May 14, 2015
We condemn the judgement of the Midnapore district and sessions court on 11th May, 2015, convicting Chatradhar Mahato, spokesperson of the Peoples Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA) of Lalgarh, Sukhshanti Baske, treasurer of the PCPA, Sambhu Soren and Sagun Murmu, members of PCPA, and Raja (Tinku) Sarkhel and Prasun Chattopadhyay, members of Gana Pratirodh Manch, for sedition and waging war against the state. The first four, Chatradhar Mahato, Sukhshanti Baske, Sambhu Soren and Sagun Murmu, have also been convicted under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the first convictions under UAPA in West Bengal. All have been sentenced to life imprisonment.
We consider this judgement to be a travesty of justice and an attempt by the state to send a clear message to peoples’ movements across West Bengal and India that any dissent against the state and the ruling classes will be answered in a ruthless manner. The Lalgarh movement, of which these people were participants, was an uprising of the adivasi-moolvasi people of Jangalmahal against the police repression and exploitation which they have suffered for decades. Because Chatradhar Mahato and his comrades stood up against it, and people like Raja Sarkhel and Prasun Chattopadhyay stood in solidarity with them, they are being made an example in front of us. They have been in jail since 2009 while the trial has dragged on for six long years, finally leading to this conviction. Chatradhar Mahato was also charged with 38 other cases, linked to every possible incident in Jangalmahal during the Lalgarh movement, in each of which he has obtained bail. Seeing the unviability of these cases against him, the state has used these UAPA and sedition charges to keep him and his comrades imprisoned for this long time, and now have allowed them to be convicted under these charges. It is a telling state of affairs that while famous film stars convicted of running over sleeping pavement dwellers get immediate bail after conviction and politicians known to have amassed hundreds of crores of rupees get acquitted, leaders and workers of peoples’ movements face possible death penalty or lifelong imprisonment.
We call upon all democracy-loving people to come out in protest against this conviction and demand the unconditional release of Chatradhar Mahato and his comrades and all others who have stood in solidarity with the peoples movement in Jangalamahal.