Amnesty Groups Mobilize for Rights of Indigenous People in India

Kartam Joga

Human rights defender and prisoner of conscience, Kartam Joga.

Since 2005, Chhattisgarh has been at war with armed Maoist insurgents while aggressively pursuing massive and environmentally destructive development projects.

Not surprisingly, human rights have been pushed aside as an impediment to fighting terrorism and as a hindrance to development. Again and again, the Chhattisgarh government has jailed human rights, environmental, and indigenous activists on politically-motivated charges including Binayak Sen, Kartam Joga, Kopa Kunjam, Ramesh Agrawal, Harihar Patel, and most recently Lingaram Kodopi .

It has created and supported armed ant-Maoist militias that the Indian Supreme Court has since ruled unconstitutional. Thousands of locals caught in the crossfire or suspected of being Maoist sympathizers have been killed, tens of thousands have been forced from their homes. Rapes and extrajudicial killings are carried out with impunity.


Sure Binayak Sen Is Free, But What About Kartam Joga?

Kartam Joga, now languishing in jail, copyright: Amnesty International

In a victory for human rights defenders in India, Dr. Binayak Sen was released on bail last week by India’s Supreme Court after appealing his life sentence for sedition and treason. From the beginning, Dr. Sen – a doctor and human rights activist in Chhattisgarh, one of India’s poorest and most violent states – maintained his innocence. During his trial Dr. Sen stated:

“I submit that my prosecution is mala fide; in fact it is a persecution. I am being made an example of by the state government of Chhattisgarh as a warning to others not to expose the patent trampling of human rights taking place in the state.”

In Chhattisgarh and other parts of rural India violence between armed Maoist insurgents, state-sponsored militias, and government security forces have resulted in increased hardship for local residents, mostly poor adivasis. Dr. Sen and other human rights activists have struggled to provide services to locals and highlight the human rights abuses they suffer, often at great risk to their own lives and livelihoods. Take action now to call for the release of Kartam Joga, another human rights activist jailed in Chhattisgarh for his criticism of the state government and advocacy on behalf of civilians caught in the conflict.