Himanshuji is on indefinite fast for peace and justice – let us extend
solidarity in Pune!
We are all aware of the process of corporate land grab, state backed
violence in form of Salwa Judum and large scale displacement of
adivasis in South Chhattisgarh. In that state, persons who have
consistently raised their voice against this repressive situation have
been harassed or detained by the Government, without any legal basis –
Dr. Binayak Sen and Ajay TG being prominent examples. Many others have
been facing similar repression from the Chhattisgarh state, which
intends to obtain the mineral-rich land of adivasis, and lease it to
large corporations. Instead of addressing the basic issues being
raised, and moving towards just solutions, the state has decided to
silence each and every dissenting voice by branding such voices as
‘Maoists’ or ‘terrorist sympathisers’.
The latest victim of this repressive regime in Chhattisgarh is
‘Vanvasi Chetna Ashram’ (VCA) led by Himanshu Kumar, a Gandhian social
worker who has founded this ashram in Dantewada over 17 years ago. He
and his team had been fearlessly exposing the large scale killings,
rapes, burning of villages and massive displacement being unleashed on
the adivasis of Dantewada by the State-backed ‘Salwa Judum’ vigilante
force. Several VCA activists had been attacked or harassed during the
last five years, including serious threats to Himanshuji.
It may be recalled that the administration bulldozed and razed to the
ground the premises of Vanvasi Chetna Ashram (VCA) on 17 May 09, on
flimsy grounds. On 10 December 09 (Human rights day!) the police
arrested a VCA volunteer named Kopa Kunjam and a lawyer Human Rights
Law Network Alban Toppo, and severely beat them up in police custody.
Although Alban has been later released, Kopa remains in jail under
trumped-up charges and another VCA volunteer Sukhnath has also been
arrested under the draconian Chhattisgarh State Public Security Act
(CSPSA). It is widely believed that Kopa Kunjam is being targeted
because he exposed human rights violations by the security forces,
including the killing of 15 Adivasis at Singaram on 8 January 09 and
killing of three Adivasis in front of the Matwada police station on 18
June last year.
Further, the district administration prevented a peace march being
organized by the VCA on 14 December at Dantewada, which was attempting
to highlight the atrocities on adivasis and the need to resettle them
back in their villages. Volunteers were forbidden from joining the
march by Salwa Judum activists brandishing arms.
In response to this entire situation, Himanshuji has started an
indefinite fast starting 26th December. His appeal is given below. It
may be recalled that Himanshuji had addressed a public meeting in Pune
on 1st November 09, where he had described the situation in Dantewada
in detail, and had appealed to the citizens of Pune to express
solidarity with the adivasis suffering from violence and repression.
In this situation, all democracy-loving citizens and those working for
social justice and people’s rights need to raise their voices in
protest against the suppression of basic democratic rights in
Chhattisgarh, which appears like a social laboratory whose violent
‘experiments’ may be tried out in other states in the future.
Solidarity actions are being carried out in various cities such as
Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai, and a Global relay fast has also been
initiated. In this context, this is an appeal to all, to join the
solidarity and protest programme being organized in Pune by a number
of organizations as follows:
Poster exhibition, mass contact programme and distribution of pamphlets
Date and time: 4th January 2010, 4 to 6 pm
Place: Near Pune Municipal Corporation bus stop, in front of Mamata restaurant
Looking forward to active participation from all,
R.P. Nene, Shanta Ranade, Anant Phadke, Milind Chavan, Suhas Kolhekar,