Dantewada Padayatra – Appeal to all activists
Posted by Admin on December 13, 2009
THERE IS NO STOPPING THE DANTEWADA PADYATRA
IT WILL TAKE PLACE AS PLANNED
APPEAL TO ALL ACTIVISTS TO GET THEIR ACT TOGETHER
JOIN THE PADYATRA FROM 14TH TO 26TH DEC. 09
JOIN THE SATYAGRAH FROM 25th DEC. ‘09
JOIN THE JAN SUNWAI, 6-7 JAN. ‘10
Himanshuji and other friends of Dantewada have brought to our notice the latest attacks of the Chhattisgarh Police and the State Government on the VCA. Many of us are aware that on the 10th of December, ‘09 on Human Rights Day, Kopa, a VCA tribal activist, and Alban who is also a tribal and a human rights lawyer from HRLN, were both picked up, illegally detained and badly beaten. Alban was released next day but Kopa was arrested on charges of being involved in the murder of Punam Honga who was abducted by Maoists on June 2nd and later his body was found in a mutilated condition.
Kopa being charged for the murder of Punam Honga is absolutely rubbish. This arrest is part of the same series of arrests as was of Binayak in 2007, Ajay TG in 2008, Sukhanth in July, 2009 and now before the end of the year Kopa. The point is only one. If you disagree with the Chhattisgarh Government and try putting across another point of view then you will be removed from the scene. This is Chhattisgarh. And the Government of India ? It will watch in silence.
Kopa and the his work with the VCA
It is also very important to know that Kopa has spent more than 13 years of his life with the VCA. He is a brilliant singer and orator. Before joining VCA, he was with the Gayatri mission where he motivated people through his songs to stop drinking alcohol. It was his singer’s voice which got him a job in VCA where he not only continued to spread his anti liquor message, but now he also started organising kala jathas. On foot he and other workers started mobilising people to demand entitlements related to their Right to Food and Health and saving and reclaiming their Natural Resources. A very effective worker, he was responsible for putting together more than 750 community workers on these issues and more than forty main trainers in the district of Dantewada and Bijapur which is the work area of the VCA.
Kopa became uncomfortable for the administration and police since 2008. He took the courageous step of initiating the resettlement and rehabilitation work as per Supreme Court order of all those villagers who had left their villages due to the atrocities of the Salwa Judum and SPOs. He was the Rehabilitation coordinator of VCA. It was not just this work, he also exposed the Matwara massacre of 18th March, 2008 where three tribals were brutally killed and their bodies mutilated in a salwa judum camp. Kopa helped the families initiate legal proceedings in the High Court. He also got the widows of the three to file a complaint in the police station, which never got converted to an FIR.
He also exposed the Singaram massacre of 2009, where four girls were raped and murdered. Fifteen men were also murdered in this episode. Kopa got the families to initiate legal proceedings in the High Court and also got them to file complaints in the local police station. In 2009, he also exposed and took cudgels with the district administration regarding corruption in NREGA, including non-payment of wages to tribals. He was constantly fighting for people’s rights to get their share of PDS from ration shops, the only agency of the Government existing in the villages. Otherwise it is only the police and security forces.
The abduction of Nagesh Jhadi and Punam Honga, the 2nd June incident
Please recall that on the 2nd of June when Nagesh Jhadi and Kopa were returning from the Basaguda camp in Dantewada, their motorbike was stopped and Nagesh Jhadi the Panchayat secretary of Mallepalli was picked up by the Maoists. Kopa ran around chasing the abductors in the forest. He was unaware that Punam Honga (former Sarpanch), who was traveling in a mini truck, had been picked up later by the Maoists. Kopa decided to lodge a complaint about the abduction of Nagesh soon after, but then he was harassed by the SPOs and detained at the police station. So the next day Himanshuji went and brought Kopa out and they both decided to make their own enquiries about Nagesh’s abduction in the forest areas. But they were then led into a trap at Lingagiri by the SPOs, from where they managed to escape and drove hundred kilometres through forest areas and got out into the Bhadrachalam side of the forest where with the support of the late Sh. Balgopal of HRF, Himanshu addressed a press conference on the whole episode ( please see attachement- Himanshu’s statement from Bhadrachalam). We also know that Kopa had nothing to do with either the abduction of Nagesh Jhadi (he was released later) or the abduction and killing of Punam Honga, even then he had said that his life was in danger as he was being targeted for his work in exposing the Matwada and Singaram massacres and in trying to ensure justice to the families of those killed. In August, ‘09 too Kopa was picked up and beaten up by the SPOs. See attachment of his interview published in Hari Bhoomi saying that his life was in danger.
On 20th October, ‘09 Kopa, while addressing the meeting of the Citizen’s Initiative for Peace at Constitution Club in New Delhi, said that his life was in danger and that he would be arrested for his work.
Why the Arrest of Kopa now? IS Himanshu going to be the next one?
The arrest of Kopa has been made just five days before the padyatra that was to be undertaken under the leadership of Himanshu. The timing of the arrest completely gives away the Government’s motives. It is clear the Government does not want the padyatra to happen. They do not want the misdemeanours of the police, CRPFand other security forces to be exposed which the yatra will do as it will bring into the eyes of the public stories of people from areas where nobody has gone till now.
They also want to put the fear in the tribals of Dantewada that their fate may be the same as Kopa and Sukhnath if they connect with VCA. It is clearly an effort of trying to destroy the VCA completely. They felt that after the demolition, the VCA would shut up. But the VCA reorganised itself in Dantewada, the district headquarters. So the next attack was the arrest of Sukhnath on 30th July, ‘09, who they arrested under CSPSA on flimsy charges. The police thought that now the activists would lie low, but they were proved wrong. Nothing seemed to abate the resolve of the VCA in its endeavour to ensure justice to the people, so when the operation Green Hunt began in the forest areas of Dantewada, Himanshuji and his workers took the message all over the country. They facilitated the entry of groups and journalists to these areas who came for fact finding. They traveled thousands of miles to Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai and spoke to thousands to people and built a public opinion on stopping the ongoing war and potential genocide. They provided evidence of police and SPO atrocities by bringing the victims of these attacks to the fore. Media covered all this. Under the pressure of the public opinion thus generated, even the Home Minister P Chidambaram had to meet Himanshu and agreed to come to Dantewada if a public hearing got organised. To top it all, the Supreme Court also issued notices when a case got filed there on the basis of the testimonies of the victims of the police operation.
This development and the announcement of the Padyatra, Satyagraha and Jan Sunwai was the last straw. Hence Kopa was picked up on false charges of committing murder and supporting Naxalites.
And now the next person on the radar of the police and the SPOS is Himanshu. A rally of Salwa Judum and SPOs, taken out on the 10th of December had as its main slogans ‘Himanshu ko maro”, ‘Himanshu bhagao, Bastar bachao’, ‘VCA ke karyakarta bhagao, Dantewada Bachao’ and “maro salon ko”.
Himanshuji informed me on the 12th morning that between 11th and 12th, the Thana Incharge of Dantewada sent police 6 times and also came himself investigating yet another false story that a jeep had left Himanshu’s house in the evening at 6 pm on the 11th and some of the persons in the jeep had tried to abduct one SPO who was on the road. The Thana incharge claimed that the SPO escaped under the pretext of wanting to urinate. On charges of attempt to abduction, this investigation is being carried out.
The latest incident of the Collector of Dantewada getting the Danteshwari Sarwajanik Dharmashala to return the money that VCA had deposited for booking rooms during the Satyagraha period, clearly shows that the State will not allow any other voice to express itself.
So friends, there is a clear cut war in Chhattisgarh. Whoever speaks out against this will be cleared from the scene.
This is a wake up call for all of us.
Come support the Padyatra, Satyagrah and the Jan Sunwai!!! See the attached announcement for details.
You can send volunteers, blankets, food and money and, of course, above all come to Dantewada!! You can send your Cheques or Demand Drafts to Vanvasi Chetna Ashram payable at Dantewada. ( see details below.)
Please circulate this message to others.
(PUCL, National Secretaty)
1. Name and address of the bank : State Bank of India
2. Bank A/C No. : 10753239968
3. Bank A/C Name : Vanvasi Chetna Ashram
4. Branch Code No. : 0545
5. IFS Code : SBIN0000545
6. MICR : 494002006