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India: “Is it a crime to work in a democratic and peaceful way for the empowerment and development of Adivasis”?

by Adivasi Mahasabha Gujarat, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Gujarat, 23 March 2010

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PRESS RELEASE

DATE: 22ND MARCH 2010

by Adivasi Mahasabha Gujarat & People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Gujarat.

Mr. Avinash Kulkarni and Mr. Bharat Pawar, activists of long-standing repute, have been working relentlessly for the rights of the Adivasis of Gujarat, over the past 15 years. Based in Ahwa, Avinash and Bharat have been actively involved on issues pertaining to the empowerment and development of Adivasis, through the Dangi Lok Adhikar Samiti and the Dangi Mazdoor Union, in Dang district. Avinash and Bharat have played a significant role in the struggle for the Forest Rights Act and for people’s rights to use, manage and control forests and forest resources as part of the leadership of Adivasi Mahasabha Gujarat, both in the advocacy and struggle that brought about the Forests Rights Act and the monitoring of its implementation across the Adivasi areas of Gujarat. It is a well known fact that they have always worked for democratic and peaceful means of securing the rights and entitlements of the Adivasis and have stood by non-violent means of working for social change.

In the afternoon of 21st March, 2010, about 2 P.M Avinash was picked up by Dy. S. P. Shri Patil under the pretext of questioning and took him to an undisclosed location, without giving any information to his family members or colleagues as to where they were taking him or giving him the right of contacting his advocate. Bharat Pawar also was detained the same evening in a similar fashion by policemen from the DSP office of Ahwa, Dangs. This is a clear violation of Justice D. K. Basu Guideline of Supreme Court.

We are aware of the abysmal human rights track record of the Gujarat Government, not only during the 2002 communal carnage, or the infamous police encounter killings, but also the serious violations that the police and the forest department staff have perpetrated on the Adivasis of Gujarat, particularly over the past one decade. The Antarsuba police firing in which 2 Adivasis were brutally shot dead and more than 26 Adivasis hounded in an inhuman fashion under the pretext of destroying the forest is still fresh in our memory. The Gujarat Police and the Government has lived up to their notorious image in this yet another shameful episode by detaining these activists working for Adivasi rights.

Adivasi Mahasabha Gujarat and People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Gujarat strongly condemns and requests all those who value human rights and human dignity to condemn the illegal detention of Avinash Kulkarni and Bharat Pawar by the Police on false grounds and demand that they be released forthwith.

We also condemn in the strongest possible terms the manner in which the Adivasis of Gujarat are being trampled upon and oppressed, and the sinister conspiracy of the government to decimate all efforts to secure their rights by filing false charges and resorting to unconstitutional practices such as illegal detention against all those who work for social awareness and human dignity. We urge the Gujarat Government to end this Police Raj and show respect to human rights and constitutional procedures.

Bahnubhai Tadvi, Rameshbhai Tadvi, Prasad Chacko, Trupti Parekh, Xavier Manjooran

Adivasi Mahasabha, Gujarat

Dr. J. S. Bandukwala, Rohit Prajapati, Trupti Shah

People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Gujarat.