May 29, 2013
We strongly condemn the absolutely arbitrary and unprecedented action of the Jharkhand police administration in detaining eight members of a CDRO (Coordination of Democratic Rights Organizations) fact-finding team while they were addressing a press conference in Ranchi. The team had just returned from a fact-finding mission to Chatra, where ten members of the CPI(Maoist) had been supposedly killed in a long gun battle with the TPC, a splinter group actively supported by the state government, in March 2013. However, at that time, there were local media reports that the CPI(Maoist) members had been poisoned and then shot to death in a false encounter. The fact-finding team, consisting of members from PUCL Jharkhand, APDR West Bengal and PUDR Delhi, had gone to investigate the veracity of these reports and the circumstances behind the incident. They were in the process of addressing the press and releasing their report while officials of the Jharkhand police, accompanied by a large number of policemen came and picked them up without providing any explanation.
The audaciousness of the act, committed in presence of the assembled press, clearly shows the scant respect for democracy and democratic procedures which the Jharkhand police has. The members of the team, including a woman, were detained in the Kotwali police station for a long time till they were released late in the evening. The police maintained that they had just been picked up for finding information, although it is unclear what information the former were seeking which could only be obtained by picking them up from the venue of a press conference using a posse of armed policemen. This is clearly a tactic of intimidation by the Jharkhand government to dissuade future fact-finding teams from visiting sites of incidents where the state government, or groups supported by the state government, are complicit in criminal activities. However, it is incredible that such a thing can happen in broad daylight and in open view of the public and press. We unequivocally condemn this blatant attack on the activities of democratic rights organizations and the attempt to muzzle them in order to hide the criminal complicity of the state government in encounter killings and other illegal activities.