Lucknow, 07 September. In a significant breakthrough in CJP and All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP)’s campaign to release Adivasi Human Rights Defenders Sukalo and Kismatiya Gond, the Allahabad High Court has allowed both women to seek ‘judicial remedy’. AIUFWP Treasurer Sukalo and Forest Rights Committee (FRC) Secretary Kismatiya Gond, were produced before the court on September 7 due to a Habeas Corpus petition filed by CJP.
CJP said in a email,
“We are very excited to tell you, our supporters, the outcome of today's court hearing.
As you know, for three months, Adivasi women forest workers and human rights defenders Sukalo and Kismatiya Gond, have been illegally incarcerated under false charges, in what is the State's way of punishing the women who are active in their fight for the proper implementation of the Forest Rights Act (2006).
Today's High Court hearing for our Habeas Corpus petition, that we filed alongside the All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP), has delivered some great news.
The court has given Sukalo and Kismatiya the freedom to seek judicial remedy for their release, meaning they can apply for bail immediately.
Thankfully, Sukalo and Kismatiya were also given the chance to talk with their families, colleagues and fellow union member, and the judges showed compassionate concern for their wellbeing.
We, along with the AIUFWP will move the court for their bail within the next few days, setting in motion the process for their release!
We will not stop fighting until Sukalo and Kismatiya are free, and all false cases against them are quashed!
Our spirit and vigour is fueled by you. Join the movement to continue the fight for Sukalo and Kismatiya, and become part of something big.”
Brief background of the Sukalo and Kismatiya case
Sukalo Gond and Kismatiya Gond, along with Sukhdev Gond and two others were arrested on Friday, June 8. The Sonbhadra (UP) police picked them up in a clandestine manner at the Chopan railway station, when they were returning from a meeting with UP forest minister Dara Singh Chauhan and the forest secretary in Lucknow. In fact, at the meeting, Chauhan had promised to look into previous assaults on villagers in Lilasi that were allegedly conducted in connivance with the forest department. The women’s names were not even mentioned in the FIR.
Sukalo’s and Kismatiya’s ordeal has lasted more than two months. CJP and AIUFWP were compelled to file a Habeas Corpus petition with the Allahabad High Court. Following CJP’s and AIUFWP’s campaign for their release, political parties such as the Congress and the Samajwadi Party have also voiced support for their release on social media and other platforms. Congress President Rahul Gandhi tweeted in August that he was concerned about the women and that local Congress leaders should follow up on the matter. On August 28, the Allahabad High Court haddirected the SP of Sonbhadra police to produce both of them in Court today, September 7. Recently, UP MLA Sanjay Garg met the Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath and submitted a letter informing him of the constant police violence that Sonbhadra villagers have faced. He also highlighted the issue of “painting the [AIUFWP] union in bad light”.
This order from the Allahabad High Court will set in motion the process of their release. The next step is their bail applications in lower court and hopes to get immediate relief.