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CHHATTISGARH DECLARATION ON HUMAN RIGHTS 2007

PDF version of Declaration

All India Convention On “Suppression of Democratic Rights in Chhattisgarh”

8th, 9th & 10th December, 2007

Venue: Gass Memorial Centre, Raipur, Chhattisgarh

Organized By: People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL)- Chhattisgarh

CHHATTISGARH DECLARATION ON HUMAN RIGHTS 2007

The Chhattisgarh People’s resistance to State Repression and their struggles to restore democracy takes into consideration the wide spectrum of socio-political and cultural aspects of the role and place of State in India today. It is in this context, the All India Convention on Suppression of Democratic Rights in Chhattisgarh was held from 8 th to 10th of December, 2007 at Raipur (Chhattisgarh), coinciding with the Human Rights Day, and also with an attempt to forge broadest possible alliance of democratic forces in the country to defend democracy.

The Convention deliberated on issues and concerns confronting the citizens of Chhattisgarh, in which about 200 delegates drawn from about 24 organisations and 9 states participated. Prominent among these issues and concerns were: Human Rights Situation in Chhattisgarh, with special focus on Human Rights Crisis in Dantwara District, Displacement & Livelihood Rights, Salwa-Judum, Violence Against Women, Corporate Agenda, Saffronization and Militarization, Black Laws, Fake Encounters, Fake Surrenders, Custodial Deaths, Fake Arrests, Suppression of Right to Dissent (Gagging of Media, Intellectuals, NGOs, etc.), Police Accountability. In addition, it discussed the human rights situation against the backdrop of Development Versus Democracy, and Shrinking Democratic Space and People’s Responses. The failure of legislations meant to protect and promote the right to life and livelihood, loot of resources, and police of land and exclusion were topics that acquired special attention during the 2-day Convention. The Convention adopted the Chhattisgarh Declaration on Human Rights- 2007, and passed Resolutions, that are as follows:

Since the newly constituted state of Chhattisgarh came into existence on November 1, 2000, t he neo-liberalization drive with policies of privatization and establishing the market hegemony have further bulldozed the established norms and values of development with social justice and democracy, thus striking at the very root of the socialist-secular-democratic polity of India. During the past four years, the State machinery in Chhattisgarh has been flexing its repressive muscles more than ever before. In the name of curbing “naxalism” it has armed itself with military strategy ( with a definite and deliberate doze of saffronization in the BJP rule since December 2004) and the anti-terror laws (The Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005 ) but in reality it is threatening all those who oppose its “neo-liberal development paradigm” and mobilise the masses to resist displacement, mining, SEZs, dams and the designs of Indian Federation of Industries (IFIs) and Corporate Giants.

The Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act 2005 and the national Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (1967) – 2004 are glaring examples of such national and state level acts and should be seen in this context. These laws are more repressive than even the POTA. Under these acts, the government can arrest any person merely on the apprehension of obstruction in the implementation of one or the other policies and programmes meant to strengthen the Globalization Agenda in favour of the rich and powerful.

The use of the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act 2005 is targeted to terrorize the people’s movements and social/human rights activists against the privatization (such as the Sheonath river), industrialization with heavy mechanization, displacement due to development, alienation of tribals from jal, jangal aur zameen, non-implementation of labour laws, against the mafias involved in mining, liquor and land, etc. The utter disregard of the state machinery for democratic institutions ( like Gram Sabhas, Gram Panchayats, etc.) and principles in favour of the Corporate and Contract Business interests looting the livelihood resources of the people goes on to destroy even the façade of “largest democracy attaining maturity” on the Westminster model. The shrinking democratic space has resulted even in silencing of media, academics and NGOs that were honestly raising the voices of dissent and democracy.

In Chhattisgarh the passage of this Act by the government was accompanied by another governmental campaign known as Salwa Judum. Under this campaign to meet the challenge of the Naxal violence, people are armed and trained and are designated as “Special Police Officers (SPOs).” Adivasi villagers are forcibly picked up from their villages and are confined into ‘camps’. Those refusing to join this campaign are so much threatened and pressurized that they leave their houses and flee into jungle. Several prestigious organisations like the PUCL. PUDR, APDR, AIPL, Independent Citizens Initiative, CAVOW, ACHR, International Association of People’s Lawyers, journalists, etc., have conducted independent enquiry establishing that the Salwa Judum campaign has been accompanied by hundreds of unaccounted for killings, burning of thousands of houses, destruction of grain and livestock and clearing out of hundreds of villages, and displacement of almost 2 lakh persons is something that has come into the notice of even the Supreme Court after the filing of several petitions.

The Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, and the Salwa Judum campaign drive parity between the Chhattisgarh Government and the George Bush Government by its implicit declaration – “if you are not with me you are with the enemy”. Any question and questioner against the draconian act of 2005 are put under suspicion and face repression or its threat.

The arrest of Dr. Binayak Sen under these draconian laws has vividly exposed the real intentions and the content of these so-called “Special Public Security” Laws. The arrest of Dr. Binayak Sen is not the only incident of its kind but is a well-planned design to target democratic, human rights’ and anti-displacement activists in various states. The only crime of Dr. Sen has been that as part of the human rights movement, he has been leading the campaign against crimes committed against its own citizens by the State in the form of Salwa Judum, Fake Encounters, Custodial Deaths, Hunger Deaths, Displacement of people in the name of development, and destruction of democratic institutions like Gram Sabhas etc., in setting up industries belonging to Giants like TATA, ESSAR, etc.

Repeated arrests of social and political activists in peaceful agitations, the illegal detention of lawyers in trumped up criminal cases, the intimidating manner in which the petitioners are forced to withdraw genuine criminal complaints and Public Interest Litigations from the Courts of Law, and threats of arrests to other activists opposing globalisation are all indicators of the repressive clutches of the state gearing up to silence all protests. It is both a warning and a challenge to all democratic forces in the country to launch a struggle so that democracy survives, leading to development with social justice, peace, equality and dignity for all citizens.

Against this backdrop, we the various organisations and individuals gathered together at this Convention resolve to commit ourselves to the defence of democracy in Chhattisgarh by building the widest possible alliance of peace loving, patriotic and democratic citizens and forces.

In doing so, we adopt the following resolutions and pledge to act accordingly to strengthen the Human Rights movement in Chhattisgarh.

RESOLUTIONS

We, various organisations and individuals present at this All India Convention on “Suppression of Democratic Rights in Chhattisgarh” organized by the Chhattisgarh Unit of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), after detailed and serious deliberations at Raipur on the 8 th and 9th December 2007, do hereby, on Human Rights Day, 10th December 2007, with all responsibility voice the following concerns at the pathetic and deteriorating situation of human rights in Chhattisgarh in particular, and in the country in general:

1. That we oppose the imposition of a Corporate Agenda of rapacious loot of natural resources, of widespread displacement and despoliation of the environment, against the will of the people of Chhattisgarh, and for the profit of large companies – Indian and foreign – in the name of so-called development.

2. That we express extreme distress and concern at the forcible displacement of lakhs of adivasis in the Dantewada and Bastar districts and the total destruction of their homes, livelihoods and the tribal way of life as a consequence of the state sponsored violent campaign called the Salwa Judum being carried out in the name of combating naxalism and, subsequently, the confinement of about 70,000 adivasis in miserable inhuman conditions in so-called Relief camps. We urge that the Central & State governments should immediately take effective steps through democratic and peaceful means to provide conditions and climate conducive for their return in the 644 affected villages, and rehabilitate them with adequate means for survival, sustenance and livelihood. That not only the fundamental rights of the citizens guaranteed under the Indian Constitution, but the provisions of several International Conventions are being violated in and through Salwa Judum and Relief Camps.

3. That we are perturbed and strongly oppose the State Government’s proposal to transform these Relief Camps into Revenue villages, as this would be a blatant violation of the fundamental rights of these citizens guaranteed under the Constitution of India, rendering them into a permanent state of refugee status in their own country, denying them the Right to their land and livelihood, having uprooted them through force and violence from their villages.

4. That we demand that the government institute cases in respect of all violence and killings, unaccounted deaths, missing persons and incidents of sexual violence, arson and loot that have taken place during this period and brought repeatedly to the notice of the authorities by various credible and independent fact finding teams, and carry out impartial enquiry to punish the perpetrators.

5. That we also feel that a free and fair elections (due in December 2008) cannot be conducted in these areas when thousands are in virtual confinement living under threats from Salwa Judum and Security Forces, and demand that the Election Commission of India should take concrete steps to restore normalcy so that these adivasis be rehabilitated in their homes and villages and, in turn, exercise their fundamental right to vote.

6. That we are concerned at the reports of saffronization of the populace confined within the Relief Camps by the saffron brigade with the tacit approval and support of the BJP ruled State Machinery. The militarization of a section of the population with child soldiers is yet another concern that is bound to further deteriorate the human rights situation, and lead to civil war on fascist patterns. This worsening situation all the more necessitates the dismantling of the Relief Camps, and creating conditions for the large populace to return to their homes and livelihood.

7. That we express grave concern that in the name of combating Naxalism, police and paramilitary forces in the adivasi areas of Bastar and Sarguja have been granted blanket impunity, resulting in incidents of fake encounters, disappearances, illegal arrests, custodial rapes and murders. Recently the order passed by the Judicial Magistrate (First Class) Ambikapur, directing that 8 policemen be prosecuted u/s Cr. P. C. 302, 201, 166 and 34 for the murder of 5 persons on 5 th March 2004 in Village Kothali Lakrakona in Shankergarh Police Thana, and also the results of the Magisterial Enquiry at Village Santoshpur, Bastar confirm the findings of earlier investigations of the PUCL that the police party had murdered in cold blood these citizens. Similarly, PUCL-CG has established through Fact Finding in almost 13 cases of encounters being prima facie cold blooded murders. We demand that the guidelines of the National Human Rights Commission for registering offence u/s 302 IPC and conducting independent enquiry should be strictly followed in the case of all encounter deaths.

8. That we strongly believe that any move to acquire lands from peasants, particularly good agricultural land which is the source of their livelihood, for the purpose of companies or industrial areas and SEZs, should not be carried out without effective consultation with the communities concerned or without ensuring that the rights of people are protected. In particular, in the adivasi areas, no such acquisition should be undertaken without strict implementation of the PESA Act. In this context we are gravely concerned by the unjust repressive measures taken by the Bastar and Dantewada district administrations against the villagers who have dared to oppose land acquisition for the Tata and Essar plants. In other districts also, adivasis are being displaced in the name of Tiger Reserve and Elephant Reserve Forests. Particularly primitive tribes are being forcibly evicted from forest lands that they have cultivated for generations by forest mafia in the protection of forest guards and police in the name of “Van Suraksha Samiti”, even before their long fought for forest rights under the recently passed THE SCHEDULED TRIBES & FOREST DWELLERS (RECOGNITION OF FOREST RIGHTS) ACT 2005 can come to bear fruits.

9. That we strongly condemn the act of the State Government in vindictively framing of Dr. Binayak Sen, General Secretary of the Chhattisgarh PUCL in a false and politically motivated case under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act 2005, and the UAPA (1967) 2004, only because he dared to expose the human rights violations by the State police, paramilitary and Salwa Judum. We are gravely concerned and distressed by his continued detention. It is indeed ironical that even today, which has been declared “day of the defender”, this much-loved doctor, committed social activist and courageous human rights defender remains behind the bars due to the mechanizations of the state machinery which has demonstrated utter disregard for the human rights and the rule of law. Such attacks on known human rights activists are designed to curb and curtail the right to dissent and democracy, and carry out the globalization agenda in the State that threatens the right to life and liberty of the citizens. We also condemn the harassment of all other human rights and social activists, lawyers and journalists such as foisting false cases against lawyers like Amarnath Pande, Indradev Nag and DP Yadav in Ambikapur; human rights activist Subhash Mohapatra of FFDA, Raipur; Gandhian social worker Himanshu Kumar, Dantewara; CPI activist Kamal Kumar Gajbhiye and Manish Kunjam; or environmental activist Jayant Bohidar.

10. We strongly condemn the continuing vicious propaganda, discriminatory attitude, and deliberate harassment of minorities particularly of the Christian community by the State administration. In particular the “Operation Ghar Vapasi” is being carried out with a view to arouse hatred and enmity against a particular religious community, and actually amounts to forcible conversion. We demand that the State government come out clean and issue a white paper detailing the totality of cases of transfers of lands of adivasis registered u/s 170(B) of the Land Revenue Code, rather than selectively prosecuting such cases by singling out any particular community. We also express concern at the Chhattisgarh Religious Freedom (Amendment) Bill, which was passed by the State Assembly in mid-2006 targeting a particular religious minority community, and demand its immediate withdrawal.

11. We express our grave concern at the increasing lack of transparency in the functioning of democratic institutions. The convening of an in-camera proceedings of Chhattisgarh Vidhan Sabha on 26 th July 2007 (creating history by holding the first secret Assembly in the parliamentary past of Independent India) to discuss the country’s most irrepressible internal security threat — the Naxalite menace , the fact of keeping secret MOUs signed by the State Government with various companies, and the gagging of the press in conflict areas are indicative of this. We demand that the proceedings of in-camera session of the Chhattisgarh Vidhan Sabha be made public under the principle of public accountability of such democratic institutions.

12. We are gravely concerned by the deteriorating conditions of life and livelihood of the economically and socially deprived sections of people in Chhattisgarh. Deaths, particularly of adivasis, from hunger and treatable diseases like diarrhoea and malaria; human trafficking particularly of young girls; reports of migrant workers being kept in conditions of bondage etc. through slave trade are indicative of this. We urge the government to ensure strict compliance with labour laws since rampant violation of labour laws and extremely insecure conditions of work and safety are evident in the industrial areas.

13. We demand the immediate repeal of the Chhattisgarh Vishesh Jan Suraksha Adhiniyam 2005, regarding which a number of national and international human rights organisations have expressed serious concern as an Act having unacceptably broad definition of “unlawful activity”, as an Act calculated to criminalise democratic dissent, as an Act where persons can be punished for acts unwittingly or unknowingly, and as an Act which is easily amenable to be misused in a politically motivated manner. We demand un-conditional release of all citizens, including Dr. Binayak Sen, who are illegally and un-democratically detained under this Act and, if the State has any evidence whatsoever against them, book them under the normal laws of the land like the Cr. P. C. /IPC, etc., instead of hiding behind the Black Law.

14. That we are concerned at the growing lack of public accountability of police actions that have acquired notorious proportions during the BJP rule in Chhattisgarh. Crimes and violence against citizens, including women and children, committed by the police force especially deployed in sensitive areas, are on the increase. Cases of police misconduct and misuse of its power are reported day in and day out without any recourse to administrative and legal remedies already enshrined in the Indian Constitution. Not only the violation of human rights but loot and plunder of citizen’s livestock and properties, rape and killings by the Naga & Mizoram Battalions deployed in Dantewara district have become common knowledge. The State inaction in bringing to book the culprits of such violent and illegal acts has only resulted in growing hostility between the local populace and the police/army. We demand immediate withdrawal of armed forces and return of civil administration in sensitive areas.

15. That we are deeply disturbed with the inaction, indifference and bias of established institutions like the State Human Rights Commission against gross violation of human rights. Hundreds of cases are pending before the SHRC in Chhattisgarh without even a note of acknowledgement by the Commission, which is constituted with members due to personal and political considerations. We are also concerned that police officials having history of scant regard for human rights have been appointed on the Commission. We demand that SHRC be reconstituted with members with credibility and untainted record, and that it should conduct marathon hearings to dispose off pending complaints and cases.

16. Finally, we express our solidarity with all people and organisations who are struggling to defend the democratic rights and civil liberties all over the country be at Betul or Rewa, MP; Nandigram, West Bengal; Jagatsinghpur, Orissa; Mudigonda, AP. We strongly condemn state sponsored fascist attacks against the people such as occurred in post –Godhra riots in Gujarat.

On behalf of the Chhattisgarh – PUCL
Post Box No. 87, Main Post Office, Raipur – 492001: Chhattisgarh: India
E-mail: pucl.cg@gmail.com