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08 May 2008

Hardly had the trial of Dr. Binayak Sen begun, that yet another activist of PUCL Chattisgarh was arrested. On 5th May, 2005 Ajay T G state executive member of PUCL Chattisgarh was arrested under sections of the Chattisgarh Special Public Safety Act, and the IPC. Earlier in January 2008 after the arrest of Maoists Malti Rao and Meena in the Raipur arms dropping case, the police had questioned Ajay TG and seized his computer and filming equipment. More recently, a deliberate vilification campaign was also undertaken against Ajay. On 30th April he had accidentally carried a pen knife into court at the time of Dr. Sen’s trial for which he later apologized to the court. However the local newspapers accused him of carrying a ‘weapon’ into court, of being a fraud as a journalist etc.

The immediate basis for Ajay’s arrest is the recovery of a letter from Malti Rao’s house written by Ajay on the letterhead of The Campaign Against Child Labour of which he is the state convenor, to one Mr. K R C Rao (alias Gudsa Usendy), spokesperson of the CPI (Maoist) in Chhattisgarh. The letter concerns the return of a camera seized by some Maoists from Ajay TG when he went on a team investigating the impact of the Maoist boycott on the 2004 Lok Sabha elections. Almost three months after its recovery the police have used this letter to charge Ajay as well in the Raipur arms drop case of January 2008. Thus a completely innocuous letter is being used by the state to criminalize an ordinary exchange, and attack PUCL Chhattisgarh.

The pattern is no different from the arrest of Dr. Sen, as is the intention no different. The echoes and similarities- ‘incriminating letters’, the deliberate vilification, the so called ‘link’ with a Maoist leader. In Ajay’s case too, the context and content of the letter have no bearing on the arms drop case. The state government’s mal-intent is apparent.

Ajay TG is a person who has contributed actively to fighting for the rights of and improving the lives of the underprivileged in Chattisgarh. He has been an active member of PUCL Chattisgarh which has been campaigning against the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA) and the Salwa Judum. He is also the Director of a small organization which he helped set up ‘Drksakshi’ an organization that helps the educate of girls from a slum in Bhilai. Ajay has also been a research assistant to the social anthropologist Dr. Jonathan Parry and also Dr. Balamurli Natarajan, who have protested against his arrest. Ajay has also made thirteen documentary films on subjects like workers’ rights, migration patterns, education etc.

It is obviously Ajay’s politics that has brought on the ire of the state. Ajay’s arrest is another body blow against PUCL Chhattisgarh in particular, and democratic rights activity in the country in general. The concerted attempt to destroy PUCL Chattisgarh that began with the arrest of Binayak Sen is amply apparent now. The PUCL had been actively opposing the CSPSA and the Salwa Judum. The timing of the arrest is significant. It is too much of a coincidence that Ajay TG’s arrest should follow the Supreme Court’s criticism of the Salwa Judum and its directive to the NHRC to submit a report on human rights violations by the Salwa Judum in eight weeks. The presence of an active PUCL Chattisgarh at such a juncture obviously is a problem that the state and central governments could do without. And what better way to discredit the organisation’s testimony regarding the violations by the Salwa Judum, than by branding it as an associate of the very Maoists against whose excesses the government claims the Salwa Judum was a spontaneous response.

Ajay, like Binayak Sen, has been arrested under Sections 8 (1) and (2) dealing with membership of an unlawful organization / participating in its meetings and activities/ receiving or making contributions to/ giving encouragement to its meetings, read together with Sections 3 and 4 of the CSPSA dealing with declaring an organization unlawful, in this case the Maoist party. Ajay’s case, like Dr. Sen’s, once again illustrates how special security legislations like the CSPSA and UAPA use the politics of banning to proscribe political activity. By alleging an association with the Maoist party ie an “unlawful organization”, the state can then target all kinds of political activity, protest and dissent.
The state’s concerted attempt is clearly to brand PUCL Chattisgarh as a Maoist organization. By establishing PUCL’S association with an organization banned under the UAPA, the attempt is to criminalize the rights activities of PUCL Chhattisgarh and its members.

The state has also accused Ajay of sedition under Sec. 124 A of the IPC. The section penalizes the spreading of disaffection towards the Government through any form of visual representation including word, signs etc. By this definition anybody who expresses dissent against the Government ie filmmakers, artisits, journalists, academics, social activists can be targeted, if the state so intends and finds their politics inimical to its policies. Through the use of this section the state is disallowing all democratic forms of dissent. It is a section which criminalizes political belief. The section has been freely used in the spate of recent arrests over the last year –Binayak Sen, Lachit Bordoloi, Prashant Rahi, Govind Kutty among many others.

PUDR demands that Ajay TG be released immediately and unconditionally, that all charges against him be dropped, and the Chhattisgarh covernment stop harassing and persecuting people for their political beliefs.

Harish Dhawan

Nagraj Adve

Secretaries, PUDR