Stan Swamy (With due credit)
“4000 Adivasis, charged as ‘Naxals’, are in the jails of Jharkhand” [Hindustan, Ranchi ed., 14 Aug.2017]
“There are people who cannot take bail. There is nobody for them,” observed SC and ordered prisoners to be freed over trial delays.
If trial takes place, most would be acquitted… trial deliberately delayed so they remain behind bars for years…
The local print media recently came out with the startling news that after Jharkhand became a separate State, the highest number of arrests of ‘Naxals’ have taken place. It went on to say they are languishing in jails because they do not have the money to hire lawyers so they can come out on bail. Nor does the govt’s free legal aid ever reaches them. They are deliberately kept in jail for years without trial because if the speedy trial takes place, most of them would be acquitted. The convenient tool the police use is to label them Naxals, add more fake charges and prolong the trial process. The Supreme Court, in its 4th Sept. 2014 order mobilised judicial officers across the country to visit every prison in their district for the next two months to identify and release undertrial prisoners who have already undergone detention for half the maximum period of imprisonment their offence prescribes under the law. However, the media reported on Sep 21, 2015, that more than nine months after the Supreme Court deadline expired on release of undertrial prisoners who had completed half the prison term for the offence they were charged with, the government still did not have any data on how many such prisoners had actually been released.
Arrests and ‘Surrenders’ during 2015-16: We get a glimpse of arrests, surrenders as they appear in local print/electronic media: 1307 Jharkhandis have been arrested and 88 of them are supposed to have surrendered. (source: Prabhat Khabar, Ranchi ed., 1 Sept. 2017)
Some independent studies indicate that 27 persons [22 in 2016 and 5 in 2017) were killed in so-called ‘encounters’ by the police. (Bagaicha, Ranchi, documentation)
The assumption that all under-trial prisoners are guilty of alleged crimes is wrong: A serious question emerges about the norm laid by the court that undertrial prisoners who had completed half the prison term for the offence they were charged with should be released. On what basis the court prescribed this directive is not clear. This assumes that all the under-trials are guilty of accused crimes. The reality is that it is not true. Most under-trial adivasi prisoners are not guilty of any crime but simple village folk who are falsely implicated by the police. So there should be no question of serving half their jail-term for crimes they never committed.
A just solution would be to release all under-trial prisoners immediately and speed up their trial process within a specified period. And if the govt fails to do that, they all should be acquitted without any conditions.
A dangerous de-humanising process is on: Practically every day, as we open the newspaper or watch local TV channels, we see one or more young men are standing with their faces covered standing behind seated police officers in front of whom there is a table with weapons that are supposed to have been captured along with the ‘naxals’. A write-up describing where and how these naxals are apprehended. Rare are the days when this type of pictures & descriptions are not reported. The general public taken for a ride: The sad thing is that the educated general public takes it to be true! But the fact is most of it is not true. Innocent villagers are just rounded up, taken to police station, put in jails, cooked up charges foisted on them.
‘Surrenders’ proven fake. Fake surrenders is another plot by para-military & police forces to rob the poor Adivasis & Moolvasis and make money out of them. 514 innocent tribal youths were made to surrender as Naxalites in Jharkhand during 2012 to 1014. NHRC Report affirms that some senior Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) officers conniving with some Jharkhand police officers have been organizing these ‘fake surrenders’ to take advantage of the attractive ‘Naxalite Surrender’ policy. This opens up possibilities of getting awards and even getting promotions for playing this fraud on the poor tribal youths. Some middlemen were also roped in who contacted the simple innocent tribals, lured them with promises of jobs and in return took big sums of money from them. Many of the surrendered youths had sold off their family land to arrange for the money to secure the promised jobs that never came. This money was shared with CRPF and police officers. These tribal youths were then lodged in the old central jail of Ranchi who then discovered that there were many many more tribals like them were also cheated and trapped. A senior Officer who discovered this anomaly wrote to the Director General of Police pointing out the seriousness of what was happening. But no action was taken until NHRC brought to light this disgusting affair.
Such is the tale of anguish the 4000 Adivasis languishing in the jails of Jharkhand are trying to tell the rest of the world. IS ANYONE LISTENING?