan Marandi and is from the village Karando (Chilga) which
falls under police station Peertaand, Dist. Giridih.

Before his arrest, a new story was concocted. On 25 Feb. 2008, three new
witnesses are introduced, Moti Ram, Pati Ray and Sukhdev Marandi. In their
testimonies to the police two Jiten Marandi’s are mentioned, one form
Nimiyaghat and the other from Peertaand, the later running Jharkhan A-one (a
cultural organization). In this way this other Jiten Marandi is dragged into
the case, a mistake for which Prabhat Khabar had earlier apologized. Even
though earlier witnesses had named only one Jiten Marandi without any
information on the name of the father or the name of the hometown. A
statement (no. 164) had also been filed to this effect with the Magistrate.

This was the plan that brought Jiten Marandi from Peertand into the list of
accused. After this, on 12 April 2008 the Giridih police arrested him and
with lightening speed by 30 June 2008 had filed a chargesheet on him which
even denied the possibility of bail. All the case registered against the
Jiten Marandi that police were originally looking for, were now dumped on
this one. All these cases are false, because they are naming someone else.
For example Peertaand police station case no. 42/08 was attached to him when
in fact at the time of that incident he was already in jail for some other
reason. Another case in which he was charge-sheeted, Teesri police station
case no. 44/03 is also false because at the time of that incident he had
been arrested while participating in a program in Patna. Despite all this,
citing S.P. supervision as the reason, after his arrest he was trapped in
jail.

The process of witnesses giving testimonies during the trial was also filled
with conspiracy. The three witnesses who had first brought two different
Jiten Marandi’s into the case made an about-face in the court and refused to
take any names. Because the police had not received their testimonies in
front of a magistrate, this change in their stance became possible. Thus the
entire process can be called premeditated by the police. In reality all that
the police needed from these witnesses was to bring two people named Jiten
Marandi into the picture so that Jiten Marandi from Peertand could be
targeted. Now that a charge-sheet had been filed by the police against only
the Jiten Marandi from Peertand, a court testimony about two Jiten Marandis
being involved would put a question mark on the police charge-sheet itself.
So, the witnesses were called just to complete the formality of testifying
and were let go.

The remaining two witness who had attested to only one Jiten Manradi being
involved, now became important. Because they had not supplied either a
father’s name or an address for the accused. To make this inadequate
testimony complete it was essential that the witnesses identify Jiten
Marandi. This is what the police made them do. But this identification was
not done via an identification parade as is the normal practice. Rather the
witnesses were asked to identify him in court.

In this regard Jiten Marandi had already informed the court in writing that
the witnesses had been coached in who he was before he was produced in
court, which was an entirely unjust act. This is how he described the
incident: “On 24th March, 2009, when all the accused in the Devri incident
no. 167/07, that is, Session Trail No. 170/08 reached the court and were all
sitting the session lock-up, the Station Chief of Giridih Town came there
and he called me and asked my name etc. In return I asked him to identify
himself upon which he told me that he was the Chief of Giridih Town police
station, although at the time he was in plain clothes and there was no
indication as to his office. After some time, I was singled out and asked to
start walking, to be produced in court. I asked why the others were not
coming with me and I was told “stop asking questions and move.” When i came
out of the Session lock-up I saw a crowd of people, among them the police
chief. He pointed to me and told the others, “this is Jiten Marandi, make
sure you recognize him.” Subsequently the other accused followed me to the
court of Hon.Judge Mohd. Kasim Ansari. There too, people saw me carefully
and the clerk tried to take me back without getting me to sign in the court
register. When I asked in a loud voice, why I had been brought here, I also
had to listen to a warning from the judge. I accepted my mistake and
apologized. Meanwhile the others also reached there, signed and were
returned to the session lock-up. After returning the others told me that all
the people standing outside were witnesses in session trial no. 170/08. They
knew this because some of them were neighbors of the other accused. These
were the witnesses produced on 1 April 2009. Two of them Moti Sau and Subodh
Sau appeared in court and identified me.”

Jiten Marnsi’s description rings true because the people who identified him
in court were all either miles away at the time of the incident in which he
is accused or were from from villages Teesri and Gavaan which are far from
Jiten’s village. If they had not seen him ever before of course it was
impossible to identify him in court. During cross-examination when they were
asked how they knew Jiten, they replied that he often came to their village
with a (Maoist) Squad. If this was true why had they not notified the police
about this earlier? It also appears that these witnesses are all workers of
the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha whose leader is Babular Marandi himself. Not only
that, they have several criminal cases against them and they have also been
witnesses is several prior trials.

This raises the question, why did the police select such witnesses? Was
there not a single person in the village of Chilkhari or in the Devri area
who was an eye-witness to the incident? So much so that even the wounded who
testified in court did not name any person as culprit. Puran Kisku who had
registered the FIR, had also not named any person as responsible. But the
court accepted as incontrovertible the testimony of those witnesses who are
suspect on many grounds.

It should be emphasized that since his arrest Jiten Marandi as been speaking
out in different ways about the police harrasment meted out to him and his
implication under false charges. While in jail he has sent petitions
requesting justice to the sessions court in Giridih, the DM, SP, IG, the
Chief Justice of the Ranchi high court as well as the National Human Rights
Commission in New Delhi. But his calls have fallen on deaf years and no one
has asked for an investigation into the matter.

The key question is, why have the police and the government targeted Jiten
Maandi? So far people have known him as a folk artist and an activist in
popular movements. People have seen him sing and dance to the rhythm of a
dholak. They have seen him with children, carrying art to various cities and
villages, winning people’s hearts. Cassettes of his songs in Khorta,
Santhali Nagpuri are found playing in various neighborhoods. Why has this
man been declared a gun-totting Maoist?

In fact his cultural expressions and his thoughts are at the root of the
problem. In his writings and songs one finds the pain of starvation, loot
and displacement going on in Jharkhand today, and one finds an attack on the
system that is responsible for it. His songs are the voice of popular
resistance. This is the source of his popularity and the cause of the
government’s anger. He has been arrested while leading workers’ movements,
sent to jail for participating in anti-government protests, and accused of
inflammatory speech. Despite this he has continued awakening the masses.
Whether it the issue was displacement or corporate loot Jiten Marandi was
there with his troupe. He was there in the fight to release political
prisoners. Perhaps it became difficult for the government to tolerate this
man who was becoming the emblem of popular resistance in Jharkhand. It
became necessary to silence this voice of opposition. It became even more
urgent to suppress him because his voice was becoming a weapon in the
resistance against the loot of jal-jungle-zamin and mineral resources by
national and multinational corporations. Every act of repression was making
it even more potent. This is the truth behind the conspiracy against Jiten
Marandi, this is the reality of Jharkhand today.