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Government raises the Phantom Menace

The following article is a must read for anyone attempting to grapple with the current political scene in Uttarakhand state. Under the phantom Maoist threat, the situation of civil liberties is growing worrisome in Uttarakhand. As the fire sale of the state’s natural assets dispossess more and more people, the possibility of even peaceful protest is been supressed by the state which raises the bogey of Maoist activity at every opportunity. Indeed, the ham-handed repression could in fact become a self-fulfilling prophecy, if the repression continues. Imagine if Chipko were likewise repressed.

Inventing Threats

Combat Law, April 2008

A fact finding team that visited Haldwani to meet a jailed journalist was turned away by muscle flexing state administration that swears to stamp out Maoist threat from Uttarakhand despite no evidence of its existence. Radhika Menon from Forum for Democratic Initiatives, who was part of the team, points to a sinister move by the state government to rob the people of the little freedom they may have while wooing the likes of Tatas

In Uttarakhand today, what does it require for you to be locked up in jail, in solitary confinement with an armed constabulary guarding your every move and watching and tracking those who visit you? You don’t need to be a liquor mafia leader, a real estate dodger or a major bungler of infrastructure funds. In fact, if you are any of these you may even find a pride of place in the ruling dispensation’s services. But if you are like Prashant Rahi, a journalist, a social activist and a person who has voiced and stood by the struggles of a neglected region and its even further neglected people, the government may dump you in jail with charges so serious and in provisions so unfair that you would have to prove your innocence to those who are determined to prove you otherwise.

As for what has Rahi done, even the police may not be very clear, nevertheless they were eager to declare him a ‘big catch’ and booked him under various sections of IPC including 121, 121A, 124A, 153B, 120B. Since 21st December, the supposed date of his arrest from the Hasanpur Khata forest, it was leaked to the state’s leading newspapers that he was an area commander of Maoist Communist Centre and that he was also the zonal secretary of CPI-Maoists and that he was conspiring to blow up Haridwar jail and the Haldwani sub jail. Laptops with addresses of police stations and some CDs, a pen drive and Maoist literature were supposed to be accumulating as evidence of his crime. In the meantime, with the media turning away from the incompetence of the administration, the bungling of funds, the crackdown on trade unions and giving double page spread to the “seditious” activities of a journalist, the government heaved relief. [more]