Are you a maoist

India: Government and Maoists target civil society

(Ranchi) - The Indian authorities and Maoist rebels threaten and attack civil society activists. In the conflict regions of central and east India, they are endangering basic rights and affecting aid deliveries, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

The 60-page report "Between Two Sets of Guns: Attacks on Civil Society Activists in India’s Maoist Conflict" documents human rights violations in the Indian states of Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. In particular, people who provide development aid or make human rights violations public in the conflict regions are targeted by government-affiliated security forces and Maoist rebels, known as Naxalites. Maoists often suspect activists as informants and threaten them if they want to implement government programs. On the other hand, the police urge committed people to work as informants. She accuses those who refuse of supporting the Maoists. Arbitrary arrests and torture are common. The authorities use sedition laws to restrict freedom of speech and fabricate crimes to imprison government critics.

Human Rights Watch urges both government officials and Maoists to immediately end all intimidation, attacks, and other human rights violations.

"The Maoists and government forces obviously have only one thing in common: Both sides persecute civil society activists who denounce human rights violations," says Meenakshi Ganguly, Human Rights Watch's South Asia expert and author of the report. “Development workers and human rights defenders must be able to work undisturbed. Just because they draw attention to grievances, they shouldn't be accused of pursuing any political goals. "

The report is based on more than 60 interviews with residents, activists, journalists and lawyers, mainly in Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, who have witnessed or are aware of human rights violations by Indian security forces and Maoists. The interviews were conducted between July 2011 and April 2012.

Maoists rarely attack human rights defenders directly. Nevertheless, they operate in a climate of fear and put themselves in great danger if they criticize abuse by Maoists. The Maoists are particularly brutal against people who they consider to be government informants or “class enemies”. They do not shy away from trying such people after a "trial" before a self-declared "people's court" (Jan Adalat) to shoot or behead. Not even close Jan Adalats international standards that require independence, impartiality, competent judges, presumption of innocence and access to defense.

In March 2011, Maoists killed Niyamat Ansari, who was helping villagers in Jharkhand take part in a national program to offer job seekers in rural areas. The Maoists kidnapped him and later admitted they murdered him. They said he had been punished for engaging in anti-people, counter-revolutionary activities under the influence of the police administration and for provoking the party.

Government agencies in Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh have also arbitrarily arrested, tortured and ill-treated numerous civil society activists. They have often charged those affected for political reasons, such as murder, conspiracy and sedition. Incitement to riot charges have been brought despite the fact that the Supreme Court ruled in 1962 that there must be evidence in such cases that the defendants incited violence. In most cases, these cases were only dropped when the prosecution was unable to substantiate their allegations during the trial. By then, the activists had been detained for an unnecessarily long time. Her requests for bail were routinely denied. In order to justify their actions, the police have often discredited activists as Maoists or their supporters.

For example, Rabindra Kumar Majhi, Madhusudan Badra and Kanderam Hebram were arbitrarily arrested in July 2008. The three activists from the Keonjhar Institute for Integrated Rural Development and Education in Orissa were severely ill-treated until they falsely confessed to being Maoists. Majhi was hung from the ceiling by his legs and beaten until his thigh bone broke. James Anaya, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples, expressed concern about the safety of prisoners. Still, the Indian government relied on the police's allegations and insisted that they confessed to crimes. All three activists remained in custody for two and a half years. Only their acquittals revealed that the government had not independently investigated the police's actions.

“All people who engage in criminal activity must be given a fair trial. Activists are not exempt from this, ”said Ganguly. “Nonetheless, local authorities should only take action when specific evidence is available and not simply assume that critics of the regime support Maoist violence. The government must intervene and put an end to politically motivated persecution. "

Because he was intimidated by state actors, Himanshu Kumar had to give up his work with the predominantly indigenous population in the Bastar region in Chhattisgarh. He had built a network of local activists to implement government food and health programs and other development projects. After the Chhattisgarh government began supporting the Salwa Judum vigilante groups against the Maoists in 2005, he began protesting against human rights violations by Salwa Judum. He appeared in the media and at demonstrations. In retaliation, the district government declared that he had illegally set up his organization's office in a protected forest area. In May 2009, police destroyed the facility. Kumar had to leave Chhattisgarh. He couldn't find any other safe place in the region. Instead, he was threatened and some of his workers were arrested.

“The Indian government has repeatedly emphasized that the Maoist problem can only be solved by two parallel measures. On the one hand development aid must be provided, on the other hand action must be taken against rebels, ”says Ganguly. "But the government is not stopping local authorities and security forces from attacking and intimidating civil society activists who are often implementing the programs that help develop these remote and long-ignored regions."

“The police say, 'You're traveling all over the state. Why don't the Maoists kill you? ‘But the problem is, the Maoists are mad at me too. Your local leaders say I will turn people against them. All I do is tell people to protest to save their lives. You sit between stools and should say that you are suffering. The police said to me, 'We are watching you. If you talk too much, you will end up in jail. Because of murder. ‘”
- Human rights activist in Chhattisgarh, August 2011 (no personal details)

"They [the police] beat me up ... They kept asking, 'Are you a Maoist?" And I replied, "No". They said they would keep hitting me if I deny. Finally I said yes. "
- Madhusudan Badra, Orissa, July 2011

“My colleagues have been arrested on false charges, including murder ... The number of violent retaliations continued to rise. I felt that my strategy was failing - instead of protecting the indigenous people, I put them in danger. If I continued to work in Dantewada, those I would like to help would be harassed, attacked and arrested even more often. That's why I left there. "
- Himanshu Kumar, Chhattisgarh, August 2011