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India: NREGA Sangharsh Morcha condemns the police crackdown on Sanjay Sahni and other members of SPSS in Muzaffarpur

22 August

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22 August 2017

NREGA Sangharsh Morcha strongly condemns the arrest of Sanjay Sahni in Muzaffarpur, Bihar on 21 August and the police lathi charge on other members on Samaj Parivartan Shakti Sanghathan (SPSS) who were protesting outside the office of the district’s Deputy Development Commissioner (DDC). Sudha Devi of the Sangathan was badly injured on the head. Other Sangathan members who were hit include Indu Devi, Yoshoda Devi, Gulab Devi and Girija Devi.

SPSS (also known as MGNREGA Watch) is a collective of about 10,000 rural workers of Muzaffarpur. The Sangathan has been facing continuous harassment at the hands of the local administration because of their fight against corruption in government programmes. The harassment has taken the form of threats, violence and false FIRs against members of the Sanghthan.

Seven false FIRs have been lodged against various members of the Sangathan. The charges include holding government officials captive, “maar-pitai”, confiscating government documents, creating obstacles in routine government work. In February 2017 an FIR was lodged against Sanjay Sahni, the founder of the Sangathan under The Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The most ludicrous FIR is the one filed on 31 March 2017 in which Sanjay Sahni has been accused of attempting to murder Shambhunath Singh, the Panchayat Rozgar Sewak of Ratnauli Gram Panchayat in Kurhani block. Sanjay Sahni was actually in Ranchi that day.

An independent team had conducted a fact finding mission about the FIRs and presented incontrovertible evidence of the false nature of the 31 March FIR. The others stand on very weak ground, with the incongruent testimonies of a small set of government officials weighed against consistent accounts of a large number of SPSS workers and other local actors. The local bureaucracy routinely employs FIRs as a strategic tool to quash and silence people’s voices and struggles for justice and are unabashed about being involved in such acts. The fact finding report was handed in person to the DGP, Bihar, in Patna in July 2017 who had issued a written directive to the DIG Muzaffarpur to follow up.

NREGA Sangharsh Morcha stands in solidarity with SPSS and strongly condemns the harassment of its members. It demands the immediate release of Sanjay Sahni, compensation for SPSS members lathi charged by the police and legal action against persons responsible for the harassment.

For more information, please contact Indu Devi (9576114607) or Manjushree Devi (9708901940) or write at nrega.sangharsh.morch@gmail.com. Contact numbers of Muzaffarpur police: 94318 22336 and 9431277673.

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