Free Soni Sori!

Adivasi teacher in jail in India on charges of being a Maoist sympathizer.  She’s currently in jail in Chattisgarh, and this video is part of an international campaign to win her freedom.

Wednesday, March 8, 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Press contacts:
Vinay Bhat
Cell: +1 412.527.7985
Kamayani Bali Mahabal
Cell: +91 98207.49204
Reading Soni Sori’s Letters from Prison

Video Montage Marks International Women’s Day
In a global show of solidarity marking the International Women’s Day, concerned citizens from around the world today released a video documentary based on letters written by imprisoned  adivasi school teacher Soni Sori, currently held in the Central Jail in Raipur, Chhattisgarh. The video is available for viewing and sharing at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWnCrB1qwE4.

Soni Sori was arrested in New Delhi on October 4, 2012 and accused of being a Maoist supporter. Despite her appeals to courts in New Delhi, she was handed over to the Chhattisgarh police and taken to the state where she was beaten, sexually assaulted and given electric shocks by the police. Sori documented her torture in letters she wrote to her lawyer.

“On Sunday October the 9th 2011, I bore the pain quietly, all by myself. Whom could I tell? There was no one on my side out there,” she wrote in her letter which was read in the video. A subsequent independent medical examination found two sizable stones lodged in her vagina and another in her rectum.

Participants in this video project joined hands to draw attention to Sori’s case by reading from Sori’s letters on camera, supplementing the video with additional materials including photographs, news footage and Sori’s medical reports. As Sori said in one of her letters, she is only one of dozens of women in her prison who say they have suffered torture and sexual assault in police custody.

Sori’s lawyers have filed an appeal in the Supreme Court of India to transfer Sori to Delhi or another state where she would not be under the control of the Chhattisgarh police. Despite the severity of the torture, the hearing on the final decision on her appeal has been repeatedly delayed. Today marks the completion of five months since Sori was tortured.

Amnesty International has termed Soni Sori a Prisoner of Conscience (http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA20/047/2011/en) and demanded that she be freed immediately and the charges against her dropped. Human Rights Watch has appealed to the Prime Minister to investigate Sori’s case (http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/03/07/india-investigate-sexual-assault-police-custody).

Sori is in urgent need of medical treatment for the injuries that resulted from her torture. In another letter to her lawyer, she stated that the doctors in the Raipur jail have denied treatment, on grounds that she is a “Naxalite prisoner.” Protesting this, Sori went on an indefinite hunger strike.

The video documentary also highlights the need to hold the responsible police officials accountable. Instead of investigating the police officials involved in Sori’s torture, Ankit Garg, the Superintendent of Police who ordered and oversaw the torture according to Sori, was given a national award for gallantry last January 26, the Indian Republic Day.

JOINT STATEMENT ON POLICE ATROCITIES AND STATE REPRESSION ON ANTI-POSCO STRUGGLE

MARCH 6, 2012

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We strongly condemn the attack on and illegal abduction by the Odisha police of Umakanta Biswal, a famer belonging to Dhinkia village of Odisha, and an active member of POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), that has been engaged over the last six years in resisting the forcible acquisition of their land by the Odisha government for handing over to the South Korean multinational corporation POSCO. This incident, which occurred on 2nd March 2012, is the latest in the series of atrocities inflicted by the Odisha government and by hired goons associated with the government and the POSCO company, on the people of these villages. Umakanta Biswal, who was engaged in agricultural activity in his paddy field at the time of his abduction, was pursued by a group of armed plainclothes policemen on a motorbike, and shot at when he tried to escape. He has reportedly been kept in Paradip prison, and has not been produced in front of a magistrate within 24 hours of his arrest, as is required under law. We have cause to fear that he is being tortured in police custody, and are gravely concerned about his safety. This highly irregular, and illegal, form of detention of a citizen, amounting to a kidnapping by the police, is emblematic of the situation in which the villagers of the POSCO-affected area are living for the last six years, just because they have tried to protect their lives and livelihoods from being devastated by corporate greed. Numerous villagers have multiple false cases lodged against them by the police, and people are in danger of being abducted and detained by the police while being engaged in day to day activities such as farming. There have also been incidents where a villager taking his sick child to hospital has been arrested by the police. This continuing victimization and violation of basic human rights of a whole community of people is intolerable, and goes against all tenets of constitutionality and humanity. We condemn this brutal and illegal action by the Odisha government and demand that Umakanta Biswal be immediately produced in court and released. We request the National Human Rights Commission to take cognizance of this illegal detention and violation of rights of a citizen, which is symptomatic of the violation of rights of the entire community of villagers in the area of the proposed POSCO project.

Prof. Manoranjan Mohanty POSCO Pratirodh Solidarity Samittee, New Delhi
Prafulla Samantara NAPM and Lok Shakti Abhiyan
Prof. Ajit Jha Samajwadi Jan Parishad
Partho Sarathi Roy SANHATI Collective
Kiran Shaheen Media Action Group, Delhi
Aarti Chokshi Secretary PUCL, Karnataka
Students for Resistance Delhi University and JNU
Amit Chakrabarty Research Scholar, JNU
Mamta Das NFFPFW and POSCO Pratirodh Solidarity, Delhi
Subrat Kumar Sahoo POSCO Pratirodh Solidarity Samittee, New Delhi
Kamayani Bali Mahabal Lowyer Activist, Mumbai
Asit Das POSCO Pratirodh Solidarity Samittee, New Delhi
Nayan Jyoti Krantikari Naujawan Sabha
Shankar Gopal Krishnan Campaign for Survival and Dignity
Mayur Chetia Research Scholar JNU
Arya Thomas Krantikari Naujawan Sabha
P.K. Sunderam Research Scholar JNU
Bhanumati Gochhait POSCO Pratirodh Solidarity, Delhi
Ranjeet Thakur Journalist, Uttarakhand
Rajni Kant Mudgal Socialist Front
Rita Kumari Pravasi Nagarik Manch
Pushpa Achanta Women against Sexual Violence State Repression Karnataka

Repeal the Land Acquisition Act!

Medha Patkar in Sasthamkotta

Image via Wikipedia

Demanding Repeal of Land Acquisition Act and Enactment of National Development Planning Act Thousands to Attend Sangharsh Dharna from Aug 3-5 in Delhi

 

New Delhi, August 2, 2011: In the wake of the new draft of Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement slated for debate in the ongoing session of the Parliament, thousands of people from at least 15 states, affected due to the archaic Land Acquisition Act 1894 (LAA) is reaching Delhi tomorrow (Aug 3), demanding immediate repeal of LAA and replacement of it with a comprehensive National Development Planning Act.

 

“We welcome reopening the whole process and focus on the pre-legislative consultations. However one needs to keep in mind that the proposed draft is not a comprehensive draft but merely a combination of the earlier proposed two bills on land acquisition and rehabilitation, and fails to take in account the concerns raised by the millions of project affected people” Medha Patkar said.

 

Movements who have been opposing LAA have also been for long demanding community control over natural resources and the right to livelihood – some of it achieved under comparatively progressive legislations like the PESA Act, 1996 and the Forest Rights Act, 2006. Unfortunately, these very legislations are today under threat of being not implemented or worse misused for distributing land titles to some.

 

People are coming together in Delhi at a very crucial juncture. The poor from the cities who face eviction on a daily basis and whose livelihood is under threat, and those who are threatened by various developmental activities in the coastal states and the peasants whose land is constantly being grabbed for developmental activities would come and raise their issues. The question of establishing land rights of the marginal farmers, landless workers and peasants and their control over the natural resources, should be the focus of any new legislation dealing with the questions of land for development” Ashok Chaudhary, of National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers, said.

 

Other than the general focus on Land Acquisition Act repeal and replacement with a comprehensive legislation, 3-day dharna (Aug 3-5) under the banner of Sangharsh would also address specific issues around: Dams (in Narmada Valley, North East India, Himachal and Central India), Thermal & Nuclear Power projects, Urban displacement, Forest Rights and Community Governance, struggles against Corporations (POSCO, Jaypee, Adanis, Tata, Coca Cola, Vedanta, Mittal, Reliance, Jindal, etc), and protecting livelihood rights of rural and urban communities in the form of statutory government entitlements such as demanding a universal PDS and adequate beneficial rights to BPL members and oppose any move at introducing cash transfers.

 

Representatives of people’s movements would meet with the Ministers  / senior officials of the Ministries to discuss in detail their issues. People would meet Agriculture, Rural Development, Environment and Forests, Urban Development, Commerce and Industry, Social Justice and Empowerment and Planning Commission.

 

Key organizations attending the 3-day dharna would be national networks likeNational Alliance of People’s Movements, National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers, National Hawkers Federation, National Domestic Workers Union, SEZ Virodhi Manch and Jan Sangharsh Samanvaya Samiti, organizations like Narmada Bachao Andolan – Madhya Pradesh, PennurumaiIyakkam – Tamilnadu, Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti – Assam, Nadi Ghati Morcha – Chattisgarh, Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan – Mumbai, Aadivasi Mul Nivasi Astitva Raksha Manch – Maharashtra,  Jan Sangharsh Vahini, Matu Jan Saghatan – Uttarakhand, Machchi  Maar Adhikar Sangharsh Samiti – Gujarat, Renuka Dam Sangharsh Samiti – Himachal Pradesh, Birsa Munda Bhu Adhikar Manch – Jharkhand, Posco Prathirodh  Sangram Samiti – Odisha and others.

 

Contacts:

Vijayan – 9582862682 / 9868165471,

Madhuresh – 9818905316

Joe – 9871153775

 

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For daily updates on the dharna: http://sangharshblog.wordpress.com/

For Podcasts: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/sangharsh-dharna-aug-3-5-2011

Follow us on Twitter: #sangharsh

For higher resolution photos of dharna, contact: +91-9871153775

 

 


National Alliance of People’s Movements
National Office: Room No. 29-30, 1st floor, ‘A’ Wing, Haji Habib Bldg, Naigaon Cross Road, Dadar (E), Mumbai – 400 014;
Ph: 022-24150529

6/6, Jangpura B, Mathura Road, New Delhi 110014
Phone : 011 26241167 / 24354737 Mobile : 09818905316

E-mail: napmindia@gmail.com | napm@napm-india.org
Web : www.napm-india.org

5000 Rally in Raigarh to Protests Arrests

Live reporting by Bhan Sahu on CGNet Swara (audio in Hindi):

Bhan Sahu is reporting live from a rally in Raigarh in Chhattisgarh where around 5,000 men and women have assembled to protest the arrest of social activists Ramesh Agrawal and Harihar Patel. Both were arrested on 28th May on a complaint of misbehavior by an employee of Jindal steel in a public hearing a year back. Meanwhile high court has rejected their bail application. Bhan says people are expressing their sorrow and anger in the rally and the atmosphere is very charged.

Struggle over land and democracy in India continues

Public Convention on Save Democracy

Desh Bachao – Desh Banao

A RESOLVE

June 27th 2011, New Delhi

We all who have assembled here today discussed the political situation in the country in the wake of ongoing struggles across the country in Assam against evictions, Narmada Valley against submergence and displacement, Golibar, Mumbai against Shivalik; Jagatsinghpur, Orissa against POSCO; Raigarh, Chattisgarh against Jindals; Mundra, Gujarat and Chausra, MP against Adani; Kalinganagar Orissa against Tata and thousand other places. The struggle against Reliance, Jindal, Tata, Adani, Jaypee, Mittals and other Corporations and the collaborating State power is not only to protect their livelihood but central to this is defending the basic tenets of our democracy. The overall struggle is for deepening of democracy in the country – to establish the rule of law, to ensure right to life and livelihood with dignity, to ensure democratic control over natural resources – jal, jangal, jameen and Khaniz (land, water, forest and minerals).

The social and political churning witnessed at this moment in the country today is encouraging. In a political context where the questions of working class and poorest of the poor assumes prime importance we RESOLVE that :

  •  Our collective struggles have to deal with the corruption at every level and work towards establishing communities control over the natural wealth of the country. In the wake of increasingly oppressive power of State and Corporations, our collective struggles of dalits, adivasis, women, urban poor, the displaced, workers, farmers etc. have to challenge the crony capitalism and work towards a society based on equality and political freedom.
  • Everyone need to join this struggle for stronger legislations like Lokpal Bill which will control the corruption in this country and other measures which will bring back the black money stashed in the country in different forms of illegal and benami investments and tax heavens in foreign countries.
  • We will struggle together to scrap the regressive legislations like Land Acquisition Act, Special Economic Zone Act and others and agitate for drafting of a development planning act in this country with the free informed and prior consent of the strengthened Gram / Basti Sabhas and other local self-government institutions.

We urge everyone – people from all walks of life workers, adivasis, dalits, urban poor, women, men and professionals, intelligentsia and everyone else to join in this struggle against exploitation, oppression and inequality and secure justice and dignity for everyone. Let us all join hands to work together !

The Convention was addressed by Medha Patkar, Kuldip Nayar, Justice (Retd) Rajinder Sachar, Swami Agnivesh, Mastram Kapoor, Yogendra Yadav, Arvind Kejariwal, Raja Bundela, Dr. Sunilam, Ravi Kiran Jain, Smt Manju Mohan, Kavita Krishnan, Ajit Jha, Rakesh Rafiq and many other activists.

Note : Next national meeting on July 3rd, Sunday, 10:00 am onwards @ Centre of Science for Villages, Wardha, Maharashtra. For details write to napmindia@napm-india.org | 9818905316

 

Sign the petition against POSCO in Orissa

Sign the petition here (the text of the petition is below).

To: Dr. Manmohan Singh

Prime Minister of India
New Delhi

Sub: Demand that Central government stop playing double games with people’s lives in POSCO and other large projects; enforce laws relating to people’s rights

Dear Dr. Singh

As concerned citizens of this country, we are appalled at the callous and cynical manner in which the Central government is seeking to exploit people’s struggles for short term political gain. Rather than enforce the law as it stands, the government is playing both sides of the fence. On the one hand it violates the law to favour companies, and on the other it seeks electoral mileage by loud declarations of sympathy when people rise to fight these illegalities.


We refer to the recent statements by Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh and by other leaders in connection with the POSCO project in Orissa, wherein the Minister, for instance, has asked the State government to follow “democratic practices” and engage in “dialogue and discussion.” But, under the Forest Rights Act, it was the Environment Ministry’s duty to engage in precisely such “democratic practices” before it handed over forest land to POSCO. Meanwhile, long before any process of any kind was complete, you and your office, as well as the Steel Ministry, were making public commitments to POSCO and the South Korean government that the project will be carried out. If the Central government and the ruling party really believe in democracy and dialogue, why have they systematically violated required democratic procedures when handing over land – and forest land in particular – in the first place?

Under the law, forest land cannot be taken until people’s rights over it are fully recorded, and the government must respect forest dwellers’ power to protect and manage their forests. On July 30, 2009, the Ministry itself recognised this when it issued an order explicitly stating that no clearance for diversion of forest land will be given without a gram sabha resolution – i.e. a majority vote at an assembly of the village – that their rights have been respected and that they consent to the takeover. Yet the Ministry broke the law and gave clearance to the POSCO project without a single majority resolution from any village in the area. Indeed, the Minister questioned the majority resolutions actually passed against the project and asked for action against the elected sarpanch, while ignoring the fact that his State government and the Ministry were the ones actually breaking the law.

The same gross illegality is happening in projects across the country. Till date there has not been a single case known of a project being rejected on the basis of a gram sabha resolution – a basic “democratic practice” that the Minister is now advertising. The Minister meanwhile stated in an interview on June 5th that he plans to amend this order because it has become too difficult for the Ministry to comply with the law.


Now, as children, women and men form human barricades to save their lands from POSCO, the very same Minister who violated every tenet of both law and democracy declares that democracy should be respected. Will your government wait, as it did in Sompeta, Srikakulam and elsewhere, for people to die before it remembers its legal duties? Do you seek another Bhatta Parsaul for electoral benefit? Your government is playing a cynical game with people’s lives to benefit corporate profits on the one hand and it’s “aam aadmi” image on the other.

We demand that your government immediately cancel all illegal forest and environment clearances to projects, uphold the Forest Rights Act and the democratic process it requires, and ensure that all land acquisition in non-forest areas too is made legally and practically subject to a democratic decision making process. The government cannot be allowed to continue playing games with the blood of innocent people.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned

NAPM memo on POSCO in Odisha

NATIONAL ALLIANCE OF PEOPLE’S MOVEMENTS

National Office : A Wing First Floor, Haji Habib Building, Naigaon Cross Road                                                                                  Dadar (E), Mumbai – 400 014. Phone – 9969363065;

Delhi Office : 6/6 jangpura B, New Delhi – 110 014 . Phone : 9818905316

E-mail: napmindia@napm-india.org | Web : www.napm-india.org

———————————————————————————————————————————-

June 13, 2010

 

Dr. Manmohan Singh

Prime Minister, Union of India

 

Shri Naveen Patnaik

Chief Minister, State of Odisha

 

We have written to you earlier on the issue of proposed POSCO plant in the State of Odisha. We are extremely concerned at using police force against its own people in the villages of Gobindpur and Dhinkia, Jagatsinghpur to force them to vacate their homes and lands setting up this plant in the name of “public interest”. How can this be the ‘public interest’ if people of the region has been opposed to this project for more than five years, since the day MoU was signed ? Some of us have visited the area in these years and seen the resistance and also the thriving natural resources and communities living with dignity.

 

There has already been violence in this area by the police against people including women and children protesting peacefully, and on June 3, 2011, 17 people were beaten up and arrested for resisting the destruction of their betel vines, the source of their livelihood. As on June 12, 2011, the whole area is tense with about more than 25 platoons of fully armed police menacingly present, making loudspeaker announcements every 15 minutes, ordering the people to vacate or in default face police action. The people are especially afraid that the police may attack at night, but they are determined to peacefully resist the land acquisition. Women and children have been forced to lie in this chilling heat facing the boots of your armoured police. Is this the great democracy we are celebrating ?

 

It need not be made more explicit that use or threat of police force by the Odisha State Government or the Union Government based on illegal environmental clearance from the Union Government is completely unconstitutional. By not taking all possible steps to prevent police action against peacefully demonstrating citizens, you are violating the Constitution of India which you have sworn to uphold when you took office. Similar action took place in Kalinganagar in 2006, when 14 people who were peacefully resisting destrcution of their homes were shot dead by Odisha police. The police violence against the resistance of people in other places like Kashipur (Odisha), and Nandigram and Singur (West Bengal), to name just three, to government acquisition of land in the “public interest” has severely eroded the faith of people all over the country in the democratic professions of both state and union governments. In fact, people’s perception is that governments, regardless of ideology, are complicit with the multi-national corporations that demand land and other primary resources at the cost of poor rural and tribal people.

 

The acquisition of forest land is in violation of the Forest Rights Act, a matter on which the two committees of MoEF have already clarified and asked settlement of rights of people living there. You possibly have very good reason to neglect such people-oriented, constitutionally and legally sound advice but whatever the reason, it is anti-people, undemocratic and in violation of the sacred oath of office that you have taken. In fact the reason is eminently suspect.

 

It is unutterably sad that Independent India, that too under the rule of a party that won independence from the British, is using colonial methods of grabbing land with the use of police force from poor but self-supporting rural people to benefit multi-national business corporations in spite of their peaceful resistance, and when their pending cases in the High Court are due to be heard shortly. It is amazing how you, in your positions of power, are completely divorced from the reality of the gross injustices and violation of constitutional and human rights being perpetrated by the organs of the State against the very people who have elevated you to those positions. We fail to understand that why is Odisha government in such a hurry when the MoU with POSCO is not even there, it lapsed and your government needs more time to renew it. What is the hurry ? Whose interests are you trying to promote ?

 

Dear PM, you must uphold the promises made by your government and party that there won’t be any forcible acquisitions against the wishes of people. This is the test case for your intervention.

 

Notwithstanding the foregoing, it is never too late to take a right decision and pass legally and constitutionally correct orders. In view of the foregoing, we take this opportunity to urgently urge you to immediately withdraw the police forces that threaten the people of Gobindpur and Dhinkia in jagatsingpur District of Odisha, and put halt to any forced land acquisition in the area for the POSCO project.

 

Medha Patkar, Maj Gen S.G.Vombatkere (Retd), Prafulla Samantra, Sandeep Pandey, Gautam Bandopadhyay, Gabriele Dietrich, Anand Mazgaonkar, Faisal Khan, Sister Celia, Vimal Bhai, Mukta Srivastava, Suhas Kolhekar, Suniti S R, Rajendra Ravi, Bhupendera Singh Rawat, Ramakrishna Raju, Madhuresh Kumar