This Jan 30th: Stand up against human rights violations!
- Dear All,
As you are all aware, there's a greater need for all concerned about human rights abuses in India to come together. To this goal, AID (Association for India's Development) is launching a larger campaign against human rights violations, particularly focusing on custodial torture and prisoner abuses with an implicit support from elected representatives.
On this Martyr's day, let us come together and send a message that we are on the side of the justice. Please consider signing the petition below as an individual or endorse as an organization.
Petition link: http://aidindia.org/main/content/view/1483/1/
on behalf of AID
Uphold the Indian Constitution!
Defend Human Rights Defenders in India!
Free Soni Sori! Free Lingaram Kodopi!
26th January, 2012
Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh,
Chief Minister of Chhattisgargh Raman Singh,
President of India Pratibha Patil.
Every year on the 26th of January, we celebrate the Constitution of India . Every 30th of January, we remember the martyrdom of Mahatma Gandhi, who led India to freedom. However, for the vast majority of the people of India, even the most basic of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution - the right to life and personal liberty and due legal process if these rights are to be abridged - remain unrealized promises. And the ideals of the independence struggle, as articulated by Gandhi, stand indelibly tarnished.
One of the most shocking recent instances of this trampling upon the Indian constitution is the torture and sexual abuse of prisoner Soni Sori [2,3]. An adivasi school teacher from the Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh, Sori had exposed evidence of police misconduct in the framing of several cases against her . Police intimidation forced her to flee, and she reached Delhi seeking legal assistance, but was arrested before she could file a petition in the Supreme Court. Fearing for her life in Chhattisgarh, she asked to be held in custody in Delhi, despite which she was handed over to the Chhattisgarh police . In custody, Soni Sori was brutally tortured by the Chhattisgarh police, because of her refusal to corroborate their false statements. A subsequent independent medical examination found sizable stones lodged in her vagina and her rectum and severe damage to her spinal cord .
Another instance is the case of Lingaram Kodopi. In 2009, Kodopi was locked up by the police in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh for 40 days, tortured and pressured to join a vigilante force . After the High Court ordered his release, Lingaram went on to complete a course in journalism, and later documented villagers’ accounts of arson, murder and rape during a three-day police operation in March 2011. In September 2011, Lingaram was arrested on charges of collecting 'protection' money for the Maoists from Essar, a large business conglomerate. Sori, his aunt, came under pressure from the police to persuade Lingaram to accept the charges. She refused, saying the charges were false and ended up being an accused herself. Amnesty International has pronounced both Sori and Kodopi, Prisoners of Conscience .
Sori’s and Kodopi’s are not isolated cases. Authorities in various parts of India have a record of imprisoning innocent people, including human rights workers, on false charges, the most notable case being that of Dr. Binayak Sen. Dr. Sen was convicted of ‘sedition’, and sentenced to life imprisonment, but released by the Supreme Court on bail, pending appeal . Many other innocent people, mostly from marginalized sections of the society, continue to languish in India’s jails; Adivasi activist Kartam Joga  and labor leaders, Bhagwati Sahu  and Abhay Sahoo , are just some of them. Others like Kopa Kunjam  and documentarian Ajay TG  were released on bail and are awaiting trial. Arun Ferreira, a social and human rights activist, was acquitted in 11 different cases for lack of evidence, but re-arrested each time on a fresh set of charges, until he was finally released on bail on the 4th January .
In custody, Soni Sori was pressured by the police to implicate many prominent human rights activists as Maoists . Though Sori resisted the pressure, other news reports indicate a concerted attempt on the part of the state to stigmatize human rights defenders . This was a serious concern placed on record by Margaret Sekaggya, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, after the completion of a mission to India a year ago .
The gross misconduct of the police is enabled by several draconian laws of questionable Constitutional validity, such as the law against sedition in the Indian Penal Code , the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act , the Armed Forces Special Powers Act  and state-specific laws such as the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA) . These laws are intended to help the police to bring charges against anyone on no or the flimsiest of evidence or to arrest and detain people for extended periods without charges or evidence. This process of filing false charges and detention based on them, is being used as a punitive tool in itself.
Where there are credible reports of torture or of other grave misconduct by the police, rarely have the police authorities been investigated, or the democratically elected representatives sanctioning systemic abuses held accountable .
Therefore, we demand that:
Torture and other prisoner abuses must stop
Intimidation of Human Rights Defenders must end
The practice of filing false charges, extended detentions without trial, and "arrest, detention and trial" as punishment must end
The law against sedition (Section 124A of Indian Penal Code) be abolished
Laws which give unconditional and unchecked power to the authorities, such as UAPA, AFSPA and CSPSA, be abolished
Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi be released immediately and unconditionally
Police and higher level government officials responsible for torturing and pressuring Soni Sori be prosecuted
Sign Petition | View Signatures
- The Constitution of India
- Supreme Court order regarding Soni Sori’s medical examination, October 20, 2011.
- Soni Sori in hospital, writhing in pain (video)
- Chhattisgarh police official admits scripting case against tribals
- Judicial remand for Adivasi woman in ‘protection money’ case, Aman Sethi, The Hindu, October 11, 2011
- SC seeks Chhattisgarh’s reply on torture of Soni Sori
- They dared to speak up. But that’s not done in Dantewada
should drop charges against prisoners of conscience Soni Sori and
Lingaram Kodopi and unconditionally release them: Public Statement by
- Encounter menace, Frontline, August 14-27, 2010
- Supreme Court petitioner arrested in Chhattisgarh
- Raipur peasant leader arrested
- PPSS activists to step up agitation
- International coalition calls for the release of Kopa Kunjam
- PUDR statement on Ajay TG arrest
- After four years, “Naxalite” Arun Ferreira walks free, Hindustan Times, January 4, 2012
- A letter to Supreme Court advocate - Soni Sori
- Rights groups fronting for Maoists, says IB
of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders,
Margaret Sekaggya, as she concludes her visit to India
- An appeal to the Parliament to repeal the Sedition Law
- Undoing Democracy: The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act
- End Army Rule: A report on the working of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in the North East
- The Chhattisgarh Special Public Safety Bill, 2005, A Memorandum to the President of Indiahttp://www.pudr.org/old/pages/MEMO%20on%20Chattisgarh%20bill.pdf
- India Country Summary, Human Rights Watch, January, 2012