Condemn Continuing Persecution and Threats of Imminent Arrest against Aloka Kujur, Stan Swamy and others by Jharkhand Government!

Stand in solidarity with Aloka Kujur, Stan Swamy, Vinod Kumar, Rakesh and several others who face sedition charges, sustained harassment and intimidation by the police!

WSS strongly condemns the continued persecution of rights activists in Jharkhand Aloka Kujur, Stan Swamy, Vinod Kumar, Rakesh Roshan and several others, in relation to the sedition case filed at the Khunti PS against 20 intellectuals, poets, writers, journalists, bankers and activists in July 2018. With routine surveillance of their movements continuing since last year, officials from Khunti PS showed up at Aloka Kujur’s residence in her absence, as recently as 22 September 2019, on the pretext of making inquiries against her with her neighbours and relatives. This marks a moment of escalation of intimidation tactics against those falsely named in the FIR.

Earlier in September 2019, the IO investigating the case at Khunti PS had been suspended from service for failing to take action on the false FIR. Further back in June 2019, arrest warrants had been issued against Aloka Kujur, Stan Swamy, Rakesh Roshan, Vinod Kumar and Babita Kashyap after almost a year of formal inaction on the FIR. Even as their petition for quashing the FIR remains pending in the Ranchi High Court, none of them are presently protected from arrests or other coercive actions although they have fully cooperated and remained accessible despite sustained harassment over the last one year. We fear that this escalation sets the stage for their imminent arrests in the lead up to the Assembly elections in Jharkhand in November-December.

Aloka Kujur is a well known journalist, writer, an adivasi rights activist and a member of WSS who has consistently taken up cases of sexual violence, human rights violations, forceful land acquisition and spoken boldly about Adivasi rights over several decades. She is one among the several individuals who found themselves charged with sedition for expressing concern about the well-being of one of the sexual assault victims in the Khunti Gang Rape case in June 2018. She has also spoken out on the land grab in Khunti, the attempt of the government to militarize the area under the pretext of gang-rape and the persecution of thousands of common villagers in Khunti in en-masse sedition cases filed against them.

She, and the others named in the FIR, have been trapped in this cycle of harassment based on their Facebook posts, which the Jharkhand government alleges were inciting Pathalgarhi members in villages of Jharkhand and turning adivasis against the state, whereas the posts were either expressing concern for the well-being of the survivors of the gang-rape or commenting on the constitutional rights of adivasis. The Jharkhand government has been using the tactics of ticking time bomb FIRs against these individuals making them vulnerable to sustained intimidation, targeting and to an imminent threat of arrest.

WSS demands an immediate withdrawal of all cases of sedition filed against Aloka Kujur, Stan Swamy and the 18 others named in the FIR, as well as the hundreds of anonymous FIRs alleging sedition by the people of Khunti and neighbouring villages at large. WSS further demands an end to the relentless stifling of democratic voices in Jharkhand, and an immediate withdrawal of the paramilitary camps from Khunti and neighbouring areas.

——

Convenors – Ajita, Rinchin, Nisha Biswas, Shalini Gera

WSS

(Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression)

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