Sunday, August 23, 2015

[Open Letter to Odisha CM] False Charges Against GASS Activist Debaranjan

Mr. Naveen Patnaik
Chief Minister,
Government of Odisha

22 August 2015
 We, the undersigned, unequivocally condemn the foisting of a false case on Debaranjan, member of the Ganatantrik Adhikar Surakhya Sangathan (GASS) in Odisha.
Debaranjan has for several years now been deeply involved with people’s struggles in Odisha, first as a full-time activist in Kashipur, Rayagada district, then as film-maker, and most recently also as a member of the democratic rights group GASS. His has been among the consistent voices in Odisha for over twenty years against state repression on people’s struggles, atrocities faced by adivasis, dalits and other underprivileged communities, and against communalization of the polity and in society. This is the political context in which he is being targeted.
Last week, Debaranjan was sought to be interrogated by the Special Branch of the Intelligence Department while he was engaged in work on a documentary film in Malkangari district. Subsequently, a number of false charges were filed against him by the Malkangiri Police, including charges pertaining to molestation under Section 354 (b) of the IPC, and under sections 354 and 323. We believe these charges to be patently false and absurd, and constitute nothing other than harassment and part of the continued persecution of democratic voices in this country.
Debaranjan has been part of investigations by democratic rights organizations into police violence and extra-judicial killings by the state seeking to target Left movements in Odisha. He was part of other investigations into communal violence in southern Karnataka and in Kandhamal district in Odisha. He has been part of struggles against and critiqued rampant development, mining in adivasi areas, the forced displacement and police repression that inevitably comes in the wake of such development projects. Whatever one may think of such development, we believe that those critical of it have a right to have their voices heard, to highlight and be critical of state atrocities, and to express dissent. By foisting false charges on Debaranjan, the state seeks to fetter democratic voices in Odisha, and implicitly threaten democratic voices everywhere in this country. We condemn such harassment, the shrinking of the democratic space, and demand that the false charges on Debaranjan be withdrawn immediately and unconditionally.

1.       Arundhati Roy, writer, Delhi
2.       Volga, feminist writer, Hyderabad
3.       Anand Patwardhan, film-maker, Mumbai
4.       Rahul Roy, film-maker, Delhi
5.       Surya Shankar, film-maker, Odisha
6.       Kasturi, People’s Film Collective and Cinema of Resistance, Kolkata
7.       Sanjay Kak, film-maker, Delhi
8.       Madhusree Mukerjee, writer
9.       M. Vimala, poet, Hyderabad
10.   Xavier Dias, editor, Khan, Khaneej Aur Adhikar
11.   Sabeena Gadihoke
12.   Professor Shohini Ghosh, academic, Delhi
13.   Soumitra Ghosh, film-maker, Kolkata
14.   Saba Dewan
15.   Rabin Chakravarty, Kolkata
16.   Samina Mishra, film-maker
17.   Sitansu Sekhar, documentary film-maker and human rights activist
18.   Amar Kanwar, film-maker, Delhi
19.   Sanjay Joshi, film-maker, Gorakhpur
20.   Shikha Sen, documentary editor
21.   Taru Dalmia
22.   Professor Uma Chakravarty, historian and film-maker, Delhi
23.   Nilanjan Dutta, film-maker and human rights activist, Kolkata
24.   Professor Anand Chakravarty, social scientist, Delhi
25.   Pramod Gupta, documentary film-maker and human rights activist
26.   Shabnam Shaikh, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM)
27.   Cinema of Resistance
28.   New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI)
29.   All-India Forum of Forest Movements (AIFFM)
30.   Uttar Bangla Ban-Jan Shromojeebi Mancho


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