Letter of Concern on Arrest for “undisclosed reasons” of Ms. Dayamani Barla

    96

    2 November 2012

    Dr. Manmohan Singh
    Prime Minister of India
    New Delhi, India

    Dear Sir,
    It came to our attention that Ms. Dayamani Barla, the Award winning Adivasi (Indigenous) activist and Journalist is languishing in Birsa Munda Central Jail of Ranchi.  She was sent to jail on 16th Oct 2012 at Ranchi, Jharkhand, India, when she surrendered before the court after she learned that the court had declared her absconder and sent a property warrant against her in a re-opened case of 2006. She was granted bail by a local court of Ranchi, but on October 18th 2012 she was re-arrested and the Jail authorities refused to disclose the reason for her arrest due to ‘technical reasons’.

    Ms. Barla was scheduled to attend the “Southeast Asia Consultation on Development, Access to Justice and Human Rights of Indigenous Women” in Chiang Mai, Thailand last October 30-November 2, 2012 but was unable to do so because of this.

    Ms. Dayamani Barla is a leader of various people’s movements and campaigns across India against land acquisition and displacement of indigenous community. Consequently, she has been repeatedly threatened for her democratic protests.

    Six years ago, she was charged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) 1860, including Section 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), when  she led a group of 1,000 rural people to Angara block office, for a peaceful  demonstration demanding job cards for rural laborers under the celebrated employment guarantee act under the  Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act( MGNREGA) or be given unemployment allowance in the villages.

    She also led a peaceful movement of the Nagri against the setting up of Arcelor Mittal’s Steel Plant over 11,000 acres of land in Gumla and Khunti citing Chota Nagar Tenancy Act which prohibits sales of tribal land to non-tribals.

    Since 2010, Ms. Barla has led a peaceful peoples movement against Jharkhand government acquiring 227 acres of paddy farmers’ land in Nagri village, 15 kms from Ranchi for building campuses of Indian Institute of Management, Indian Institute of Information Technology and the National University of Study & Research in Law. The government claims it acquired the land from them in 1957-58 to build an extension to Birsa Agricultural University. However, Right to Information (RTI) applications filed by Ms. Barla revealed that of the 153 families to whom the government had offered a total compensation in 1957, only 25 families in Nagri took it and the rest had refused.

    The movement against land acquisition has been going on with the court failing to take cognizance of its own constitutional law whereby agricultural land, especially under the Fifth Schedule, and in Jharkhand as per the Chotta Nagpur Tenancy Act, should not be acquired for non-agricultural purposes. The Supreme Court too has dismissed the villager’s petition. The villagers are not allowed within one kilometer of the project land as Section 144 has been imposed. The construction site is manned by the Rapid Action Force (RAF) of Jharkhand police.

    We believe that her arrest is related to her work as a human rights defender and is aimed to quell her initiatives in organizing her fellow Adivasis to assert for their rights.

    We therefore urge the government officials of India and State officials of Jharkhand:

    1. To immediately disclose the reasons of her recent arrest and to produce her in the court to follow the due process of law as required by the Constitution of India. The law requires that the accused be produced in the court within 24 hours.
    2. To conduct a thorough and impartial investigation of her arrest including the issues surrounding her arrest. If found innocent of the charges, facilitate her immediate release and put those responsible of her arrest accountable without impunity.
    3. To facilitate her medical check-up to determine if she was subjected to torture. If this is the case, those involved should be prosecuted without impunity in the interest of justice.
    4. To guarantee in all circumstances the protection of the rights of activists and human rights defenders to carry out their legitimate activities without fear of reprisal and free from restriction including judicial harassment. Along this line, government security forces should be made aware and must respect the fundamental rights of the citizens, and to stop acts of intimidations, threats and the like.
    5. To respect the rights of the scheduled tribes over their lands, forest produce and community forest resources and the requirement for the acquisition of their consent prior to diversion or acquisition of their lands as provided by the Constitution, Fifth Schedule, the Chotta Nagpur Tenancy Act, Forest Rights Act (2006) and other related laws.

    CC:
    National Commission for Women
    Government of India
    4, Deen Dayal Upadhayaya Marg
    New Delhi- 110 002
    Tel: +91 11 2323 7166/ 2323 6988
    Fax: +91 11 2323 6154
    Email: ncw@nic.in

    Shri  Syed Ali Naqi
    Governor of Jharkhand
    Raj Bhavan
    Ranchi
    Phone: 0651 2283465/66/67
    Fax: 0651 2201101

    Shri Arjun Munda
    Chief Minister
    Project Bhawan, Ist floor
    Ranchi, Jharkhand
    Phone: 0651 2400233, 2400400
    Fax: 0651 2400232, 2280717
    Email: arjun.munda@gmail.com
    Dr. Hemlata S. Mohan (Chairperson)

    Jharkhand Women Commission
    Engineers Hostels, First Floor
    Ranch 834004. Jharkhand. India
    Mobile: 09431127552
    Telephone: 0651 2401849
    Fax 0651 2401911
    Email: chairperson@jswc.in

    Secretary General
    National Human Rights Commission
    New Delhi, India
    Email: sgnhrc@nic.in; covdnhrc@nic.in, ionhrc@nic.in

    Justice Shri Narayan Roy
    Chairperson
    State Human Rights Commission Jharkhand
    E-mail:chairperson@jshrc.in; secretary@jshrc.in

    Download letter here.