AHMEDABAD, June 6, 2010
Several voluntary organisations and “concerned citizens” fighting for human rights have condemned the “indiscriminate” detention of some human right activists and trade union leaders, branding them as “Naxalites.”
“It has become an obsession with the Gujarat government and its police to brand human right activists as Naxalites to stifle the voice of protest by the poor and the downtrodden. The civil society need to stand up against such undemocratic methods of the police to curb dissensions against the government administration,” Mr. Hiren Gandhi, director of “Darshan,” a voluntary organisation, noted human right activist and advocate Girish Patel, and several others said here on Tuesday.
They were particularly protesting against the detention earlier this week of a Dalit leader, Ambubhai Vaghela Srinivas Sattayya Kurapati alias Kishore, who hails from Andhra Pradesh, but has made Gujarat his work place for the last eight years or so, and his young wife, Hansaben.
“One can easily find holes in the police story of them being Naxalites because the police do not even know that the 30-year old Hansaben is a local Gujarati girl and does not hail from Andhra as claimed by the police. The only crime of Hansa, an employee of the well-known Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), was that she was a niece of Ambubhai,” Mr. Gandhi said. Ambubhai, who worked as a computer operator at Darshan for the last four years, had migrated to Surat from a remote Andhra village years ago and Mr. Gandhi said he had never seen him involved in any controversial activity during his four-year association with him. The police, however, raided the Darshan office in the wake of Ambubhai’s arrest and took away a computer.
Human rights activists said they knew Ambubhai very well; except raising the voice of protest against communal disturbances and fighting for the poor and the oppressed in Gomtipur and the neighbouring labour-dominated localities through street theatres and other cultural activities, Ambubhai had never participated in any violent activities. “The detention of the three in the name of Naxalite activities is the height of the police imagination and their oppressive measures against the human right activists,” Mr. Patel said.
Citing the arrest of tribal activist Avinash Kulkarni in Dangs more than a month ago and is still languishing in jail despite protests by the civil society, the human right activists expressed the apprehension that after Darshan, the police planned to target all voluntary organisations working for human rights. They believed that the Narendra Modi administration was creating the bogey of “Maoism out of thin air” to divert attention from the CBI investigation into the Sohrabuddin and other fake encounters as well as the 2002 communal riot cases that were taking the inquiry on the doorstep of top political leaders in the State.
Valjibhai Vaghela, a close associate of Ambubhai, said people in Gomtipur and its neighbourhood had decided to put up boards at all houses “proclaiming themselves as Naxalites and getting ready to be arrested to flood the jails” if this was the way the Gujarat police wanted to stifle the voices of the downtrodden.
Demonstration at Gujarat Bhawan, Kautilya Marg, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi on Friday, June 4 at 12 noon.
About a month back all of you may have been informed about the arrest of Avinash Kulkarni, a widely respected activist who has been working on the human rights of Adivasis in Gujarat. His contribution to the formulation of the Forest Rights Act and later on in monitoring its implementation by enabling a large number of Adivasis to claim their land rights is well known. Avinash is now languishing in jail, with charges of fomenting Maoism, waging war against the nation and a host of other false charges slapped on him.
It is also a well known fact that in Narendra Modi government’s regime many of the human rights activists in Gujarat have faced harassment in different ways and serious attempts have been made to quell any dissenting voices. Continuing with this trend now the Gujarat Police arrested another trade unionist and Dalit activist Srinivas Sattayya Kurapati (Kishore) and illegally detained Amrit Vaghela (known as Ambubhai), and Kishore’s wife Hansa (Ambubhai’s niece, who is an employee of SEWA Ahmedabad) on charges that they are Maoists on May 30th. Ambubhai and Hansa were released later on June 1st mid night. They were not allowed any access to lawyers, family or anyone while they were detained illegally.
Srinivas (Kishore) hails from a remote village in Andhra Pradesh; he had migrated to Surat in search of employment and had become quite active in the trade union movement in Surat. He worked in Surat from 2000 to 2006 and then joined Darshan, an NGO in Ahmedabad which promotes socio-political awareness through theatre and cultural activism. He was working as a computer operator there. It was really horrendous to see the Gujarati TV channels such as TV 9 airing the ridiculous police version today how this simple NGO worker and trade union activist being described as the mastermind of the Maoist strategy in Gujarat, and even linked to the ‘Maoists’ who perpetrated the Jhargram railway sabotage! Hansa, Kishore’s wife, is a grassroots level worker in SEWA, and her only involvement has been in the cultural programmes and theatre of Lok Kala Manch in recent times!
The office of Darshan, the NGO where Kishore has been working has been raided today evening and their computer was taken away by the crime branch. The Director of Darshan, Hiren Gandhi was summoned for questioning by the crime branch.
It is to be noted that Ambubhai is a cultural activist par excellence, who founded the Lok Kala Manch in 1980, which has since produced and performed several plays on Dalit issues, on women’s issues, political satires, particularly productions on communal harmony and the dangers of the ideologies of communal hatred. He has been active in countering the Sangh Parivar and the Modi brigade long before 2002 and more intensely after 2002. His activities definitely did create a major setback to the strategy of VHP-Bajarangdal-BJP vis-à-vis Dalits. It is a known fact now that cadre of the Parivar which had some Dalit presence, particularly in Ahmedabad is now faced with significant desertion of these communal outfits by many of the Dalit cadres. Recently he led a major grassroots level movement known as ‘Swabhiman Andolan’ against the bootleggers in Gomtipur area of Ahmedabad, exposing conclusively the well-known nexus between the police and the bootleggers. His courage and integrity has always posed a threat to the police and the political establishment of the BJP.
The persecution of the human rights, cultural and trade union activists is completely intolerable and we must protest any such attack on the freedom of expression and right to dissent. We appeal to all the human rights activists, Dalit and Adivasi rights organizations and concerned civil society leaders to come out openly against such victimization and arrests of human rights and social activists like Ambu bhai, Srinivas, Avinash and others.
Join us for a Protest Demonstration at Gujarat Bhawan, Kautilya Marg, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi on Friday, June 4 at 12 noon.
Do bring your banners and placards.
AISA, Delhi Solidarity Group, Forum for Democratic Initiatives, NAPM,New Socialist Initiative,
Progressive Students Union, PUCL, PUDR, Stree Adhikar Sangathan and many others
Contact : Naveen Chander 9013074978 / Madhuresh 9818905316