Police attempts to abduct Adivasi Human Rights Defender Gambhira Prasad
Narendra Ch | 21 Apr 2015

The People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) regarding the abduction of a Human Rights Defender, Gambhira Prasad, allegedly by policemen wearing civilian clothes.

Prasad was abducted at 7 p.m. on April 20, 2015, from Baba Chauraha in Allahabad District of Uttar Pradesh immediately after he met with advocate Ravikiran Jain to discuss a case that his organisation Kanhar Bachao Andolan has been fighting. The case centers on imminent land acquisition and displacement in relation to the Kanhar Irrigation Project in Sonbhadra District. Local residents failed to foil the abduction of Prasad.

However, they succeeded in nabbing three of the abductors and took them to the Cantt. Police Station. Cantt. Police informed them that the abductors were none other than policemen from Sonbhadra. The Cantt. Police proceeded to release the alleged Sonbhadra policemen without demanding any identity papers from them.

According to PUCL, less than a week after the police repeatedly fired at members of the Kanhar Bachao Andolan (Save Kanhar Movement) in Sonbhadra, unknown persons abducted one of the protest leaders, Gambhira Prasad, from Baba Chauraha in Ashok Nagar locality of Allahabad at 7 p.m. on April 20, 2015. Prasad had gone to Allahabad to meet the lawyer fighting cases on behalf of Save Kanhar Movement. Prasad was attempting to get legal documents photocopied when the abductors struck. The abductors, all dressed in civilian clothes, arrived in a Scorpio (a sports utility vehicle) and tried to drag Mr. Prasad into the vehicle.

Locals present saw this and tried to foil the attempt. While they failed to stop the abduction, they succeeded in nabbing three of the seven abductors, and took these three to the Cantt. Police Station. PUCL leaders also rushed to the Police Station to inquire about the incident and the safety of Mr. Prasad. The Cantt. Police told them that those nabbed by the people are policemen from Sonbhadra District.

However the Cantt, Police proceeded to let these men go without demanding any identity documents to confirm that they were indeed policemen from Sonbhadra District. The Cantt. Police conceded that the Sonbhadra Police had not informed them prior to this operation, as mandated by law, and that they had no idea of their presence in the area. They further conceded that the action against Mr. Prasad was not a joint one.

The Cantt. Police version exposes how the Uttar Pradesh police are violating guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court for making arrests. It also gives rise to strong suspicion about the real intent of the Sonbhadra Police, which has chosen to try and abduct a citizen. The abduction might have been attempted to eliminate Mr. Prasad in an extrajudicial killing. Such killings, following abduction, are a routine practice law enforcers indulge in across India.

Because of public pressure generated in this case, the Sonbhadra Police, who had abducted Mr. Prasad, had to bring him back to the Cantt. Police Station at midnight. According to the most recent information, the Police has taken him to Sonbhadra though it is unclear if they obtained mandatory transit remand from a magistrate for doing the same.

The Sonbhadra administration has been upset with Mr. Prasad for leading protests against the Kanhar Sinchai Pariyojana (Kanhar Irrigation Project) that commenced construction in 1980-81 but gained momentum only in the latter half of 2014, when the state started small-scale constructions on the riverbed.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) said that the construction is in clear violation of the guidelines laid by the National Green Tribunal, as the project lacks mandatory clearances from the Ministry of Environment. It also lacks mandatory clearances from the Central Pollution Control Board despite the project authorities' claim to have obtained an environmental clearance in 1980. This claim holds no water as the project requires a fresh "Environment Clearance" under the EIA Notification, 2006, and also a Forest Clearance under the provisions of Forests Rights Act, 2006.

The proposed project also violates provisions of the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. The project would require acquisition of lands of at least 87 villages. And, several mandatory procedures related to this acquisition have not been complied with: project affected families have not been identified and the government has not even initiated the process of consulting with the Gram Sabhas, the consent of these village bodies being central for any such acquisition under the 2013 law.

The people affected by the project have organized themselves as the Kanhar Bachao Andolan and have lodged complaints with the National Green Tribunal (NGT) over environmental and pollution clearances not have been obtained. They have also filed a case with the High Court of Allahabad against the proposed acquisitions. 

After listening to the arguments, on December 24, 2014, Justice Swatanter Kumar of the NGT issued an interim order staying all construction activities until the project gets environment and forest clearance as prescribed under law.

AHRC wondered that the administration has instead chosen to violate the order and has gone ahead with construction, incensing the people who began a sit-in in protest. The protesters assembled at the proposed dam site on April 14, 2015, where the police, allegedly, opened fire without any provocation. The firing injured several protesters. Aglu Khairwar, one of them, has suffered bullet injuries to his head and is struggling for life in Banaras Hindu University Hospital in Varanasi District. The police targeted the protesters again, this time in their villages, particularly in Sundari, on the morning of April 18, 2015. It was in this context that Mr. Prasad was visiting the lawyer who is arguing the Andolan's case in the High Court.