Tag Archives: state repression

WSS Statement On The Sukma Encounter On August 6th 2018.

Immediate and independent probe of the alleged encounter killing of 15 ‘Naxals’ in Sukma

The morning of August 6th 2018, preliminary news reports indicated that 15 ‘Naxals’ had been gunned down by the Chhattisgarh police in Sukma district. This encounter, the reports claimed, also included injuries to two others, a man and a woman, who were then arrested. This encounter happened near Nalkatong village in the Mika Tong forests near Gollapalli and Konta Block of South Sukma. It was conducted by two teams of District Reserve Guard (DRG), Special Task Force (STF), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the elite Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) at roughly 6:30 am and it continued for roughly an hour. As per the SP of Sukma, this combined force numbering 200 personnel encircled and cordoned off a Maoist camp which appeared to have 20-25 militia members. The militia members, it is claimed, belonged to the tri-junction of Gollapalli, Konta and Bhejji areas. Bastar range Inspector General of Police Vivekananda Sinha has claimed that the exchange of fire lasted two hours and the Maoists had initiated the firing forcing the security forces to retaliate. According to Chhattisgarh’s Special Director General of Police (Anti-Naxal operations) DM Awasthi, the recovery of a large cache of arms, explosives and bodies of 15 Naxals along with the arrest of two is evidence of the success of the “biggest anti-Naxal operation in the history of Chhattisgarh”. Meanwhile, the police claim that they faced no setbacks in this operation and all their personnel returned safely to the base camp in Konta.

A day after all these claims, in Kistaram hundreds of women protested against this police action by calling it a ‘fake encounter’. The women protesting police action claim that all those killed were villagers working in their fields and none of them are Naxals. Following a visit to the site by Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi, it was revealed that the police force, in order to show their efficiency in combating Naxals in the area, shot and killed villagers. The villagers, harassed by intrusive search and combing operations in the area, were encircled and killed in indiscriminate firing. It seems some of the people killed are villagers from Gompad, the very village where two years ago a woman was raped and killed by the police and then declared a ‘Naxal’. The claim that any of them were Naxals was strongly opposed by the people resulting in questions about police action in the area. None of the villagers were armed. AAP leader and member of WSS, Soni Sori has asked, “If they were really Maoists, how come none of them had a single automatic weapon in a group of 15? The 15 dead included two brother and seven teenagers.” Soni Sori, Lingaram Kodopi and Ramdev Baghel, representatives of Aam Aadmi Party in the area, have raised serious doubts about the veracity of police claims by speaking with the villagers and have demanded an independent probe. Most crucially, the villagers have claimed that out of the 15 killed, six were minors aged between 14 and 17 years. All those killed were working in their fields when they were killed. The police encircled them in their fields and shot indiscriminately.

As per reports from the ground, villagers from four villages belonging to Mehta Panchayat – Nalkatong, Gompad, Kindrampada and Velpocha – including children between the ages of 14-17 from Nalkatong village were killed by the combined police team. Two people arrested include Madkam Budri, a woman from Nalkatong village who was shot in the leg and Vanjam Hunga from Velpocha village; both are now declared ‘Naxals’. The police are claiming both of them were apprehended during the operation. But the villagers claim that besides these two villagers, three more young adivasis are in police custody. Meanwhile, the villagers are being repeatedly beaten up, including pregnant women, in an effort to keep them quiet. The people from all these villages are clearly stating that there were no Naxals present among them and have invited independent probes to see for itself. It is crucial to note that Gompad is the very same village where two years ago Madkam Hidme, a young adivasi woman, was raped and killed after being declared a Naxal by the police. At that time too the villagers had come together and condemned the police action.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, Raman Singh, has called it a “big, successful and clean operation”. Just days before this operation, the chief minister had claimed that “either they should surrender and join the mainstream, or our forces are ready and Naxals will no longer be spared”. Minister for Home Affairs, Rajnath Singh, has also congratulated the police forces for this operation. The police claim that further search and combing operations are underway. On the one hand, DM Awasthi has claimed that the two teams were sent to the area following intelligence reports and, on the other, the SP of Sukma Abhishek Meena has claimed that “it was sheer chance that our forces spotted a Maoist camp along their route of operation and targeted the cadres. In the gun-battle, our men killed 15 Maoists on the spot”. Even as more questions are being raised regarding the incident on August 6th, the CRPF is planning to set up 17 more police camps in Sukma, Bijapur and Balrampur with two companies of CRPF in each wherein each company will roughly have 110 personnel.

In light of the contradictions in the police narrative and, more importantly, the claims made by the people of Nalkatong and the adjoining villages, it is clear that an immediate and independent probe is needed to ascertain the events in the night and morning of 5th and 6th August 2018. The history of sexual violence and police excess in the area raises apprehensions of an orchestrated operation meant to project ‘success’ for the Chhattisgarh police and boost the morale of the forces in the area. The impact of such operations on the people of Chhattisgarh, especially the adivasis of Bastar region, needs to seen in light of increasing repression on people, the easy and convenient branding of adivasis as ‘Naxals’ and the policy of killing villagers during the monsoons in the days leading up to the Independence Day creating an environment of police terror in the region. WSS condemns the beating up of the villagers including pregnant women by the Chhattisgarh police and paramilitary, all efforts made to silence the people of Sukma, and demand an immediate end to such practices including setting up of camps, intrusive combing operations, harassment of villagers, and threats to the lives of people daring to protest police excess. WSS is alarmed by reports of seven minors being killed in this operation and demands that the police and CRPF immediately cease actions wherein people are shot in cold blood in the name of combating Naxalism. Civil Liberties Committee (CLC) has filed a PIL in the Supreme Court with a prayer to file 302 IPC against paramilitary forces who have killed villagers, asked for the constitution of a judicial enquiry, a review of the post-mortem, called for a stay of auxiliary promotions to the paramilitary personnel, and appealed for the establishment of a criminal investigation by the CBI or set up SIT to investigate the killings. WSS stands in solidarity and supports this petition by CLC. Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) calls on all democratic forces to take note of the appeal made by the villagers of the Mehta Panchayat in Sukma and probe the incident immediately and judiciously.

Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS)

Conveners: Ajita, Nisha, Rinchin and Shalini; Contact: againstsexualviolence@gmail.com

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Shoma Sen – Demonising a Beloved Teacher and Life-long Activist

Shoma Sen – Demonising a Beloved Teacher and Life-long Activist

A teacher, a reader and learner, an intellectual, an activist and a human rights defender. Shoma Sen is all of the above, and more. The state would like the world to believe that she is involved in ‘anti-national’ activities, but that’s the price that many citizens are paying today for asserting their right to speak out, to dissent, and understand and articulate the world around them.

The early years

Social institutions, thriving on feudal patriarchal notions are disapproving of women’s participation in production and laud her reproductive roles; violence against women at the familial and societal level is given social sanction and women are confined to a dependent life within the domestic space. Therefore, women’s access to economic and political activity itself is a first step to their participation in decision making processes rather than the symbolic steps towards their “empowerment” that are seen in this system.

Shoma Sen, Contemporary Anti-Displacement Struggles and Women’s Resistance: A Commentary, Sanhati, November 3, 2010

Shoma spent her early years in Bandra in what was then Bombay. The 1970’s were a turbulent period. At that time, almost everyone had sympathies with the Left. While in college, she was with the Vidyarthi Pragati Sanghatana (VPS) and she edited Kalam, the student magazine. She was involved in supporting the workers during the textile strike in Mumbai of the 1980’s. During this time, Shoma became a lecturer in Mumbai and a part of Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR), and helping bring out the CPDR magazine, Adhikar Raksha.

Shoma moved from Bombay to Nagpur, where her daughter Koel was born. Shoma spent the next few decades of her life living in Nagpur with her partner and daughter, teaching in colleges and working to build a democratic movement that recognises and fights for the rights of the most marginalised and vulnerable sections of society. Shoma and Koel stood by her partner throughout the difficult times that he was arrested and released between 2007 and 2017. 

Working with women

As Shoma says (ibid), “If democracy and development are to be really meaningful to women in India, then ways must be evolved to include women in these processes and not simply make symbolic gestures for their empowerment.”

Shoma’s home has always been a refuge for women struggling to survive and make ends meet; she has done everything in her power to help them fight an unjust system. She is an active member of the national collective, Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS). She was an early member of the Nagpur-based Stree Chetna. She later became the founder convener of the Committee against Violence on Women (CAVOW) and edited its magazine, Stree Garjana. The organisation took part in fact finding visits to examine the implementation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Manipur after Thangjam Manorama’s brutal killing in 2004 and the allegations of sexual violence by the Salwa Judum in South Bastar in Chhattisgarh. CAVOW also played a role in organising legal aid for many women political prisoners during the early 2000s. Shoma also convened an adivasi mahila sammelan at Ranchi in March 2006. She has been a long-time Dalit and women’s rights activist, advocating for the rights of the marginalised and powerless. In an essay titled ‘The Village and the City: Dalit Feminisms in the Autobiographies of Baby Kamble and Urmila Pawar’, she looks at the ways in which mainstream feminism has tended to ignore the problems of caste, resulting in a distinct Dalit feminism that acknowledges patriarchal oppression from outside and within communities. In 2011, she was a part of Indian Association of Women’s Studies (IAWS) national conference in Wardha. In recent years, Shoma has been involved with Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR) in Nagpur. She has been helping voices of resistance be heard, voices that are being silenced everywhere in the current socio-political climate.

A life spent teaching

We are appalled and outraged by the arrest of Sen, one of our most distinguished and popular teachers in English. She is also a scholar of national repute in the domains of culture studies and critical theory.”

Supantha Bhattacharya, associate professor & colleague, Nagpur University, Times of India, June 20, 2018

Shoma got involved with the Women’s Studies department at Wardha’s Hindi Vishwavidyalaya, and being fluent in Hindi, often helped cover the shortage of teachers and examiners. She taught in ad hoc positions in several colleges, like the People’s Welfare Society (PWS) College in Indora, Nagpur, leaving home (and her then young daughter) early in the morning to get to work. After college hours, she would visit women (many of them Dalits and victims of domestic violence) in the slums and ghettos of Nagpur to discuss their issues and concerns.

She joined Rashtrasant Tukadoji Maharaj Nagpur University, heading its English department. As a teacher, she was appreciated by both students and seniors. Promoted as Head of Department and respected for her intellect, Shoma has been an active scholar in the fields of post-colonialism and women’s studies for several decades. Her articles have appeared in scholarly publications such as the Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) and The Journal of Commonwealth Literature. She is a valued member of the University community and an important voice in the struggle to uphold human rights. She has travelled to deliver lectures and talks and is a popular teacher, with a passionate interest in reading, researching and teaching literature and women’s studies. Shoma is due to retire in July 2018 after more than three decades of exemplary service. Today, after all these years, her friends and colleagues are in shock at this brazen display of force by the police on her and the other four arrested, and wonder if this is the fate that awaits all those who speak out against poverty, inequalities and injustice.

Now, days before she was scheduled to retire in June 2018, the university, where she spent so many years of her professional life, suspended her for being detained by the police under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The state that confronts its own citizens

With fifty per cent of the population largely deprived from economic and political activity, such a democracy cannot be real in any sense and the participation of women in struggles is a process of democratisation. If the gender axis of such struggles is sharpened then this trajectory is more likely to lead to equality and women’s liberation.”

Shoma Sen, Contemporary Anti-Displacement Struggles and Women’s Resistance: A Commentary, November 3, 2010 in Sanhati

Shoma was arrested in pre-dawn raids conducted simultaneously across four cities along with four others. They were Surendra Gadling, a respected lawyer who fought multiple pro bono cases for adivasis, dalits and political prisoners and General Secretary, Indian Association of Peoples’ Lawyers (IAPL); Sudhir Dhawale, founder, Republican Panthers Jaatiya Antachi Chalwal (Republican Panthers Caste Annihilation Movement) and editor, Vidrohi magazine; Rona Wilson, public relations secretary of Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP) and Mahesh Raut, anti-displacement activist and former Prime Minister Rural Development Fellow (PMRDF). All those arrested have at various times spoken against the brutalities committed by state forces and the police against its citizens and have fought for the release of political prisoners. These arrests come in the wake of the assertion of dalit, adivasi, OBC and Muslim unity during the Bhima Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerna Abhiyan organised by the ‘Elgaar Parishad’ in Pune on December 31, 2017, and the attack by right wing organisations following the extraordinary unity among the communities.

Shoma has been charged under various stringent sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), and has been accused of, among other things, inciting the violence in January 2018 through speeches; of doing so on behalf of the banned CPI (Maoist); of having links with and harbouring fugitive members of this party at various times; and of fundraising for them. By charging her with extraordinary number of sections of the IPC and UAPA, the police want to project her as a “dreaded criminal” and this legal overreach is intended to ensure a prolonged stint in police and judicial custody, irrespective of the validity of the claims. These charges are meant to serve as a life sentence to the arrested by the police, reaffirmed through the media, even if the judicial system finds them innocent in the days to come. Her arrest is part of the State’s ongoing efforts to intimidate and silence people who have been outspoken or critical of its anti-people policies.

It is a matter of grave concern that dissenting intellectuals and activists are being targeted in this manner by the state. Most of the media too is playing its role as an “arm” of the government, instead of doing what it is supposed to do, i.e., to conduct independent investigation before publishing its stories and refraining from sensationalism and media trials.

After a lifetime of working for others, people like Shoma Sen are branded ‘anti-national’ by the Indian State. Humane and perceptive people who have spent their lives working to recognise, transform and build a more democratic society, are being treated as criminals waging war against ‘national interests’. Here, we must ask, whose interests are being served? Dialogue and dissent is a crucial part of any democratic society. The repression of these voices and vindictive and excessive state action is completely unacceptable in a free democracy.

Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS), a network of women working for a democratic society, against patriarchy, caste discrimination, communalism and bigotry, stands in solidarity with Shoma Sen and all those arrested under these unconscionable conditions and demands their immediate and unconditional release.

CDRO & WSS Press Release On Fact-Finding Related To Police Firing And Killing Of Anti-Sterlite Protesters

CDRO & WSS Press Release on fact-finding related to police firing and killing of Anti-Sterlite protesters

The Co-ordination of Democratic Rights Organization (CDRO) and Woman against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) team, consisting of 17 members undertook a fact finding from 16.06.2018 to 18.06.2018 in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu regarding the firing and killing of Anti Sterlite protesters and the Civilians on 22nd and 23rd May 2018. The fact finding team visited the family of the deceased, injured people in the firing, the villagers in the proximity of the Vedanta Sterlite plant, Bar Association of Thoothukudi, Trade Unionist and Civic and Administrative officials of Thoothukudi district.

Targeted Killings:

During our visits and the interaction with the cross section of people involved in this Anti Sterltie protest movement, the fact finding committee has observed that the firing by the police on 22nd and 23rd of May at the Collectorate and Anna Nagar 6th Cross road were deliberate and pre-planned. Most of the people killed were specifically targeted by the police as they have been in the forefront of this protest. Out of 13 people killed, we visited 6 families of which 3 were a clear case of targeted killing of either leaders or active participants of the protest. The family members of all the deceased had claimed that they intended for a peaceful protest and not indulge in violent protest as claimed by administration. Most of them carried children and food packages for a peaceful protest at collector’s office. The state and Sterlite engineered violence to repress the anti-sterlite movement by indulging in unprovoked indiscriminate firing on the people.

Injured:

As per the information received from the hospital authorities by the fact finding team, in total 125 were injured on both the days. The team visited 10 injured in the hospital of whom majority were bullet injuries in the ankle, knee and one bullet injured patient had to be amputated above knee. The compensation though immediately dispersed to the family members by the State was insufficient and they demanded further justice for the dead and the injured. The key observation from the family members of the deceased was that the post Mortem report was not handed to any family despite request. Instead they were threatened, beaten, lathi charged at the Hospital mortuary, some of the family members recalled that the police had asked them to file RTI to receive the post mortem report.

Witching Hunting/ Repression:

The local people of these villages informed us that there has been an ongoing police repression in the form of midnight raids, targeting innocent men and woman. The lawyer’s forum of Thoothukudi has said that more than 250 people have been detained and booked under various charges. It has also come to the knowledge of the team that 7 people have been booked under NSA act in the past one week alone.

Health Hazards:

The committee also visited villages around the plant and met men and woman who shared their health concerns. The incidence as narrated includes cancer of uterus, breast and other organs, skin disorders, blindness, infertility, respiratory problems like asthmatic bronchitis, severe gynaecological disorders affecting girls and woman and paediatric disorders with children born with mental retardation and other physical deformities, ENT problems etc. The government and the Sterlite had not taken any steps to mitigate these severe health problems. The villagers reiterated that such diseases were not as prevalent before the establishment of Sterlite plant.

We Demand:

  • All cases registered against the protesters be withdrawn with immediate effect.
  • All the arrested Anti-Sterlite protesters including those booked under NSA be released unconditionally.
  • Immediate permanent closure of Sterlite copper smelter plant as a policy decision by the Government.
  • Criminal Action under Section 302 of IPC should be initiated against the civil, police and management of the Sterlite company for their criminal negligence of duty and massacre of anti-Sterlite protestors
    in Thoothukudi.
  • All land acquired for the Sterlite plant through SIPCOT be returned to its original land owners.
  • The compensation amount should be increased for those killed and injured, akin to the Mandsaur MP firing victims where Rs 1 crore was granted to each person killed and Rs 50 lakhs to the injured.
  • To conduct health/Epidemiological survey in the Industrial belt of Thoothukudi to assess the various increasing disease patterns prevalent in the region.

शोमा सेन, सुधीर धावले , सुरेन्द्र गड्लिंग, रोना विल्सन और महेश राउत की महाराष्ट्र पुलिस द्वारा गिरफ्तारी की wss द्वारा भर्त्सना

शोमा सेन, सुधीर धावले , सुरेन्द्र गड्लिंग, रोना विल्सन और महेश राउत की महाराष्ट्र पुलिस द्वारा गिरफ्तारी की wss द्वारा भर्त्सना
यौन हिंसा और राजकीय दमन के खिलाफ महिलाएं (WSS) देश भर में नागरिक अधिकार कार्यकर्ताओं पर कठोर दमनकारी  कानूनी कार्रवाई के तहत अपनी सक्रीय  सदस्य, प्रोफेसर शोमा सेन के साथ-साथ अन्‍य प्रमुख दलित और मानव अधिकार कार्यकर्ताओं की मनमाने ढंग से की गयी गिरफ्तारी से स्तंभित है और सरकार के इस कदम की घोर निंदा करती है. Continue reading

शोमा सेन, सुधीर ढवळे, सुरेंद्र गडलिंग, रोना विल्सन आणि महेश राऊत यांचा महाराष्ट्र पोलिसांनी केलेल्या अहेतूक अटकेचा जाहिर निषेध!

शोमा सेन, सुधीर ढवळे, सुरेंद्र गडलिंग, रोना विल्सन आणि महेश राऊत यांचा महाराष्ट्र पोलिसांनी केलेल्या अहेतूक अटकेचा जाहिर निषेध!

संपूर्ण देशभरातील नागरी स्वातंत्र आंदोलकांवरील भयानक कारवायांमध्ये, लैंगिक हिंसा आणि राज्य दडपशाही विरोधात महिला (WSS) आपल्या मौल्यवान सदस्या प्राध्यापिका शोमा सेन व इतर आघाडीचे दलित मानवाधिकार कार्यकर्ते यांच्या अहेतुक अटकेबद्दल निषेध व्यक्त करत आहोत.

दिनांक 6 जुन रोजी सकाळी 6.00 वाजता प्राध्यापिका शोमा सेन, अॅडव्होकेट सुरेंद्र गडलिंग, सांस्कृ्तिक कार्यकर्ते सुधीर ढवळे, मानवाधिकार कार्यकर्ते रोना विल्सन, आणि विस्थापन विरोधी आंदोलक महेश राऊत यांना नागपुर, बॉम्बे आणि दिल्लीच्या वेगवेगळया ठिकाणाहून महाराष्ट्र पोलिसांकडून अटक करण्यात आली आहे. Continue reading

WSS Statement On The Arbitrary Arrests Of Shoma Sen, Sudhir Dhawale, Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson, and Mahesh Raut By The Maharashtra Police

Release Shoma Sen - English Poster 1

Condemn the arbitrary arrests of Shoma Sen, Sudhir Dhawale, Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson, and Mahesh Raut by the Maharashtra Police!

Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) is outraged at the arbitrary arrest of its valued member, Professor Shoma Sen along with other leading Dalit and human rights activists, in an alarming crackdown on civil liberties activists throughout the country.

Today, on 6th June 2018 at 6 am in the morning, Professor Shoma Sen, Advocate Surendra Gadling, cultural activist Sudhir Dhawale, human rights activist Rona Wilson and anti-displacement activist Mahesh Raut were arrested from different locations in Nagpur, Bombay and Delhi by the Maharashtra police. Continue reading

Condemn the State Sponsored Massacre Scripted as ‘Encounter’ in Gadchiroli and Bijapur in Central India

Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) condemn the recent spate of genocidal violence unleashed by the Indian State on the adivasis of Central India in the form of ‘encounter’ killings in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra and Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh. The alleged ‘encounter’, a term used in the subcontinent to describe the extra-judicial killing of citizens by the armed forces and police, in Gadchiroli district took place in the Maharashtra-Chhattisgarh border in the Rela-Kasnasur forest in the intervening night of 22nd-23rd April 2018. With more bodies being fished out of the Indravati River, the death toll of this alleged encounter has reached 39, nineteen of whom were women, all of whom killed by the Commando-60 (C-60) Squad of the Maharashtra Police and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). This was quickly followed by another encounter in the neighbouring state of Chhattisgarh on the 27th of April 2018 where eight more were killed in an operation led by the notorious Greyhound force of the Telangana Anti-Naxal Unit along with Chhattisgarh Police and the CRPF. This alleged encounter took place near the Ipenta village in Bijapur district with six women among those declared dead. These extra-judicial killings have resulted in the death of 47 persons, several of whom are unidentified, and with fears of more persons, including minors, missing from the districts of Gadchiroli and Bijapur. Reports coming out of area reveal heartbreaking accounts of how villagers including children gathered for a marriage function were rounded up and killed without provocation by the security forces. Continue reading