Chhatisgarh Repression Continues: Dr Saibal Jana arrested in 24 year old case
Published on: March 18, 2016
Dr Saibal Jana, chief physician of Shaheed Hospital at Dalli Rajhara, Chhattisgarh has been arrested. He was picked up late at night (March 17) by the Chhattisgarh police. The hospital was founded Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha led by Late Shankar Guha Niyogi and run by money collected from the workers of the area. Dr. Jana’s arrest comes close on the heels of the acid attack on Soni Sori and harrassment of her relatives and the continued torture allegedly afoot in south Bastar.
The motives behind Dr Jana being arrested in a 24 year old case are not known. Advocate Sudha Bhardwaj speaking to Sabrangindia said that the next step would be to move for bail. Dr.Saibal Jana was arrested in a case related to the police firing on agitating workers of the Bhilai Industrial Area on 1 July, 1992. Dr Jana was, on that day, among the team of doctors providing medical assistance to trade union activists of the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha who were injured. Many activists and civil rights groups believe that Dr Jana’s arrest in this case, after a gap of 24 years, is allegedly motivated by sheer vendetta against him by BJP led Raman Singh government, that has been waging a crackdown on Adivasis, activists, doctors and lawyers who stand up for the democratic rights of workers, farmers and ordinary Indian citizens.
Dr Jana has served the people of Chhattisgarh selflessly for over three decades and deserves to be given a national award for his service to humanity. Instead the BJP government in Chhattisgarh is persecuting him, which is a matter of shame for all those who believe in the rule of law, fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution and even basic human decency. Citizens groups have made a demand that all cases against Dr Jana should be withdrawn and he should be released with an apology.
Sign this petition demanding the release of Dr. Jana
The arrest of Dr Jana comes after a series of attack on democratic organisations, activists and journalists in the state. On February 20, 2016 Soni Sori was attacked with an acid like substance.
The Jagdalpur Legal Aid group (Jaglag), currently consisting of lawyers Shalini Gera and Isha Khandelwal were also hounded out of Jagdalpur on the night of February 20, itself an hour before Soni Sori was attacked. Their landlord was picked up and detained in the police station and under threat asked them to vacate their house and office. Jaglag has been providing legal aid to Adivasi prisoners under trial in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh since 2013.
For the past year and a half, both lawyers were being hounded by the local police. They have been faced with thinly veiled threats at press conferences insinuating that the police are closely monitoring NGOs providing "legal aid to Naxalites". Their clients have been informed that the police are about to arrest them for Naxalite activities. Visiting journalists and researchers have been told that they are a "Naxalite front. The local Bar Association, clearly prompted by the police, passed a resolution on October 3, 2015 prohibiting them from practicing in the local courts. On their complaint, the State Bar Council of Chhattisgarh passed an interim order allowing them to practice again.
Bela Bhatia, an independent researcher, living in Bastar has similarly been working with Soni Sori and Jaglag on documenting and filing cases of human rights violations and people’s livelihoods. She has also been collecting information on the systematic use of violence by armed personnel and security forces. Bela Bhatia has also been threatened and her landlord is constantly been called for ’police questioning.; It has been alleged that former Salwa Judum members, under the banner of Samajik Ekta Manch and groups such as the Naxal Pedit Sangharsh Samiti have threatened her along with Jaglag and Soni Sori.
Malini Subramanium, an independent journalist, reporting on issues in Chhattisgarh including the closing down of schools, women and children, as also the brutal violence by security forces against the Adivasis, fake encounters and surrenders in the Bastar. region had to suddenly leave after similar kinds of coercive tactics were employed. The domestic worker in Malini’s house was called and kept in the police station till late at night to terrorize her into implicating the journalist of being Naxalite. Her landlord was similarly threatened by the police into asking her to vacate the house. Malini, fearing for the safety of those who have always stood by her, left Jagdalpur on February 19, 2016.
On the day after news, of Dr Jana’s arrest, March 18, Business Standard carried this story: (http://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/chhattisgarh-govt-cancels-tribal-rights-over-forest-lands-116021601327_1.html Chhattisgarh govt cancels tribal rights over forest lands: Forest Rights Act allows government to divert forest lands for other purposes only after prior consent of the tribals through gram sabhas)
According to the story the Forest rights of tribals over their traditional lands in Ghatbarra village of Surguja district have been taken away by the Chhattisgarh government to facilitate coal mining of Prasa East and Kete Besan coal block. The block has been allocated to Rajasthan Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Limited (RVUNL) and Adani Minerals Private Limited. The latter is a 100 per cent subsidiary of Adani Enterprises and RVUNL is a Rajasthan government enterprise. In an order passed on January 8, the government had cancelled the community land rights of the tribals in the village, given under the Forest Rights Act (FRA). The government, in the order, stated that the villagers had been using their legal rights over the forest land to stop work of mining in their village, which falls in the Parsa East and Kete Besan coal block. It is the first such order to come to light in India, where community rights of tribals have been cancelled after being granted through the process laid down in the FRA. The FRA is a national law that is now clearly thought to be thwarted.
Business Standard reviewed the January 8 orders cancelling the land rights of the tribals in the village. The Chhattisgarh government and the district authorities, however, did not respond to the queries. The FRA does not provide for revocation of either community or individual land rights once granted under the law. The law and the attendant regulations provide only for the government diverting the forest land for some other purpose after prior consent of the tribals through their gram sabha. Under the FRA, tribals are empowered to claim individual and community rights over forest lands they have traditionally hold on. The gram sabha of Bhatbarra did so and in September 3, 2013 they were handed over the lands by the state government.
Business Standard :" After that, the village became aware that the coal block could remain susceptible to mining despite the Supreme Court orders cancelling earlier allocations. In October 2014 the gram sabha (village council) of Ghatbarra, along with 19 other villages, took out a formal resolution opposing the mining in their lands. Under the FRA, the gram sabha is the only authority empowered to decide the future of traditional tribal lands. The FRA also requires that the claims and rights of all tribals and other forest-dwellers are settled before the government looks to remove them under section 4(5) of the law and other rules.
But the central government gave the clearance to divert the land for mining in 2012 without settling the rights. Business Standard reviewed the orders of the environment ministry. One set of orders said the land would be diverted only once the rights of the tribals and others had been settled. But then later orders (called stage 2 forest clearance) handed over the land for mining without ascertaining that the rights had actually been settled.
The state government in its order dated January 8 notes (translated from Hindi): “When the administration tries to get diversion of forests done for the Parsa East and Kete Besen open coal block, the villagers, using the context of the land rights given by the collector to them, create barriers and protest to stop work.” The order notes that this was investigated by the forest department. The conservator of forests of Surguja found that the land rights were given to tribals in 2013 while the forest clearance to RVUNL had been given in 2012. He concluded, therefore, the community forest rights given to the tribals could be cancelled.