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Urgent Interventions

Arbitrary detention and alleged torture of Mr. Panda Podiyami


IND 001 / 0617 / OBS 067Arbitrary detention /Torture / Judicial harassmentIndiaJune 23, 2017 The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in India.

Brief description of the information: The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the arbitrary detention and alleged torture of Mr. Panda Podiyami, former sarpanch[1] (leader) of Chintagufa Village, Chhattisgarh State, and a human rights defender who is particularly known for denouncing widespread human rights violations committed by the Salwa Judum movement in Chhattisgarh[2]. In April 2017, Mr. Podiyami also reported the case of a minor girl from Chintagufa who was allegedly raped by members of the security forces but was forced to retract her complaint after being detained incommunicado by the police for three days.

According to the information received, on May 3, 2017, Mr. Panda Podiyami was arrested in a forest near Minpa, close to his village of Chintagufa, by a joint team of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the District Police. During the arrest, he was reportedly severely beaten, before being taken into custody in an unknown location. After a few newspapers reported on May 4 and 7, 2017 that Mr. Podiyami was reportedly detained by the police, his wife, Ms. Muiye Podiyami, went to Chintagufa police station several times demanding to see her husband, but the police denied having any knowledge of his arrest and whereabouts.

On May 10, 2017, Ms. Muiye Podiyami visited the Sukma Kotwali Police Station to seek information about her husband. She also took changes of clothes for him. The police authorities did not allow her to see her husband but took his clothes and assured they would be given to him.

On May 12, 2017, Ms. Podiyami filed a habeas corpus petition in the Chhattisgarh High Court in Bilaspur. On the next day, one of Mr. Podiyami’s brothers was permitted allowed to meet Mr. Podiyami at the police station. Mr. Podiyami was limping and one of his heels was dark blue and swollen.

On May 13, 2017, Mr. Podiyami called his wife to tell her that he had ‘surrendered’ to the police on May 9, 2017, and did not want to return to his village. The Observatory is concerned that these calls were made under duress from police custody.

On May 17, 2017, the police produced Mr. Podiyami before the media in Jagdalpur, declaring that he had voluntarily surrendered on May 9, 2017, and confessed to being involved in a recent attack on CRPF personnel[3].

Upon a court order, on May 22, 2017, the police produced Mr. Podiyami before the Chhattisgarh High Court in Bilaspur, where he again stated that he had surrendered voluntarily[4] and denied that he was beaten by the police. The Court allowed Mr. Podiyami to talk to his wife in the Court Hall. Mr. Podiyami confirmed to her in private that he was being tortured and that he feared for his life.

At the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, Mr. Podiyami remained in police custody, with no access to a lawyer, a doctor or his family.

Moreover, police claimed that Mr. Podiyami admitted to being a vital link between Maoist leaders[5] and prominent human rights activists.

The Observatory expresses its deepest concern about the arbitrary detention and alleged torture of Mr. Panda Podiyami, which seems to be only aimed at punishing him for denouncing violations by security forces in the region.

The Observatory urges Indian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Podiyami and to put an end to all forms of harassment against him and other human rights defenders in the region.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in India, urging them to: i. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Panda Podiyami as well as of all human rights defenders in India;

ii. Release Mr. Panda Podiyami immediately and unconditionally as his detention is arbitrary since it only aims at punishing him for his legitimate human rights activities; iii. Guarantee Mr. Panda Podiyami’s right to due process and a fair trial;

iv. Order an immediate, thorough, transparent, effective and impartial investigation into the above-mentioned events in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and apply the sanctions provided by the law to them;

v. Put an end to any kind of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Mr. Podiyami and all human rights defenders in India, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

vi. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially its Articles 1 and 12.2;

vii. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by India.


· Mr. Shri Narendra Damodardas Modi, Prime Minister of India, Fax: + 91 11 2301 6857. E-mail: /· Mr. Raj Nath Singh, Union Minister of Home Affairs of India, Fax: +91 11 2309 2979. Email:· Mr. Rajiv Mehrishi, Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Email:· Justice Jagdish Singh Kehar, Chief Justice of India, Supreme Court, of India, Fax: +91 11 233 83792, Email:· Justice Shri H.L. Dattu, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of India, Fax +91 11 2465 1329. Email:· Mr. Srinivasa Kammath, Focal Point on Human Rights Defenders, National Human Rights Commission, of India, Email:· H.E. Mr. Rajiv Kumar Chander, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 906 86 96, Email:· Embassy of India in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 2 6489638 / +32 2 6451869

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of India in your respective country.

***Geneva-Paris, June 23, 2017

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society. To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line: E-mail: Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29 Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
[1] Sarpach is the head of Gram Panchayat. Gram Panchayat is a collective of Gram Sabha (Village Council) and Panchayat (elected representative). Panchayats are demarcated on population and hence in some cases it can be a village and in some other a group of villages.[2] Salwa Judum was a militia that was deployed as part of anti-insurgency operations in Chhattisgarh to counter Naxalite violence in the region, with the support from Chhattisgarh State Government. In 2011, it was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. When the National Human Rights Commission was tasked by the Supreme Court with investigating about Salwa Judum, Mr. Podiyami brought several of the victims to testify before NHRC. Mr. Podiyami was also instrumental in bringing victims of rape in Samsetti village before the Court. It was entirely due to the efforts of Mr. Podiyami that a major case of arson by security forces and vigilantes in which 300 homes were burnt, three persons killed, and three women raped in the villages of Tadmetla, Timapuram and Morpalli, was brought to light. The Central Bureau of Investigation has charged some of the special police officers involved. It was because of his human rights work that Mr. Podiyami was charged by the police with being involved in a Maoist ambush in 2010 during which 76 CRPF personnel were killed, and forced to go underground. [3] On April 24, 2017, Maoists attacked CRPF troops in Sukma district, South Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region, killing 25 jawans (soliders) leaving six others injured. The attack was touted as one of the most lethal in the State in half a decade.[4] Accordingly, Mr. Podiyami was shown as a case of ‘surrender’. He has not been formally detained and it is now up to the police to charge him if they want.[5] Maoist Communist Party is designated as terrorist organisation in India under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

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