4th September 2013
Arrest of Hem Mishra and Prashant Rahi:
Silencing voices questioning violation of fundamental rights
The CDRO strongly condemns the arrest of Prashant Rahi and Hem Mishra, accusing them of Naxal links. Though the exact date of Hem Mishra’s arrest is yet to be ascertained, he was most probably picked up by the police around around 15th August. Prashant Rahi was on the other hand was arrested on the 2nd September. The allegation against both of them is that they were carrying some documents/ literature. Both have been charged under the notorious Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act [UAPA]. Both are serving a long period of police remand without being provided a lawyer.
Hem Mishra had been active with a student organization in Uttarakhand before coming to Delhi, when he obtained admission at the Jawaharlal Nehru University. In the year 2007/08, a number of activists involved in organizing youth and the rural poor in Uttarakhand were arrested on the allegation of Maoist links. So potent was the terror unleashed, that few would dare to question the allegations or meet the arrested persons for fear of being implicated. Hem Mishra, handicapped in one hand, was the person who visited all the arrested in jail and helped them get legal support. One of the arrested at that time was Prashant Rahi.
Prashant Rahi (52 years) worked as a journalist in Uttarakhand. He was also passionately involved with a host of protest movements ranging from issues of forest-dwellers, and of rural labour, to the displacement by the Tehri dam. Arrested in December 2007, alleged to be a most-senior Maoist leader, Prashant was kept in solitary confinement through most his 3 year 8 month stay in the jail. Once released on bail, Prashant took upon himself to visit those imprisoned as Naxalites all over the country and to help them obtain access to a lawyer. To this end, he was regularly travelling to across the country collecting details of cases and reaching the same to lawyers.
That there is no real allegation of any crime against both Hem Mishra and Prashant Rahi, it is evident from the fact that both have been charged solely on the basis of the UAPA. For, it is this law that makes normal social and political activity into a crime solely on the whims and fancies of the police. Banning of political organisations and converting any association with such organizations and their opinions into a crime is what opens the gates to the law becoming an instrument of injustice.
In addition, the illegal, yet reasonably settled practice of the police of not registering a panchnama at the time of the detention, makes it difficult to ascertain the exact date, time and place of arrest. Such unlawful detention leaves much scope for abuse. It is ironical, in cases where UAPA is applied, courts have been less critical of the blatant violations of procedure, in the name of larger security concerns.
Thus while the alleged “crime” as well as the circumstances of the arrest remain suspect, a vilification campaign has been mounted by the police that masquerades as information in the newspapers. No doubt, that this has become the preferred method to silence those working for basic civil liberties and implementation of fundamental rights.
Another favourite practice of the police has been to foist new cases against accused, especially under the UAPA and its previous incarnations, when those accused are either released on bail or else when acquittal in the existing cases is at hand. This has been done ad nauseum to frustrate the bail or acquittal orders of the court and has not yet found serious criticism from the judiciary. In the case against Prashant Rahi too, no incriminating evidence has been found against him in the case in Uttarakhand and he would be acquitted soon.
We therefore demand the immediate dropping of all charges under the UAPA and the immediate release of those arrested.
Kranthi Chetanya (APCLC, Andhra Pradesh), Paramjeet Singh (PUDR, Delhi), Parmindar Singh (AFDR, Punjab), Phulendro Konsam (COHR, Manipur) and Tapas Chakraborty (APDR, West Bengal)(Coordinators of CDRO).