India - Protect the Right to Dissent:
Statement by Prominent Citizens Regarding Assault on Social Movement Activists Campaigning on Transparency and Accountability in Rajasthan
2 February 2016
The Jawabdehi Yatra is a peaceful caravan of people committed to bringing about transparency and accountability. It attempts to raise awareness and uses methods of community monitoring including public hearings and the filing of grievances to promote better delivery of public services and entitlements. On 16 January 2016 the Jawabdehi Yatra was violently attacked by a mob let by a BJP MLA Kanwarlal Meena in Aklera, Jhalawar, Rajasthan. There has been widespread condemnation of the attack on Jawabdehi Yatra but the key figures behind this attack remain at large. Posted below is letter to the Chief Minister of Rajasthan and a public statement signed by concerned citizens & social movement activists in India.
Smt. Vasundhara Raje
29th January 2016
Dear Smt. Raje,
We are writing to you enclosing a statement condemning the attack on the “Jawabdehi Yatra” in Aklera, Jhalawar on the 16th of January. This statement also demands the arrest of BJP MLA Kanwarlal Meena who led the mob in this unjustified and unprovoked attack. The impunity enjoyed by Kanwarlal Meena is unacceptable. The fact that he is an MLA of the ruling party makes this even more glaring and alarming.
Mr. Meena has innumerable cases against him and should be classified as a history-sheeter given his record of repeated offences. He is clearly confident that he has the protection of the law enforcement agency and the other powers that be. His remaining at liberty is a threat to the public at large and our democratic structure. It is also an affront to the rule of law. We demand that he be arrested immediately and we hope that the party itself takes appropriate action against him.
The Jawabdehi Yatra is a peaceful caravan of people committed to bringing about transparency and accountability. It attempts to raise awareness and uses methods of community monitoring including public hearings and the filing of grievances to promote better delivery of public services and entitlements. It is an effort that is to be appreciated, supported and strengthened, and those responsible for the attack upon it must face due process and the law.
We hope for your support and speedy response.
STATEMENT CONDEMNING THE ATTACK ON THE JAWABDEHI YATRA IN AKLERA, RAJASTHAN
News that the “JawabdehiYatra” was attacked on the evening of January 16 near Aklera police post in Jhalawar, Rajasthan has come as a great shock. This 100 day journey was being undertaken by over seventy social activists under the banner of the Soochana Evam Rozgaar Adhikar Abhiyan (SR Abhiyan)– a network of more than 100 citizens groups in Rajasthan.
We are extremely disturbed by the accounts of brutal assault faced by the participants; activists and volunteers of the MKSS and other citizens groups who were carrying out a state wide campaign focusing on issues of transparency, accountability, and the delivery of social sector entitlements. This attack appears to have been planned and pre meditated, carried out by lumpen goons under the leadership of the BJP MLA Kanwar Lal Meena. Video footage of the attack clearly shows the BJP MLA from Aklera, inciting his compatriots while mercilessly beating activists himself, as they were engaging with the public at a popular market place. Victims include noted theatre and social activist Shankar Singh. Women were also manhandled and beaten, cameras and vehicles were reportedly smashed, and onlookers terrorized. What makes the incident even more condemnable was that it took place in the home District of Rajasthan’s Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia, and the Lok Sabha Constituency of her son, Dushyant Singh.
According to news reports in local dailies, this ongoing 100-day accountability rally, flagged off in early December, has been met with unprecedented enthusiasm at the local level. Street corner meetings held in various districts of Rajasthan have drawn tremendous support for the demand for a comprehensive accountability law, and helped to raise awareness of social sector rights and entitlements. The volunteers with the Yatra have facilitated and expedited the registration of over 6000 grievances of various kinds, from those involving ration cards and old age pensions to caste atrocities and violence against women. We find it reprehensible in a democratic order that political leaders should seek to unleash violence in order to intimidate and silence such efforts, instead of addressing the genuine concerns being raised.
Urgent, and firm action is needed from the Rajasthan State government. Thus far 11 people have been arrested in connection with this attack. However, BJP MLA Kanwar Lal Meena is still at large. We demand…
• That those guilty of the attacks and the leaders behind them be brought to justice promptly.
• That proper compensation be paid for the medical treatment of those who were assaulted, and for the mental and physical trauma they have suffered. The damage done to their vehicles and infrastructure should be evaluated and recompensed.
• That the Rajasthan state government publicly condemn the incident, institute a proper inquiry into it and ensure that elected representatives involved in the attack be disciplined in an exemplary manner.
January 29th, 2016
Dr. Achin Vanaik
1. Aheli Chowdhury, JOSH
2. Akhila Sivadas, CFAR
3. Amita Baviskar, Institute of Economic Growth
4. Amitava Mitra & Sujato Bhadra, NAPM West Bengal
5. Anand Mazgaonkar, Krishnakant - Paryavaran Suraksh Samiti, NAPM Gujarat
6. Annie Raja, National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW)
7. Arun Kumar
8. Arundhati Dhuru, Richa Singh - NAPM, UP
9. Ashish Kothari, Kalpavriksh
10. Ashish Ranjan, Jan Jagaran Shakti Sangathan
11. Ashok Bharti on behalf of National Confederation of Dalit Adivasi Organisations (NACDAOR)
12. B S Rawat – Jan Sangharsh Vahini & Rajendra Ravi
13. Baba Adhav, Hamal Panchayat
14. Bhaskar Prabhu, RTI activist, Convenor Mahiti Adhikar Manch
15. Biraj Patnaik, Principal Adviser to the Commissioners of the Supreme Court on the Right to Food
16. Brinda Singh
17. C R Neelkandan – NAPM Kerala;
18. C.P. Chandrasekhar, Professor, JNU
19. Deep Joshi, Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA)
20. Devaki Jain, Economist
21. Devasahayam MG, IAS retd
22. Dhirendra Singh
23. Dilip Simeon, labour historian
24. Dipa Sinha, social acitivist, Right to Food Campaign
25. Dipak Dholakia
26. Diwan Singh, Member, Dwarka Water Bodies Committee, Yamuna Satyagraha, Ridge Bachao Andolan, Campaign for Preservation of Commons
27. Dr Karen Gabriel, Associate Professor, Department of English, Director, Centre for Gender, Culture and Social Processes, St Stephen’s College
28. Dr. Abey George, (Kerala Institute of Local Administration KILA, NCPRI working com, Kerala RTI collective)
29. Dr. Anand Teltumbde, social activist
30. Dr. H Sudarshan
31. Dr. Sunilam, Aradhna Bhargava - Kisan Sangharsh Samiti
32. Dr. V Mohini Giri, social worker and activist, former chairperson NCW, Guild of Service
33. Dr. Vikram Vyas, Centre for Theoretical Physics,St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University
34. Dunu Roy, Senior Fellow at Shiv Nadar University and Hazards Centre
35. E A S Sarma, Former Secretary, Government of India and Convener of Forum for Better Visakha (FBV)
36. Faisal Khan, Khudai Khidmatgar
37. Gabriele Dietrich, Geetha Ramakrishnan – Unorganised Sector Workers Federation, NAPM, TN
38. Gargi Chakravartty, NFIW
39. Gautam Bhan, Indian Institute for Human Settlements
40. Girish Karnad, writer, actor, film director
41. Girish Nikam, senior journalist
42. Harsh Mander, Director Center for Equity Studies
43. Harsh Sethi, Consulting editor, Seminar
44. Henri Tiphagne, National Working Secretary, Human Rights Defenders Alert - India (HRDA) & All India Network of Individuals & NGO working with National and State Human Rights Institutions (AiNNI )
45. J S Walia, NAPM Haryana
46. Jagdeep Chhokar, activist, Association for Democratic Reform (ADR)
47. James Herenj, Convenor Jharkhand NREGA Watch
48. Jayanti Banerjee
49. Jayati Ghosh, Economist, JNU and columnist in Frontline
50. Joe Athialy, New Delhi
51. Justice K. Chandru
52. Kailash Meena, NAPM Rajasthan
53. Kalyani Menon Sen, Feminist Learning Partnerships
54. Kamal Chenoy, Professor Centre for Comparative Politics & Political Theory, School of International Studies, JNU
55. Kamal Kant Jaswal
56. Kamayani Swami, Jan Jagaran Shakti Sangathan
57. Karamvir Shastri, RTI activist
58. Karuna M, activist, Tamil Nadu
59. Kathyayini Chamaraj, activist CIVIC Bangalore
60. Kavita Karishnan, AIPWA
61. Kiran Shaheen, Memoirist and activist
62. Koninika Ray, NFIW
64. Kunal Chattopadhyay
65. Lalit Mathur, IAS retd.
66. Lijo Chacko
67. Lingraj Azad – Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti, NAPM, Odisha
68. M S Swaminathan, Founder Chairman, M S Swaminathan Research Foundation
69. Madhuresh Kumar and Shabnam Shaikh – NAPM, Delhi
70. Madhuri Krishnaswamy, activist
71. Mahendra Yadav – Kosi Navnirman Manch, NAPM Bihar
72. Manisha Sethi, Jamia Milia Islamia
73. Manoj Mitta, journalist
74. Mathew Cherian, Chief Executive Help Age India
75. Medha Patkar - Narmada Bachao Andolan and the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM)
77. Meera – Narmada Bachao Andolan, NAPM, MP
78. Mohan Kanda
79. Mukul Mangalik, Associate Professor of History, Ramjas College, Uni. of Delhi
80. Muzaffar Bhatt, RTI activist
81. Nachiket Udupa
82. Nandini Rao, activist, feminist
83. Nandita Das, actor
84. National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW)
85. Neelabh Mishra, journalist
86. Neha Saigal
87. Nikita Sonavane
88. Nirmala Lakshman, senior journalist and editor
89. Nisha Biswas, activist, Kolkata
90. Nivedita Menon, JNU
91. Ovais Sultan Khan
92. P Chennaiah & Ramakrishnan Raju – NAPM Andhra Pradesh,
93. Parminder, Anita Gurumurthy, behalf of IT for Change
94. Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity
95. Persis Ginwalla, social activist, Ahmedabad
96. Poornima Chikarmane, social activist and Associate Professor at SNDT Women’s University, Pune
97. Prabhat Patnaik, Professor Emeritus, JNU
98. Pradeep Baisakh, journalist, Odisha
99. Prafulla Samantara - Lok Shakti Abhiyan
100. Prashanto Sen, Advocate
101. Praveen Jha, Professor, jnu
102. Preeti Sampat, Professor, Department of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics
103. Prithvi Sharma, ICAN
104. Rajastan Majdoor Kisan Union (RMKU)
105. Rajendra Ravi
106. Raju Ramachandran, Senior Advocate
107. Rakesh Agarwal, activist, Dehradun
108. Rakesh Reddy Dubbudu, RTI activist
109. Ram Rahman, photographer, activist
110. Ramachandra Guha, historian
111. Ramchandra Prasad
112. Ranesh Ray, curator and author
113. Ranjana Ray, NFIW
114. Ravi Chopra, ICAN
115. Richa Singh, Sangatin
116. Rolly Shivhare, RTI activist, MP
117. Rukmini V P, Garment Labour Union, NAPM, Karnataka;
118. Runu Chakraborty, activist
119. S. Anandalakshmy
120. Sagar Rabari, Secretary Khedut Samaj, Gujarat
121. Saheli (organisation), New Delhi
122. Saikat Ghosh, Physicist, IIT Kanpur
123. Sanjay Kak, Filmmaker, New Delhi
124. Satish Deshpande
125. Shabnam Hashmi, social activist
126. Shalini Gera, Advocate
127. Shekhar Singh, activist and academic
128. Shoma Sen, activist
129. Siddhartha Basu, producer-director
130. Sister Celia - Domestic Workers Union
131. Smita Gupta, Convenor, economic cell, All India Democratic Women’s Association
132. Soma Marik
133. Soumen Ray, Jungle Mahal, West Bengal
134. SR Hiremath
135. Subhas Mohapatra
136. Sudha Bhardwaj, activist
137. Sumir Hinduja
138. Sunil Savara
139. Suniti SR, Suhas Kolhekar, Prasad Bagwe - NAPM, Maharashtra
140. Sunny Sebastian, senior journalist
141. Sushil Tripathi
142. Teesta Setalvad, social activist, Sabrang Communications
143. TM Krishna, classical muscian
144. Trilochan Sastry, Professor, IIM
145. Tushar Gandhi
146. Uma Chakravarti, social activist, feminist
147. Uma Pillai
148. Uma V Chandru, Bangalore
149. Valsingh Sastiya, On behalf of Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan
150. Vasantha Kumari
151. Ved Arya, SRIJAN, social activist
152. Venkatesh Nayak, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
153. Vimal Bhai - Matu Jan sangathan & Jabar Singh, NAPM, Uttarakhand;
154. Vineeta Rai
155. Vipul Mudgal, Common Cause
156. Viren Lobo, ICAN
157. VK Agnihotri
158. Vrinda Grover, Advocate
159. Zoya Hasan, political scientist
[Those wishing to endorse the above statement may sign here ]
13 days/Two weeks since horrific attack on RTI activists in Rajasthan, MLA not arrested
150 eminent persons write to the Chief Minister and Prime Minister
Over 150 eminent persons including Pamela Philipose (senior journalist), Achin Vanaik (professor, DU), Shailesh Gandhi (Former Information Commissioner, Central Information Commission), Jayati Ghosh (economist, JNU) have signed a statement condemning the attack and demanding the arrest of the MLA.
The statement condemns the culture of impunity that allowed the MLA Kanwarlal Meena to blatantly violently attack the Jawabdehi yatra.
Jagdeep Chhokar of the Association of Democratic Reform said, "This attack is one more example of the criminalisation of politics and the threat it poses to our democratic fabric. Using physical violence and leading a mob against social activists raising awareness about issues related to access to entitlements and justice by the poor shows how much our political establishment is willing to use criminal elements to suppress any dissent."
Support and solidarity with the yatra has been pouring in from across the social sector. Others who have signed the statement include Medha Patkar, Uma Chakravarti, Harsh Mander, Baba Adhav and Annie Raja.
The letter highlights the fact that the brutal assault on the activists took place in Chief Minister Vasundhare Raje’s home district. The letter demands
That those guilty of the attacks and the leaders behind them be brought to justice promptly.
That proper compensation be paid for the medical treatment of those who were assaulted, and for the mental and physical trauma they have suffered. The damage done to their vehicles and infrastructure should be evaluated and recompensed.
That the Rajasthan state government publicly condemn the incident, institute a proper inquiry into it and ensure that elected representatives involved in the attack be disciplined in an exemplary manner.
Others who endorsed the statement include Devaki Jain, Deep Joshi, Siddhartha Basu, Nirmala Lakshman, Ramachandra Guha, Trilochan Sastry, Ram Rahman and Nandita Das.
After giving statements to the police and medical examinations, members of the yatra have returned to their planned route and have moved on to the next districts where they will continue to perform nukkad nataks, sing songs, file grievances and challenge entrenched power structures in creative and exciting ways.
Shailesh Gandhi explains, "two weeks have passed since this brazen attack led by the MLA Kanwarlal Meena took place. Everyday of inaction against him points to complicity of the state government and the ruling. The fact that this took place in the Chief Minister’s home district only raises questions about the degree of impunity provided by the government at the highest level."
The letter asks for immediate action to be taken against the perpetrators of the assault. It states:
"Mr. Meena has innumerable cases against him and should be classified as a history-sheeter given his record of repeated offences. He is clearly confident that he has the protection of the law enforcement agency and the other powers that be. His remaining at liberty is a threat to the public at large and our democratic structure. It is also an affront to the rule of law."
The response of the CM and PM are awaited.
For more information please contact:
Nikhil Dey: 9414004180