Dr Saibal Jana, chief physician of Shaheed Hospital at Dalli Rajhara, Chhattisgarh has been arrested. He was picked up late at night (March 17) by the Chhattisgarh police. The hospital was founded Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha led by Late Shankar Guha Niyogi and run by money collected from the workers of the area. Dr. Jana’s arrest comes close on the heels of the acid attack on Soni Sori and harrassment of her relatives and the continued torture allegedly afoot in south Bastar.
Dr.Saibal Jana was arrested in a case related to the police firing on agitating workers of the Bhilai Industrial Area on 1 July, 1992. Dr Jana was, on that day, among the team of doctors providing medical assistance to trade union activists of the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha who were injured. Many activists and civil rights groups believe that Dr Jana’s arrest in this case, after a gap of 24 years, is allegedly motivated by sheer vendetta against him by BJP led Raman Singh government, that has been waging a crackdown on Adivasis, activists, doctors and lawyers who stand up for the democratic rights of workers, farmers and ordinary Indian citizens.
Dr Jana has served the people of Chhattisgarh selflessly for over three decades and deserves to be given a national award for his service to humanity. Instead the BJP government in Chhattisgarh is persecuting him, which is a matter of shame for all those who believe in the rule of law, fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution and even basic human decency. Citizens groups have made a demand that all cases against Dr Jana should be withdrawn and he should be released with an apology.
The arrest of Dr Jana comes after a series of attack on democratic organisations, activists and journalists in the state. On February 20, 2016 Soni Sori was attacked with an acid like substance.
The Jagdalpur Legal Aid group (Jaglag), currently consisting of lawyers Shalini Gera and Isha Khandelwal were also hounded out of Jagdalpur on the night of February 20, itself an hour before Soni Sori was attacked. Their landlord was picked up and detained in the police station and under threat asked them to vacate their house and office. Jaglag has been providing legal aid to Adivasi prisoners under trial in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh since 2013.
For the past year and a half, both lawyers were being hounded by the local police. They have been faced with thinly veiled threats at press conferences insinuating that the police are closely monitoring NGOs providing “legal aid to Naxalites”. Their clients have been informed that the police are about to arrest them for Naxalite activities. Visiting journalists and researchers have been told that they are a “Naxalite front. The local Bar Association, clearly prompted by the police, passed a resolution on October 3, 2015 prohibiting them from practicing in the local courts. On their complaint, the State Bar Council of Chhattisgarh passed an interim order allowing them to practice again.
Bela Bhatia, an independent researcher, living in Bastar has similarly been working with Soni Sori and Jaglag on documenting and filing cases of human rights violations and people’s livelihoods. She has also been collecting information on the systematic use of violence by armed personnel and security forces. Bela Bhatia has also been threatened and her landlord is constantly been called for ‘police questioning.; It has been alleged that former Salwa Judum members, under the banner of Samajik Ekta Manch and groups such as the Naxal Pedit Sangharsh Samiti have threatened her along with Jaglag and Soni Sori.
Malini Subramanium, an independent journalist, reporting on issues in Chhattisgarh including the closing down of schools, women and children, as also the brutal violence by security forces against the Adivasis, fake encounters and surrenders in the Bastar. region had to suddenly leave after similar kinds of coercive tactics were employed. The domestic worker in Malini’s house was called and kept in the police station till late at night to terrorize her into implicating the journalist of being Naxalite. Her landlord was similarly threatened by the police into asking her to vacate the house. Malini, fearing for the safety of those who have always stood by her, left Jagdalpur on February 19, 2016.
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On the day after news, of Dr Jana’s arrest, March 18, Business Standard carried this story: (http://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/chhattisgarh-govt-cancels-tribal-rights-over-forest-lands-116021601327_1.html Chhattisgarh govt cancels tribal rights over forest lands: Forest Rights Act allows government to divert forest lands for other purposes only after prior consent of the tribals through gram sabhas)
According to the story the Forest rights of tribals over their traditional lands in Ghatbarra village of Surguja district have been taken away by the Chhattisgarh government to facilitate coal mining of Prasa East and Kete Besan coal block. The block has been allocated to Rajasthan Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Limited (RVUNL) and Adani Minerals Private Limited. The latter is a 100 per cent subsidiary of Adani Enterprises and RVUNL is a Rajasthan government enterprise. In an order passed on January 8, the government had cancelled the community land rights of the tribals in the village, given under the Forest Rights Act (FRA). The government, in the order, stated that the villagers had been using their legal rights over the forest land to stop work of mining in their village, which falls in the Parsa East and Kete Besan coal block. It is the first such order to come to light in India, where community rights of tribals have been cancelled after being granted through the process laid down in the FRA. The FRA is a national law that is now clearly thought to be thwarted.
Business Standard reviewed the January 8 orders cancelling the land rights of the tribals in the village. The Chhattisgarh government and the district authorities, however, did not respond to the queries. The FRA does not provide for revocation of either community or individual land rights once granted under the law. The law and the attendant regulations provide only for the government diverting the forest land for some other purpose after prior consent of the tribals through their gram sabha. Under the FRA, tribals are empowered to claim individual and community rights over forest lands they have traditionally hold on. The gram sabha of Bhatbarra did so and in September 3, 2013 they were handed over the lands by the state government.
Business Standard :” After that, the village became aware that the coal block could remain susceptible to mining despite the Supreme Court orders cancelling earlier allocations. In October 2014 the gram sabha (village council) of Ghatbarra, along with 19 other villages, took out a formal resolution opposing the mining in their lands. Under the FRA, the gram sabha is the only authority empowered to decide the future of traditional tribal lands. The FRA also requires that the claims and rights of all tribals and other forest-dwellers are settled before the government looks to remove them under section 4(5) of the law and other rules.
But the central government gave the clearance to divert the land for mining in 2012 without settling the rights. Business Standard reviewed the orders of the environment ministry. One set of orders said the land would be diverted only once the rights of the tribals and others had been settled. But then later orders (called stage 2 forest clearance) handed over the land for mining without ascertaining that the rights had actually been settled.
The state government in its order dated January 8 notes (translated from Hindi): “When the administration tries to get diversion of forests done for the Parsa East and Kete Besen open coal block, the villagers, using the context of the land rights given by the collector to them, create barriers and protest to stop work.” The order notes that this was investigated by the forest department. The conservator of forests of Surguja found that the land rights were given to tribals in 2013 while the forest clearance to RVUNL had been given in 2012. He concluded, therefore, the community forest rights given to the tribals could be cancelled.
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Earlier it was Dr Binayak Sen, who worked with Dr Saibal Jana , and was arrested
On May 14, 2007, Dr Sen, was arrested under the provisions of the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005, (CSPSA) and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. The allegations claimed that he had acted as a courier for a Maoist leader Narayan Sanyal lodged in the Raipur Jail and then absconded. The charges against him were as follow:
b) Criminal Conspiracy
c) Sedition, anti-national activities and making war against the nation
d) Knowingly using the proceeds of terrorism
e) Links with the Maoists
He spent two year in prison was acquitted by the Supreme Court
Binayak Sen has played mutiple roles over the years; academician, pediatrician, public health specialist, human rights activist and now, according to a Chattisgarh court, a Maoist and a traitor. Here is a brief sketch of his life and works.
–He started his academic career at Christian Medical College, Vellore, doing his MBBS and later on, an M.D in Pediatrics. He then went on to join the the Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, one of India’s most prestigious universities, as a faculty member.
— His next stop was in Hoshangabad district of MP, where he began his commitment to rural health programmes, working in a community based rural health centre focusing on tuberculosis.
— In the seventies, he joined the Medico Friend Circle, a national organisation of health workers trying to evolve an alternative health system to cater to economically weak sections of rural India.
— Dr Sen further extended his ambit working with mine workers in Dalli Rajahara. His work included helping the workers set up and sustain a hospital of their own called Shaheed Hospital under the banner of the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha. This was followed by a mission hospital in Tilda where Sen focussed on his specialty; Pediatrics and later, Community Health.
— In the late eighties he moved to Raipur, developing models of primary health care in Chhattisgarh. Ironically, he was a member of the state advisory committee which pioneered a community based health worker programme across the state called the Mitanin programme. Alongside, he consulted a weekly clinic in a tribal community in Dhamtari district. He also acted as an advisor to the Jan Swasthya Sahyog, a health care organization working on rural low cost models of community health in the Bilaspur district of the state.
— Dr Sen and his wife, Dr Ilina Sen, then went on to create ‘Rupantar’, an NGO which trains, deploys and monitors community health workers spread across 20 villages. Rupantar then branched out to cover alcohol abuse, violence against women and food security.
— While working in Chattisgarh, Dr Sen extended his expertise and dedication to human rights movements, albeit in his own way. He served as the General Secretary of the state Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) Committee for five years and as Vice President of the National Committee for the three years. His work was vast in scope, covering fake encounters, custodial deaths, hunger deaths, malnutrition, and dysentery.
— Dr Sen is also responsible for one of the first few voices against Salwa Judum, the state sponsored reactionary peoples movement. His fact finding team, was one of the first few to study and highlight the excesses and dangers posed by the Salwa Judum, instantly bringing him under the state government’s scanner.
Recognising his contribution to the field of community health care, Dr Sen has been graced with the following (chronologically)
— In 2004 Dr Sen was decorated with the Paul Harrison award for a lifetime of service to the rural poor, and award given annually by his alma mater, the Christian Medical College, Vellore.