We had the renowned author and activist Ms. Arundhati Roy as a special observer in the IPT. The esteemed members of the Jury were Retd Judge of Jharkhand High Court, Justice Vikramaditya Prasad, Sri Prashant Bhushan Senior Supreme Court advocate, Sri K.S. Subramanian, I.P.S. and former Director General of Police, Sri C.S. Jha, former CMD of BCCL and ECL and others. We are sharing the observations and recommendations of the Jury. We hope it will have a huge impact in the human rights movement.
Independent people’s tribunal on operation green hunt in Jharkhand
(held in Ranchi on 25th and 26th Sept 2010)
Observations of the Jury
The jury heard the testimonies of a number of social Activists working the Tribals in Jharkhand as well as a number of Tribals themselves who have been directly affected by Operation Greenhunt over the two days. The picture which emerges from these testimonies presents a dismal and indeed alarming picture of Human Rights violations of the adivasis population of the State which has driven them to unprecedented levels of desperation where their very survival is being threatened.
Over the last 60 years, more than 20 lakh acres of land has been acquired directly by the State in the name of various "development" projects displacing more than 15 lakh Adivasis from their homelands. This drive for acquisition of their land has become particularly acute during the last decade when 102 MOUs have been signed with a number of large private corporations, some of which are for thousands of acres of land involving the displacement of thousands of tribals in each case. Most of these MOUs are for mining or for setting up other polluting industries. These have however met with enormous resistance from the adivasis who have organized themselves and have so far successfully resisted the accusations of their land as a result of which virtually none of these MOUs have so far been operationalised.
All this land acquisition of Adivasi land has however been done without the consent or even consultation with the Adivasis. The MOUs were in fact signed in great haste and secrecy with no information at all to the people who were to be affected. All this is in complete violation of the PESA Act which provides that all development in the Scheduled areas would be in consultation (which should mean consent) of the Gram Sabhas. This has led to a widespread feeling among the Adivasis that not only is their right of self-rule being flagrantly violated, but their very identity and existence is being threatened. Many of them consequently taken up the Gun and joined the Maoists who have organized them to fight the state.
The government's response to this has been Operation Greenhunt which uses large sections of Paramilitary forces what they perceive as the single security threat to the State. Interestingly, Operation Greenhunt is largely concentrated in the areas where the MOUs have been signed. The testimonies before us revealed that this Operation has led to and is causing enormous violations of Human Rights of the Adivasis in terms of all kinds of excesses by the security forces. A large number of testimonies before the Tribunal provided a sampling of the kinds of Human Rights abuses taking place: Arbitrary picking up of Adivasis and their torture; Arbitrary arrests of Adivasis as well as of those who to highlight the abuses by the security forces on false and trumped up charges; people even being killed in fake encounters or in custody. These abuses are only serving drive more Adivasis to pick up Guns and join the Maoists.
The Jury noted that the security forces involved in the abuses are hardly ever brought to justice and enjoy almost complete impunity. Unfortunately Jharkhand has not set up a State Human Rights Commissions or even Police Complaints Authority as directed by the Supreme Court in their judgment on Police Reforms. The Courts too which are supposed to examine allegations of torture, fake encounters and malafide arrests on false charges, have abdicated their responsibility with the result that innocents continue to rot in jails for years altogether and the guilty police officers are not punished, even when it is found that they have tortured people, killed them in fake encounters or arrested them on fabricated evidence. The Supreme Court's judgement on Arrests, torture and the NHRC's guidelines on encounter killings are being wantonly flouted and no one is being held accountable.
The Jury therefore recommends that:
The Government must address the underlying causes of Tribal alienation by ensuring that PESA Act is strictly complied with and that there is no involuntary acquisition of Tribal land without the consent of the Gram sabhas. The Adivasis must be given the effective right to decide the kind of development which should take place in their areas.
All MOUs entered into by the government which involve the acquisition of Tribal land must immediately be made public and put on hold.
Operation Greenhunt be withdrawn in a phase but rapid withdrawl of Para Military forces from Jharkhand.
The government must make a full and complete disclosure of those killed by the security forces in Operation Greenhunt and those who have killed detained and arrested under the UAPA.
The police and the Security forces must be made effectively accountable for their human rights abuses by:
(i) Setting up a State Human Rights Commission in a transparent and credible manner which should be armed with adequate powers;
(ii) Setting up Police Complaints authorities as directed bye the Supreme Court;
(iii) The NHRCs guidelines regarding encounters, especially an investigation by an independent police agency and a Magisterial Enquiry must be strictly followed and the District SSP and DGP of the State be made jointly liable for non compliance;
(iv) The courts get each complaint of torture and arrest on false and fabricated charges seriously examined.
1. The SC & ST (Prevention of atrocities) Act 1989 be diligently applied against security officers committing such abuses on Tribals. The State Human Rights Commission be charged with monitoring it.
2. A High Level Commission be set up to investigate some of the most egregious cases of Encounter killings, torture and killing in police custody and also of arrests on false and fabricated charges.
3. Government of India should ratify UN convention on Torture and enact a law in tune with the spirit of convention
4. UN code of conduct for law Enforcement Officials, including prosecutors, Lawyers and Judges should be compulsorily observed.
5. UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms should be adopted and enforced
6. UN Standards and Norms in Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice should be adopted and enforced.
7. The international convention on Civil and Political Rights ratified by Government of India includes prohibition of torture, and obligates the state to hold detainees in officially recognized places of detention with names in registers accessible to all concerned.
8. Government of India should issue a standing invitation to Precial Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council, including:
(i) Working group on Arbitrary Detention
(ii) Working group on Enforced & Involuntary Disappearances
(iii) Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executers
(iv) Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
(v)Most importantly special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples.
9. Compensation and other things for killing or torture or illegal arrest must be paid as committed by the Govt.
10. The Government should come with a white paper as to the expenditure made in police vis-à-vis result thereof.
Justice Vikramaditya Prasad (Retd. Judge, Jharkhand High Court)
Mr. K.S. Subramanian (IPS and former DGP, Tripura)
Mr. C.S. Jha (former CMD, ECIL)
Mr. Prashant Bhushan (Lawyer and Covenor, Campaign for Judicial Accountability)
September 28, 2010