Manas Dasgupta, The Hindu, June 6, 2010
Voice of protest by the poor stifled, say rights activists
“Civil society needs to stand up against such undemocratic methods to curb dissent”
Modi administration creating the bogey of “Maoism out of thin air”
AHMEDABAD: Several voluntary organisations and “concerned citizens” fighting for human rights have condemned the “indiscriminate” detention of some human right activists and trade union leaders, branding them “Naxalites.”
“It has become an obsession with the Gujarat government and its police to brand human right activists Naxalites to stifle the voice of protest by the poor and the downtrodden. Civil society need to stand up against such undemocratic methods of the police to curb dissensions against the government administration,” Hiren Gandhi, director of “Darshan,” a voluntary organisation, human rights activist and advocate Girish Patel, and several others said here on Tuesday.
They were particularly protesting against the detention earlier this week of a Dalit leader, Ambubhai Vaghela Srinivas Sattayya Kurapati alias Kishore, who hails from Andhra Pradesh but has made Gujarat his work place for the last eight years or so, and his young wife, Hansaben.
“One can easily find holes in the police story of their being Naxalites because the police do not even know that the 30-year old Hansaben is a local Gujarati woman and does not hail from Andhra Pradesh as claimed by the police. The only crime of Hansa, an employee of the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), is that she is a niece of Ambubhai,” Mr. Gandhi said. Ambubhai, who worked as a computer operator at Darshan for the last four years, had migrated to Surat from a remote Andhra village years ago. Mr. Gandhi said he had never seen him involved in any controversial activity during his four-year association with him. The police, however, raided the Darshan office in the wake of Ambubhai’s arrest and took away a computer.
Human rights activists said they knew Ambubhai very well; except raising the voice of protest against communal disturbances and fighting for the poor and the oppressed in Gomtipur and the neighbouring labour-dominated localities through street theatres and other cultural activities, Ambubhai had never participated in any violent activities. “The detention of the three in the name of Naxalite activities is the height of police imagination and their oppressive measures against the human right activists,” Mr. Patel said.
Citing the arrest of tribal activist Avinash Kulkarni in the Dangs more than a month ago and who is still languishing in jail despite protests by civil society, the human right activists expressed the apprehension that after Darshan, the police planned to target all voluntary organisations working for human rights. They believed that the Narendra Modi administration was creating the bogey of “Maoism out of thin air” to divert attention from the CBI investigation into the Sohrabuddin and other fake encounters as well as the 2002 communal riot cases that were taking the inquiry on the doorstep of top political leaders in the State.
Valjibhai Vaghela, a close associate of Ambubhai, said people in Gomtipur and neighbourhood decided to put up boards at all houses “proclaiming themselves as Naxalites and getting ready to be arrested to flood the jails” if this was the way the Gujarat police wanted to stifle the voice of the downtrodden.