Seeking justice and helping rape survivors could now be ‘anti-national’! VS Krishna, co-ordination committee member of Human Rights Forum (HRF), a civil liberties group in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, has been charged under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), Sedition, Arms Act and several other charges by the Andhra Pradesh police on November 22 and 24. VS Krishna has been actively pursuing justice for 11 Adivasi women allegedly raped by the anti-Naxal police force in Andhra Pradesh in 2007. The police has accused Krishna of being a Maoist and coercing the rape survivors into “falsely testifying” against the police personnels. A GroundXero report.
The Vakapalli rape incident took place eleven years ago on August 20, 2007, in the undivided Andhra Pradesh, when 13 personals of the anti-Naxal police force — the Greyhounds, raided the Vakapalli hamlet, under Nurmati panchayat in Visakhapatnam, and allegedly raped at gunpoint 11 Adivasi women belonging to the Kondh tribe. Two of the survivors have died since then, but the remaining nine Adivasi Women have been fighting a prolonged legal battle to get justice. It was only after a decade, in September 2018, the SC/ST Special Court at Visakhapatnam started the hearing in the case, following Supreme Court orders. The trial started last year in 2019. Several civil rights activists, including Krishna, fought for the justice of the rape survivors in courts. Speaking to Newsclick, HRF general secretary VS. Krishna had in 20218 said “These Adivasi women did not allow themselves to be intimidated despite consistent attempts by the police and the government side who wanted them to retract from the case,” said Krishna.
Krishna has been booked by two different police — Visakhapatnam rural police and Pidugurala police for “indulging in violent activities against the law” along with 26 others. Police said that all 27 of them mentioned in the FIR were part of the banned Maoist party.
Refuting the accusations against Krishna and the other members, HRF in a statement said that the cases against them were “clearly an exercise in intimidation to stifle lawful dissent and protest.” The statement added “HRF, along with several other organisations, have provided them (survivors) with food and shelter to be able to depose in the trial. It is certainly not a crime to provide food and shelter to Adivasi women witnesses who have come from remote areas to depose in a criminal trial mandated by the law. It is because of this solidarity and sustained rights activism that the police are now seeking to intimidate VS Krishna in what we believe to be a clear case of vindictiveness. They have gone to the extent of invoking the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, which is draconian legislation that mocks fundamental freedoms.”
On the police accusation of HRF being a Maoist frontal organisation, the human right group said, “HRF is not a surrogate or front of any political party. We were formed in 1998 with the firm conviction that a broad-based and truly independent human rights movement is desirable and possible. We believe that the essence of human rights is the notion of equality in human value and worth. HRF shall continue to work for the protection of constitutionally/internationally recognised rights of the people and for the right of the people to propose and strive for new rights that are not yet recognised in national or international law. We will continue to endeavour in spreading a human rights culture in society. We demand that the fabricated accusations in the FIRs be immediately dropped.”
The Ganatantrik Adhikar Surakhya Sangathan (GASS), Odisha, has also issued a statement condemning the arrest of human right activists including VS Krishna. The organisation said “the two FIRs filed by the AP police against Krishna and others alleging that they were ‘influencing the Vakapalli rape survivors to depose falsely against the policemen’ are patently false. Instead of investigating the allegation of rape and bringing culprits before the court, if the AP police invokes UAPA against the rights activists for their support to the survivors, then can it be called democracy?” The group demanded that all these fabricated cases slapped against VS Krishna and others be withdrawn immediately.