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D School Students Express Solidarity With Activists Charged With ‘False’ Murder Case

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By Campus Watch Staff:

Editor’s Note: On November 7, Nandini Sundar, a Professor of Sociology at Delhi University was booked with the murder of Shamnath Baghel in the insurgency-hit Sukma district of Chhattisgarh. An FIR was reportedly filed by Shamnanth’s wife, Vimala who had named Professor Nandini Sundar and Professor Archana Prasad along with Vineet Tiwari (Joshi Adhikar Sansthan), Sanjay Parate (State Secretary, Chhattisgarh CPI (Marxist), Mangalram Karma and Manju Kawasi (CPI) among others.

However, on November 10, it was reported that Vimala had never named any of the above in the FIR – as it is being claimed by the Chhattisgarh police. In a move to express their solidarity with Professor Sundar and the people in Sukma district, students and alumni of Delhi School of Economics have issued a statement, claiming that the allegations against Professor Sundar and others in the FIR are false. The statement, which has over a 100 signatories till date is produced in its entirety here.

We, the students of Delhi School of Economics, are dismayed to learn about the filing of an FIR against Prof. Nandini Sundar (Sociology, Delhi University), Prof. Archana Prasad (Informal Labour Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University), Vineet Tiwari (Joshi Adhikari Institute of Social Studies), Sanjay Parate (Secretary State, Chhattisgarh CPI-M), Mangalram Karma and Manju Kawasi (CPI) among others for the murder of an Adivasi local, Shamnath Baghel, from Sukma district. Serious charges have been levelled against them, which include IPC section 302 (punishment for murder), 450 (house trespass), 147, 148, 149 (rioting and participation in unlawful activity), 120(B) (criminal conspiracy), section 25, 27 of Arms Act. Also, sections 23, 38(2) and 39(2) of the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act have been invoked against Prof Sundar, Prof Prasad, Tiwari and Parate.

These allegations are part of a series of attempts by the State to target and intimidate those who have been bringing out facts about the atrocities being committed against local Adivasis by the state apparatus in Chhattisgarh. Most recently in May, when a team of activists and academicians including Prof. Archana Prasad and Prof. Nandini Sundar went for fact finding to various villages in Bastar, they were falsely accused of inciting the Adivasis against the state. Prof. Sundar has especially been involved in a long legal battle against Salwa Judum, an armed militia promoted by the state. In the landmark judgement that followed, the Supreme Court indicted the state and termed the Judum unconstitutional, calling for its disbanding. It should be borne in mind that the filing of charges against Prof. Sundar and others comes close on the heels of a CBI report which hauls up Chhattisgarh Police for the burning of 160 houses in Tadmetla village of Sukma (then, Dantewada) district in March 2011. Prof. Sundar had questioned the account of the police in this case, which blamed Naxalites for the arson and killings, following which the Supreme Court had asked the CBI to probe into the matter. In the lawless drama theatre of Bastar,  IGP Kalluri, who was the SSP of Dantewada at that time, not only audaciously dismissed the CBI report but went on to claim responsibility for directing the Tadmetla operation. In a craven display of bias, members of CRPF and Chhattisgarh Police resorted to burning of effigies of Nandini Sundar, Bela Bhatia, Archana Prasad and other activists only weeks prior to the framing of these charges, after the CBI had submitted its report to the Court.

It is clear that the Chhattisgarh police has taken to a vindictive use of legal institutions in falsely framing Nandini Sundar along with others, given their relentless struggle for holding the state and its institutions accountable to constitutional values. The state apparatus, along with the various vigilante groups that it has nurtured in Chhattisgarh, are continuously forcing academicians, journalists, rights activists into a battle of attrition to tire them out and thus maintain a veil of silence over Bastar. Prof. G.N Saibaba of Ram LalAnand College, Delhi University, who was arrested over suspected Maoist links, and was later subjected to torture and harassment in jail, stands as a grim predecessor to this vindictive application of law. Conforming to this pattern, journalists MaliniSubramaniam and Prabhat Singh, social scientist Bela Bhatia, and lawyers of Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group (JagLag) have all been subjected to harassment and intimidation by the police and the vigilante groups over the course of this year.

In her public statement, Prof. Sundar has already clarified that she has not visited Bastar in many months and was certainly not present in the area at the time the aforementioned crime took place. A teacher to many of us, Prof Sundar has been inspiring as an academic who has honored her responsibilities towards the people she has done her research with. At this juncture, we want to impress upon the fact that it is the local Adivasis of Chhattisgarh and the tribal populations of Central and Eastern India that are paying the real cost of this war. According to the estimates of Ministry of Home Affairs itself, already this year one hundred and seventy sixcivilians have been killed across the country due to this conflict. Scores have been sexually abused, raped, and tortured. The horrific violence committed in the frontiers of this war has been followed by an indifferent silence across the country. It is precisely for trying to break this culture of indifference and silence and seeking to ensure the basic dignity and rights of Adivasis as equal citizens of this country that civil society members like Prof. Sundar are being persecuted. In this dark hour, we share the grief of the victims of this war and express our shame for not being capable of doing more.

Under such circumstances as prevail, speaking truth to power is an act of courage and dignity. In an increasingly constricting social and political environment in India, we resolve to stand by these and other voices who are fighting to defend the ideals of democracy and justice, which are not the preserve of a few but the inalienable right of every citizen. We stand in complete solidarity with Prof. Sundar and other dissident activists and journalists who refuse to bow despite serious threats to their lives and freedoms. We demand a withdrawal of all these concocted charges against Prof. Sundar and others and call for conducting a fair inquiry into the murder of Shamnath Baghel by an unprejudiced authority. We further call upon the government to show the decency and maturity to work towards a political solution to resolve this conflict, instead of shooting the messengers.

Edit: Latest reports coming in suggest that the wife of the deceased has not named any of the people against whom the FIR has been lodged. Initially the police had claimed to file the FIR against the said persons on the basis of the account provided by the victim’s wife. Though the obvious farcical nature of this FIR is already being exposed, what must be kept in mind, as Prof. Sundar has also said in her statement, that innocent Adivasis are routinely implicated falsely and often are left to face the worse. It is of the utmost importance that the police forces in Chattisgarh be held accountable to the rule of law for the excesses committed by them for there to be any genuine redress.

[su_spoiler title=”Students and Alumni Signatories, Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University”]
Apoorva Gautam
Burhan Qurashi
Trishna Senapaty
Dwaipayan Banerjee
Fahad Hashmi
Anirudh Raghavan
Aastha Tyagi
Rameez T
Aditi Saraf
Minati Dash
Chittibabu Padavala
Swatahsiddha Sarkar
Sophia Abbas
L. Lawrence Simte
Andrew deSouza
Pallavi Gill
Gangotri Kashyap
Aranta Talukdar
Aamna Ahmad
Priya Naresh
Mibom Takoh
Lalboy Doungel
Kritika Sridharan
Chandana Anusha
Fariya Yesmin
Sumbul Farah
Vasundhara Jairath
Anita Sharma
Aarushie Sharma
Nargis Vasundhara
Khushboo
Subhashim Goswami
Leki Thungon
Bhavneet Kaur
Hitesh Kukreja
Chandrima Chatterjee
Jyotsna Siddharth
Thanzeel Nazer
Sebanti Chatterjee
Tahiba Khan
Apurba Goswami
Shweeta Rani Khatri
Tushar Mehta
Neha Lal
Maya Ratnam
Minati Dash
Seram Rojesh
Ashawari Chaudhuri
Navjeet Babrah
Tanya Singh
Karandeep Mehra
Paankhi Agrawal
Sebanti Chatterjee
Noman Hasan
Nivedita Ghosh
Rinsophy Chamroy
Draghima Basumatry
Gowhar Fazili
Evleen Sidana
Jyoti Gupta
Sarbani Sharma
Chayanika Pal
Sonia Kumari
Prasanjeet Tribhuvan
Anita Sharma
Bembem Phanjoubam
Jasmine Kalha
Usman Javed
Jayati Narain
Milli Das
Pallav Deb
Akshay Raghupathy
Grace Mary Sukanya
Samiksha Bhan
Debajit Rajbangshi
Sonia Kumari
Gideon Mathso
Bharat
Haider Ali Askary
Asmita Aasaavari
Aaradhana Dalmia
Seema Chandra
Rekha Konsam
Asim Chowdhury
Neharika Mahajan
Ajaz Gilani
Siddarth Mehra
Ghanshyam Kushwaha
Malay Firoz
Angelina Chamuah
Arshia Chavi Thakur
Rajat Kumar Sonkar
Baidehi Das
Samhita Das
Mrigakshi Parashar
Siddhesh Gooptu
Tamineile Pame
Naseef
Thomas Monteiro
Madhura Arun Lohokare
Anupama Bhardwaj
Radhika
Priyanka Verma
Aastha Gulati
Aayushi Verma
Sumit Kumar
Karan Menon
Yoosuf Ali
Anshu Agarwal
Antra Sharma
Aparna Bhaumik
Heena Tokas
Pustika Sharma
Nikhit Agarwal
Sadaf Wani
Chander Gupta
Fatima Noora
Bhanisana Rajkumari
Sachin Sourabh
Krittika Shridharan
Aishwarya Sahay
Reet Yadav
Neha Yadav
Jasmine Bhalla
Soumya Lamba
Anwesh Patnaik
Anhad Hundal
Sweta Chowdhary
Upali Bhattacharya
Alisha Kapoor
Yashasvi Chaurasia
Ilanchezian Durai
Saurabh Verma
Bhupendra
Nganthoi Wangkhem
Lallawmzuali[/su_spoiler]

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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