The Persecuted Prisoners Solidarity Committee (PPSC) strongly condemns the judgement by the Gadchiroli Sessions Court March 7, 2017 convicting Mahesh Tirki, Pandu Narote, Hem Mishra, Prashant Rahi, Vijay Tirki and G N Saibaba, under various sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) and awarding life sentence to five of them and a ten year imprisonment to another. PPSC was initiated with the objective of focusing on the plight of adivasi and marginalized prisoners suffering under the criminal justice system in the armed conflict zones of central and eastern India. It is ironical that Prashant Rahi, one of the main motivators behind PPSC and an untiring worker for the rights and release of persecuted prisoners, is today a victim of the same criminal justice system which has imprisoned him for life for standing up for the victims of the war on people that is being waged by the state in vast parts of India. The other victims of this judgement, which can at best be called a travesty of justice and at worst an open demonstration of the resolve of the state to punish all dissent, include Mahesh Tirki, Pandu Narote and Vijay Tirki, all adivasi youth from Gadchiroli and Chattisgarh, Hem Mishra a student and cultural activist from JNU and G. N Saibaba, a 95% physically challenged professor and activist from DU, all of whom have already suffered for many months in jail. Now they are looking ahead to many years in prison again, thanks to the vengeful Indian state which criminalizes all forms of dissent and protest using the criminal justice system and draconian laws such as the UAPA.
It is of not much use here in pointing out the blatant and glaring inconsistencies, generalizations, subjective observations and biased application of case law with which the entire judgement convicting the abovementioned people is riddled. It would be more instructive to understand the motivation behind the judgement, and the vengeance with which the verdict has been delivered. This is clear from para 1013 (pp 818-819) of the judgement which says “…the situation in Gadchiroli district from 1982 till today is in paralyzed condition and no industrial and other developments are taking place because of fear of naxal (sic) and their violent activities. Hence, in my opinion, the imprisonment for life is also not a sufficient punishment to the accused but the hands of the Court are closed with the mandate of Section 18 and 20 of UAPA and in my opinion it is a fit case to award sentence of imprisonment of life…”. It is clear that the judge rues the fact that exploitation of the adivasi people of Gadchiroli has not been possible because popular resistance, and holds the six accused guilty for that, and regrets that he cannot sentence them to death! Therefore, this judgement has been delivered clearly to serve the interests of the corporations and the state which is hell bent on plundering the resources of the adivasi areas in the name of industrialization and development. It is in the backdrop of the strong peoples’ resistance against iron ore mining in Gadchiroli that this judgement has been given, as a clear message to crush all resistance against corporate plunder of the natural resources which is being tried out in the vast area spread from Jharkhand to Maharashtra. During the same week, the judgment by a Gurgaon court convicting 31 workers of the Maruti Suzuki factory in Manesar, also clearly demonstrates that it is the interest of the corporations that courts all over India are serving and any resistance against these interests will be crushed brutally by using the criminal justice system.
We believe that the six convicted should be released immediately and charges against them should be dropped. We call upon all organizations and democratic-minded people to unite and protest strongly against this particular judgement and against the general persecution of the most marginalized sections of our population by the criminal justice system in the entire armed conflict zone of eastern and central India, and elsewhere, where the people are bravely resisting the state and corporations’ relentless attack on the lives and livelihoods of the working people.
Partho Sarothi Ray
On behalf of
Persecuted Prisoners Solidarity Committee (PPSC)