Chhattisgarh is in a state of undeclared emergency as hundreds of farmers and activists, protesting an uncaring government’s serious rights violations have been illegally detained and the media stifled. Arrests and detentions have been taking place all over the state since September 13.
On September 13, 2017, a meeting was held by the Chhattisgarh Kisaan Mazdoor Sangh in Aarang in order to discuss the worsening financial conditions on account of the consistent drought situation in Chhattisgarh over the last three years. In view of the drought, the farmers demanded that the restrictions on all governmental events, state celebrations, inaugurations, foundation stones, Kisan Mela, etc should be imposed in 2017-18 in the state of Chhattisgarh and the entire state be declared drought-affected.
The Kissaan Mahasangh condemned the misappropriation of Gram Panchayat’s funds in Rajnandgaon for the Chief Minister Raman Singh’s honour ceremony. For the last three months, the farmers of the state have been reminding the Bharatiya Janata Party’s promises to them, i.e., 300 rupees bonus, free electricity, loans at zero percent interest, implementation of the recommendations of the Swaminathan Committee and Rs 2100 for the support cash. At the behest of the strengthening farmers struggle in Chhattisgarh, the state had declared a bonus three months back, but has not delivered on its promises.
The Mazdoor Sangh has demanded for exemption of the farmers debt and electricity bills which have increased multifold on account of this drought situation and non-existent State support.
With an intent to remind the government of their poll promises, and to hold them accountable, it was decided in several meetings all over the state in villages by villagers that the residence of the Chief Minister in Raipur would be gheraod (surrounded) by a huge rally of farmers on 21 September, 2017.
But as the farmers’ struggle gains momentum, the state has been clamping down on it with increased intensity. Arrests and detentions began on September 19.
On September 19, the Sankalp Yatra was to begin from Rajnandgaon.
Rajnandgaon, early morning Sudesh Tekam, trade unionist and farmers leader Ramakant Banjare, Chandu Sahu, Tribal farmers leader Chunni Sahu, Sanjit, Madan Sahu of the Kisan Sangh along with hundreds of other people were arrested. On the same day, Alok Shukla of the Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan was arrested enroute Rajnandgaon. While Alok Shukla was released, the rest are still in jail. A fortnight before, on August 28, 2017 as many as 50,000 farmers had held a peaceful demonstration and declared their faith in the constitution and the law. Now using Section 151 of the law on preventive detention, the state has clamped down on democratic protest. The law is clear on this matter: after determining whether the person is likely to cause unrest, etc the person is released within 24 hours of arrest on a bond, with or without surety. However, here in Chhattisgarh, the SDM (district magistrate) himself has been missing since the protest !
As farmers struggle to get their constitutional rights heard in these drought conditions, there is an absolute media blackout, with zero news trickling down of the rally and the clampdown. The state proves how little it cares about the farmers who bring food to the plates of all in this “agricultural economy”. Until today, hundreds of farmer leaders have been arrested.
A Longworth ex-MLA and farmers leader Janaklal Thakur 8 other farmer leaders were arrested at 2:30 am last night. In Dhamtari, leaders such as Shatrughan Sahu, Shrikant Sonwani, Purushottam Chandrakar, Shrikant Chandrakar, Chainsingh Sahi, Tejendra Todekar from the Dhamtari Kisaan Mazdoor Mahasangh Dhamtari were arrested when they went to the Collector to submit a memorandum protesting against the imposition of Sec. 144 (Unlawful Assembly) in Dhamtari. Today, AAP leader Sanket Thakur, PUCL President Lakhan Singh, Mahila Adhikar Manch and AAP Durga Jha, CBA Alok Shukla, Ex-Union Minister Arvind Netam, Farmer leader from AAP Anand Mishra, CPM Sanjay Parate, Uttam Jaiswal were arrested. 45 tribal men and women who served as SPOs during the time of Salwa Judum and had come to Raipur for a press conference seeking rehabilitation post the disbanding of Salwa Judum were also arrested. The police searched the residence of farmers leader Jagmohan Baghel and AAP party functionary Samir Khan in Bastar.
The railway station of Rajnandgaon, Chhattisgarh is being manned by heavy police personnel. Strict checks are in place to ensure that no farmer can reach the protest site by train or by bus. More than 15 cycles have been prohibited from being parked in cycle stands. All roads to the capital of Chhattisgarh Raipur have been barricaded with heavy police presence, the boundaries of all the villages who are rising in protest have been barricaded and no one is being allowed to enter or exit villages, all villagers have been detained within their own villages.
News of more and more arrests trickle every fifteen minutes.
Chhattisgarh is in a state of emergency. All to stifle democratic protests of farmers!