NAPM demands withdrawal of FIR against activist protesting unlawful construction

The Uttar Pradesh police registered an FIR against activist Richa Singh and other residents of Sudamapuri locality for protesting against the construction of a gate by the armed forces


In another attempt to sidetrack accountability to the people by taking advantage of the lockdown, the government and its authorities have now stopped the locals of Sitapur from using a public road by stating that it is for the armed forces and have put the lives of many at risk by asking residents to use a road that is unsafe for travelling. The actions of the government also just another example of the means used by the current regime to silent activists – involving them in baseless charges and ensuring their continued incarceration so that they can’t protest against the government’s arbitrary and illegal decisions.

On June 2, 2020, Jagran reported that obstructing a public path for local residents on the 90-year-old Napier Road which connects the highway to Sudamapuri via Lalkurti, the 11th battalion of the Pradeshik Armed Constabulary (PAC) built a gate on May 31st. According to PAC Commander, Dr. Manoj Kumar, there are preparations being made for three more gates to be erected, in a bid to make arrangements for security seeing that there is a reserve of weapons and other ammunition with the battalion.

The battalion has told the residents that the path will only be used for the PAC and the path for locals would be from a different side. Locals, along with activist Richa Singh staged a dharna against the PAC after which the police registered an FIR against her and other residents of the Sudamapuri locality.

NAPM condemns arbitrary use of law

In light of the incident, the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has published a statement demanding the withdrawal of the malafide FIR against Richa Singh and the other residents and also conducting an impartial inquiry into the questionable obstruction of the public pathways by the PAC.

The statement has been issued by signatories like Medha Patkar, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), Kavita Srivastava, Public Union for Civil Liberties, Shankar Singh, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, Prafulla Samantara, Lok Shakti Abhiyan, Richa Singh and Rambeti, Sangatin Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan and members of organizations like the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, Khudai Khidmatgar, Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan and Rihai Manch among others.

The statements reads, “National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) expresses solidarity with the ongoing people’s struggle against alleged arbitrary obstruction of public pathway by the Provincial Armed Force (PAC) of Uttar Pradesh Govt. in Sitapur District. We also express outrage at the fact that instead of taking action against the high-handedness of the PAC, an ill-conceived FIR has been registered against activist Richa Singh and other residents of Sudamapuri, the site of the struggle.”

How dissent was muzzled

NAPM stated the sequences of events leading up to the incident. On May 29, the PAC stealthily began erecting gates on three corners of the road. However, when this was intimated to the local officials who visited the site the next day and assured that the matter would be resolved in three days, it wasn’t. On the morning of May 31st, PAC started building the gates again. When Richa Singh of the Sangatin Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan and a few other women objected to this, around 500 PAC constabulary surrounded them, a clear attempt to scare and muzzle any questioning.

Soon after this attempt of the PAC to drown out dissenting voices, senior officials arrived to assess the situation and Richa was made to run to and fro between the Municipality Office and the Collector’s House for discussions on the matter. During this time, even as the matter was being discussed, the PAC went ahead and erected the gate on June 2.

NAPM states, “What was even more outlandish is that the same day, (31 st May) an FIR was registered under Sec 188 IPC (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), Sec 269 IPC (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) and Sec 270 IPC (malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) as well as Sec 3 of the Epidemic Act, 1897 against Richa Singh, residents of Sudamapuri Pankaj Mishra, Sakeel, Arvind Srivastav, Vakeel and 20 other ‘unknown’ persons!”

Twelve days after the incident, citizens from various organizations have protested, keeping social distancing in mind, that the arbitrary charges against Richa and the other residents be dropped. However, NAPM says, that the district authorities have executed a perfect example of collusion of bureaucratic powers by supporting the PAC and asking the residents to take an ‘alternative route’ via the Mall road; something which the locals have objected to since the road has dense forests on both sides and is unsafe for travellers, especially women.

NAPM also mentions the disregard of lockdown norms by PAC officials who gathered in large numbers on May 31. It says that there was also no urgency to push the construction without taking into confidence, adding that just a look at the FIR would show that the activists were being hounded on account of baseless charges.

Keeping the unfolding of the events in mind, NAPM demands that –

1.       The FIR against Richa Singh and all other residents of Sudamapuri be immediately withdrawn. An inquiry must be initiated into this entire episode, leading to a completely ill-motivated and factually wrong FIR.

2.       An independent inquiry be conducted into the issue of arbitrary erection of gates by PAC on what is claimed to be Municipality land and accordingly a quick decision be taken on the right of the local communities to public pathway.

NAPM says that it stands in solidarity with the residents of Sudamapuri, especially the women fighting against the highhandedness of the administration during the lockdown and it warns governments of using law arbitrarily, including the Epidemic Act against activists who are working day and night to help the migrants and other underprivileged during the lockdown.

The complete statement by NAPM may be read below.


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