UP police withdraws charges against social activist

Published: Saturday 15 September 2007

in what is seen as a vindication of the struggle for land rights, and a political victory, the police in Uttar Pradesh's Sonebhadra district withdrew nsa (National Security Act, 1980) charges against a social activist following orders from chief minister Mayawati on August 17. The district court of Sonebhadra has granted Roma bail in one case. There are, however, several charges against her. She is still in police custody.

Meanwhile, the UP government passed an order to regularise dalit and tribal population on government lands. A special development package was also announced for the Kaimur region. The move, say activists, was to pacify the tribal and dalit community of the area, who resorted to protests and road blockades after nsa was invoked against Roma.However, Ram Kumar, superintendent of police of Sonebhadra, says: "The nsa charge was removed because the initial threat to security is not there."

Roma, and her fellow activists were arrested while campaigning for awareness about the Scheduled Tribes and Other Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, under the banner of Kaimur Chhetra Mahila Kisan Sangharsh Samity (kcmkss) --a women-led organisation. On July 31, kcmkss evoked a slogan "Jo jamin sarkari hai, wo jamin hamari hai" (the land that belongs to the government is ours), following which, dalits and tribals asserted their rights by planting trees in the forest. The communities claim the large tracts of forestland, currently under the district forest department, belongs to them. In a bid to remove them from the spot, police officials arrested an activist. On August 1, Roma along with another activist Rajneesh reportedly called on the chief secretary in Lucknow and apprised him of their activities.

Following this, a forest guard was allegedly made to file a case against Roma and other activists under the provisions of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). Apart from nsa, Roma was also charged under ipc 1860 and the Indian Forest Act, 1980.

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