Persecuted Prisonersʹ Solidarity Committee (PPSC)
Condemn arrest of Damodar Turi by Jharkhand Police
16th February 2018
Persecuted Prisonersʹ Solidarity Committee (PPSC) condemns the continued repression on activists and groups associated with peopleʹs struggles in Jharkhand by the police and administration. Damodar Turi, a member of the Central Committee of Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan (VVIVA), was arrested in the evening on 15" February 2018 from Ranchi. He was arrested after he walked out of a public programme organised by a joint front in Jharkhand called Loktantr Bachao Manch (LBM). The Manch has been formed by various organizations in Jharkhand in the face of the many undemocratic measures of the Jharkhand government, including the recent banning of a registered trade union, Mazdoor Sangathan Samiti (MSS). The LBM programme drew attention to the anti-people measures of the BJP government in Jharkhand including starvation related deaths following the compulsory use of Adhaar for availing PDS services, the banning of MSS, and the fake encounter of Motilal Baske in June 2017.
Turi has been arrested in connection to a case lodged at Giridih Mufassil Police Station on 7th November 2017. On 7th November, a public meeting and rally had been organised by the
MSS marking 100 years of Bolshevik Revolution in Giridih. MSS has been banned thereafter in December 2017 with several of its members facing arrest and its offices being raided and shut down by Jharkhand Police. This case at Giridih was registered against 12 members of the MSS and 800 unknown persons. Turi had only participated in the programme.
Damodar Turi has been active in Jharkhand for years raising issues related to displacement of adivasis and moolvasis and forcible land acquisition by the government for handing over to corporations. Although he is not a member of MSS, but after the banning of MSS, the police has been attempting to connect him with the Trade Union and has foisted several cases upon him. The DGP of Jharkhand had on 20th December 2017 at a press conference stated that Turi was the main coordinator of the MSS and also has other cases lodged against him. In a statement issued on 22nd December 2017 the VVIVA had clarified that Turi is not a member of the MSS. He had been acquitted by a Court in Ranchi of the false case that was foisted upon him in 2009 wherein he was arrested with alleged ʹnaxalite literatureʹ. Prior to the banning of the MSS he had no case pending against him. But after the banning, he has been named in four FIRs connected to MSS. Apart from provisions of the IPC, these FIRs have also been lodged under draconian anti-people laws like the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 and the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1908.
The VVIVA which came into existence a few years after the formation of the state of Jharkhand, has been actively raising issues concerning displacement of adivasis and moolvasis. It has been actively involved in their struggle for Jal-Jangal-Jameen. Over the
years the VVIVA has raised issues including amendments to the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act, 1908 and Santal Parganas Tenancy Act, 1949, against forceful land acquisition for Electro Steel Plant and Jindal Mining Project in Santhal Pargana, and of persons displaced due to the Tenughat power plant, Bokaro steel plant, Tiger Project Betla, and Kutaku Dam. The VVJVA has therefore been on the radar of the Government for long. In April 2017 the Annual Report 2016-17 by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India had, without any basis, termed the VVIVA as a frontal organisation of the CPI (Maoist). And now its activists are being targeted.
PPSC condemns the arrest and targeting of activists and groups raising and struggling for peopleʹs issues in Jharkhand. We demand that Damodar Turi be released forthwith and cases registered against him and members of MSS be withdrawn with immediate effect.
-Stan Swamy, Sudha Bhardwaj PPSC
(PUDR PRESS STATEMENT)
PUDR condemns the arrest of anti-displacement activist and founder member of ʹVisthapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolanʹ (VJVA) Damodar Turi, on February 15, 2018 at Ranchi, an hour after the ʹLoktantra Bachao Manchʹ (Save Democracy Forum) organized meeting had ended. He was not shown a warrant for his arrest and was presented before the Giridih Court next day and sent to judicial custody. His arrest was under a case registered at Giridih Mufassil Police Station on November 7, 2017. In this case, twelve persons and 800 unknown persons were booked for participating in a public rally organized by a Trade Union called Mazdoor Sangathan Samiti (MSS), in support of hundred years of Bolshevik revolution and for "attacking" government servants and "preventing them from carrying out their duties". MSS was banned by the Jharkhand Government on 22nd December 2017. According to Turiʹs advocate, soon after the banning of the MSS, the Jharkhand police has implicated Damodar Turi and several others in three other FIRs in Giridih, Bokaro Thermal and Dhanbad. They have been booked under draconian laws like s. 17 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1908 which penalizes membership and participation in activities of an unlawful association and s. 13 of the Unlawful (Activities) Prevention Act, 1967 which penalizes participation in unlawful activities apart from other provisions of the Indian Penal Code.
Damodar Turi is a well known grassroots activist in Jharkhand working against displacement with decades of work behind him, and is not a member of MSS. Accusing him of being a member of a banned organisation appears to be a deliberate attempt to prevent him from working on peopleʹs issues. One of the reasons why PUDR opposes proscription of organisations is because declaring someone a member of an organisation that the Government has chosen to ban, effectively criminalises them and hampers peaceful and pro-people political activity.
VJVA as well as MSS were accused by the Union Home Ministry not too long ago of being associated with CPI(Maoist) in their last Annual Report. The stateʹs alleging such linkages with a banned organisation is a repressive strategy as VVJVA and MSS have been raising issues of Adivasi and Moolvasi peopleʹs rights over forest land and championing the enforcement of Fifth Schedule, PESA and FRA which protect forest land diversion for non-forest use. Activists like Damodar Turi are targeted because they incessantly work to raise issues which concern the public at large. The issue could be displacement or illegal land grab by government or corporate group or killing of civilians by police or para military forces, sexual violence against women or even starvation deaths. Lately the BJP-RSS government in Jharkhand was found assiduously working to erode the rights of Adivasis flowing from Chota Nagpur Tenancy Act, 1908 and Santhal Parganas Tenancy Act, 1949 and to make it easier for the corporate sector and non-Adivasis to acquire rights over land which they covet for its minerals or real estate value. So the arrest of Damodar Turi of VVJVA sends a warning to deter all those working among people and championing their concerns and causes.
PUDR is concerned that by foisting cases on activists who take up peopleʹs issues and accusing them of being hand-in-glove with banned organizations, the Jharkhand government is doing its utmost to curb protests against its nefarious policies which benefit corporate groups. PUDR demands that:
1. Charges against Damodar Turi be withdrawn and he be released immediately 2. Ban on MSS be revoked
Shashi, Shahana, Secretaries, PUDR.
20th February 2018