Naxal Resistance

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A Report from Haryana

Posted by Indian Vanguard on September 3, 2007


Silencing Dissent

Contents

I. Dalits in Haryana 2

II. Organisations and Activities 4

III. Present Cases 5

IV. The Charge of Sedition 13


V. Demands 17

Boxes

Ghaso: A Symbol of Dalit Resistance 6

Ismailabad village 15


Preface

For past more than a month or so, the Haryana police have unleashed a reign of terror in the districts of Yamuna Nagar, Kurukshetra, Kaithal and Jind. Since mid-April this year until the first week of May as many as 13 activists of three organisations, Jagrook Chhatra Manch, Krantikari Mazdoor Kisan Union and Shivalik Jan Sangharsh Manch have been picked up and charged under several sections of IPC and Arms Act, including the charge of sedition.

Sympathetic to the Maoist movement, these communist organizations have been raising issues related to wages, fee hikes, dalit oppression for a long time. Repression is no new to these organisations. What is new, though, is its increased level that the people associated with and sympathetic to these organisations are facing for the last two years or so. The activists say that more than 100 people had been picked up, kept in illegal confinement, tortured in custody and then let off over the last two years. More than 50 people were implicated in false cases with serious charges like attempt to murder. In the recent past, media projection in Haryana has turned paranoid. Consider the news headlines: “Maoism snatches the sleep”, “Maoists were trying to firm-up their position in Haryana”, “Secret agencies hunt for Naxals”, “Students unite to fight Naxalism”, “US military weapons reach Maoists”, “Police tightens the noose on Maoism” and you would get the impression that Haryana state is soon going to turn into a red bastion.

The local newspapers, it seems, are busy churning out stories about the ‘Maoist menace’ that has come to plague the parts of Haryana and is now threatening to spread its tentacles to engulf other areas. Such paranoid projections in the media not only help shape the general population’s ideas about these organisations but also prepare the ground for justification of the use of undemocratic means to suppress the people’s movements. It was in this context that People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) visited the districts of Yamuna Nagar, Kurukshetra, Kaithal and Jind on 8 and 9 May 2007. The team went into the villages of these districts like Ismailpur, Chhammo Kalan, Rohti, Thandro, Mandi Kalan and the towns of Yamuna Nagar and Kaithal and talked to the people there. The team met large number of dalit villagers and the husband of the women sarpanch of Ismailpur, lawyers, political activists, journalists, the Superintendent of police at Yamuna Nagar, the police in Kaithal town and the Sub Divisional Officer at Pehova.

Following is the report of the team.

I. Dalits in Haryana


It appears that one reason for this level of intimidation is the national
policy whereby the Maoist movement is being projected as the biggest
internal security threat. Thus its suppression, irrespective of the means
employed, anywhere in the country, has become a central objective
of the administration. Other reasons emanate from the local
contradictions. The two prominent Congress leaders Randeep Singh
Surjewala and Birender Singh, who also hold ministerial posts in the
present government, are steadfast in suppressing any possibility of
resistance that challenges their hegemony in the area. Both are wellto-
do landowners as well and obtain their support from among the
dominant castes. What has changed this structure of dominance is
the challenge from the landless and suppressed castes
.
In Haryana, according to the 2001 census, dalit population is 40.9
lakh, which constitutes 19.3 per cent of the total population of the
state. No less than 78 per cent of dalits reside in villages. Census data
shows significant changes in the occupational structure of dalits from
1991 to 2001. First, is the rise in proportion of marginal workers in
total workers from 7.5 per cent to 34.4 per cent. Second, is the shift
from agriculture to non-agriculture: from 65 per cent of workers
engaged in agriculture to 50 per cent in 2001. Third, is an increase in
the work participation rate, i.e. the proportion of working dalits in
the total dalit population, from 31 per cent to 38 per cent over this
period. Taken together, this suggests lesser availability of work in
agriculture, need for more working persons in the family and, a move
towards low paying and irregular work in non-agricultural sectors.
The kind of work opportunities available to dalits can be gauged from
the literacy and educational statistics: 45 per cent of dalits are illiterate;
19 per cent literate are without education or educated below primary
level; 18 per cent up to primary level; 8.5 per cent up to middle level;
another 8 per cent up to class 12; and 1.5 per cent above class 12 or
technically trained.

In agriculture, cultivators constitute 9 per cent of the dalit main
workers and 6 per cent among the marginal workers. On the other
hand, 32 per cent of the dalit main workers and 61 per cent of the
marginal workers are agricultural labourers. On the other hand,
among the non-dalit population only 9 per cent are the landless
labourers! Thus of the total 12,78,821 landless labourers in Haryana,
6,66,750 are dalits; i.e. every second landless labourer is a dalit.

It is these dalits who have faced the ire of the dominant castes – be
it the Gohana incident, Sonepat district in August 2005, when a dalit
basti was burnt down in an organized fashion and the administration
not only turned a blind eye, but even tried to justify it; or Mehmoodpur
Kunjpura incident, Karnal district in February 2006, when the dalits
were prevented from taking out the procession on the occasion of
birth anniversary of Ravidas and were beaten up and arrested when
they protested; or Farmana incident, Rohtak district in March 2006,
when the dominant castes erected a boundary wall around dalit basti
so as to prevent them from freely moving around in the village; or
Quila Zafargarh incident in 2006, when dalits were attacked; or Salwan
village in Karnal district, where there was a well organized attack on
dalits in March 2007; or Kheri Masania in Jind district, in 2007, when
over the issue of wage increase for wheat harvesting, there was a
skirmish between the dominant castes and the dalits.

In the past, in November 2000 at Jatluhari, Bhiwani, a dalit groom
was not allowed to ride the horse and was beaten up by the dominant
caste people. In front of Jajjhar’s Dulina police chowki, on October
15, 2002, five dalits were lynched by a 2000-strong mob in the presence
of the police and administration, when they were alleged to be
‘skinning a live cow’. In Kaithal district’s Harsola village, upper caste
people drove 200-250 families of the dalits out of the village on
February 10, 2003. There have been instances when Khap (jat clan)
panchayats pronounced death sentences in the cases of inter-caste
marriages. Such is the mindset that those involved in cases of arson
are eulogized. The protests – dharnas, rallies, bandhs – are organized
when any of those involved in atrocities against the dalits get arrested.
It is this dalit population, whose issues form a major concern for
the three organisations currently under attack by the Haryana
government.

II. Organisations and Activities


The origin of the Jagrook Chhatra Morcha and the Krantikari Mazdoor
Kisan Union can be traced to 1986. That year a cultural organisation,
Disha Sanskritik Manch was formed in Rohtak Medical College and
University. In 1991, Naujawan Dasta, a youth organisation was formed
which started struggles on a variety of issues that the Disha Sanskritik
Manch had been raising. These included caste discrimination,
custodial violence, and inter-caste marriages. Prominent among the
struggles led by them was one to allow dalits to use the village pond
in Ghaso village (see Box: Ghaso – A symbol of dalit resistance).
Spread of the activities of Disha Sanskritik Manch to other towns
led to the creation of the Jagrook Chhatra Morcha (JCM) in 1994. Its
activities were initially concentrated among the university students
in Narwana town of Jind district, later spreading to Ambala,
Kurukshetra, and Yamuna Nagar. Issues relating to admissions, fee
hike, sexual attacks on women, and most recently, protests against
the Private Universities Bill, have been taken up by the JCM. The
organization has also been notable in protesting injustices perpetrated
against peoples’ struggles across the country. Such protests included
one against the police brutality on Honda workers in Gurgaon and
another against the killings by the CPM-led West Bengal government
at Nandigram.

Colleges and universities in Haryana lack an official students’
union owing to a more than a decade old government ban on student
union elections. Organisations such as the JCM individually and
jointly with other student groups thus became the only available
means for students to raise their demands. Notwithstanding the
success in getting their grievances redressed, each of the protests led
to the launching of criminal cases against activists of the JCM, which
lingered on in courts for many years.

One of the programmes consistently taken up by the JCM was
termed “go to the village”, to sensitise students about the issues being
faced by peasants and workers in the countryside. This led to the
creation of the Gramin Mazdoor Union. This organisation was to soon
make way for a more broad-based organisation, the Krantikari
Mazdoor Kisan Union (KMKU) in 2004. Women’s issues, both in
towns and villages, are addressed separately through a women’s
organization called the Mahila Mukti Morcha.

An organisation similar to the KMKU, the Shivalik Jan Sangharsh
Manch (SJSM) has been active in organising and taking up peasants’
issues in the north-eastern corner of Haryana, contiguous to the hill
and terai regions of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The concerns of
both these organisations, as exhibited through the struggles taken up
by them, include higher wages in agricultural work, release of
panchayati land occupied by dominant landowners, demand for
implementation of the land ceiling laws, access to village tanks and
cultivation by dalits on auctioned panchayati land, and against
dominant caste practices that constitute an attack on the dignity of
the dalits, especially of dalit women.

III. Present Cases


1. Narwana Town
With higher education becoming a lucrative business, government
policies both at the Centre and the States have become increasingly
conducive to providing private actors an open field to invest in this
sector. In this context, the Private Universities Bill was passed by the
Haryana Assembly in September 2006. By December, it had received
assent from the Governor. Many student organisations expected this
law to cause a steep rise in course fee, thereby further pushing higher
education out of the reach of many disadvantaged sections. It was
also viewed as a huge step towards the state abdicating its
responsibility in higher education.

After a series of protest meetings, the JCM held a cycle rally from
Narwana to Chandigarh starting on 14 April 2007. Since most JCM
activities were being disallowed by the administration, journalists
present at the flagging-off ceremony asked the president of the
organisation, Sanjay, whether they were confident about being able
to reach up to Chandigarh. Sanjay was reported to have replied that
if not Chandigarh, they would reach Delhi’s Lal Qila and hoist their
flag there. The journalists further prodded him by asking if that would
happen by armed methods, to which Sanjay was alleged to have
replied in the affirmative. This statement was widely and piquantly
reported in the press. There was a lull thereafter for nearly a month.
In mid April, the JCM was busy organizing a memorial meeting
for a member of the Morcha, who had died a few days ago. Since the
deceased activist was also associated with the Rationalist Society,
the programme was to be jointly organized. On the late evening of 12
March, five activists were engaged in writing slogans on the walls in Narwana town to campaign for this meeting to be held on 27 May. A
PCR van spotted them and took them into custody. These five were:
Sunil, Krishan Deora and Vedpal from JCM and Om Prakash and
Devinder from the KMKU. The last two had joined as they had a
good hand at painting.

Vedpal and Krishan, wanted by the police in an earlier case of
Ghaso village (see Box: Ghaso – A symbol of dalit resistance), were
produced before the magistrate the following day and sent to jail.
The remaining three persons were illegally detained for another day.
They were produced before the magistrate on 14 April, shown as
arrested from Uchana town, charged with an offence of defacement
of public property, and sent to jail. Sunil and Om Prakash were badly
tortured in police custody. On 16 April, an FIR No. 108 was filed at
Narwana with six persons being named as accused and ‘unnamed
others’ under section 124-A, IPC (sedition). The basis for this FIR
was the reported statement of the JCM president to journalists on the
launch of the cycle rally. Those named were the JCM president and
the five who were already in jail.

The following days saw more arrests of the JCM members in FIR
No. 108. On 21 April, police arrested Rajkumar, a third year student
of K.M. College in Narwana, from his village. On 29 April, a first
year LLB student, Vipin, was arrested from his hostel room in
Kurukshetra University and two days later, Satya, a woman activist,
was arrested from her village in Machrauli in Yamuna Nagar.
Rajkumar, Vipin and Satya formed the part of interminable list of
‘unnamed others’ in the sedition case.
All of them are currently in jail, seven of them at Jind and the
woman activist at Hissar. The court recently granted Vipin the
permission to write the university examinations in custody.

2. Kaithal Town
On 8 May, while our team was touring Yamuna Nagar district, we
came across newspapers of 7 May that reported the arrest of another
JCM activist from Kaithal town. On 5 May 2007, Somveer, a JCM
activist, was picked up from his house in Kaithal town by the local
police. He was detained in police custody for four days. He is also
charged under sedition and now duly sent to jail.
According to the police, the JCM held a meeting at Jawahar Park
in the town on the evening of 5 May. An undisclosed informer
reported to the police about the use of provocative speeches and
slogans in the meeting clandestinely being held to recruit members.
Upon the SHO receiving the information, a police party was sent to
the site and found that the meeting had dispersed and everybody
disappeared. Somveer was arrested from his house later that evening.
This most recent FIR threatens to arrest more ‘unnamed others’,
who would be shown ostensibly as part of the ‘meeting’, the very
occurrence of which is in the realm of doubt.

3. Sedition and Arms Act, Yamuna Nagar District
On 19 April two activists of Shivalik Jan Sangharsh Manch were
arrested near Bhurkala a few miles from Ismailpur village.

Information of their whereabouts was given by some residents of
Ismailpur. The police claimed that they recovered two weapons and
some literature from them. An FIR was lodged under section 121-A
(conspiracy to wage war), 122 (collecting arms with intention of
waging war), 124-A (sedition), IPC and sections 25, 54, and 59 of the
Arms Act at P.S. Khizrabad, Yamuna Nagar the same day. The FIR
records that the two men, Jagtar and Samrat had been touring the
villages telling people that the government did not listen to their
demands, that people should wage war against the government, and
that they would supply the arms required for this purpose. Samrat,
who is a resident of Yamuna Nagar town and Jagtar, who hails from
Thandru village in Ismailabad block, Kurukshetra, were produced
before the magistrate on 20 April at Yamuna Nagar and remanded to
police custody till 28 April. Their interrogation led to the arrest that
of Rinku, a resident of Ismailpur village on 24 April. He was illegally
detained for four days and charged with providing shelter to Jagtar
and Samrat. Police claim to have recovered three country-made pistols
from his house.

On 28 April, the police applied for the further remand for two
weeks for Samrat and Jagtar as intelligence agencies from the centre
and other states wanted to interrogate them about the weapons. Their
remand was duly extended by another 13 days! Their lawyer told the
PUDR team that he met the accused on 2 May and it was clear that
Samrat had been severely tortured while in custody. There are no
prior cases against Jagtar, Samrat or Rinku.

On 5 May, a woman activist of JCM, Poonam was arrested from
her rented house at Yamuna Nagar town. Her name was added as an
additional accused in the above case. The court remanded her to police
for seven days.

Ismailpur Village

Located in the north-eastern part of the state, the Yamuna Nagar
district is bordered by Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Uttar
Pradesh. Close to the eastern border of the district and the Yamuna
river lies the village of Ismailpur, where about 150 dalit, 30 Muslim
and 50-60 gujjar families reside. The present sarpanch is a Gujjar
woman but that is more perfunctory; for all practical purposes the
real sarpanch seems to be her husband. This became evident when
we asked to meet the sarpanch, it was he who talked to us in that
capacity. No dalit has ever held the post.
The predominant occupation in this village is agriculture. Since
agro forestry is also practised over substantial portions of land, as
also stone and sand quarrying along the Yamuna river bed, people
find work in these activities too. Following the norm in Haryana, no
dalit family in the village owns agricultural land. All land is in the
hands of the Gujjar residents – both Hindu and Muslim. Proximity to
the Yamuna and the Shivalik hills, and availability of pump sets,
makes for easy access to water for irrigation and therefore high land
productivity.

Gujjar households control the entire 600 acres of arable land that
belongs to the village, which also includes 50-60 acres of common or
‘panchayati’ land. The law makes it obligatory that one-third of the
panchayati land of the village be given to the dalits for cultivation,
for which an auction is required to be conducted annually. The
proceeds from the auction, fund the activities of the panchayat. But
this is not followed here. About 20 to 25 acres of this land has been
planted with a tree crop, and the rest is lying fallow. The proceeds
from sale of timber fund the panchayat. In this way, dalits continue
to be denied access to land.

The land is worked upon by dalits of the village and migrants
from other areas. Daily wages vary between Rs. 60 to 70 for male
workers. Payment during harvest is given in kind at the rate of 1
quintal per acre for male workers and 10 kilograms lesser for women.
But a more common practice is of employing seeri/naukar for the entire
year at a rate of Rs. 12,000 annually or Rs. 33 per day. Women are not
employed within this seeri practice and their work is totally seasonal
as they are employed at the time of harvesting and sowing of paddy
where they get lower wages than men.

Seeri is a caste-based traditional labour arrangement. Even today
it is prevalent in greater or lesser degree in all the villages our team
visited. A landowner hires a seeri for the whole year. The seeri is then
expected to do all the work required on the farm: irrigation, sowing,
harvesting, weeding, etc. and additionally to work on household
chores during the lean season. He may be called upon at any time
during the day or night. Absence on account of illness or otherwise
requires the seeri to either provide a substitute worker or face wage
deduction on the daily wage rate, which is approximately double. A
seeri thus never gets the amount fixed at the time of hiring. Such
situations can lead to a seeri taking loans from the employer, which
lower the amount fixed in the seeri contract for the following year.
Unable to pay off the debt, the seeri system leads to the creation of
‘attached’ labour. In Ismailpur, the influx of labourers from nearby
poorer hilly regions has led to employing a seeri on monthly basis at
Rs. 600 to Rs. 800. This substantially lowers the annual earning since
it entails no employment for the lean part of the year.
Current Tensions

Social and economic oppression of the dalits by the gujjars is
compounded by the presence of gujjar criminal gangs that openly
threaten and harass dalits. Dalit residents told us that the gujjars with
the help of these gangs control and oppress the dalits so completely
that till recently, dalit males were not allowed out of their houses
after 8 pm and all dalits were forced to pay social respect to the gujjars
by giving them the traditional right of way, kowtowing before them,
leading a totally segregated life minus access to all the common
resources. Dalit women are specific targets of atrocities, as this is a
common and effective way of subjugating the entire community.
Over the last couple of years, dalit inhabitants of the village have
been mobilized with the active support of the Shivalik Jan Sangharsh
Manch. Activists of the Manch seem to have interacted and discussed
with the dalit residents, the oppression faced by them and the ways
to resist it. Dalit women testified that the presence of both Samrat
and Jagtar in the village, has given them a lot of confidence in their
social lives.

Current tensions started a year ago when a gujjar resident of
Ismailpur and the leader of a local criminal gang, Nittu, openly
claimed a dalit girl. Family members and other residents arranged
the marriage of the girl, which was opposed by Nittu. On 4 May
2006, Nittu and his companions came to the dalit settlement and
threatened them. When some dalit boys came out to face him, he
opened fire. One person was injured. Police refused to take action
and the dalits were forced to organise protests at the police station
till two persons were arrested. They remained in jail for 20 days.
Meanwhile the dalit girl was married off.

On their return from custody, the gujjar gang attempted to attack
the dalit settlement on 27 May. They opened fire and a woman got
pellet injuries. But this time round the dalits were more prepared
and they beat back gang members out of the dalit settlement into the
gujjar part of the village. A dalit youth, Rinku was seen as the hero of
this retaliation, as he was the first to challenge the gujjar gang. Once
in the gujjar part of the village, dalits were faced by an armed gujjar
mob. After a brief clash with lathis, firearms were used from both
sides. A number of witnesses confirmed to this firing. One woman
from the gujjar community was hit by a bullet. Unlike the previous
occasion, the police arrived and detained six persons from among
the dalits and, 34 from among the gujjars.

The panchayat then intervened and after a discussion between
the two communities, the police was handed over five boys from
both communities for interrogation. The police, however, decided
not to charge the gujjar men under the Arms Act, but the same chargesremained against one dalit. Clearly, the police had made up its mind to side with the gujjars against the dalits in the context of the Shivalik
Jan Sangharsh Manch’s activities in the area. Therefore the arrested
dalits stayed in jail for a month before they obtained bail; the gujjars
barely spent a day in jail.

While the immediate hostilities subsided after the deal between
the dalits and the gujjars of Ismailpur, fears of a future attack remain
high. Even when our team visited the village, dalits feared gujjar
attacks, particularly from their criminal gangs, which have weapons.
Given these tensions in the area, we were told by dalit residents,
carrying of arms for self-defence has become a necessity. The
administration, however, has chosen to take a one sided view of these
tensions. Instead of intervening in these tensions impartially and
dealing with the criminal gang effectively, they have sided with the
gujjar versions and community. This, in turn, has led the dalits to
believe that the administration is biased.

The gujjar community has been quick to use the presence of the
Shivalik Jan Sangharsh Manch to their advantage. The presence of
firearms and escalating tensions are blamed on the organisation and
on the dalits. The administration also echoes the same. And almost a
year later from the May incident, the members of the same criminal
gang were able to inform the police about Jagtar and Samrat and
ensure their arrest. A few days later Rinku, the hero of the first dalit
retaliation against gujjar criminal attacks, was arrested. However,
the leader of the criminal gang Nittu was recorded in police records
as “special informer”!

As this report goes to print, newspapers in Haryana reported that
32 year old Biram Pal, a dalit from Ismailpur village, was brutally
murdered and the dead body burnt on 22 May. The police has filed a
case of murder, and some members of the gujjar community have
been charged. This incident once again highlights the insecurity being
faced by dalits in this region.

IV- The Charge of Sedition


Section 124-A under which I am happily charged is perhaps the prince
among the political sections of the Indian Penal Code designed to
suppress the liberty of the citizen. Affection cannot be manufactured
or regulated by law. If one has no affection for a person or thing, one
should be free to give the fullest expression to his disaffection so long
as he does not contemplate, promote or incite to violence.
M.K.Gandhi’s Statement at Ahmedabad Trial May 17, 1922

Why have 13 activists been picked up and charged under sedition? If
wall writing, holding of a meeting, staying peacefully in one’s room
or house can be construed as seditious, then by the same logic, every
citizen is a potential danger to the state. Sedition is unlike other
provisions of the Indian Penal Code. It is a crime of intent, not of the
act done. Given the possibility of abuse of power that such a provision
creates, the courts, have laid down certain clauses to restrict its
applicability. Thus any action that has “the effect of subverting the
Government by bringing that Government into contempt or hatred, or
creating disaffection against it, would be within the penal statute
because the feeling of disloyalty to the Government established by
law or enmity to it imports the idea of tendency to public disorder by
the use of actual violence or incitement to violence.” (Kedarnath vs. State of
Bihar, 1962, emphasis ours). Notwithstanding these restrictions, the
deciding element of what constitutes sedition, resides in the mind of
the law enforcer i.e. how the police interprets the intention of the
accused. The action can therefore be the utterance of a sentence,
drawing a sketch or cartoon, showing of a CBFC certified film or,
singing a song. Such a definition makes the charge of sedition, vague
and arbitrary. Police is not amenable to examining whether the charge
is appropriate in the light of Supreme Court judgments. The SP,
Yamuna Nagar, for example, told our team that he would not comment on the appropriateness of the charge, as that was for the
courts to decide. All “anti-terrorist” legislations, such as TADA,
POTA, and UAPA suffer from similar vague definitions of crime and
have been responsible for large-scale abuse of power by the police.
Sedition is no exception.

The Haryana police have time and again used sedition against
those considered to be political foes of the government in power.
Nowhere was it examined whether the actions of the accused had
the effect of subverting the government and was accompanied with
the use violence or incitement to violence. Following a massive
agitation by the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) in April 2003, the Om
Prakash Chautala government used sedition against the BKU leader,
Ghasi Ram Nain and other activists. The charges were dropped after
the present Hooda government made peace with the BKU leadership.
In February 2006, under the present Congress regime, nine activists
of KMKU were charged with sedition when dalits of Ismailabad
village in Kurukshetra were demanding allotment of panchayati land
for construction of houses. The charge could not be sustained as the
police had not taken the mandatory permission from relevant
authorities as required under S. 196, Cr.PC. What seems clear is that
the charge of sedition was not intended to secure conviction of the
accused. It served the purpose of damning the organisations in the
press, creating terror in people at large, and keeping the accused in
custody for long periods by making bail difficult to obtain.
Absurd Charges

How have the above 13 activists threatened the “government
established by law”? Obviously writing on the walls in Narwana for
a memorial meeting cannot be treated as sedition, and the remarks
made by the JCM president during the cycle rally in March 2007 were
made in the context of leading questions by some journalists. These
were not part of a public speech that could have a tendency to public
disorder. These also did not involve either actual violence or
incitement to violence. Importantly, sedition specifically excludes
from its domain opposition to the policies followed by the
government. And the cycle rally was being organized against the
promulgation of the Private Universities Bill, a key element in the
government policy of privatization of higher education.

In the case of Kaithal town where a meeting was supposedly
organized to recruit members, the charge of sedition seems most
suspicious and, therefore, outrageous. As per news reports, there were
no confirmed eyewitnesses, except undisclosed police informers, who
could claim that ‘provocative’ speeches and slogans were made.
Somveer, who was arrested immediately after the FIR, was not even
named as an accused.

However, in both the above cases, charging a group of people
under sedition makes no legal sense. If the utterances of the JCM
president form the basis for sedition in Narwana, there can be no
justification for holding five others in jail. They certainly did not utter
anything, nor is anything against them placed on record. The same is
the case with Somveer in Kaithal.

As far as the arrests of Jagtar and Samrat are concerned, the use
of sedition was justified by the Yamuna Nagar Superintendent of
Police (SP) on the grounds that the duo regularly visited Ismailpur
and neighbouring villages to stoke feelings of enmity among dalits
against the gujjars. In the definition provided, stoking enmity between
communities cannot be construed as sedition. To claim that the two
also made provocative speeches is a common police ruse used to
cripple the activities of their organization. Not surprisingly, the SP
had no answer as to why the police never considered using the SC &
ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act against the gujjars in the May incident
last year or why the Arms Act was not used against the gujjar persons
who opened fire. And while it is probable that the police did recover
the weapons from Jagtar and Samrat, it seems to have never occurred
to them that the gujjar criminal gangs should be similarly booked.
Arguably, carrying of unlicensed weapons is an offence and there is
an appropriate law to deal with it. But it remains unclear how the
recovery of two unlicensed pistols in the hands of the SJSM activists
constitute sedition. Why was the offence not restricted to the Arms
Act?

In the case of Vipin whom the police picked up from his hostel in
Kurukshetra and Poonam who was picked up from her house in
Yamuna Nagar, the police did not even bother to give a reason for
their arrest!

As the above instances at hand illustrate, the use of sedition has
nothing to do with anything that the activists said or did which could
justify its usage. It is obviously a politically motivated action against
the JCM, the KMKU and the SJSM. In a state where dalits have been
deprived and continue to remain deprived, mobilizing them against
caste oppression is considered seditious by the police! Not only is
this a casteist and biased action by the administration, it goes wholly
against any received notions of social justice. Invoking of sedition in
the manner police is going about in Haryana, is an attack on
fundamental political freedoms and an attempt to push away the
compelling issues of caste oppression and economic deprivation, and
of state inaction in providing social justice.

V – PUDR demands:

1. Immediate withdrawal of false charges of sedition against all
13 activists
2. Initiate charges under the SC & ST (Prevention of Atrocities)
Act in instances of denial of access to community land and
water, and attacks on dignity of dalits by dominant castes.
3. Village lands illegally occupied be made available to dalits and
landless people.
4. Minimum wage laws be implemented.
3. Immediate end to targeting of JCM, KMKU and SJSM

Ghaso: A symbol of dalit resistance

On September 21, 2005, the Krantikari Mazdoor Kisan Union (KMKU) and the Jagruk Chhatra Morcha (JCM) had organized a cultural programme and a torchlight procession at Ghaso Kalan, Jind district, reportedly to mark the first anniversary of the formation of the CPI (Maoist). The people from the neighbouring villages were also participating in the programme. After the cultural festivities were over, the torchlight procession started from the village. Everything was peaceful until the procession reached the adjacent village of Ghaso Khurd.

There are, however, conflicting reports as to how the groups of jats and dalits clashed. The newspaper reports of the time suggest that the tension had begun to build up even during the cultural programme because the people from jat community were objecting to the playing of loud music, but the organizers showed obduracy and carried on. The reports further said that
immediately thereafter the procession started where the dalits indulged in shouting provocative slogans.

An altercation is believed to have taken place between some people from the jat community and the activists of KMKU. The clash occurred at Ghaso Khurd village. Just then someone opened fire from a country-made pistol and the bullet went on to hit one Randhir Singh alias Dheera. As many as 10 people were reported to have sustained injuries, four of them seriously. According to the press reports, the FIR had been registered u/s 148/149/307/ 353 and 323 of IPC.

Another version says that the procession had already taken the round of the village and it was about to be wrapped up, when they saw a gang of people standing armed with lathis. Their intention was to attack selective activists. The people in the gang confronted the processionists, as the procession was culminating. They had not expected that they would be met with resistance and had instead thought of easily overpowering them. To their surprise, the dalits retaliated and chased them away.

By night the twin villages of Ghaso were surrounded by the contingent of police. Next day all the young people were rounded up. A total of 39 people were arrested, 20 of them were from the Kurukshetra University. Among the arrested 10-12 people were from the village itself. All arrests were made from the dalit side and none from among the jats. However, on May 1, this year, an out of court settlement was reached upon and the case now stands withdrawn.
Whatever may be the actual facts of the case, the fact remains that the clash did happen and it happened between the dominant and the oppressed castes of the village. The fact also remains that whatever might have been the immediate trigger, the discontent was simmering among the dalits for a long time. It was the discontent arising out of the relentless exploitation,
oppression and discrimination.

In contrast to Jajjhar, Harsola, Gohana, Mehmudpur Kanjpura, Farmana, Quila Zafargarh incidents, where the dalits were targeted the Ghaso incident has come to symbolize dalit resistance against the exploitation and oppression by the dominant castes in Haryana. It was here in this village that a decade ago under the leadership of Naujawan Dasta, a precursor of KMKU, had waged a sustained struggle to gain access to the village pond. Ghaso has since then
witnessed several struggles—be it for the increase in wages for the wheat harvesting from 1 quintal to 1.2 quintals; or the rights of the dalits over panchayati land; or the right to take divorce by a dalit women from her drunkard husband, much to the chagrin of the feudal lords in the village; or the fight against routine instances of social oppression and discrimination.

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