On Sunday the 3rd June 2012, Pallab Barbora was arrested from his home in Merapani of Golaghat district in Assam and has been remanded to ten days NIA custody on Wednesday. As alleged by the security agency NIA, and based on unverifiable sources, he has facilitated the spread of CPI Maoists in the state. However, general perception of people of the area about him is quite different. Pallab Barbora has been actively involved in numerous forums over the years highlighting issues of violation of rights. He has been a long associate of the Manab Adhikar Sangram Samiti (MASS), a human rights body. Recently he has also been active in the anti-mega-dams movement led by Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) and others. Ironically, when it is a commonplace for every keen observer of the movement against mega-dam, the mainstream media required the security forces to ‘disclose’ that Barbora ‘was instrumental in forming the Mega Dam Resistance Forum to engineer a dissension among the masses’ (The Asian Age, 7th June 2012).
Now, the different parts of the story as released by NIA and other state agencies to the media seem to follow a distinct pattern. First, it is alleged by them that Mr. Barbora is a sympathiser/ facilitator/ kingpin/ founder (as stated out in different versions) of the CPI (Maoist) party which is an organization banned by the Indian government. Next they ‘disclose’, he is advocating the intensification of the popular anti-mega-dam movement. Giving out these two statements in such a manner has an effect: the effect of making the activities of organizing a democratic protest look illegal and illegitimate, because he is already charged under the UAPA and various other sections of IPC.
Big dams have been designed and are being constructed in the North-east in a perplexingly large numbers, and that at the cost of the livelihood and safety of the people of that part of India. This has, for good reasons, been opposed by lakhs of people in the entire North-East. The government of India, a ready-to-serve body for corporate interests, has been most insensitive towards this voice of the people. As desired by the corporate, the PM has recently stated that his government is “ready to ‘remove’ all hurdles” in the building of huge dams in the name of infrastructure-development.
The Government, in order to forcefully pursue its corporate led development policy, is using police and other para-military forces to silence the democratically organized protests. The organisers of such protest movements are regularly being framed in the most draconian laws so that the anti people projects could be implemented to protect the interest of the big corporate. The government is regularly projecting these organisers as ‘terrorists’ or ‘Maoists’ by citing strange and unverifiable ‘intelligence’/’police’ sources. By invoking UAPA and by using the stick of association with 'banned' organisation it has become easy for authorities to damn people's protest. Even the judicial process is being used to intern them indefinitely in the prison and thus silence their voice of descent. Therefore, arrest of Pallab Barbora is obviously an attempt to intimidate the anti-dam popular movement into silence and submission.
PUDR strongly condemn this disgraceful attempt of the government to use such an undemocratic and wicked logic to curb the voices of protest. PUDR strongly condemns the arrest of Mr. Barbora, and demands that he along with others in similar cases be released immediately. We also appeal all like-minded fellow citizens to join us in this condemnation.
Paramjeet Singh and Preeti Chauhan