In spite of national attention being focused on the Indian-Pakistan cricket match, the press and electronic media, came out in the Old Lake area of Raipur in droves to cover the unprecedented response of the social and political organization’s opposition to the misuse of the State Government’s Special Areas Security Act. A ‘People for Peace’ morcha was set up to plan further actions
1500 persons representing 85 social organizations including the Adivasi Mahasabha, Kisani Panchayat, Chhattisgarh Bachao Morcha, Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha, Raigarh Bachao Sangarsh Morcha, and all political parties except for the BJP and Congress, called for the setting up of a ‘People for Peace’ platform where all groups could come together and openly address the violence and repression in the state.
The incident that tipped off this public outcry was the treatment meted out to social worker, Swami Agnivesh by Special Police officers and the Salwa Judam on Saturday 26th March; when he was delivering clothes and relief supplies to those who had lost their homes in crossfire in Tarmetla. He was assaulted and “roughed up” in spite of having informed the Chief Minister of his plan.
With the imposition of Section 144, Swami Agnivesh, Manish Kunjam, and Rajagopal led a delegation to the Governor, where they gave him a memorandum, appealing to him as the highest authority of tribal welfare under the 5th Schedule, to provide immediate relief for the area affected ; and set up a civil liberties watch-dog committee in Raipur that would ensure that any state excesses were counteracted .
When Special Police Force perpetuates this kind of violence on genuine social workers like Swami Agnivesh, thjs is a very serious matter that disregards basic civil liberties and civility. This leads us to feel doubly uncomfortable with the injustices meted out to other social workers like Dr. Binayak Sen who currently languishes in jail; and Himanshu, whose life work lies in tatters.
The attack against Swami Agnivesh illustrates the way non-violent groups advocating for social change are being labeled as violent. In this atmosphere, there is very little that can be done of a positive nature to help correct the many injustices of the present. The ground reality of the rural poor becomes lost in the problems generated by violence itself.
If the Government wishes to reduce the space for non-violent social action, people will not longer believe in dialogue and the democracy. In any event the government must address the grievances put forward by the poor and marginalized people around the country, if this endless cycle of violence is to be curtailed.
We therefore appeal to all concerned citizens that the Government supports social workers and non-violent action. Only this will bring peace and justice in our democracy.