FREE RAIGARH ACTIVISTS
Two exceptional human rights and environmental activists, Ramesh Agrawal and Harihar Patel, have been arrested for speaking out against Jindal Steel and Power's major expansion of Tamnar thermal power plant. Agrawal and Patel have been crucial in raising awareness of the mining industry and its irregular practices, in order to protect the interests of the Raigarh District of Chhattisgarh.
Both were detained on May 28th 2011 for speaking out at a June 2010 public hearing against Jindal Steel and Power’s 2,400 MW expansion of a 1,000 MW Tamnar-based thermal power plant. The plant has a long running list of legal and environmental violations—some ranking as serious as failure to get environmental and forest clearance from the government. A public hearing, mandated by the Ministry of Environment and Forest, has been ignored and treated as farce, and the local people have not been consulted on a decision that will impact their livelihoods.
In 2008 Dr. Patel was beaten unconscious by the police at one of such hearings, after JSP goons had dispensed alcohol to company workers and instructed them to start a riot. Now, according to Amnesty International, Ramesh Agrawal, needed urgent medical attention but was instead handcuffed to a hospital bed in a government hospital. This amounts to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
Ramesh Agrawal and Harihar Patel will have their cases heard in the High Court the week of June 20th. We have one week to show the high court that they must be freed, and their work is in the interests of the people of Raigharh, the people of India and the world.
Please sign this petition and help us reach 1000 signatures for their immediate release.
Thanks for your support, Samantha Agrawal and Pranav Jani PS. Forward this to your friends, the more people that sign on, the greater our impact.
More information regarding Ramesh Agrawal and Harihar Patel’s arrest:
All accounts of the arrests on May 28 suggest that false charges have been concocted against Dr. Patel and Mr. Agrawal for the purpose of suppressing their long-time work against the negative social and environmental impact of existing and proposed industrial plants in central Chhattisgarh.
In fact, both Dr. Patel and Mr. Agarwal have actively participated in the public hearings mandated by the environmental clearance procedures under the law. And yet, as Amnesty International reports, they have been charged by the state police with “circulating defamatory material”, “disrupting public order” and “causing alarm and panic among the public” at once such mandatory public consultation, held by the state pollution board at Tamnar village on 8 May 2010.
What remains of free speech and human rights when one is jailed for dissenting at a public forum being held precisely for the purpose of gauging public opinion? Or is the driving force here the fact that Dr. Patel and Mr. Agrawal have exposed corruption in the grant of clearances to the Jindal Steel and Power Company?
We demand, further, that the inhumane and degrading treatment of Mr. Agarwal be stopped immediately. Several reports have indicated that Mr. Agarwal, requiring some urgent medical assistance, has been chained to his bed—in contravention of Supreme Court directives issued in 1995.
All eyes of the human rights community globally are on Chhattisgarh today; the Binayak Sen incident is fresh in our minds. It is your responsibility to ensure that activists like Dr. Patel and Mr. Agrawal can continue their legal and peaceful work for human rights and environmental justice free from all persecution by the authorities.