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Special meeting regarding Lingaram Kodopi

Thick iron bars never did stop anyone from fighting for their people, fear did. This note is being written from a position of fear. To begin simply- so that the inherently complex reality remains clear, there is a man in jail who happens to be an adivasi boy named Lingaram Kodopi. As everyone knows, Linga is from a small village called Sameli in Chattisgarh.  The hunt and persecution of Lingaram began on August 26th 2009 when the police picked him up from his village Sameli, detained and tortured him for 40 days- forcing him to become an SPO.  The police later withdrew their own statement after a habeas corpus was filed in the Bilaspur High Court. Lingaram was then arrested on September 9th 2011, tortured, and accused of being a mastermind Maoist leader who attacked the home of Congress leader Avdesh Gautam. Now that everyone knows what we are writing about, you may be stressed.

The paragraph above contains several words that we must not utter – we fear that using our voices to express the truth will lead to the violent oppression of people fighting for human rights. We also know that this violent oppression of human rights activists and adivasis is happening whether ‘we’ speak about it or not. We know that Kopa Kunjum, Dr. Binayak Sen are out on precarious bail, and that Narayan Desai a Gandhian is called a Maoist supporter when he calls for human rights in Chhattisgarh. We know that Himanshu Kumar’s ashram was vandalized, Kavita Shrivastava’s house was raided, Soni Sori was shot at, arrested, and tortured, and we also know that human rights activists ke saath saath their families and supporters get targeted/even killed for speaking the truth.

There is no proof that Lingaram attacked Avdesh Gautam’s home or that Lingaram is a Maoist mastermind. There is proof that Lingaram was in Delhi when Gautam’s home was attacked, proof that he was studying at a college of journalism in Noida, and proof that he wants his people to live free of both Maoist and state violence. There is proof that Lingaram does not want his people to live in fear.  
In Delhi, the independent peoples’ tribunal heard stories of Salwa Judum raping and killing adivasi people. Eminent activists conducted a peace march to Dantewada- looking for an end to the annihilation of adivasis. The process of fighting back despite fear has been going on. Press releases, information dissemination, the work is underway. What is the next step? Can Linga’s case be brought into a public domain to scrutinize the claim that he is a maoist mastermind vs. an aspiring journalist who wants to open schools and hospitals in his village? Is there a point in bringing Linga out of jail but into a state that continues to annihilate the collective identity of his sisters and brothers?  

These incidents are not accidental, and we certainly believe that this hunt is extending to each member in the family, it is trying to anhilate them one by one. In this context we call upon a meeting to discuss strategies to address this grave situation which Lingaram, and his aunt Soni Sori face. We would further discuss what needs to be done in order to address the larger situation at hand. The meeting will be held at Indian Social Institute on 25th November 2011 at 3.30pm.
Linga was in our midst, he ate, smoked, and laughed amongst us. He shared his worries, wept, but played with our children as if he was one of them. He was ‘almost’ one of us. He tried his best to move away from his ‘young adivasi boy from Dantewada’ identity to an ‘adivasi journalist’ identity. Within a short span, he worked with many of us, from BBC and Channel 4 to Delhi Solidarity Group – holding the camera at different events. He participated in the solidarity demos and CPJC (and other) meetings that we organised in Delhi within the last 2 years. Eventually he decided to go back, where the concrete jungles cannot choke his life breath, where the smell of the soil can fill his lungs and the smoke of Delhi’s vehicles is far away. The reality is that he went back to handcuffs and dark rooms that were being prepared for him since the day he left Dantewada, since the day he decided to do what ordinary adivasis rarely dare to  do – come out and expose the state and police.

Is the problem with us, if despite seeing the honesty in his eyes, we are still reading the lines between newspaper stories? We are trying to find out if ‘there is any truth in the stories crafted by the local police’? Are we not gripped by fear if we double and triple check our ‘facts’ before openly stating that we know him? Have we disowned him, or maybe we haven’t yet? 
These are testing times, situations are manufactured and we have become suspicious of every incident and suspicious even of our friends who are involved in the struggle for justice, peace and human rights.

Let us meet, talk and share to fight fear and to let the collective move forward…
Looking forward to meet you on
Date      25th November 2011  
Venue   Indian Social Institute
Time     3.30pm
In solidarity
Tarini Manchanda
Vijayan M J
Anil Tharayath Varghese
[On behalf of Campaign for Peace and Justice in Chattisgarh AND Delhi Solidarity Group]