Two days before the Prime Minister's announcement imposing the sudden nationwide Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020, Bilal Chero* stepped out of prison for the first time in eleven years. He had been arrested in 2009 on what is commonly called in Jharkhand as 'Maobadi charges'.
Before his arrest he was just another villager subsisting by farming on his patch of land in a forested region in West Singhbhum, an area where the "party waale" [CPI (Maoist)] would come and go. "They were armed. If we didn't give them food and water, they'd kill us, you know?"
Suddenly he was informed that there was a "Naxali" case against him, and he was arrested on 22 charges including the #UAPA and Section 17 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act (association w a banned party). Meanwhile his wife & brother were killed in a security sweep of the region.
By the time he was released, his remaining family had to sell their land, spending near 4 lakh to fight his case. His children ended up in an orphanage in Rourkela, Odisha. He was ultimately acquitted in all but 4 of the 22 cases due to a lack of any evidence against him.
His acquittal proves how false such alleged cases often are, says lawyer Shiv Prasad who rep'd him. He was part of a team driven by the late Father #StanSwamy whose PIL in 2017 prayed for the release of thousands of such #Adivasi Moolvasi prisoners in Jharkhand. The petition-
based on research between 2012-17 (w no cooperation on behalf of legal apparatus & jails), stated that police deliberately foisted multiple cases in a staggered manner against certain prisoners, who often tended to be Adivasis from rural impoverished regions of Jharkhand
On the eve of release on bail/acquittal prisoners find themselves suddenly charged w a new case. The courts leave such "malafide intent" of police re: detention of thse communities in highly militarised regions unchecked, the PIL states. It sought an apt order by the Jharkhand HC
Read my 2nd story in #AfterStan series for @IndiaSpend examining the issues laid out in the 2017 PIL, the struggle to fight for rights of prisoners in a media-dark region after the death of Stan, himself arrested in a similar alleged #BhimaKoregaon case.…
@IndiaSpend 3 groups of prisoners suffered from prolonged judicial custody:
-those whose cases need govt sanction for prosecution & lower courts caused delay in trial proceedings
-those against whom police delayed charge framing
-those in jail due to callousness & continuous adjournment
@IndiaSpend Jan 2018: Jharkhand HC took cognizance of the PIL directing the state govt to respond. Responses were repeatedly delayed & gave incomplete info. Bw Sep 2018-May 2019 hearings were adjourned 6x. The information that surfaced supported the petition's
In the story you'll find that responses from Latehar, Khunti, Gumla, Chatra, Sahebganj, Bokaro jails for instance show exactly what the petition alleged: prolonged detention, #bail routinely not granted, multiple cases under srs offences foisted against the same prisoners.
Lawyer Shyam Sinha, of the PIL team: What mars #speedytrials is that the Jharhand govt is not interested in proving anyone guilty. Their only purpose is arrest!
One of Sinha's clients has been awaiting trial for 13 years. This is not a unique story.
Till his last breath Stan had hope in the judiciary. He was waiting for the July 3 hearing where his interim bail plea was to be taken up...that's when he finally lost hope, Sheela* who worked w #StanSwamy on his last project, the PIL said.There've been no new hearings since 2019
#AfterStan series delves into issues Father Stan Swamy worked on, that ultimately ended w his own death as an #undertrial #politicalprisoner under the UAPA. The prolonged trials & arrests in such 'Maobadi cases' continue. Pls show it some love & read here
Our 1st story in #AfterStan series on an alleged encounter in Latehar which led to the death of young Brahmdev Singh & his brothers charged with being extremists under stringent, non-bailable offences-- an unfortunate pattern in Jharkhand here:

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More from @gaachburi

22 Apr
Hi, I'm getting a lot of questions around whom can we support financially. Want to collate
Can you pls comment on this thread if you know of a good organisation doing verified relief work/ supporting vulnerable communities / figuring food and essentials for migrant workers etc?
Adding: If you can, please add what they do and where, and link to where we can donate. Also pls add if you are the one who can personally vouch for them.
ETA: sorry if this seems like gatekeeping. we've seen ppl lose money to oxygen suppliers who disappeared, & encountered a literal scam hospital this wk where we lost a patient so. want to be a little cautious. doesn't matter if big/small effort, don't need a certificate.
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