Is anyone listening? In Jharkhand Alone, Hundreds of Adivasis, Charged as “Naxals” and Put Behind the Jails – Fr Swamy

Last month, Father Stan Swamy died as an under trial at the age of 84. He was a tribal rights activist and a staunch believer of civil rights. Today on International day of the world’s indigenous peoples, we are republishing his 4 years old work in his memory.

There are people who cannot take bail. There is nobody for them,” observed SC and ordered prisoners to be freed over trial delays. If a trial takes place, most would be acquitted… the trial deliberately delayed so they remain behind bars for years…                                                                    
The news was in the local print media recently. The startling news that after Jharkhand became a separate State, the highest number of arrests of alleged ‘naxals’ have taken place. It went on to say they are languishing in jails because they do not have the money to hire lawyers so they can come out on bail. Nor does the government’s ‘free legal aid’ ever reaches them. They are deliberately kept in jail for years without trial because if speedy trial takes place, most of them would be acquitted. The convenient tool the police use is to label them ‘naxals’, add more fake charges and prolong the trial process.

The Supreme Court, in its September 4, 2014 order mobilised judicial officers across the country to visit every prison in their district for the next two months to identify and release undertrial prisoners who have already underwent detention for half the maximum period of imprisonment their offence prescribes under law.

The media has however reported on September 21, 2015, that more than nine months after the Supreme Court deadline expired on the release of undertrial prisoners –all those who had completed half the prison term for the offence they were charged with should be released—the government still did not have any data (or was not releasing it, anyway) on how many such prisoners had actually been released.

Arrests and ‘Surrenders’ during 2015-16:  We get a glimpse of the arrests, the ‘surrenders’ as they appear in local print/electronic media: 1307 Jharkhandis have been arrested and 88 of them are supposed to have surrendered. (Source: Prabhat Khabar, Ranchi ed., 1 Sept. 2017).   

Some independent studies indicate that 27 persons [22 in 2016 and 5 in 2017) were killed in so-called ‘encounters’ by the police. (Bagaicha, Ranchi, documentation)

The assumption that all under-trial prisoners are guilty of alleged crimes is wrong. A serious question that emerges is, about the norm laid by the court that undertrial prisoners who had completed half the prison term for the offence they were charged with should be released. On what basis has the court prescribed this directive is not clear. The underlying assumption that all the under-trials are actually guilty of accused crimes. The reality is that it is not true. Most under-trial adivasi prisoners are not guilty of any crime but simple village folk who are falsely implicated by the police. So there should be no question of serving half their jail-term for crimes they never committed.

A just solution would be to release all under-trial prisoners immediately and speed up their trial process within a specified period. And if the government fails to do that, they all should be acquitted without any conditions.

A dangerous de-humanizing process is on: Practically every day, as we open the news paper or watch local TV channels, we see one or more young men are standing with their faces covered standing behind seated police officers in front of whom there is a table with weapons that are supposed to have been captured along with the ‘naxals’.  A write-up describing where and how these ‘naxals’ are apprehended. Rare are the days when this type of pictures are not printed or such descriptions not reported.                  
Is the general public being taken for a ride ?  The sad thing is that the educated general public takes it to be true! But the fact is most of it is not true. Innocent villagers are just rounded up, taken to police station, put in jails, cooked up charges foisted on them.

‘Surrenders’ proven fake.  Fake surrenders is another plot by para-military & police forces to rob the poor Adivasis & Moolvasis and make money out of them.

A staggering 514 innocent tribal youths were made to ‘surrender as Naxalites’ in Jharkhand between 2012 to 1014. A report of the NHRC affirms that some senior Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) officers conniving with some Jharkhand police officers have been organising these ‘fake surrenders’ to take advantage of the attractive ‘Naxalite Surrender’ policy. This opens up possibilities of getting awards and even getting promotions for playing this fraud on the poor tribal youths. Some middle men were also roped in who contacted the simple innocent tribals, lured them with promise of jobs and in return took big sums of money from them. Many of the surrendered youths had sold off their family land to arrange for the money to secure the promised jobs that never came. This money was shared with CRPF and police officers. These tribal youths were then lodged in the old central jail of Ranchi who then discovered that there were many many more tribals like them were also cheated and trapped. A senior Officer who discovered this anomaly wrote to the Director General of Police pointing out the seriousness of what was happening. But no action was taken until NHRC brought to light this disgusting affair.

Such is the tale of anguish the 4000 Adivasis languishing in the jails of Jharkhand are trying to tell the rest of the world.

But, is anyone listening?

This article is take from Sabrang India

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