Guilty unless proven Innocent is the motto of the security agencies in mineral-rich Jharkand

Written by Stan Swamy | Published on: December 28, 2015

Only two of the 102 under trials were finally found to have any relations with Naxalite outfits, says this detailed report, the result of an independent research study, prepared among others, by Stan Swamy in Jharkand

In February 2012,[1] a report in The Hindustan Times, stated that there were as many as 6,000 Adivasis in the jails of Jharkand. Against a majority of them, charges labeled were that “Maoist “literature” was found in their possession, and that they are “helpers of Maoists”.
This despite the observations of the Supreme Court, on February 3, 2011 (in Criminal Appeal Number 889/2007) where the Court had said that mere possession of Maoist literature does not make a person a sympathizer. Bail was finally granted to Dr Binayak Sen on April 15, 2011. The Supreme Court had orally observed, “We are a democratic country. He may be a sympathiser. That does not make him guilty of sedition…. “if Mahatma Gandhi's autobiography is found in somebody's place, is he a Gandhian? No case of sedition is made out on the basis of materials in possession unless you show that he was actively helping or harbouring them [Maoists].”
It was this report that led to Bagaicha, a centre for training & research, to investigate the veracity of police claims. A study was worked out. First, the research group sought permission from jail authorities to visit the different jails in Jharkhand and interview the under trial prisoners. This request was flatly refused. Thereafter, the group sent a detailed application/petition under the Right to Information (RTI) Act to the Superintendents of the 26 jails in Jharkhand seeking specific information, with an enclosed questionnaire. Only 12 of them responded, mostly with inadequate information.
Thereafter, the group visited as many under trials who are presently out on bail, residing in their own villages. Three teams were formed who visited 18 of the 24 Districts of Jharkhand over a period of three months. The three teams met with 102 under trials in their own homes/villages, met with their family members as well as some village folk.
The following are the findings of the team in an interim report that will soon be published in full (Janaury 2016):
First Finding:  98% of those arrested as “Naxalites” had nothing to do with Naxalism: Only two out of 102 (about 2%) under trials accused and arrested as Naxals have accepted (to the interviewing research team) they had any relation with any of Naxal groups. The rest of those arrested say they have been falsely accused and arrested for daring to speak assertively against violation of their Constitutional and human rights, such as right to possess and protect their land and livelihood resources. This is indeed a very serious situation where the Constitutional right to dissent is being treated as an offence despite the clear cut judgments of the Supreme Court of India on the matter. A grave injustice is being committed against the poorest of the poor Adivasi People.
Second Finding : Lives ruined, families reduced to Destitution: Of the under trials, the researchers from Bagaicha met, the researchers found that 68% are from the young to middle-age group; 78% of them are married. Income to the family, whether through agriculture (63%) or casual labour (17%), comes through their labour. The period of their internment was/is also the period when their children are at a very small and school-going age and need the care and affection of their father. However, the bread-winner father is either in jail or compelled to attend trial court hearings. Despite the curtailment of earnings, they are compelled to attend the endless court hearings (trials are ongoing). The location of these is sometimes out of their own district: the only way they manage is by selling the little assets they have such as cattle and even their land or borrow money from local money-lenders at very high rates of interest.  This plight is caused by the police trapping them in false cases, the interim report states.