CDRO (Coordination of Democratic Rights Organizations) unequivocally condemns the judgement of the Midnapore (West Bengal) district and sessions court on 12th May, 2015, convicting Chatradhar Mahato, spokesperson of the Peoples Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA) of Lalgarh, along with Sukhshanti Baske, treasurer of the PCPA, Sambhu Soren and Sagun Murmu, members of PCPA and Raja (Tinku) Sarkhel and Prasun Chattopadhyay, members of Gana Pratirodh Manch for sedition and waging war against the state. The first four, namely Chatradhar Mahato, Sukhshanti Baske, Sambhu Soren and Sagun Murmu, have also been convicted under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the first convictions under UAPA in West Bengal. They have all been sentenced to life imprisonment under charges of sedition. CDRO considers this judgment to be not only a travesty of justice but also a political attempt by the state to send a clear message to peoples' movements across West Bengal and India that any dissent against the state and any democratic opposition to the ruling classes will be severely dealt with, including through adverse judicial pronouncements.
The Lalgarh movement, of which these people were participants, was an uprising of the adivasi-moolvasi people of Jangalmahal against the police repression and exploitation which they have suffered for decades. Because Chatradhar Mahato and his comrades stood up against the unrelenting exploitation of the adivasi and poor people, and people like Raja Sarkhel and Prasun Chattopadhyay stood in solidarity with them, they are being targeted. They have been in jail since 2009 while the trial has dragged on for six long years without bail, finally leading to this conviction. Chatradhar Mahato was also falsely implicated in 38 other cases, linked to every possible incident in Jangalmahal during the Lalgarh movement, most of which have remained unsustainable by the persecution. Seeing the un-tenability of these cases against him, the state has used these UAPA and sedition charges to keep him and his comrades imprisoned for this long time, and now have allowed them to be convicted under these charges.
It is a telling state of affairs that judiciary delivers what the government wishes and leaders and workers of peoples' movements face lifelong imprisonment. CDRO calls upon all democracy-loving people to come out in protest against this conviction. CDRO also demands the unconditional release of Chatradhar Mahato and his comrades and all others political prisoners. CDRO also demands the rubbishing of the grotesquely draconian UAPA forthwith.
C. Chandrasekhar (CLC, Andhra Pradesh), Paramjeet Singh (PUDR, Delhi), Parmindar Singh (AFDR, Punjab), Phulendro Konsam (COHR, Manipur) and Tapas Chakraborty (APDR, West Bengal)
(Coordinators of CDRO).
Constituent Organisations: Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR, West Bengal); Bandi Mukti Morcha (West Bengal); Campaign for Peace & Democracy in Manipur (CPDM), Delhi; Civil Liberties Committee (CLC - AP & Telengana); Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR, Mumbai); Coordination for Human Rights (COHR, Manipur); Human Rights Forum (HRF, AP & Telengana); Jharkhand Council for Democratic Rights (JCDR-Jharkhand); Manab Adhikar Sangram Samiti (MASS), Assam; Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR); Organisation for Protection of Democratic Rights (OPDR, Andhra Pradesh); Peoples’ Committee for Human Rights (PCHR, Jammu and Kashmir); Peoples Democratic Forum (PDF, Karnataka); Peoples Union For Democratic Rights (PUDR, Delhi); Peoples Union for Civil Rights (PUCR, Haryana).