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New Delhi: The Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha has demanded the quashing of charges and labelling of 31 Adivasi-Mulvasi persons in Gomia and Nawadih blocks of Jharkhand’s Bokaro district as ‘Maoists’.
During a press conference on Tuesday, July 5, the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha unveiled a report based on a survey carried out on the said persons, whom it said were “falsely” charged under stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act [UAPA] and various sections of the Indian Penal Code. The survey was carried out between August 2021 and January 2022.
The purpose of the survey was to understand the situation of the accused, the struggles their families undergo, the process of wrongly accusing a person and incarcerating them, among others.
The survey notes that all the 31 surveyed persons have categorically stated that they have no connection with Maoists or have any role in any incident executed by them. Most of them live in forested villages and Maoists used to visit these villages. Such visits by Maoists used to be more frequent earlier, but nowadays they are rare. Sometimes, the villagers were forced to feed Maoists on their visits, the report adds.
According to the report, cases against 16 persons of the 31 persons were registered before 2014. Cases against nine of the 31 were registered during 2014-19 and against three after 2019. According to the data of 22 respondents, the accused persons spent an average of two years in jail. Many spent more than five years in jail.
The report underscores that after spending several years in jail as undertrials, many are getting acquitted one after the other. Out of 29 persecuted, nine have been acquitted in all cases that were “foisted on them”, and 20 of them have at least one case each to be still cleared of, making them undertrials.
“None of the accused has any document related to the case (such as FIR copy, case diary and so on). All the documents have been kept by their advocates. Hence, several of them are not even aware of the details of their cases,” the report adds.
On the socio-economic conditions of the arrested, the survey states that the main sources of livelihood of the surveyed persons are agriculture and casual labour, making them invariably poor. Out of the 31 persons surveyed, 18 are illiterate or can barely read.
“The cases have worsened their socio-economic situation. Many families had to sell their livestock and mortgage a portion of their land. Many took loans from their relatives and other villagers to meet the expenses. These cases affected their children’s education; some had to drop out,” the report highlights.
Based on the expenditure incurred by 28 respondents in their cases, every respondent had to spend Rs. 90,000 (average) to meet the expenses of the cases. Those accused in multiple cases, who had to be in jail for many years, had to spend up to Rs. 300,000.
The authors of the report underline that whenever any incident of violence (by Maoists or others) takes place, the police add the names of a few innocent Adivasi-Moolvasi persons in the first information report (FIR) merely on the “basis of doubt”.
“Moreover, if anyone’s name gets added to any incident or case, next time when a similar incident occurs in the same locality the police again invariably include that person’s name in the FIR. It is also clear that sometimes the police present innocent persons as culprits just for the sake of showing their work,” the report notes.
Against this backdrop, the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha demanded that the government constitute a judicial inquiry for an independent investigation into cases filed against Adivasis. It said the persons should be adequately compensated for their years of persecution, and family members should be given government jobs.
In the name of the ‘anti-Maoist operations’, the authors of the survey urged the government not to harass and exploit the economically poor, especially the Adivasis. They also called for the “reform of the police force”.
“No Adivasi and a deprived person should be accused and implicated under any violent or Maoist incident just because the villagers might have been forced to feed Maoists,” they said.
The survey is a collaborative effort of Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, including member organisations such as Adivasi-Moolvasi Adhikar Manch, Bokaro, Adivasi Women’s Network, Bagaicha and others.
The survey report was released on July 5 in observance of the death anniversary of Father Stan Swamy who fought for the undertrials’ rights. The Jharkhand-based tribal rights activist, Father Swamy, passed away in judicial custody at 84 in Mumbai.