Wednesday, February 25, 2009, (
A prominent activist, Shamim Modi, was arrested in Madhya Pradesh on alleged charges of kidnapping, setting a glaring example of atrocities against those who fight for the rights of the poor, tribals and Dalits.
The tribals from Betul and Harda are demanding the release of Modi.
The Madhya Pradesh government, acting under pressure from local goons and officials, accused Modi of anti-national activities and the court also denied him bail.
"In the case that was put up before the session judge, nowhere is it mentioned that she indulges in anti-state activities. But her bail was rejected by the judge on that very ground. This is very serious and a dangerous sign," said Raghvendra Patel, advocate, Jabalpur High Court.
Modi has been running the Shramik Aadivasi Sangathan for 18 years. The organisation fights for tribals' rights to land, water and forest.
In 2007, forest officials started forcibly evicting tribals. This escalated into violence. When Modi's organisation went to file a case, they faced police brutality.
Four tribals were illegally detained and Shamim was charged with kidnapping them.
In the list of those kidnapped was Phoolwati, a social worker and member of Shramik Aadivasi Sangathan.
"They have accused her of kidnapping me. She is innocent and was doing a good job. They have thrown her in jail," she said.
Social workers said that over the last two years, Shamim was successful in mobilising tribal and Dalit workers who form the main labour force in local factories.
The industrial association, which felt threatened, then forced the government to resurrect the two-year-old kidnapping case and arrest Shamim.
The arrest seems to be an act of retaliation against Shamim Modi for helping the weakest to fight for their rights. It is also an attempt perhaps to silence the voice. But the trend of branding social activist as anti-state people, sometime also as Naxalities, may have dangerous consequences.