Free Mahesh Raut, activist and former PMRDF
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On June 6, 2018, the Pune Police arrested Mahesh Raut, a former colleague of ours from his residence in Nagpur. He has been one of the best performing Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellows (PMRDFs) who served in Gadchiroli district (a conflict area district) for two years in close coordination with the district administration.
His arrest and house-search have been purportedly made under the FIR registered on 8th January 2018 at Vishram Baug Police Station, Pune with regard to the holding of Elgar Parishad on 31st December 2017 by the Bhima-Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerna Abhiyan. This FIR, originally registered u/s 153(A), 505 (1)(b), 117 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), was made into a conspiracy case in March 2018 and now has sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) added to it. Mahesh’s arrest has thus been made under UAPA, which has several stringent provisions, which ensure long detention, and makes it difficult to obtain bail. Mahesh comes from a very humble background and has done his Masters in Social Work from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai. His commitment to public good and social welfare above personal gains has always secured him respect and adoration amongst his peers and community. (http://www.thehindu.com/society/the-tendu-leaves-rebellion-inmaharashtras-gadchiroli/article23280126.ece
It is because of his tiring efforts in driving social change in conflict areas, at this young age, he has been suffering from swollen liver and digestive issues. His health condition deteriorated early this year and on medical advice, he moved to Nagpur from Gadchiroli. The consulting doctor also advised him to be on liquid diet.
To put matters into perspective, Mahesh has neither attended the Pune Elgar Parishad nor was part of the organising committee. So it’s a pertinent question to ask how Mahesh has been named as an accused in this case. Neither was he named in the primary charge sheet nor was there any order from the competent court to search his premises. All the action against Mahesh is solely based on a complaint from a private individual. Since 2013, the police has constantly harassed Mahesh and recently they also confiscated his passport as well.
Raids on his house and detention had become very common for him in last few months because of his tireless work with Bharat Jan Andolan, an organisation started by late B.D Sharma (IAS). Mahesh has been instrumental in mobilizing people for participative decision making in areas affected by mining projects and has been constantly raising voice for the people’s welfare. His work on PESA and FRA has been noteworthy and acclaimed by then District Collectors and State departments under Government of Maharastra. Moreover, he was actively involved in the process of deepening democracy through strengthening Gram Sabhas in the tribal areas. How can a person working to deepen democracy be ‘anti-state’ as claimed by state security agencies? Development often means taking sides of people and taking collective action for people’s betterment within the ambit of law and constitution.
We strongly believe that the recent arrest of Mr. Mahesh Raut under UAPA by Government of Maharashtra has been done haphazardly and wrongfully on many accounts. We see this hasty police action as the State Government’s response to increasing exertion of oppressed class against sustained caste atrocities in the state. This act would definitely be seen as an atrocity by the State on the larger mass of people who have reposed their faith on young change agents. We are proud of Mahesh’s contributions to work towards raising and consolidating voices of the least heard population of our country; therefore, we strongly
condemn the arrest of Mr. Raut.
In this regard, we as former Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellows under the aegis of Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India appeal and demand that:
a. UAPA charges against Mr. Mahesh Raut are dropped and he be immediately and
b. Mr Mahesh Rout be provided with immediate medical attention given his ill health
c. Stop harassment of social activists and development professionals like Mahesh
without following due process of law and principles of justice as guaranteed by the
Constitution of India.
This petition is supported and endorsed by 79 former Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellows as on June 8, 2018.
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