Press Release 6-4-2017
We strongly condemn ongoing attempts by the police of Kurnool district to continuously harass UG Srinivasulu, an Adoni-based advocate and Human Rights Forum (HRF) secretary (AP & TS).
Over the past three years the police have filed several criminal charges against Srinivasulu, and several other activists of Adoni town, all of which are patently false.
The police have done this because the HRF, led by Srinivasulu, has, among other issues, consistently opposed arbitrary and malafide use of the law by the police and critiqued their unlawful methods. He has also spoken out and undertaken campaigns against industries in Kurnool district that are endangering people’s health and the environment. He has opposed the fabrication of charges on marginalised sections and has sought proper and effective implementation of the SC, ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. He, along with several other like-minded individuals and organisations, has spoken out against subversion of the rule of law and the need to protect our secular ethos. He has constantly endeavored, over the past three decades, to protect the basic rights of the underprivileged and protested against their violation. All of this activity has been totally peaceful, transparent, non-violent and democratic in nature.
However, this legitimate activity has been met by the police in a very hostile manner by recourse to plain abuse of the law and foisting of false charges. When HRF along with several organisations sought enforcement of environmental regulations on industries emitting toxins into the air, ground, water and causing immense injury to the people near Adoni, instead of invoking the law and penalizing those industries, false charges, including under the SC, ST (POA) Act, were levelled against HRF functionaries. When HRF questioned the indiscriminate opening of a huge number (460 in all) of rowdy sheets against people in Adoni, – and pointed out the harassment and humiliation this would entail – instead of taking corrective measures, the police retaliation was to book a rowdy sheet on UG himself! They even went to the extent of fabricating a case under section 153A IPC (creating enmity between communities) against him. This is perhaps the first time that a human rights activist has been charged under this section in the States of AP and Telangana.
The HRF is aware that the filing of these false cases against Srinivasulu and several others is solely intended to harass, discourage and intimidate them and stop their human rights activism since it acts as a check on abuse of power. We see these threats as part of an explicit attempt to stifle voices of protest and dissent. The intention is to criminalise dissent. This is reflective of the AP government’s increasing intolerance of critical voices.
We wish to remind the government that dissent and the various freedoms conferred on us by the Constitution are intrinsic to our democracy. Crude and mala-fide attempts to curb these rights and silence dissent will not go unopposed. We will not sit by and watch as the government seeks to dismantle democratic norms and tries to stymie open, critical and diverse debate.
The HRF will continue to hold the government and its various instruments accountable to the law and democratic procedures. We shall endure in our work towards safeguarding and spreading a human rights culture in society.
The unfortunate reality today is that the police are only as lawful or lawless as the political government wishes them to be. We therefore call upon the AP government to rein in this arbitrary exercise of power by the Kurnool police. We demand that all charges against UG Srinivasulu be dropped and the cases foisted upon him be withdrawn.
VS Krishna S Jeevan Kumar
(HRF general secretary, AP&TS) (HRF president, AP&TS)