4th January, 2021
Foisting false charges under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) against the leaders of different human rights groups and people’s organisations by Andhra police has been rising very recently. The situation in the state of Telangana is also not very different. As presented below, an analysis will bring out the real intent behind these arrests, namely choking the prominent pro-people voices in these states.
On 2nd November 2020, Tadvai police had arrested four persons when they were allegedly on their way to Chhattisgarh to meet top Maoist leaders. Followed by this development, Mulugu Assistant Superintendent of Police held a press conference on 3rd November and declared that they got a list of 27 Maoist sympathisers. Caught in this affair are Ms Suguna and her husband, Mr Bhujanga Rao. Both Suguna and Bhujanga Rao are well-known for their effort to defend the rights of tribals, improve healthcare, water supply and transport facilities. While Suguna is Adilabad district President of Human Rights Forum (HRF), her is the Telangana State Vice President of the same organisation. Both have also been slapped with UAPA charges. Her brother, Mr K. Venkatesh and several others belonging to different organisations working for the upliftment of the condition of the tribals are also mentioned in this list of so-called suspected Maoist sympathisers (https://thewire.in/rights/andhra-pradesh-telangana-uapa-maoist).
If this has been the situation in Telangana, in the neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, the situation is even grimmer where the police seem to be both claimants as well as witnesses. On 23rd & 24th November 2020 the Andhra Pradesh Police registered cases against many activists belonging to different rights organisations and various peoples mass organisations under UA(P) Act and other penal laws. Two cases have been registered by Manchingputtu P.S. of Vishakapatnam District and Piduguralla P.S. of Guntur District. Nearly 70 persons have been implicated in the above cases, and most of them were figured in both the cases. Mr V. Chitti Babu and Mr Chilaka Chandrasekhar, President and General Secretary of C.L.C. (A.P) respectively and, Mr V. S. Krishna, General Secretary of HRF are among them. It is alarming that even a seventy-five-year-old civil rights leader Mr Sriramamurthy has also become a victim of this state atrocity.
The FIRs have been slapped apparently based the confession statements of some people arrested by the police in Vishakapatnam and Guntur. On 22nd November, Vishakapatnam police arrested TV9 reporter, Mr Pongi Naganna, on suspicion of coordinating with the Maoists. Vishakapatnam police went on to charge UAPA against 64 activists belonging to different civil society groups including Dalit and women’s groups. V. S. Krishna, too, was booked under UAPA sections on the charges of “instigating” tribal women who were allegedly raped by members of armed Greyhounds, an anti-Naxal police force in 2007.
On 24th November, Kambhanpatti Chaitanya was arrested by Guntur District Rural police. Then on 9th December, the police arrested in Guntur Valugutra Anjaneyulu, Chittoor district President of Pragathisheela Karmika Samakya (PKMS). Both of them are accused of being members of organisations associated with the banned CPI (Maoist) party. According to the confession statements claimed by the police to be given by Chaitanya and Anjaneyulu, activists like Chiluka Chandrashekar, Busireddy Kondareddy, Yadala Venkateshwarlu, Duddu Prabhakar, Koti and others from a collective of different civil society organisation work under the guidance of Maoist party against the development activity in the region. Jayashree, Vice President of HRF, has also been slapped with UAPA for mobilising tribal people against Uranium mining at Kadappa and Gandikota reservoir. (https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/andhra-rights-groups-accuse-cops-foisting-false-cases-against-them-139597)
So far eight activists have been arrested. Initially, the police arrested Ms Anjamma, president of the ‘Martyrs Family & Friends Association, Ms Rajeshwari, leader of the ‘Chaitanya Mahila Sangham’. Thereafter, Mr V. Anjaneyulu , District secretary of Chittoor District was arrested, followed by the arrest of their state Secretory Mr Konda Reddy and State E.C. member Ms Annapurna. Later, arrests continued with Mr Koti (Secretary of Praja Kala Mandali) and its another member Mr Vijay. The police have also arrested Ms Poturi Kranthi working with Committee For Release of Political Prisoners, CRPP. These arrests are made on the pretext of the activists being supporters of the Maoist party. This claim is in stark contrast to the Union Home Minister’s statement that there are no Maoists in the Telugu states.
It is clear that the police officers had filed these FIRs as claimants with subordinate police staff as witnesses to the supposed statements given by the arrested individuals. Thus, there is no independent corroborator of the police statements. On the other hand, if we look at the people targeted by the police, it is clear that these individuals and their organisations were in the forefront of people’s struggles¾ be it against the draconian UAPA or for the welfare of the downtrodden people or are part of notable fact-finding teams probing irregularities in different state-mediated actions. For example, thanks to Krishna along with different activists and organisations like CLC (AP), HRF and others, the heinous charge of gang-rape of eleven tribal women by the Greyhound forces in 2007 have come up for hearing in the court after a decade of the alleged crime (https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/a-decade-later-ordeal-continues-for-greyhound-rape-victims-of-visakhapatnam/story-yH8gRyNKIIvPp0ZIbPsBEP.html). Another reason behind this orchestrated attack by the police department spreading across districts in Andhra Pradesh as well as Telangana is the unprecedented support of the movement received from students, women’s groups, and the working class.
CDRO condemns in no uncertain terms the arrest of democratic rights activists by Andhra Pradesh and Telangana state police in the pretext of curbing Maoist activity. CDRO strongly believes that the spate of arrest of a few so-called Maoists, and the subsequent subjugation of a large number of people on the basis of the alleged statements provided by them, is a systematic process of silencing the ‘voice of dissent’, invoking the clauses of UAPA. These false charges foisted against the activists, who are fighting for the rights of the people in their respective fields within the ambit of constitutional frame work, are a part of a greater conspiracy to stifle the questioning and protesting voices and a deliberate attempt to weaken democratic movements. Committee for the abolition of UAPA, in which CLC is also a participating organisation, has formed a Defense Committee, to extend legal assistance to the arrested and has approached the high court for quashing of the cases. CDRO extends its solidarity to CLC and the Committee for the Abolition of UAPA in its efforts to quash this FIR and stop the indiscriminate arrests.
CDRO strongly condemns the government apathy against the tribal welfare and hounding of rights activists, supporting the welfare of the tribals, under UAPA Rights in the garb of controlling Maoists activity.
There is a need to raise our voice more strongly throughout the country against the illegal arrests taking place in different parts of the country in general and in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh in the present situation. CDRO gives a call to all democratic organisations, left-wing political parties and democracy-loving individuals to come forward and work actively towards preventing further illegal arrests. Otherwise, we are not far away from a time when there will not be any space for dissent or freedom of expression.
1) Immediate quashing of false cases foisted upon the activists, based on confessional statements.
2) Revoke foisting of UAPA on the Democratic rights activists under the guise of Maoist sympathisers.
3) Stop interfering in the trial of rape case on Greyhounds. Stop hounding on the Democratic rights activists helping the victims.
K.Kranthi Chaitanya, Prit Pal Singh, Tapas Chakraborty and V. Raghunath(Coordinators of CDRO)
Constituent Organisations: Association for Democratic Rights (AFDR, Punjab), Association for
Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR, West Bengal); Asansol Civil Rights Association, West
Bengal; Bandi Mukti Committee (West Bengal); Civil Liberties Committee (Andhra Pradesh);
Civil Liberties Committee (Telangana); Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights
(Maharashtra); Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR TamilNadu);
Coordination for Human Rights (Manipur); Manab Adhikar Sangram Samiti (Assam); Naga
Peoples Movement for Human Rights ; Peoples’ Committee for Human Rights (Jammu and
Kashmir); Peoples Democratic Forum (Karnataka); Jharkhand Council for Democratic Rights
(Jharkhand); Peoples Union For Democratic Rights (Delhi); Peoples Union for Civil Rights
(Hariyana), Campaign for Peace &amp; Democracy in Manipur, Delhi; Janhastakshep (Delhi)