Free HRD Hidme Markam from arbitrary UAPA charges: Front Line defenders

The international human rights organisation urged authorities to release Markam; say she was arrested for her work challenging police, military and corporate interests.

Front Line Defenders

Human rights organisation Front Line Defenders on March 10, 2021 condemned the arbitrary arrest of woman human rights defender Hidme Markam claiming she was targeted for her work towards protection of human rights and Adivasi communities in Chhattisgarh.

“Not only her arrest, but also the decision to carry out the arrest during an event marking the custodial torture of and sexual violence against two young Adivasi women, is particularly concerning,” said Front Line Defenders while talking about the arrest on March 9, International Working Women’s Day.

It also raised concern about a human rights defender, advocating against police and state violence, the impact of mining, facing Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) charges that is “aimed at silencing” rights activists and their efforts to promote and protect human rights.

Accordingly, the organisation urged the authorities to:

  • release Markam and drop all charges against her
  • guarantee Markam’s access to her lawyer, family members, and ensure her safety
  • cease police, military and judicial harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders in the state

Further, it demanded that they guarantee in all circumstances that human rights defenders are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and restrictions, including police and judicial harassment.

On Tuesday, Markam was attending an event in Sameli, Dantewada to commemorate the death of two young women, one of whom was confirmed to have died whilst in police custody. The programme was interrupted by police officers who arrested the rights defender for alleged involvement in Maoist activities. Later, Markam was remanded for 14 days in Jagadalapur prison.

Approximately 300 villagers, community leaders and other women human rights defenders from the Jail Bandi Rihai Committee – a platform advocating for the release of thousands of Adivasis, particularly youths, branded as Naxals and held in pre-trial detention – and Chhattisgarh Mahila Adhikar Manch were present. The sub-divisional magistrate also witnessed the arrest, having arrived at the event to engage with those attending.

Fellow human rights defenders and community members who attempted to oppose the woman human rights defenders arrest were violently pushed aside by police officers. While multiple cases have been filed against her, the exact charges are unknown.

As an anti-mining campaigner, Markam’s work focuses on projects of large corporations such as Adani Pvt Ltd. that threaten to destroy a sacred Adivasi hill, considered a local deity. She also campaigns against the ecological impact of mining in the local area such as degradation of land, large bodies of water and the destruction of forests. Previously, she had also criticised the growing presence of military, police and paramilitary in Chhattisgarh. In 2019, she participated in a public campaign against the establishment of Potali police camp by the Special Task Force and District Reserve Guards.

Markam has engaged directly with high-ranking state officials including the Chief Minister, Governor and Superintendent of Police to seek redress, realise basic fundamental rights and protect local communities affected by mining activities. 

According to Front Line Defenders, the arrest of this voice of local communities, directly reprises her work, challenging powerful forces within the state. “As a result of this work, the woman human rights defender has faced threats and harassment in the past, culminating in her arrest on March 9,” it said.


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