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Stop witch-hunting human rights defenders: AHRC
Demanding an immediate end to what it called 'witch-hunt', the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has expressed concern over disturbing information from Barwani, Madhya Pradesh regarding the administration's continuing attack against human rights defender Ms Madhuri Krishnaswami of the Jagrat Dalit Adivasi Sangthan (JADS).

In the most recent attack, it deplored that the District Magistrate has written a letter to the Divisional Commissioner that found its way to Chief Secretary accusing the organisation of having links with Maoists and have demanded an inquiry into the issue.

AHRC, in a statement, lamented that the attack is not a stray one, but comes high on heels of an externment notice served on her by the same district administration in May, 2012 and subsequent attack on a JADS rally by the local goon with the administration looking away.

The administration, evidently, is working at the behest of deeply entrenched vested interests whose corruption Madhuri and the organisation have continuously been exposing. The current attack, too, is an attempt to divert attention from the massive scam in the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in the area tipped to be worth more than Rs150 crore, AHRC claimed.

According to AHRC, troubled with the tireless struggle of Ms Krishnaswami and JADS against corruption and exploitation of the marginalised sections in the area, the district administration has launched yet another attack on her. In a letter written to the Divisional Commissioner, the District Magistrate had accused Madhuri and the organisation of having links with Maoists and of inciting the local people against the state.

Ironically, it pointed out that the absurdity of the charges is exposed by the sheer fact that the police refuses to buy any such allegations and in fact, the Inspector General of Police, Indore range has categorically denied the presence of any Naxal activities in the area. Clearly, the District Magistrate has levelled these charges with some ulterior motives.

The AHRC said that this is not the first time when Madhuri and the organisation have been targeted by the administration. Quite on the contrary, they have been facing a relentless witch-hunt ever since they have taken the task of exposing massive corruption in the area run by the nexus of locally entrenched politicians with the administration.

It is in this context, AHRC said that the recent attack assumes immense significance. It is not merely an attack on an individual or an organization, but an example of the current regime of persecuting even democratic dissenters with fabricated charges to silence all voices of resistance. “Unfortunately, such persecution of Human Rights Defenders, as we have seen in the case of Dr. Binayak Sen, is becoming a norm than the exception and should be culled immediately if India wants to call itself a democracy,” AHRC added.

AHRC feared that the letter written by the District Magistrate to the Chief Secretary could be used for the initiation of a criminal case against Ms Krishnaswami. “In such a case, the District Magistrate's action of writing an official letter to the Chief Secretary accusing the Human Rights Defender in question of being engaged in anti-state activities without even offering an opportunity to the accused to defend her case amounts to intentional misuse of public authority,” AHRC alleged.

It asked the District Magistrate to tender a public apology for trying to tarnish the image of a respected Human Rights Defender on the basis of fabricated charges; expedite the investigations into the corruption in the implementation of MNREGA in the area and punish those guilty of siphoning funds and ensure the safety of life and person of Ms. Krishnaswami and other members of the Jagrit Dalit Adivasi Sangthan.

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