We are deeply concerned about the dreadful incidents of barbarous atrocities by the West Bengal government upon the peaceful democratic protest movements of various mass organisations, civil rights groups and individuals opposing the forcible eviction of Nonadanga slum-dwellers in the name of ‘development’ and ‘beautification’ of Kolkata followed by malicious arrests of the social activists and common people and their continued detention and a heinous attempt to impose the draconian act UAPA on Deblina Chakraborty, a committed social activist and people’s leader, implicating her in cooked-up charges. Her associate Abhijnan Sarkar — a research scholar of Jadavpur University and Chief Editor of the magazine 'Towards a New Dawn', had also been entangled in two additional forged cases of ‘sedition’ and he was also in incarceration and on 19 July, 2012 Abhijnan finally got bail after 101 days of imprisonment accused with fabricated charges.
On 8th April 2012, a huge contingent of police arrested 69 demonstrators from the Ruby Hospital crossing of EM Bypass of East Kolkata when they had been protesting against the violent demolition of the Nonadanga slums and forcible eviction of hundreds of populace of that colony on March 30th. All those protesters illegitimately apprehended including women and kids were put in the central lock-Up of the Kolkata police headquarter at Lalbazar for nine hours and cases under section 151 CrPc were slapped on them. In late evening, all the captives were released on PR bond except seven civil rights activists. Those activists kept in confinement were Deblina Chakraborty, Debjani Ghosh, Abhijnan Sarkar, Prof. (Dr.) Partho Sarathi Ray, Dr. Siddhartha Gupta, Samik Chakraborty and Manas Chatterjee. They were produced in the ACJM court of Alipore next day (9 April) and all of them were remanded to police custody till 12th April. They had falsely been charged with a number of stringent non-bailable criminal cases made-up by the police under Sections 141 (unlawful assembly), 143 (punishment for unlawful assembly), 148 (rioting armed with deadly weapon), 149 (offence committed in prosecution of common objective of disruption), 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty), 353 (assault or criminal force on public servant) of Indian Penal Code.
On 12th April, Deblina and all other detainees were sent to jail custody till 26th April after being produced in the court. Surprisingly, in the evening when the defense lawyers had left or were about to leave, the CID put up papers in a secretive manner for the police remand of Deblina Chakraborty in three additional cases—two of which are old cases related to “sedition and waging a war against the state” and allegedly connected with incidents that supposedly took place in Nandigram and Bishnupur during the tenure of the former Left Front government. Furthermore, she was tagged in an old murder case under UAPA. The magistrate granted the plea without listening to the response from the side of lawyers who stood by the accused. Deblina was taken to Bhabani Bhawan for interrogation and she will be remanded to CID custody till 21st April. The other six captives were sent to Alipore Central Jail.
Deblina was a student of the International Relations Department of Jadavpur University. She left her studies to carry on democratic movements and stood by the side of the people. She was devotedly associated with the Singur Anti-land grab movement that had prepared the ground for Mamata Banerjee to come to power. When the people of Nanigram raised their voices against the formation of SEZs and Chemical hubs under the notorious Salem industrial group, she went there and took part in the people’s heroic struggle launched by the Bhumi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) against displacement from their land and habitats and was also instrumental in forming the ‘Matangini Mahila Samity’ (MMS). The MMS was a women’s forum that drew its name from the name of Matangini Hazra (the great heroine of the Quit India Movement and was shot down by the British armed forces). It fought against patriarchy, against consumption of liquor, against CPI(M) ruffians (harmads), and was associated with the day-to-day struggles against all onslaughts carried out by the gang of Lakshman Seth-Binoy Konar-Sushanta Ghosh-Ashok Pattanayak-Tapan-Sukur-Naba Samanta during the previous regime. In this land struggle, the TMC, Congress, CPI, SUCI and other political forces also played their part within the BUPC.
The police under the previous Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee-led left-front regime issued threats to arrest Deblina under the UAPA, but protests from different quarters as also hunger strikes started by her and other activists at College Square thwarted such attempts. The new government under Mamata Banerjee — indubitably more brutal and vindictive-- picked up the torn shoes left by her predecessor and completed the process by booking her under this draconian act.
After coming to power, Mamata Banerjee turned her heat against the ongoing peoples’ movements and initiated a slander and intimidation campaign by denouncing the ‘Matangini Mahila Samity’ as a ‘satanic brigade’ to gag democratic dissent and protest menacingly and the police as usual condemned Deblina as a ‘Maoist’ who could be detained, tortured, humiliated and made a prisoner at will.
Deblina had been with the people’s movement for quite some years, functioning openly and participating in various mass movements that took place from time to time. She was never arrested earlier. Now she has been picked up during her participation in the Nonadanga anti-displacement movement and tagged in that earlier case for which charge-sheets had already been submitted.
Deblina is a dedicated social activist who always fights for justice to the best of her ability and stands by the side of the oppressed people in their struggles for rights and dignity. Such a person has now been entrapped under the UAPA in a most conspiringly and cowardly manner. We are quite apprehensive that the intelligence officials would subject Deblina to brutal mental and physical torture in police custody and send her to prison to languish there for as many years as possible. Should we allow such injustice to be done by this vindictive and cruel chief minister of West Bengal? Deblina started a hunger strike to protest against the unjust incarceration and slapping of UAPA on her.
At this juncture, we appeal to all justice-loving and freedom-loving people of the country to condemn and raise their voices of protest against the despotic police action subverting the law and illegitimate arrests of all the social activists and a heinous attempt to impose the draconian act UAPA on Deblina Chakraborty on cooked-up charges.
On 17th April, we started this online signature campaign demanding the immediate and unconditional release of Deblina Chakraborty and other six arrestees who were fighting in support of the poor dispossessed people’s struggle at Nonadanga for their proper rehabilitation.
Later on, all seven activists were released on bail after a huge uproar over their arrests, except Deblina Chakraborty and Abhijnan Sarkar even if they had also been granted bail in Tiljala PS case (case no. 103 dated 4 April 2012). Deplorably these two social activists were languishing in Haldia Sub Jail as the CID tagged them with some additional old cases allegedly related to “sedition and waging war against the state” including a two-year-old murder case under the draconian UAPA against Deblina.
Meanwhile, on 28th April, the police and KMDA again unleashed a fresh violence on the dispossessed slum dwellers of Nonadanga. 5 women and 6 male evictees of Nonadanga were arrested and a host of stern sections of the Indian Penal Code, three of which are non-bailable, along with an act that pertains to the destruction of public property had been foisted on them, while they were resisting evil attempts by the KMDA to construct a fenced enclosure around the grabbed land. Earlier, the police detained 14 persons including 7 women and a one-year-old baby. Late in the evening two women with the child were released, except eleven slum dwellers, who were booked for illegal assembly, rioting armed with deadly weapon, assaulting police and damaging public property. According to media reports, the arrested persons were badly treated in the police lockup. They were not given food in the lock-up and four of them fell ailing.
The arrestees were: 1) Pratima Baidya, 2) Minati Sardar 3) Saraswati Dasi 4) Ranjita Baidya 5) Pratima Beiz 6) Bapi Mondal 7) Manindra Mondal 8) Purna Mondal 9) Ujjwal Saha 10) Sona Bar and 11) Rabin Haldar. They had falsely been charged under sections 147 (punishment for rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 149 (unlawful assembly), 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 325 (punishment for voluntarily causing grievous hurt), 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty), 333 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt to deter public servant from his duty) and 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) of Indian Penal Code (IPC) and three PDPP (Prevention of Damage to Public Property) Act, in Tiljala PS Case No.133 dated 28.4.2012.
On 29th April afternoon, after production before the ACJM court of Alipore, they were remanded to police custody for 5 days. During hearing, defense counsel Tamal Mukherjee pleaded that no injury report had been produced. He argued, "Then how did the cops claim that they were assaulted by the slum dwellers". (Ref: Times of India, dated 30 April 2012)
However, on 3rd May, in a judgment at Alipore ACJM Court, those eleven captives were released on bail of Rs. 5,000 per head. During the hearing, public prosecutor Tapan saha strongly opposed the bail petition claiming that the arrested activists have close connections with the 'Maoists' who have been inciting the slum dwellers at Nonadanga to resistance. He also alleged that the arrested protesters had stacked arms and ammunitions at Nonadanga for an insurgency against the state. But the additional chief judicial magistrate Fatikchandra Mondal overruled the state counsel’s objection and refuting such an absurd allegation against the poor slum dwellers, the magistrate asked him, “Is the police seeing Ghosts of the Maoists in all circumstances?” (Ref: Anandabazar Patrika, 4 May, 2012)
On 20 June 2012, about 200 residents of Nonadanga started a peaceful roadside demonstration in the Esplanade area of Kolkata demanding proper rehabilitation for the evicted slum-dwellers. Police carried out a massive lathicharge on the ‘dharna’ and several persons were injured and had to be admitted to MedicalCollege for treatment. While negotiations were going on about when the concerned minister could give an appointment to hear about the grievances, police started picking up certain selected activists at around 8 pm and then brutally lathicharged to disperse the rest.
33 protestors were arrested including Amitabha Bhattacharya (the Chairman of the Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee) and Samik Chakraborty, who was arrested earlier with Deblina and others. On 21st of June the detainees were produced at the court of the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Kolkata, where they were charged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code pertaining to violation of public order. However, during the hearing, the government lawyer made the oral argument that the detainees had amassed a lot of arms and were preparing for an armed rebellion. The trumped up charges relating to amassing of arms and ammunition were leveled against them in order to convince the court that they were actually very dangerous people and the success of this argument was apparent in the detainees being remanded to police custody till 30 June. Later on, all anti-eviction activists were released on bail.
In the latest developments, on 19 July, 2012, Abhijnan Sarkar finally got bail after 101 days of imprisonment accused with forged cases. Police could not produce iota of evidence and any chargesheet against Abhijnan.
We welcome the granting of bail, albeit in a staggered manner, to Abhijnan and other activists of Nonadanga movement, but Deblina Chakraborty continue behind bars and the concocted cases slapped against Deblina and all other activists are still in place. Therefore, we will continue our online petition campaign with our demand of the unconditional and immediate release of Deblina and the speedy acquittal of all the activists.
Please demand in the strongest possible terms the immediate and unconditional release of Deblina Chakraborty with annulment of all the outlandish set of charges fabricated against all protestors and mass activists for raising their voices of protest against slum demolition and forceful eviction at Nonadanga seeking their suitable rehabilitation.
Please go through the petition and sign, and circulate it among your friends and colleagues as widely as possible.
WOMEN AGAINST SEXUAL VIOLENCE & STATE REPRESSION (WSS) STATEMENT OF CONCERN ON PROLONGED POLICE CUSTODY OF DEBOLINACHAKRABARTY (19.04.12)
SANHATI STATEMENT ON THE CONTINUED DETENTION OF ACTIVISTS AND THE GRANTING OF BAIL TO PARTHO SARATHI RAY (18.4.2012)
CRPP STATEMENT DEMANDING THE RELEASE OF SOCIAL ACTIVIST AND LEADER DEBOLINA CHAKRABARTI (17.4.2012)
Please refer to the following set of news reports of the ‘Times of India’, ‘The Indian Express’, ‘The Statesman’ and 'The Hindu' for a chronology of the incidents.
1) Child spends 9 hours in police lockup, Times of India, 9 April, 2012
2) Nonadanga: 7 in police custody, The Indian Express, 10 April, 2012
3) CID appeals for custodial interrogation of Debolina Chakraborty, Times of India, 13 April, 2012
4) Rights activist with ‘Maoist links’ in CID custody till April 21, The Indian Express, 13 April, 2012
5) Debolina starts hunger strike in jail, Times of India, 14 April, 2012
6) Scientist gets bail after Mamata govt faces public ire, Times of India, 17 April, 2012
7) Debolina sent to jail custody, Times of India, 22April, 2012
8) Court remands Debolina in jail custody till May 5, The Indian Express, 21 April, 2012
9) Four Nonadanga activists granted bail, The Times of India, April 24, 2012
10) Debolina gets 12 days' judicial custody, The Times of India, 26 April, 2012
11) Nonadanga activists given bail, The Statesman, 26 April, 2012
12) 14 Nonadanga dwellers arrested, Times of India, 29 April, 2012
13) Fresh trouble in Nonadanga, cops lathicharge slum-dwellers; The Indian Express, 29 April, 2012
14) 11 Nonadanga agitators sent to police custody, Times of India, April 30, 2012
15) Nonadanga clash: Bail @ Rs 5,000, The Statesman, 3 May 2012
16) Binayak Sen decries eviction of Nonadanga slum dwellers, The Hindu, 4 May 2012
17) CId wants to book Debolina under UAPA, The Asian Agem 15 July 2012
Please watch a video of ‘Star Ananda’ TV channel showing the police violence on the slum dwellers while they tried to resist heinous attempts by the KMDA to create a walled enclosure around their land:
For detailed coverage and chronological reports on Nonadanga Anti-eviction struggle please visit the following website of ‘Sanhati Collective’ http://sanhati.com/articles/4853/