An Open Letter to
The Honourable Chief Justice,
Andhra Pradesh High Court
4 December, 2020
We, as a group working towards achieving a safer and more just society for women, are writing this open letter to you in great dismay at some recent developments in Andhra Pradesh state.
As you are aware, the alleged gang-rape case of 11 adivasi women of the Kondh tribe by 13 men of AP Special Police personnel during a raid conducted in Vakapalli, has had a long legal history since August 2007, first in High Court of Andhra Pradesh and then in Supreme Court, and now in the SC/ST Special Court where it is in the final stages of hearing. After a decade-long chequered legal battle, the Supreme Court in 2017 ordered that the case be heard by an SC/ST Special Court. Whether the High Court or Supreme Court, the judiciary stood by the victims all these years and has helped to institute a special court for hearing the case.
On 23rd of November, an FIR was filed at the Munchingipattu police station invoking the UAPA against Mr VS Krishna of Human Rights Forum, and several others. The FIR against Mr Krishna accuses him of taking directives from the Maoists, and of goading the rape victims to make false accusations in the Vakapalli case.
Sir, such a fabricated FIR negates the agency of women to be able to stand up against sexual violence perpetrated on their bodies and the mental agony thereof. We are concerned about how the adivasi women’s long battle to seek justice against the terrible incident of gang-rape is being nullified by attributing the mass rape to lies instigated by the Maoists.
Mr Krishna of HRF, along with several civil society activists, have stood in solidarity with the victims of gang-rape of Vakapalli all these years, at great personal risk to themselves and to the victims. The long-drawn-out trial itself has been a testimony to the courage of the victims. Mr Krishna and the others supported these victims as they belong to the poorest of the poor Adivasi communities. We do not wish to raise in this letter the relentless attempts to undermine the legal process by the perpetrators of the crime as the case is sub judice. The Honourable Court is well-aware of the details.
However, we would like to point out that the Human Rights Forum, when first constituted under the leadership of Mr K Balagopal, has since conducted its Human Rights work unbiasedly and has always criticized perpetrators of violence be it state or non-state. The Vakapalli case is in its final stages of hearing and at this juncture to foist a case of this nature on Mr Krishna and the others who supported the victims is not just a tactic to intimidate them, but a further attack, and a threat, sent out to all victims of gang-rapes that choose to speak up and seek justice in courts of law.
We sincerely believe that it is the responsibility of the Honourable High Court of Andhra Pradesh to take cognisance of this threat posed to the HRF and the other activists involved in supporting the Vakapalli women. Till a few years back, witness protection was a matter of great concern. In recent years, those who stand by the victims, whether as lawyers or as rights activists, are also increasingly coming under threat. We appeal to you to ensure protection to the lawyers and to the Human Rights activists, who are aiding in the process of ensuring justice to the weakest and the most marginalised in our society, from harassment by the state agencies.
From Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS)
Nisha Biswas, Ranjana Padhi, Shohini Shoaib, Maheen Mirza, Aloka Kujur and Padmaja Shaw
From Telangana Women and Transgender Organizations Joint Action Committee (WT-JAC) Prof. Rama Melkote, Dr. Sujatha Surepally, Sandhya V, Sajaya Kakarla, Jhansi, Prof. Katyayini Vidmahe, Ashalatha Siddabathula, Satyavati Kondaveeti, Dr. Suneetha, Achyuta, Dr. S. Seethalakshmi, Prasanthi, Rachana Mudraboyina, Meera Sanghamitra Vimala Morthala, Khalida Parveen, Archana Rao, Deepti Deepzea, Kaneez Fathima Tashi, Anitha Samudrala, Jyothi Bannuru
From Andhra Pradesh: Savitri, AIDWA and Jayasree Kakumani, HRF