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PUCL demands legal action against officials who killed the 20 persons in Bijapur district.

Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties – Chhattisgarh

Post Box No. 87, Main Post Office, Raipur 492001, C.G.

PUCL demands lodging of FIR and prompt prosecution against delinquent officials who killed the 20 persons in Bijapur district.

Dated: 1st July 2012.

PRESS RELEASE

The reports of independent journalists have now prima facie established that 20 persons killed recently by the police and security forces ostensibly in an “encounter” in the Kotteguda Panchayat of district Bijapur in Bastar region were all local residents of the village. The dead include school going children and a woman and several members of one family. That this fact could be brought to light despite statements of the police authorities and even the Union Home Minister that “hard core” Naxals were killed in an encounter, underlines the repeated assertion of the PUCL that a free and independent press in conflict areas is vital to the protection of civil liberties.

We are extremely dismayed by the statement of the State Home Minister Shri Nankiram Kanwar, issued in response to the Congress party forming a fact finding team into the incident, that, “half the Congress leaders are Maoists”, showing the extent to which all dissent is sought to be viewed with suspicion and is even criminalized in the State.

The National Human Rights Commission, through its guidelines issued on 29.03.1997 and revised guidelines issued on 02.12.2003 have made very clear that in these circumstances the following should be done:-

(a) Since in this case an allegation of crime has been made against the security forces, an FIR must be registered to this effect and the investigation into the allegation must be conducted by an agency independent of the concerned police, such as the State CBCID.

(b) Though the State has already announced a Magisterial Enquiry, that is mandatory in all cases of death in police action, however it should be ensured that the next of kin and the villagers who were witness to the incident are associated with the Enquiry. While the Guidelines clearly state that the next of kin should be “invariably” associated, most magisterial enquiries in the State, such as recently in the case of killings of Meena Khalkho (Sarguja) and Gautam Patel (Mahasamund), have been merely empty formalities.

(c) Prompt prosecution as well as disciplinary action has been mandated against the delinquent officers in the Guidelines which have also explicitly stated that no out-of-turn promotions or gallantry awards should be bestowed on the concerned officers soon after the occurrence.

Chhattisgarh PUCL demands that the guidelines of the NHRC be followed by the State meticulously in letter and spirit in respect of the fake “encounter” of 28th-29th June in the Kotteguda Panchayat, district Bijapur of the Bastar region.

Sudha Bharadwaj

General Secretary

Dr. Binayak Sen Speaks in Edinburgh

http://www2.amnesty.org.uk/blogs/scottish-human-rights-blog/health-practitioner-activist-and-prisoner-conscience-dr-binayak-sen

Health Practitioner, Activist and Prisoner of Conscience – Dr. Binayak Sen Speaks in Edinburgh
Blog by Domini Sowa (Amnesty International Scotland, Volunteer)

Dr Binayak Sen does not look like a man for whom the term ‘seditious’ would be applicable. Yet the 62 year old public health practitioner, activist and prisoner of conscience has been battling the charge of sedition since 2007. India’s most famous political prisoner came to Edinburgh to speak at a public meeting on Thursday the 14th hosted by the University of Edinburgh.

The talk took place on the occasion of Dr Sen’s trip to the UK to receive the Gandhi Foundation International Peace award for his tireless work in public health in one of India’s poorest states, Chhattisgarh. Dr Sen was joined by his wife, the activist and social worker Ilina Sen, Amnesty Scotland’s Shabnum Mustapha and the politician and former doctor, Richard Simpson MSP. Speaking to a packed room of activists, supporters and interested members of the public, the Sen’s spoke about their experiences in the wider context of inequity and dispossession of the deprived and indigenous people of India.

Dr Sen has worked assiduously for over three decades with the poor, indigenous and other marginalised people in Chhattisgarh on issues of basic livelihood, health services and social justice. As an office-bearer of the national civil liberties organisation, the People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) Dr. Sen is also a prominent defender of human rights in India. In many ways, his roles as a doctor and activist informed one another and became entwined.

Due to his vocal criticism of the inequitable policies and unconstitutional police and paramilitary action carried out by the right-wing Chhattisgarh government, Dr Sen was arrested under draconian anti-terror legislation in 2007. The charges brought against him were widely believed to have been trumped up and the campaign to release Dr Binayak Sen grew quickly to include wide public support and patronage from key figures, including Richard Simpson MSP who sat on the panel.

At the talk Dr Sen did not dwell on his legal battle but rather on the social issues affecting the most destitute in India. He spoke movingly about the cases of the minority groups being forced off their land and communal holdings that have for years managed to just about sustain them. Focusing on the problem of famine, Dr Sen challenged the audience’s preconceptions of chronic food shortage to raise the point that under technical definitions, based upon percentages of the population under BMI 18.5, large regions of India have been suffering famine for years. Shedding light on the “rising” nation of India, Dr Sen stressed the extent of social inequality in the Indian subcontinent and the dire nutritional conditions that affect large swathes of the population.

Ilina Sen, wife of Dr Binayak Sen spoke next about the extent to which the Indian government is contributing to the problems affecting the nation in their desire for ‘development’. Although populations are campaigning against moves to build nuclear power stations in tsunami prone regions and destruction of land following the creation of hydro-electrical dams, resistance to the clearances is being silenced and people are being accused with sedition. This is the same crime for which Dr Bianayak Sen faces life imprisonment which was first introduced by the British Imperial authorities to suppress dissent to its rule. According to Ilina Sen, “human security is the basis of national security” and so in the interest of national security, it is necessary to safeguard the livelihood of the Indian population. This is something that the Indian government and state governments like Chhattisgarh are failing to do and the couple have long been campaigning for.

Amensty International actively supported the release of Dr Binayak Sen and the Scottish branch of the campaign gained momentum in spring 2008 around the first anniversary of his imprisonment. Ilina Sen informed the audience that her latest visit to Edinburgh was the first since 2008 during the height of the campaign. She acknowledged the significant support that her husband received from the international community and attributed the success of Dr Binayak Sen’s bail in April 2011 to the many campaigns backing him.

Dr Binayak Sen is still fighting for freedom and although it is a huge step that he was granted bail by the Indian Supreme Court, he is still not free in the fullest sense of the word. The couple’s first-hand experience of the inequality and corruption that affects India has not left them disheartened at the possibility of a positive change in the relationship between the government, the public and development. Speaking to the audience in response to a question about the future of India she said, “It is possible with imagination and political will, to do things differently”

Civil society condemns activists’ conviction under UAPA

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-newdelhi/article3534852.ece

Human rights activists, members of civil society and journalist came together on Friday to condemn the conviction of activists Seema Azad and her husband Vishwavijay Kamal under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. They also announced a nationwide public campaign to demand immediate release of the activists.

Speaking at a Press conference here, Justice Rajinder Sachar said the judgment of the Allahabad Sessions court was based on “little evidence and application of mind”. Just because Ms. Azad was in possession of literature did not mean she committed an offense, said Justice Sachar.

“There is a wide chasm between possessing literature and committing an offence, which cannot be bridged by the flimsy arguments brought forth by the prosecution and accepted by the judge,” Justice Sachar added.

Ms. Azad is the editor of bimonthly ‘Dastak’ magazine and organisation secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (Uttar Pradesh). Ms. Azad, a post-graduate in psychology from Allahabad University, and her husband Vishwavijay were arrested in Allahabad on February 6, 2010, on charges of being members of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) and involved in unlawful activities.

They were convicted and awarded life term on June 8 after about two-and-a-half years in jail.

Arguing it was within the powers of the U.P. Government to withdraw the “false charges”, Justice Sachar urged the State Government to “nullify the wrongdoings of the last government in the State and withdraw false charges against the activists”.

Senior advocate Ravi Kiran argued that even a cursory reading of the FIR proved that the registration of criminal case against Ms. Azad was “premeditated”.

“The literature ostensibly seized from Ms. Azad, which had been sealed as evidence, was opened by the prosecution without any authorisation. In normal circumstances this would make the entire evidence suspect but the judge continued to rely on this evidence,” argued Mr. Kiran.

Senior journalist Anand Swaroop Verma, who has been spearheading a campaign against the activists’ conviction, said Ms. Azad was being targeted since she was a bold voice against the takeover of farmers’ land and had been writing about the witch-hunt of Muslim youths in Azamgarh by the Government and its security establishment.

PUCL: ‘Conviction of Seema Azad is a glaring travesty of Justice’

PEOPLE’S UNION FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES
Founder: Jayaprakash Narayan
270-A Patparganj, Opposite Anandlok Apartments, Mayur Vihar- Phase I,
Delhi 110091

New Delhi,
15th June, 2012

‘Conviction of Seema Azad is a glaring travesty of Justice’

Convention on 26th June, on the anniversary of Emergency

Press Release

New Delhi, 15th June 2012: “The conviction of civil rights activist Seema Azad for terrorism, unlawful activities, sedition and waging war against the state is a glaring travesty of justice.” This was the view shared by all the speakers at a press conference today. Justice Sachar argued that judgment of the session’scourt is based on little evidence and little application of mind. The only allegation against her is that she was in the possession of literature that the prosecution argued was illegal. But between possessing literature and committing an offence is a wide chasm that cannot be bridged by the flimsy arguments brought forth by the prosecution and accepted by the judge.

Senior Advocate Ravi Kiran argued that filing of the criminal case against Seema Azad was premeditated. This is clearly visible from even a cursory reading of the FIR. Even after the arrest of Seema Azad, the prosecution continued with its sinister motives. The literature ostensibly seized from Seema Azad which had been sealed as evidence, was opened by the prosecution without any authorization. In normal circumstances this would make the entire evidence suspect. But the judge continued to rely on this evidence. Furthermore, he argued that Seema Azad was given on police remand after the completion of the statutory period of 90 days. It is in this illegal custody that the police claim to have two cell phones which are also being used as evidence against her. Given the delay and the circumstances of this custody, the possibility of wrongdoing by the prosecution cannot be ruled out.

Senior Journalist Anand Swaroop Verma has been spearheading a campaign against the verdict in the Seema Azad case and arguing for her release. He argued that the judgment was prejudiced and is an attempt to silence protest against government policy. He argued that Seema was being targetted since she was a bold voice against the takeover of farmer’s lands and livelihood and exposing the reality of the witch-hunt of Muslim youth promoted by the government and its security establishment in Azamgarh.

Writer and poet Neelabh, who met Seema more than 6 times since her incarceration urged all writers and cultural activists to come together and put their weight behind this unjust conviction and ensure that Seema and Vishwavijay are released urgently. He also said that Seema Azad’s case should become the rallying point for all to come together and begin a discussion on how we can prevent the State from becooming vindictive.

A large number of academics, journalists, and representatives of various social organisations have already pledged their support to campaign for the immediate and uncinditional release of Seema Azad and her husband. Justice Sachar pointed out that it is within the powers of the state government to withdraw prosecution. He urged the new government in Uttar Pradesh to nullify the wrongdoings of the predecessor government and withdraw the false charges against activists’ lodges by that government.

Mahipal Singh & Kavita Srivastava ( national secretaries)

For further details contact: Kavita Srivastava – 09351562965

Update in the Seema Azad Case

13th June 2012

This is short note to give you a quick update in the Seema Azad case.

At a few hours notice a meeting was called on the 13th of June, 2012 at the Gandhi Peace Foundation against the conviction by a trial court sentencing the Seema Azad and her husband Vishwa Vijay to life imprisonment. the meeting was called to share the travesty of justice in the flawed judgement condemning Ms Seema Azad and her husband Vishwa Vijay for life in prison on ridiculous grounds. Seema Azad the organising secretary of PUCL, Uttar Pradesh is a cultural and literary activist based in Allahabad. She was the editor of Dastak, a monthly magazine.

The Delhi meeting was attended by more than 35 persons who included Justice Rajinder Sachar, ex chief justice of the Delhi and Sikkim high Court, and former president of the PUCL, Ravi Kiran Jain, Vice President PUCL and Senior Counsel Supreme Court & Allahabad High Court and was her lawyer for Seema; Shri Anand Swaroop Varma, Editor of Teesri Duniya and writer; Neelabh, poet and writer, Harish Dhawan of the PUDR, Chhittranjan Singh, Mahipal singh and Kavita Srivastava from the PUCL, Harsh Dhobal from HRLN, Madhuresh from NAPM, Roma and AShok Chowdhary from the National Forum for forest workers and forest people, journalist Bhasha Singh, Literary critic Ajay Singh, Adiyog from Lucknow, ND Pancholi from PUCL Delhi, Mahtab Alam from the CPHRD along with several other activists, lawyers and literary persons.

The meeting began with Mr. Chittranjan Singh welcoming all and stating the two fold agenda of the meeting, which was mainly sharing of the critique of the judgment and planning the campaign activities.

Mr. Ravi Kiran jain presented the critique. the 70 page judgement, showed no evidence. According to Mr Jain the case at no stage went never went beyond the FIR. Infact the incriminating piece of evidence that the police had tried to show, were mainly books and pamphlets and other “Maoist” literature that they were supposed to be carrying and had on their body at the time of their arrest on the 6th of February, 2012, Mr, Jain clarified that under no circumstance any of this could be counted as evidence, as the police had broken the seals of the packets without taking the magistrates permission and therefore tampering and planting of material could not be ruled out.

Secondly, the police had taken Seema’s remand illegally after the completion of ninety days, which is not permissible. During this two day remand they had taken her to her house, where they showed the recovery of two mobiles and some more literature. Apart from the fact that the remand itself was illegal and had been challenged in the Allahabad High Court where a recall application was pending. The proper search was not carried out as according to CrPC rules and therefore planting of material was possible. .

Apart from this there was no other shred of evidence, although the prosecution tried to string together Seema’s case with one other case made out in Gorakhpur and 2 cases of Kanpur, where according to the police they picked up several Maoists, who were actively involved with the CPI (maoist) party. They tried to show how they had seized the same literature and there were some confessions of some other prisoners which showed that they were Maoists. Which goes against the Indian jurisprudence where confession in front of police is not addmissable as evidence.

It was shocking to read that Seema had been convicted for sec 13 (punishment for indulging in unlawful), 18( punishment for conspiracy), 20 (being a member of a terrorist gang), 38 (membership of a terrorist gang), and 39 (providing support to a terrorist organisation ) of the UAPA amended 2004 and 2008, and u/s 120, 121 and 121(A) of the IPC.

It also came as a rude shock to all that that Seema had been sentenced to 10 year rigorous imprisonment in most of the above sections along with fines of 5000 to 10 thousand rupees. except in 13 where is it was 5 years rigorous imprisonment. She was also sentenced to life u/s 121, waging war against state.

For those who are not aware rigorous imprisonment means working in either the factory of the jail or in the kitchen

Mr Ravi Kiran Jain shared with all that the criminal appeal would be filed in the Allahabad High Court very soon. Although they have sixty days but they would not wait in this case.

Mr Anand Swaroop Varma and Neelabh Ashk shared the possible campaign that we could undertake.

It was decided that
1. 15th June: Press conference exposing the travesty of justice condemning Seema to life, will be addressed by Justice Sachar, Ravi Kiran Jain, Anand Swaroop Varma and Neelabh Ashk will address, Ravi kiran jain will present the legal critique.
2. 26th June: Emergency Day : PUCL Convention against the judgement in the Seema Azad case, all groups will be invited to participate . Along with condemning the judgement a campaign for the release of Seema Azad will also be planned. A poster will also be released for this purpose. A critique of the judgement will be presented which will be prepared by Ravi Kiran Jain, Harish Dhawan, Neelabh Mishra and Anand Swaroop in English and Hindi and will not be longer than 5-6 pages.
3. 25th June: Delhi activists to protest against UAPA and sedition.
4. The entire judgement will be translated in English, which is being coordinated by Harish Dhawan.
5. It was also planned that Allahabad and Lucknow must have protests, probably several groups are already planning this. Also a letter to Akhilesh Yadav against this conviction.

Case of Seema Azad: Crushing Voices of Dissent

The conviction of civil rights activist Seema Azad and her husband Vishwavijay under provisions of UAPA for allegedly waging war against state by the lower court of Allahabad has once again proved that this system is adamant at crushing voices of dissent. A penalty of Rs. 70,000 has also been imposed upon this couple besides life imprisonment order on8th of this June. These former student union leaders and active social activists have been alleged of being a member of CPI(Maoist) and involvement in ‘illegal activities’.

Seema Azad and Vishwavijay were arrested by UPSTF in Allahabad on Feb 6, 2010 when Seema returned from World Book Fair in Delhi and Vishwavijay had gone to receive her at railway station. STF claimed to have recovered maoist literature from their possession and also claimed that both were related to maoist party. STF then transferred this case to UP anti-terror squad.

Seema Azad is the editor of bimonthly ‘Dastak’ magazine, organisation secretary of PUCL-UP and social activist involved with civil rights movement. Her husband Vishwavijay has been a student union leader and activist of Inquilabi Chhaatra Morcha. Seema Azad and Vishwavijay have consistently raised their voice against human rights violations in Eastern UP repectively through their journalistic writings and political activism. They have mostly worked in the plains of Allahabad and Kaushambi where politico-mafia-police nexus is illegally mining sand, hoarding black money and in the proces exploiting and harassing workers. The couple raised their voice against politico-mafia-police nexusthat put them at the establishment’s target. Their activities could not be termed as illegal in any sense, never did they involve in any activity that was outside the perview of constitutional right to freedom of expression accorded to citizens of this country. The bimonthly ‘Dastak’ edited by Seema Azad investigated the Ganga expressway project in detail that was looming large upon the farmer’s livelihood and shelter. This magazine published detailed reports on the witch-hunting of muslim youth coming from Azamgarh. The arrest and recent judgement is basically prejudiced and an attempt to create a precedence that whosever will raise voice against wrongdoings of establishment and stand with the oppressed will be dealt with in the same fashion. It is noticeable that the court has no evidence whatsoever to prove the conviction charges.

We strongly condemn this judgement and appeal to the masses that they uncover the whole episode thoroughly and expose the anti-people face of governments. We demand to scrap the colonial laws under which arrest of social activists and charging them with sedition or waging war against state has become a daily routine, after which they are cursed to pass years behind bars without being given the legitimate right of hearing. Thousands of youth charged with sedition and toiling in jails are in this impasse. The case of Seema Azad and Vishwavijay is a challenge upon all the democratic minded citizens and has to be dealt with great fervor.

PUCL On the Conviction of Seema Azad and her husband by an Allahabad Court

PEOPLE’S UNION FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES

Founder: Jayaprakash Narayan

270-A Patparganj, Opposite Anandlok Apartments, Mayur Vihar- Phase I, Delhi 110091

12th  June, 2012

Press Release

          On the Conviction of Seema Azad and her husband by an Allahabad Court

The news of the sentencing of Seema Azad, along with her husband Vishwavijay Kamal, charged under Sections 121, 121A and 120B of IPC and also under the relevant provisions of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for possessing objectionable literature, to life imprisonment by a court at Allahabad on 8 June 2012 has come as a shock to the People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) and thousands of human rights workers all over the country.

Seema Azad, a grassroots journalist and a well known civil liberties activist belonging to the UP State Branch of the PUCL, was returning after attending a book fair in New Delhi along with her husband when they were arrested by the Special Task Force on February 6, 2010 from the Allahabad station, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, for their alleged links with Maoist organizations. The only evidence provided was a book carried by Seema Azad containing information on Maoist politics. From then on, they have been detained in custody, and have been refused bail.

It is clear to human rights activists that Seema Azad and her husband were charged under the draconian laws for political reasons. She has relentlessly raised her voice against local scams and injustices, denouncing the working condition of mining workers, exposing the practices of the local mafia and its nexus with the police force. She also edited a bi-monthly magazine – Dastak – and used it as a platform to publicize all the wrongs around her.

“On a number of occasions, she (Seema Azad) had taken up the cudgels on behalf of poor labourers and exposed the nexus between the police and the illegal contractors, who used to deploy labourers for unauthorised mining of stone or sand in various regions of Uttar Pradesh, particularly the Sonbhadra district,” PUCL UP Vice-President Ram Kumar said in a statement.

It has become a trend for the governments to book those, who criticize their anti-people policies and expose the misdeeds of politicians-police-bureaucrats and mafia nexus or give voice to the exploited, suffering, disinherited masses, under the most stringent laws, brand them as anti-national or Maoists and keep their voices muzzled by incarcerating them. What is even more miserable is that the judiciary, which is supposed to be the protector of the freedom and liberties of the people, also fails to do so. And the worst is that those who book innocent people on false and concocted charges always go unpunished even when higher courts reverse the judgment and set them free, of course, when they have already spent several years of their prime life in prisons. Seema Azad and her husband’s case has again brought these questions into focus and for all freedom loving people and human rights workers to take up the cause.

The PUCL plans to hold a convention shortly and also carry out a campaign for the release and justice of Seema Azad with other organisations. 

Mahi Pal Singh

National Secretary, PUCL