Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Daughter’s Plea

I do not remember coming across a news report on any kind of naxalite activity in the state of Uttarakhand till the Chief Minister's conference on internal security, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was held on December 20, 2007. Addressing the Chief Ministers, the Prime Minister said, "I have said in the past that Left Wing extremism is probably the single biggest security challenge to the Indian state. It continues to be so and we cannot rest in peace until we have eliminated this virus." Giving assurance of providing support to the states for improving internal security he said, "We need to cripple the hold of Naxalite forces with all the means at our command."

This conference brought to my notice that Uttarakhand is also now one of the states which faces the red threat, as the Chief Minister of the State BC Khanduri spoke of armed men, suspected to be Maoists, who were seen in the Kumaun region of Uttarakhand. According to Khanduri, since Uttarakhand lies on the Nepal border it faces greater threat of Maoists filtering in from the border. In order to beef up internal security, and ward off the menace of these “Maoist monsters,” Khanduri demanded Rs 208 crores from the centre.

Curiously, an article on December 21, 2007, in the newspaper Amar Ujala corroborated Khanduri's information. It reported that a dozen armed men, suspected to be Maoists, were seen in the forests of Hanspur Khatta, Senapani and Chorgaliya in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand. This was followed by reports about the arrest of the so-called zonal commander of the CPI (Maoists), Prashant Rahi, from the forest of Hanspur Khatta, which appeared in the local newspapers of Nainital district, justifying the need of funds for internal security. According to the newspaper reports, Rahi was sitting with five other men by a riverside when he was arrested on December 22, 2007, while the others managed to escape. One must give credit to the state and its police force for the high level of planning and co-ordination that they achieved. It is difficult to believe the speed at which all these events unfolded. There is a difference of hardly two days between the time the suspected Maoists were seen for the first time in Uttarakhand and the day their zonal commander was arrested. Moreover, the order in which all these events took place immediately after the conference on internal security seems so perfect.

However, the real story, which Prashant Rahi, my father, revealed to me when I met him at Nanak Matta Police Station in Uddham Singh Nagar district on December 25, 2007, is very different from the version that appeared in the press. I had decided not to cry when visiting him, so I just hugged him and said, "Everything will be alright. Do not worry.'' Though I could see the tiredness in his eyes, my father gave me a broad smile. When I sat down to talk with him, he narrated to me a completely different version of his arrest. "On December 17, 2007 in Dehradun, I was walking to a friend's house at around 9 am, when I was suddenly attacked by four or five men (not in uniform). They pushed me into a car, blindfolded me and went on beating me all along the way. After a journey that lasted about an hour-and-a-half they pulled me out of the car in a forested area, where they started beating me again. They hit me everywhere," said my father.

I listened to him patiently without letting myself get affected by the brutality he underwent. My father continued, "On the evening of December 18, 2007 these people took me to Haridwar, where the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) conference was being held. Here, they continued to torture me. They brutally hit me all over my body, including my private parts. The officials also threatened to pump kerosene up my anus and tie me to slabs of ice." What is worse, the police also threatened my father to bring me from Mumbai (where I reside and work) and force him to rape me in their presence.

On December 20, 2007, the officials brought my father to Nanak Matta Police Station in Udham Singh Nagar district. He was in pain and disoriented due to the sustained beatings and interrogation of the earlier three days. Though the interrogation continued, the police waited for him to recover somewhat and then, after two days, on December 22, 2007 they made his arrest records, which are absolutely baseless and fictitious. According to my father, the officials who tortured him did not disclose their identity to him, nor were they seen again after those five days of in illegal detention.

In violation of constitutional norms, Prashant Rahi was not produced before a magistrate within 24 hours of arrest. He was produced before the magistrate only on December 23, 2007. He was not allowed to contact a lawyer, relative or a friend after his arrest. After torturing him mentally as well as physically for five days, he has falsely been implicated under sections 120 B, 121, 121A, 124A, 153B of the Indian Penal Code and sections 10 and 20 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Originally from Maharashtra, my father did an M Tech from Banaras Hindu University but opted to become a journalist. A former correspondent of The Statesman (Delhi), he has been working in Uttarakhand for the last many years as a journalist and social activist. The fundamental rights and constitutional safeguards that the Police have so blatantly violated in case of Prashant Rahi are guaranteed to all citizens of India, regardless of what political or ideological views they may hold or what crime they may have been charged with. Such gross violation of rights by the police should not be condoned. If such a thing could happen to Prashant Rahi who is a highly educated and reasonably well connected person, I shudder to think of the fate of the less fortunate at the hands of the police.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

good to see many pronaxal blogs