In Raigarh, Chattisgarh, the community protests the arrest of two non-violent environmental activists.
The community of Tanmar in the heavily industrialized Raigarh district, Chhattisgarh is under siege from the government and the corporate. A planned mining and power project threatens to displace over 8000 people from their lands and homes and reduce the verdant bio-diverse area into utter ruin. But the environmental impact report made on the project by government authorities report claims that only five families will be displayed. When the activists working closely on the issue sought to bridge this gap between the ground reality and the official projections via the democratic procedure of the Right to Information, the state government acting as a mere puppet of the corporate interests, reacted by using the brute force of the police to quell any and all dialogue and resistance.
Dr. Harihar Patel and Ramesh Agarwal were two of the most outspoken critiques of the environmental dangers posed by excessive mining and industrialization in Tanmar. On 28th May, 2011 they were attending a public hearing on proposed expansion of Jindal Power and Steel conglomerate’s project. What happened next was a blur. A scuffle broke out at the peaceful meeting and protest, allegedly spurred by the hired goons of Jindal. The police force which needed just that little bit of provocation descended with their lathis on skulls and bones of unarmed woman, elderly and others gathered. What followed was an outrage. As around 100 people were being severely beaten, Dr. Patel and Mr. Agarwal, men of peace and non-violence, were arrested for ‘circulating defamatory material’, ‘disrupting public order’ and ‘causing alarm and panic among the public’ and were held on a non-bailable warrant.
Mr. Agarwal who suffers from hypertension was shifted to a hospital and he lay there handcuffed to the bed. The situation screams of the gross misappropriation of state power and human rights violations. And the community is angry. If the state takes away its right to peaceful protests and dialogue, it shouldn’t be surprised if the situation might escalate to violence. For a state trying to grapple with the issue of Naxal uprisings, Chhattisgarh seems to have learned little about the overwhelming disillusionment of its citizens with the state. It seems blind to the fact that educated, peaceful men like Dr. Patel and Mr. Agarwal are key agents if the bloodshed has to stop and dialogue has to be resumed. And cracking down on them only takes a match to the drying grass.
Dr. Patel has since been released on bail but Ramesh Agarwal continues to be in lock-up. Thier community is doing all they can by keeping up the protests and rallying for their leaders. You can also help by supporting and joining Amnesty International’s efforts to free them.
PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in English or your own language:
- Call on the authorities to drop the false charges against Ramesh Agrawal and Dr Harihar Patel and release Ramesh Agrawal immediately;
- Ask them to take all necessary measures to guarantee that human rights defenders and environmental activists in Chhattisgarh are able to carry out their legitimate and peaceful human rights activities without fear of harassment and intimidation.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 12 SEPTEMBER 2011 TO:
Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh
Dr Raman Singh
Chief Minister’s Niwas
Raipur 492001, India
Salutation: Dear Chief Minister
Minister of Environment and Forests
Lodhi Road, New Delhi 110003, India
Salutation: Dear Minister
Minister of Home Affairs
Ministry of Home Affairs
Government of India
New Delhi 110 001, India
Salutation: Dear Minister