26th May, 2013
The PUCL strongly condemns the ambush of a Congress party election cavalcade by the dalam of the CPI(Maoist) party at Dharba Ghati area in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh on Saturday, 25th May, 2013, resulting in the death of 28 people including Congress party leaders, their personal security officers and ordinary villagers of the area. PUCL denounces as totally unacceptable, the abduction, kidnapping and subsequent killing in cold blood of the Congress party President of Chhattisgarh, NK Patel, and his son Dinesh. The Maoists also killed Mahendra Karma, the founder of the dreaded Salwa Judum, and his security guards.
What is particularly reprehensible is the killing of unarmed political workers of the Congress party by over 200 gun wielding members of the Maoist party which ended up killing a number of innocent bystanders also, who accidentally happened to be in the spot. Particularly reprehensible is the fact that armed Maoists cadre also killed people who had surrendered and were in their custody.
It is the PUCL's understanding that under no circumstances can acts of brutality be justified, even if they be in response to equally heinous and brutal acts unleashed by the security forces, as we are seeing presently in Chhattisgarh, as recently as the killing of 8 innocent tribal villagers in Edasmeta village of South Bastar on 17th and 18th May, 2013; or in response to the brutalities committed by the vigilante Salwa Judum founded by the deceased Mahendra Karma.
We equally stress that whatever the circumstances, the security forces must act within the bounds of law. Our apprehension that the present incident will be used by both the Central as also State Governments to launch a brutal counter-offensive engulfing local tribal communities amidst greater state violence springs from the already grim human rights situation that prevails in the area. Complaints abound of state security forces committing with impunity, torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, secret detentions, abductions, arbitrary, prolonged and incommunicado detention, unfair trials, and enforced disappearances, and worse in the wake of Operation Greenhunt.
A Fact Finding Team of PUCL Chhattisgarh had recently, on 21st May, 2013, released its Report titled, `Guilty until proven Innocent – A Report on Unlawful Police Activities in North Bastar, Chhattisgarh’ which detailed the atrocities committed by the security forces in 2 villages in Chhattisgarh.
While PUCL firmly condemns the violence of the Maoists and acknowledges the constitutional duty and responsibility cast on the Governments to protect the life of all people, PUCL nevertheless asserts that all counter-measures adopted by the Government should adhere strictly to the rule of law, including the core principles of criminal and constitutional law and the specific standards and obligations of international human rights law, and, where applicable, humanitarian law. It should be noted that these principles, standards and obligations, as constantly affirmed by the Supreme Court, define the boundaries of permissible and legitimate State action against extremism and terrorism. It is however very important that the revolting nature of extremist acts cannot serve as a basis or pretext for the Governments to disregard their national and international obligations, in particular in the protection of fundamental human rights. We would like to point out to the caution highlighted by the International Council of Jurists in its Declaration on Upholding Human Rights and the Rule of Law in Combating Terrorism, The Berlin Declaration, 28 August 2004*
PUCL would like to point out that it is important to strengthen civil society, not weaken it so as to effectively tackle political violence. An effective strategy to preventing the downward spiral into lives filled with violence, fear and repression is to genuinely acknowledge, respond and respect the key issues faced by tribals and local communities in Chhattisgarh; this will deny the basis for real or imagined grievances from supporting violence. The best way to strengthen democracy is by integrating human rights, equity and social justice considerations into all government policies, plans and programmes.
The spirals of violence and counter-violence in the troubled areas of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and other states is grim and life threatening. The PUCL, through this appeal, is therefore giving a national call for a `HUMANITARIAN RESPITE’ and appeals to the Central and State Governments, the security forces and also to the Maoists, to agree to an immediate ceasefire, stopping of armed engagements and engage in talks.
Prof. Prabhakar Sinha
National President, PUCL
(Dr. V. Suresh)
National General Secretary, PUCL
* FOOT NOTE: Berlin Declaration, 2005
“A pervasive security-oriented discourse promotes the sacrifice of fundamental rights and freedoms in the name of eradicating terrorism. There is no conflict between the duty of States to protect the rights of persons threatened by terrorism and their responsibility to ensure that protecting security does not undermine other rights. On the contrary, safeguarding persons from terrorist acts and respecting human rights both form part of a seamless web of protection incumbent upon the State. Both contemporary human rights and humanitarian law allow States a reasonably wide margin of flexibility to combat terrorism without contravening human rights and humanitarian legal obligations”.