PUDR condemns the arrest warrant issued against Stan Swamy, Aloka Kujur, Vinod Kumar, Rakesh Roshan Kiro and Babita Kashyap on 19 June 2019, in relation to FIR filed on 26 July 2018 for waging war against the state, sedition, conspiracy, and Sections 66 and 66A IT Act based simply on their Facebook posts. The Jharkhand government had filed this FIR 124/ 2018 at Khunti PS against 20 writers, intellectuals and activists as part of the continued wave of repressive measures against the pathalgarhi movement in Jharkhand over June-July 2018, wherein more than 300 villagers have also been slapped with sedition cases without their knowledge, and there has been deployment of security forces, raids and constant surveillance over the past one year.
The arrest warrant has been issued close to one year after the FIR was filed, with no follow-up investigation, even though the Supreme Court has struck down S.66A as unconstitutional as far back as 2015, and has held repeatedly that sedition cannot be invoked to target speech, unless there is direct incitement to violence. Yet, the Jharkhand government continues its fear tactics against writers and activists working or writing on issues of land rights and the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA) for adivasis in the state. Without taking lawful action on the FIR, those named in the FIR have been subject to raids and continued surveillance, even as a petition for quashing the FIR remains pending before the Ranchi High Court since last year without a hearing.
The present arrest warrant continues the concerted attack on Stan Swamy, aged more than 80 years, who has been living in Jharkhand for 40 years and is a member of the Visthapan Virodhi Jan Andolan. He was one of the six activists whose houses were raided on the morning of 28 August 2018 as part of the Maharashtra government’s conspiracy related to Bhima Koregaon, and his premises have been raided again on 12 June 2019. As he continues to be threatened as part of that conspiracy, the Jharkhand government, on the encouragement of the CID, is attempting to further target him through the present FIR. On 26 June 2019, CID headquarters issued instructions to Ranchi range DIG to issue show cause notice to IO, Station Officer Khunti, Inspector of Area and SDPO about why no action has been taken against the 20 named accused in the FIR.
Similarly, Aloka Kujur, leading women’s rights activist in Jharkhand, who has also been involved in struggles to defend constitutional rights and PESA in the state, has been repeatedly targeted by the Jharkhand government through surveillance and intimidation tactics. She has been actively involved in seeking redress for human rights violations as part of security raids on Ghaghra and neighbouring villages as part of the repressive measures in the area over June- July last year. Vinod Kumar is a journalist and writer, while Rakesh Roshan Kiro and Babita Kashyap are both local activists.
- Immediate withdrawal of the warrants.
- Quashing of FIR against Stan Swamy and 19 others
- Quashing of FIRs against adivasis associated with the Pathalgarhi movement
- Harassment of activists through raids, searches, false FIRs, be stopped.
Deepika Tandon and Shahana Bhattacharya