The following is a statement issued on behalf of several civil and democratic rights organizations at a press conference addressed by Mr. Justice Rajinder Sachar and Ms. Aeundhati Roy on Saturday, February 27:
The Delhi Police produced its charge sheet against Mr Kobad Ghandy in the Tees Hazari Courts on 18.02.2010. This document has baselessly alleged unlawful activities against a number of individuals and legitimate democratic organizations working in the public domain. These include Dr. Darshan Pal of the People’s Democratic Front of India (PDFI), Mr. GN Saibaba, a professor with Delhi University, Mr. Rona Wilson, Secretary of the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP), Mr. Gautam Navlakha of the People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR), PUDR itself, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), the Democratic Students’ Union (DSU), Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF), the PDFI, the Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL), Anti-displacement Front (ADF) and the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) wrongly named in the charge-sheet as the Association of Peoples For Democratic Rights).
APDR, PUDR and PUCL in particular have been solely concerned with safeguarding democratic and civil rights in India for over 30 years, and are internationally reputed for their rigorous and scrupulous approach to these issues. Among the charges against these established and respected organizations is the completely unfounded one that they are playing “a very important role to broaden the base of the [CPI (Maoist)] outfit”. The charge-sheet has provided no evidence whatsoever to substantiate its allegations.
These individuals and organizations have been actively and openly working for democratic and civil rights and liberties across the length and breadth of country, on issues ranging from displacement, people’s movements and rural destitution to issues of ethnic conflict and custodial deaths. Today, however, they are being targeted in the charge-sheet because, along with hundreds of others, they have actively and openly protested against ‘Operation Green Hunt’ (OGH). They have been consistently engaging with violations of civil and democratic rights arising out of the conflict between the Indian state and the tribal communities that have been resisting it. The Indian state over the last few months has targeted the people protesting against OGH as well as those who have taken up their cause.
The charge-sheet is yet another instance of the state’s attempt to criminalize any resistance or protests against its actions in the areas covered by OGH. The allegations in it only suggest the state’s intention to clamp down on legitimate protest against its undemocratic practices, and especially against its own attacks on its citizens - in fact, these allegations themselves constitute an unprovoked and unwarranted attack on these democratic and civil liberties organizations and individuals. It aims to further cramp already restricted democratic spaces: as the Supreme Court recently observed (with reference to charges against Mr. Himanshu Kumar of being a Maoist sympathizer) in the name of ’sympathizers’ and ’sympathizers of sympathizers’ and so on, all criticism and opposition is being stifled. It seems the intent of the charge-sheet is also to intimidate and silence all those who are engaged in protesting against OGH.
Evident in this is a 21st century Indian version of McCarthyism: an attempt to silence independent voices that was evident in the trumped-up case against Dr. Binayak Sen, in the brutal illegality of the demolition of Vanvasi Chetna Ashram and the eviction of Mr. Himanshu Kumar -- all in the name of the fear of ‘Maoists’. The fear psychosis is being sought to be generated so openly now that the Union government even tried to allege that Maoists were infiltrating the Telengana movement in Osmania University, which it had to recant in the Supreme Court recently. We collectively and unitedly condemn the state’s attempt to intimidate and silence legitimate protests and affirm the democratic rights of all people. In the light of the above we also reiterate our demand that the state engage in genuine dialogue with the CPI (Maoist) instead of prosecuting war against its own people.
Signatories to the statement:
PUCL, PUDR, CRPP, Jan Hasthakshep, CPDM, NPMHR, Saheli, Kashipur Solidarity Group
Distributed by Countercurrents