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Repression In Kolkatta

By Sanhati

13 April, 2012

On 30th March, 2012 the TMC government forcefully evicted around 300 poor
families from the Nonadanga slum area in the name of 'development' and
'beautification' of Kolkata. Their shanties were razed to ground by the
Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority. The homeless slum-dwellers
have been staying in an open field and are facing constant police
harassment. Despite these harsh conditions, they have refused to depart
and are presently on hunger strike. Their demand has to date failed to
draw any favourable attention from the government. This neglect comes on
the heels of the Planning Commission agreeing to annual Bengal plan around
16 per cent more than last year's.

But the neglect is not only economic : the state government has
intensified its repressive tactics. On 4th April, 2012, the Kolkata police
and a gang of ruffians viciously lathi-charged the dispossessed as they
organized a protest march to draw attention to their wretched condition.
A large police force attacked the protesters including women and infants;
there was not a single female constable in the posse. Rita Patra, a
pregnant woman, was seriously injured in the lathi-charge. Ten persons,
including a baby boy and two girls in their early twenties, were severely
injured. To protest this police brutality, slum demolition and forcible
eviction, a day long sit-in demonstration was scheduled at Ruby Crossing,
E M Bypass of Kolkata, on 8th April, 2012. But this peaceful demonstration
was broken by the Kolkata police, who alleged the assembly as 'illegal'
despite having granted prior permission for the same. 69 protesters of
'Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee' (Anti-eviction Committee of Nonadanga) were
arrested and transported to Lalbazar police station. A nine-year-old girl
child, Manika Kumari, daughter of Dilip Shaw, was in the lock-up for nine
hours; Manika Kumari's detention violated the Juvenile Justice (Care &
Protection of Children) Act, which starkly reminds us of Payel Bagh's case
during the Singur unrest. The police deliberately did not, moreover, issue
any Memos of Arrest-another violation of legal procedures.

Continuing with the high-handedness, cases under section 151 of the IPC
were slapped on the detainees. During the evening of April 8, all the
arrested persons were released on PR bond in the presence of members of
the Association for the Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) and other
activists through the rear gate of Lalbazar police station. However, seven
democratic rights activists were not released and remained in confinement,
i.e., Debolina Chakraborty, Shamik Chakraborty, Manas Chatterjee , Debjani
Ghosh, Siddhartha Gupta, Partho Sarathi Ray and Abhijnan Sarkar. They have
been falsely charged with a number of non-bailable criminal cases. When
the released activists and others assembled at Lalbazar became agitated at
this unexpected development, all were forced to flee by a huge contingent
of aggressive police. APDR members proceeded to the central gate of
Lalbazar to speak to the officer in charge and lodged a protest. According
to the officers on duty, the seven activists had been charged under
various sections including 353, 332, 141, 143, 148 and 149 of the IPC and
were to be produced at the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate (ACJM)
court, Alipore, on 9 April, 2012.

The seven activists were remanded to police custody till April 12 by the
ACJM court in Alipore Court after the state counsel raised the bogey of
Maoist links and alleged that the activists were involved in 'stockpiling
of arms, ammunition and explosives at Nonadanga'. On the same day, a
protest rally under the banner of 'Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee'
(Anti-eviction Committee, a common platform of the evictees of Nonadanga
and various mass organizations), demanding rehabilitation for dispossessed
people in Nonadanga and release of the arrested protesters was to be held
at 1 pm from College Square to Writers' Building. But police prevented the
rally from starting and arrested 50 men, 36 women and 4 children
accompanying their mothers. They were taken away by 5 prison vans. The
rest of the protesters started sit-in there in College Square, in front of
the Vidyasagar statue and a gathering began. Engaging in activities like
sloganeering, addressing the local people, etc., the College Street
protest continued till 8:30pm, until those 86 arrested men and women were
released on bail. The saga of state repression continued on April 10 with
APDR activists reporting that the police did not allow family members to
meet the seven detained activists. While repression continues in full
force, the slum area is also being prepared for the real estate sharks
waiting for the people to be "cleared off". It has been reported that the
police undertook a "land survey" on April 10 and declared that they would
start fencing off the area from the next day. The evicted slum dwellers,
who have living in the nearby fields for the past week, have decided to
sit on a hunger strike to protest this move by the authorities.

For detailed coverage visit Sanhati



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