Sunday, March 28, 2010

Abduction of a social activist in Kolkata

[On 5th March, we received this letter written to the NHRC by Abhijnan Sarkar, a student activist from Kolkata. In the letter, he narrates his harrowing experience after being abducted by persons who seem to be personnel of some Indian secret service. We are publishing this in order to bring to light the terror unleashed by state law enforcement agencies on anyone who opposes the policies of the state. Abductions of radical political activists by such agencies have become a routine affair and illegal torture is carried out during such detentions, which are in complete violation of any kind of legal procedures to be followed. The legal system has completely broken down with such acts being carried out with impunity, thereby failing to protect the voices of dissent in a so-called democratic country. We urge all democratic voices to join together to protest such acts of terror. - Ed,]

Justice G, M, Mathur,
Acting Chairperson
National Human Rights Commission
New Delhi

Date: 18/02/2010


Respected Sir,

I am writing this letter with grave concern about the incident of abduction and sheer coercion that had befallen on me. To let you know about the dread terror situation in West Bengal unleashed by police, I am describing that incident chronologically.

On February 2, 2010, I was heading for New Delhi to attend an interview in Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Pusa, for my research purpose. The interview was to be held on February 4, 2010. I was accompanied by one person who was also journeying to attend the interview (I am not revealing his name for his safety). We were in coach no. S2, in 2323 UP Howrah New Delhi Express.

As the train arrived at Asansol station approximately at 9.30 p.m., seven men wearing civil dress came into the coach S2, pounced on us with fake allegation of robbery, forced us to alight from train. We were baffled to deal the situation. As we were shoved to move in the platform, suddenly one of them snatched my mobile, put my hands behind compellingly and blindfolded me. I smell a rat. I tried to shout for help, but on that moment no one came forward. I was shoved vehemently throughout the platform and hurled into a vehicle just outside the station. At that time, I realized that I was abducted and my companion also faced the same fate. I was sitting in the middle row of a SUV and my companion was in the last row.

Two persons were sitting alongside me, grabbing my hands, and bullying not to make any mess. The vehicle moved for minutes. And then it stopped, one person (I suspect he was the senior officer) replaced the man at my right. Then he started the interrogation (or intimidation!!) and again the vehicle started to move. They told me that they were heading for Ghatsila, Jharkhand.

As the vehicle moved, I was ordered to bend forward; at the gunpoint (They poked a metallic object at my rib). I was covered with a cloth. I was told that Bihar police had done this ‘operation’ to gather some information. They were speaking in Hindi.

Then they started to pelt innumerable no of questions. Most of those were irrelevant to my daily life. First they asked why I was going to Delhi, what is my past etc. As I cleared my position they had started to terrorize. They repeatedly recited that their course of action is different from West Bengal police and something brutal, they are used to abduct and encounter many persons. They would pierce my head with a bullet and leave my body in the jungle, no one would be able to find my corpse. One claimed that he had been an encounter specialist like Nana Patekar in the film ‘Ab Tak Chappan’. As the time gone, they methodically created an immense pressure on me, on my life.

Basically, my life was at their mercy. Blindfolded, without any premonition, I was in the abyss of consternation. With some prior knowledge from books and literature, I was aware of these types of incidents commenced by secret police as well as anxious about our future, about our life. In police custody, murders of innocents are common in our country. We were abducted in a surreptitious manner. The fright of death pervaded my conscience at that time. They had not done anything physically. But psychologically they infused terror into my mind.

Besides that coercion, they repeatedly asked me about Maoist activism in Kolkata and West Bengal. I tried to convey that I am not involved with any banned outfit. Hard of hearing my say they continued to pressurize me. I divulged tits and bits of my movement but was unable to satiate them.

I am involved with some kind of social movement that had broken out in West Bengal 2006 onwards. Like other democratic persons I spoke out against the forceful land acquisition and state terror unleashed by CPI (Marxist) led left front government. I suspect that’s why I was a target of police. In recent times many incidents of coercion by secret police had taken place in West Bengal.

After five or six hours of drive, the vehicle stopped. Again I want to repeat that throughout the journey I was interrogated, coerced, blindfolded. My companion also experienced same kind of ordeal. As the vehicle stopped they told me to come out of the car. Then they ushered us to the 2nd floor of a building. I was groping to find the correct steps. During that time they helped me to go upstairs.

They ordered me to sit on bed. After another period of interrogation I was allowed to lay down on the bed. After this they reminded me to think and reveal everything to them that I know, and assured me if I response positively, they would pay a reward in return. They acted in graceful and compassionate manner to mould me, to be subservient to them. Veiled, blindfolded, I was in a predicament condition, about to spend a night of nightmare. I was also unaware of my companion’s condition.

On the next morning, laying approximately five hours on bed, they had started their interrogation again. In the mean time they also provided the breakfast and tea. They fed me as my eyes were blindfolded.

Throughout the inquisition they repeatedly asked me the same questions seven or eight times. Every time they tried to hit upon the trivial discrepancies and browbeaten me that I was not cooperating. I visited Lalgarh four times, overtly, before the deployment of joint force in month of June 2009. I had to repeat this information seven to eight times (and other in formations also).

On that morning, after three hours approximately, another person came to interrogate me. From their conversations, I perceived that the new comer possessed higher rank, as the others called him ‘sir’. He asked some questions aggressively, in a humiliating tone. He showed me a picture of some students through a laptop (a HP model), among them I could identify a student of JNU, New Delhi. Only that moment they uncovered my eyes. I saw a glimpse of a room containing a table, a sofa set and chairs. Within a few seconds they put the shroud on my eyes.

The person, who supposed to be higher in rank, left the room within two hours. Then again the tedious interrogation had started. Intermittently, the officer advised me to shun the ‘despicable anti-state’ politics and advised to join their hand to return back to ‘mainstream’ life. Throughout this ordeal, I could not endure this kind of long chatter and became a yes-man. I had to pass some personal information like email address and passwords, my friend’s names etc to them as I was dejected, traumatized and perturbed.

They provided the lunch. And the repetition of above-mentioned interrogation had continued. In the mean time, the interrogating officer assured me that I might attend the interview I was heading for. And suddenly he asked me to stand up, to put on shoes. Without any argument I followed them. I did not rely on them and the whole episode was a riddle to me.

They again pushed me in a car. That time I realized that my companion was also pushed into that car. They ordered me not to unfold the covering. As the vehicle moved the interrogating officer gave me two A4 size pages and informed me that those were the air tickets to Delhi. He also told me that the car would leave us to the nearest airport. He threatened not to speak about this whole incident otherwise they would grill me and my friend and our family also. After one hour of drive the vehicle stooped. He ordered us to come out of the vehicle and unfold the covering after five minutes. I came out of the vehicle, unfolded the cover of my eyes within five seconds, and saw a TATA sumo hastily melted away, leaving us behind. I could not note the number of the car. It was dusk, we stood in a desolate by road, beside the International Terminus of Netaji Subhas Airport, Kolkata. They were definitely coming from Kolkata Police Department. The time was 7.25 pm, 3rd February 2010.

My friend and me were spellbound, astounded, after the extrication. Later I came to know that he was hosted in the same house, but in 1st floor. He was also interrogated for some times. He was total innocent (if I was found guilty of doing protest against state terrorism), and both of us faced an experience that is beyond the imagination of us, in this ‘democratic, civilized’ West Bengal.

I want to tell that this incident is mere indication of decrepitude condition in our state. How far the secret police could go, how easily they could flout law that I have experienced blatantly. As a civilian, I may have some view, some critics of policy of state. But this kind of infringement and coercion is unimaginable. I am not a ‘Maoist’, but I am a social activist and continue to be so.

For the sake of freedom of expression and transparency in intelligence network, I am writing this letter. Unfortunately, I am already late to inform about that severe incident. I was traumatized, so far my companion also. That case of abduction had repleted confusion, terror, and nothingness in my mind. To get rid of the plight I am appealing you for justice and demanding assurance to stop this kind of despicable acts of police.

Please accept this letter as complaint and I urge upon you to investigate the mater concerning harassment and mental torture, detention incommunicado and illegal action by the cops.


Murderous attack on Kissan activists

Attempts to terrorize budding farmers' movement

Defeat Evil designs of anti people fascist forces.

The murderers let lose by the Akali-rulers have struck again. They have enacted another bloody episode. Today, in the late afternoon, a team of BKU (Ekta-Ugrahan) workers, was brutally attacked in village Lodhi Gujjar by Sarabjit Singh & his goons. The team was pasting posters of the 3 day long Dharna at Amritsar by 22 organizations of farmers and agri-labours to be held from 25th to 27th March. Sarabjit Lodhi Gujjar is one of the main accused in the murder of Sh. Sadhu Singh Takhtupura, Organizing Secretary of the BKU. Four BKU members namely- Gurcharan Singh Lakhuwal, Sardool Singh Ramdas, Dalip Singh Thoba, & Balwinder Singh Kuralian, were severely injured in this attack and have ben admitted in Guru Nanak Hospital, Amritsar.

Now with the connivance and patronage of his political masters, Sarabjit Lodhi Gujjar is making efforts to falsely implicate BKU leadership in a false criminal case. After the above incident, when the BKU activists had taken the injured persons to the Hospital, he took their vehicles to his house to claim that he was attacked in his house by BKU leaders.

Lok Morcha Punjab has earlier noted that the murder of Sadhu Singh Takhtupura was part of a well-planned attack by a combination of anti-people forces on the blossoming farmers movement in Majha region. These black forces have been uprooting the poor farmers from their lands; repressing them on the strength of goonda-gangs; maintaining a strangle-hold on their lives through butcher police officers, corrupt revenue officials, Panchayti Raj institutions etc. As the people have no effective mass-organization of theirs, to assert their will, they were rendered helpless. BKU filled this void. It provided the people, especially the farmers, a platform to raise their voice against injustice and repression. When SI Rashpal Singh, the most notorious police officer, murdered a poor farmer in police custody and threw his body in front of his house the villagers accepted his challenge. They came out in the streets, caused traffic jam and forced the authorities to register a murder case against him. At village Saurian the people openly fought against the land grabbers and made them eat a humble pie on the strength of their organization. The black forces then retaliated by murdering Sh. Sadhu Singh Takhtupura. Their aim was to put fear amongst the rising farmers movement. But they failed. The present attack at village Lodhi Gujjar is a continuation of their evil designs against the militant farmers movement.

In a report prepared jointly by the Lok Morcha and Inqlabi Kender Punjab, in the aftermath of the murder of Sh. Sadhu Singh Takhtupura, it was specifically pointed out that the murderers were being openly protected by the Akali rulers of Punjab. None was left in any doubt in this regard, when Veer Singh Lopoke EX-Akali MLA was seated alongside the Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal in a public function attended by Union Home Minister P. Chidambram, despite an FIR having been registered against him on murder charges. The police officials investigating the case refused to record any evidence incriminating Veer Singh Lopoke, Sarabjit, SI Rashpal Singh & Kulwinder Singh Sarpanch Saurian. The game plan was to arrest small fries and save their political masters. The 3-day long Dharna was to force the Govt to act against the real culprits. The attack at Lodhi Gujjar village is a crude attempt to terrorise the BKU activists, which is doomed to fail.

Lodhi Gujjar incident deserves strongest condemnation. Evil designs of anti-people black forces should be defeated through more sweeping and broad based mobilization.


Comrade Sadhu Singh Takhtupura

Chandigarh, February 22
Peeved at the alleged protection given to the assassins of kisan leader Sadhu Singh Takhtupura and to carry forward their struggle for the withdrawal of the Badal-Kalia committee recommendations, 22 organisations of farmers and farm workers have decided to launch a statewide phased agitation starting February 24.
These organisations, mostly with Leftist leanings, have given a call for holding on February 24 day long demonstrations outside the offices of deputy commissioners in the state. 
Leaders of various organisations, including the Bharti Kisan Union (Ekta), the Bharti Kisan Union (Revolutionary), the Bharti Kisan Union, the Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, the Kirti Kisan Sabha, the Democratic Kisan Sabha, the Punjab Kisan Sabha, the Khetibari Kisan Vikas Front, the Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union and the All-India Khet Mazdoor Union, held a meeting in Ludhiana yesterday to finalise details of the agitation.
Talking to The Tribune, Joginder Singh Ugrahan and Sukhdev Singh Kokri of the Bharti Kisan Union (Ekta) said all participant organisations paid tributes to Sadhu Singh Takhtupura and declared him a martyr of the kisan movement. Tributes were also paid to Zora Singh Chakar who died during the Gurdaspur agitation.
Holding an Akali MLA, considered close to Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, besides a few others responsible for the murder of Sadhu Singh Takhtupura, the leaders of these organisations held that the actual culprits were being shielded and efforts were being made to get them a clean chit.
Eyewitnesses had named 12 persons in their statements to the police. Instead of taking action against these 12 persons, the state government had transferred the SSP (Rural) of Amritsar while the sarpanch of Sorrian village, though in safe custody of the police, was yet to be arrested in the case.
By setting up a special investigating team, they alleged, efforts were on to keep the Akali MLA out of the case. All these actions, they held, were indicative of the government’s support to the culprits.
Both Ugrahan and Kokri held that Sadhu Singh Takhtupura was murdered when he was going from village to village to mobilise support for the farmers’ agitation against the recommendations of the Badal-Kalia committee.
The agitation would continue with vigour and a statewide rally against the Badal-Kalia committee report would be held at Jagraon on March 15.

Moga, February 18
Hundreds of people including farmers, trade union leaders and the local villagers attended the cremation of kisan leader Sadhu Singh Takhtupura, organizing secretary of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta) at his native village at Takhtupura in Moga district on Thursday.
He was brutally murdered in broad daylight with iron rods and swords in the border village of Bhindian Saida in Amritsar district on Tuesday.
The 68-year-old Sadhu Singh retired as a teacher in 2000 and has four sons. His elder son passed away recently leaving behind four children.
A senior leader of the BKU Sukhdev Singh Kokri told The Tribune that they had planned to donate Sadhu Singh’s body to a medical college but the doctors refused on the grounds that the police had kept the body for more than 30 hours in their custody without proper care. As such, the body was of no use to them. They had to cremate the body then as per the rituals, he added.
Meanwhile, the kisan union had lodged an FIR at Lopoke police station in Amritsar district in which they had named four suspects including former SAD MLA Veer Singh Lopoke, his son-in-law and SHO Rachpal Singh, sarpanch of Sorian village Kulwinder Singh and chairman of the Block Samiti Sarbhjit Singh Lodhinanagal.
Kokri had alleged that their union was struggling for farmers’ rights in this belt of the state in the Majha region for a long time and these people had clashed with them many a times in the past few years.
Expressing his faint hope of getting justice from the state government, Kokri, while addressing the gathering announced that had decided to launch a state-wide agitation from February 24 onwards. “We will hold massive rallies at all district headquarters across the state demanding the arrest of the culprits,” he said.
It may be mentioned that Takhtupura, on the behalf of BKU, had recently organised a big rally at Ajnala against the police for allegedly killing a youth in custody.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Intellectuals seek CM’s help to hand over body of PCPA leader to family

Statesman News Service
KOLKATA, 1 MarCH: Intellect-uals, writers and theatre personalities have written a letter to the chief minister seeking his intervention to hand over the body of Lalmohan Tudu, president of People's Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCPA) who was killed by the police on 22 February.
The intellectuals who have signed the letter included Mahashweta Devi, Tarun Sanyal, Bibhas Chakraborty, Bratya Basu and Kaushik Sen.
Tudu's body is lying at the Jhargram morgue after the postmortem was conducted. The signatories alleged that the police had refused to hand over the body to the relatives of Tudu. They demanded that the body should be handed over to the family members and a team should be allowed to be present at the last rites of Tudu. They alleged that by not handing over the body to the family members the district administration has flouted the basic human rights.
Meanwhile, a team of the Association for the Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) today met the state home secretary Mr Ardhendu Sen and urged him to take initiative to hand over the body of Tudu to his relatives. A spokesman for the APDR said that Tudu was killed by the police without any provocation in a fake encounter. “This is the technique which the police follows to eliminate those who oppose them by showing a fake encounter. He said bodies of two other PCPA members were also killed by the police along with Tudu in the fake encounter could not be traced as yet.
Earlier, a team of the APDR had met the district magistrate of west Midnapur and demanded handing over of the body to the family members. Intellectuals said as their is not air conditioning system at the Jhargram morgue the body must have started to deacy.
Intellectuals said they would write to like minded people across the country to mobilise public opinion to put pressure on the state government so that the body is handed over to the family members as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, a prayer is to be made to the Calcutta High Court tomorrow to hand over the body of Tudu to his relatives. The plea for an unlisted hearing of the matter would be made on behalf of Mr Dhaniram Kisku, a relative of Tudu and Association for the Protection of Democratic Rights, a human rights organisation.
Tudu's bullet riddled body was found at his ancestral village at Narcha village in Midnapur (west) last month. He had come to meet his daughter on the eve of the madhyamik examition.
Home secretary Mr Ardhendu Sen today said that nobody has yet claimed the body and if the next to kin of Tudu applies for the body he/she will be allowed to have it.

Source: The Statesman, 3 February 2010