Coordination of Democratic Rights Organisations (CDRO) unequivocally condemns the judgment of the Midnapore (West Bengal) District and Sessions Court on 12 May 2015, which convicted Chatradhar Mahato, spokesperson of the People’s 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, Mahato, Baske, Soren and Murmu, have also been convicted under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) act (UAPA), which are the first convictions under this act in West Bengal. They have all been sentenced to life imprisonment under charges of sedition. We consider this judgment to be not only a travesty of justice, but also a political attempt by the state to send a 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 police repression and exploitation that they have suffered for decades. Because Mahato and his comrades, Sarkhel and Chattopadhyay, stood up against the unrelenting exploitation of the Adivasi and poor people, they are being targeted. They have been in jail since 2009, as the trial dragged on for six long years without bail. 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 unsubstantiated by the prosecution. Seeing the weakness of cases against him, the state has used the UAPA and sedition charges to keep him and his comrades imprisoned.
CDRO calls upon all democracy-loving people to come out in protest against this conviction. CDRO demands the unconditional release of Chatradhar Mahato and his comrades and all other political prisoners. CDRO also demands the scrapping of the grotesquely draconian UAPA forthwith.
C Chandrasekhar (Civil Liberties Committee, Andhra Pradesh), Paramjeet Singh (Peoples Union for Democratic Rights, Delhi), Parmindar Singh (Association for Democratic Rights, Punjab), Phulendro Konsam (Coordination for Human Rights, Manipur) and Tapas Chakraborty (Association for Protection of Democratic Rights, West Bengal)