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PEOPLES’ ARTIST JEETAN DEMANDS JUSTICE!

jitenmarandi.jpg
The one who gave cultural expression to the pain and anguish of the working people and their struggles... who moved around with his cultural troupe from the fields, factories and mines to the villages, suburbs, and cities singing songs on peoples' culture... he who rekindled the hopes of Hul-Ulgulan -rebellion against exploitation- for the rights over Jal-Jangal-Zameen and life among the oppressed and discriminated adivasis and the labouring people... he who filled the hearts of the people, plundered and deceived by the government, with a craving for social transformation to reclaim the right to a life of dignity, land and wellbeing... one who became the lyrical consciousness of the struggle to build a new society and a new power, the struggle of light against darkness, of the hungry against hunger... 

...such an artist, Jeetan Marandi, is pronounced guilty of murder after implicating him in false cases and accusations under a well thought-out conspiracy. An innocent is condemned to death on 23 June 2011 for the crime of murder which he did not commit. The one who has always made the drum, the flute, the pen his weapon has become the target of the so-called 'war against terror', condemned to the gallows on the basis of trumped-up-charges and fabricated witnesses.

As a peoples' artist, he has walked the same trail in upholding peoples' culture that was blazed by Kabir, Ravidas, Premchand and Nagarjun... He espoused the spirit and resolve of the teachings of the martyrs Sidhu-Kanu, Birsa Munda and Bhagat Singh. This is what the forces of darkness could not tolerate.

The famous peoples'-musician Shailendra wrote years back:

"Bhagat Singh, don't take birth as Indian this time,

Even today, the punishment for loving your country is death!"

Indeed, this is what is happening with Jeetan Marandi! Because he too had ignited the flames of cultural resistance against the state machinery and the ruling-class culture that has mortgaged the people's sovereignty, independence and democracy.

Let us be part of the mass upsurge against this grave injustice! Let us all unitedly demand justice for Jeetan Marandi and to revoke his death sentence!

An appeal from:

Dr. B. P. Kesari (Senior Writer), Sten Swamy (Human Rights Activist), Sashi Bhushan Pathak (PUCL), Anil Anshuman (Cultural artist), Prof. Ravi Bhushan (Writer), Dr. Rose Kerketta (Linguist), Dr. Shambhu Badal (Editor, 'Prasang'), Prof. Vidya Bhushan (Writer), Meghnath (Film-maker), Nirmala Putul (Poet), Shishir Tudu (Writer), Prof. Maya Prasad (Writer), Mukund Nayak (Peoples' Artist), Prof. Ramesh Sharan (Economist), Sudhirpal (Journalist), Prof. Mithilesh (Teachers' Leader), Virendra (Editor, 'Gotia'), Sitaram Sastri (Social Activist), Sanjaya Basu Mallick (Jangal Bachao Andolan), Dayamani Barla (Social Activist), , P. P. Verma (Social Activist), Arvind Avinash (Nagarik Adhikar Andolan), Xavier Kujur (JGSM), Sunil Minz (Journalist), Aloka (IPTA), K. N. Pandit (VVJVA), Damodar Turi (VVJVA), Sunita (AIPWA), Jharkhand Jan Sanskriti Manch, Jharkhand Bachao Andolan, Jangal Bachao Andolan, Jharkhand Alternative Development Forum, Trivani Singh (Editor, 'JanJwar'), Munni Kachap, (Mahila Ulgulan Sangh), Aarti Kujur,(Member,Jila Parisad), Sambhu Mahto(CPI(ML)), Keya Dey(All India Mahila Sanskritik Sanghatan, SUCI), arun Jyoti(social activist), Sudhir Tete( social activist), Amar Kumar (Advocate, Ranchi Civil Court), Susanto Chaterji (Marxvadi Samanvay Samiti), Ahmad Rajja(Advocate,HRLN), KD Singh( CPI, Joint State Secretary), Rajdev Prasad Chandarvansi (Advocate), Hul Jharkhand Kranti Dal, Anjani Pandey (CPI(ML))

 

JoinPEOPLES' CONVENTION

11 am - 5 pm, 12 November '11,

Social Development Center (SDC) Hall, Purulia Road, Ranchi

Organised by

Forum for the Release of Peoples' Artist Jeetan

Contact: Sashi Bhusan Pathak, D.T. 1070, Dhrva, Ranchi, Jhakhand, Mob. 9431364285/9939081857

 












Jiten Marandi - The Fate of an Openly Political Cultural Activist

September 18, 2011

September 18, 2011

by Prasant Haldar (Translated by Amit Basole)

[Jiten Marandi is a cultural activist from Jharkhand and also one of the secretaries of Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners. He was arrested in 2008 and accused by the police of being involved in the murder of 20 villagers, including the son of former Jharkhand chief minister Babulal Marandi, in Chilkari in 2007. He was sentenced to death in June 2011 by a lower court in Jharkhand. He has been an active participant in the movements against forcible land acquisitions in Jharkhand - and was actually arrested while he was on the way back from one such rally organized by the Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikash Andolan, almost an year after the killings. The police chargesheeted him under various clauses of the penal code, and it has also been alleged that false witnesses were brought forth during the trial, leading to the death-sentence. This case falls into the larger pattern of victimization of the cultural political activists as well as those adivasi voices who are resisting the various injustices being inflicted by the state. The following article, written in Hindi, is one of the first detailed expositions of the case. - Ed]

Click here for reading the article (in Hindi)

One may recall that recently when a Raipur court sentenced Dr. Binayak Sen, the human rights activist from Chhattisgarh, to life imprisonment, protests came from all corners of the world. Subsequently the Supreme Court granted him bail. Now, after a court in Jharkhand's Giridih district has sentenced folk artist Jiten Marandi together with Manoj Rajwar, Chhatrapati Mandal and Anil Ram to death, protests have again gained strength. Reactions are being expressed form different directions.

This sentence has been handed down for a massacre that took place on 26 Oct, 2007 in Chilkhari village of Jharkhand's Giridih district in which Anup Marandi, the son of ex-Chief Minister Babulal Marandi was killed along with 19 others. It is said that the massacre was carried out by the Maoists. It is beyond dispute that whoever was responsible for it, it was a reprehensible act which cannot be condemned enough. But it would be even worse if innocents are punished instead of the perpetrators.

After this incident, on 28th Oct. an FIR was registered by one Puran Kisku, the bodyguard of Nunulal Marandi, borther of Babulal Marandi, accusing one Jiten Marandi and ten others. But no details were given regarding the hometown or father's name of the accused. Subsequently, on 29th Oct, the Ranchi-based daily "Prabhat Khabar" published a news item with the headline "Naxalite Attackers Identified" and named Jiten Marandi as the leader of the squad that carried out the killings and also alleged that he had participated in a rally of the Committee for Release of Political Prisoners. The newspaper also published his photograph. The very next day, that is on 30th Oct, Prabhat Khabar published a correction to the news item saying that the Jiten Marandi depicted in the photograph is not the same as the one named in the FIR. The person in the photograph is the one who recently gave a speech in a rally for the release of political prisoners and who often participates in such programs. The newspaper apologized for the serious mistake.

Along with correcting their mistake Prabhat Khabar also brought to light he fact that there are two people named Jiten Marandi. There was turmoil among the police. This revelation had put a question mark on their claim that they had identified the accused. This was published in other newspapers and the news eventually ran out of steam.

All of a sudden, five months later, on 5th April 2008, on Rachi's Ratu Road, plain clothes policemen arrested the same Jiten Marandi who had spoken at the rally for release of political prisoners. Delivering an inflammatory speech and causing road blocks were given as reasons for his arrest. He was sent to Hatwar Jail in Ranchi. Before he could get bail, on 12th April Giridih police remanded him to custody for the Chilkhari massacre. Rendering the correction offered by Prabhat Khabar meaningless, the police made him an accused in this matter.

Aparna Marandi, Jiten's wife along with several groups from Jharkhand, spoke out that Jiten Marandi was being framed and that he was innocent. These claims of innocence were made much before the handing down of the death sentence. Ever since the arrest, people have been saying that he has been framed making use the fact that he shares a name with a Naxalite. Dr. Sawa Ahmad, vice-president of Jharkhand Vikas Morcha and aslo an ex-minster asked for a CID investigation into the Chilkhari incident alleging that: "the police have arrested cultural worker Jiten Marandi instead of another person of the same name. To save their own skins, the police have ensnared innocent Jiten in half a dozen Naxalite cases." These are not just empty allegations. Many things become clear if we pay attention to the dramatic nature of his arrest, the police diaries, the court hearing and the witnesses.

In Paragraph 37 of the log for Case 167/07, relating to an incident in Devri, one finds written that "A report was prepared by the Devri police station to be sent to the Station In-Charge at Nimiyaghat, in Dist. Giridih in the form of letter no. 205/08, dated 21-2-2008, which asked that a search and arrest warrant by issued in the name of the accused Jiten Marandi aka Shyamlal Kisku, son of Kati Kisku, village Thosaphuli, police station Nimiyaghat, Dist. Giridih." It is clear that instead of arresting the Jiten Marandi that police was searching for, they arrested a Jiten Marandi who is the son of Budhan Marandi and is from the village Karando (Chilga) which falls under police station Peertaand, Dist. Giridih.

Before his arrest, a new story was concocted. On 25 Feb. 2008, three new witnesses are introduced, Moti Ram, Pati Ray and Sukhdev Marandi. In their testimonies to the police two Jiten Marandi's are mentioned, one form Nimiyaghat and the other from Peertaand, the later running Jharkhan A-one (a cultural organization). In this way this other Jiten Marandi is dragged into the case, a mistake for which Prabhat Khabar had earlier apologized. Even though earlier witnesses had named only one Jiten Marandi without any information on the name of the father or the name of the hometown. A statement (no. 164) had also been filed to this effect with the Magistrate.

This was the plan that brought Jiten Marandi from Peertand into the list of accused. After this, on 12 April 2008 the Giridih police arrested him and with lightening speed by 30 June 2008 had filed a chargesheet on him which even denied the possibility of bail. All the case registered against the Jiten Marandi that police were originally looking for, were now dumped on this one. All these cases are false, because they are naming someone else. For example Peertaand police station case no. 42/08 was attached to him when in fact at the time of that incident he was already in jail for some other reason. Another case in which he was charge-sheeted, Teesri police station case no. 44/03 is also false because at the time of that incident he had been arrested while participating in a program in Patna. Despite all this, citing S.P. supervision as the reason, after his arrest he was trapped in jail.

The process of witnesses giving testimonies during the trial was also filled with conspiracy. The three witnesses who had first brought two different Jiten Marandi's into the case made an about-face in the court and refused to take any names. Because the police had not received their testimonies in front of a magistrate, this change in their stance became possible. Thus the entire process can be called premeditated by the police. In reality all that the police needed from these witnesses was to bring two people named Jiten Marandi into the picture so that Jiten Marandi from Peertand could be targeted. Now that a charge-sheet had been filed by the police against only the Jiten Marandi from Peertand, a court testimony about two Jiten Marandis being involved would put a question mark on the police charge-sheet itself. So, the witnesses were called just to complete the formality of testifying and were let go.

The remaining two witness who had attested to only one Jiten Manradi being involved, now became important. Because they had not supplied either a father's name or an address for the accused. To make this inadequate testimony complete it was essential that the witnesses identify Jiten Marandi. This is what the police made them do. But this identification was not done via an identification parade as is the normal practice. Rather the witnesses were asked to identify him in court.

In this regard Jiten Marandi had already informed the court in writing that the witnesses had been coached in who he was before he was produced in court, which was an entirely unjust act. This is how he described the incident: "On 24th March, 2009, when all the accused in the Devri incident no. 167/07, that is, Session Trail No. 170/08 reached the court and were all sitting the session lock-up, the Station Chief of Giridih Town came there and he called me and asked my name etc. In return I asked him to identify himself upon which he told me that he was the Chief of Giridih Town police station, although at the time he was in plain clothes and there was no indication as to his office. After some time, I was singled out and asked to start walking, to be produced in court. I asked why the others were not coming with me and I was told "stop asking questions and move." When i came out of the Session lock-up I saw a crowd of people, among them the police chief. He pointed to me and told the others, "this is Jiten Marandi, make sure you recognize him." Subsequently the other accused followed me to the court of Hon.Judge Mohd. Kasim Ansari. There too, people saw me carefully and the clerk tried to take me back without getting me to sign in the court register. When I asked in a loud voice, why I had been brought here, I also had to listen to a warning from the judge. I accepted my mistake and apologized. Meanwhile the others also reached there, signed and were returned to the session lock-up. After returning the others told me that all the people standing outside were witnesses in session trial no. 170/08. They knew this because some of them were neighbors of the other accused. These were the witnesses produced on 1 April 2009. Two of them Moti Sau and Subodh Sau appeared in court and identified me."

Jiten Marnsi's description rings true because the people who identified him in court were all either miles away at the time of the incident in which he is accused or were from from villages Teesri and Gavaan which are far from Jiten's village. If they had not seen him ever before of course it was impossible to identify him in court. During cross-examination when they were asked how they knew Jiten, they replied that he often came to their village with a (Maoist) Squad. If this was true why had they not notified the police about this earlier? It also appears that these witnesses are all workers of the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha whose leader is Babular Marandi himself. Not only that, they have several criminal cases against them and they have also been witnesses is several prior trials.

This raises the question, why did the police select such witnesses? Was there not a single person in the village of Chilkhari or in the Devri area who was an eye-witness to the incident? So much so that even the wounded who testified in court did not name any person as culprit. Puran Kisku who had registered the FIR, had also not named any person as responsible. But the court accepted as incontrovertible the testimony of those witnesses who are suspect on many grounds.

It should be emphasized that since his arrest Jiten Marandi as been speaking out in different ways about the police harrasment meted out to him and his implication under false charges. While in jail he has sent petitions requesting justice to the sessions court in Giridih, the DM, SP, IG, the Chief Justice of the Ranchi high court as well as the National Human Rights Commission in New Delhi. But his calls have fallen on deaf years and no one has asked for an investigation into the matter.

The key question is, why have the police and the government targeted Jiten Maandi? So far people have known him as a folk artist and an activist in popular movements. People have seen him sing and dance to the rhythm of a dholak. They have seen him with children, carrying art to various cities and villages, winning people's hearts. Cassettes of his songs in Khorta, Santhali Nagpuri are found playing in various neighborhoods. Why has this man been declared a gun-totting Maoist?

In fact his cultural expressions and his thoughts are at the root of the problem. In his writings and songs one finds the pain of starvation, loot and displacement going on in Jharkhand today, and one finds an attack on the system that is responsible for it. His songs are the voice of popular resistance. This is the source of his popularity and the cause of the government's anger. He has been arrested while leading workers' movements, sent to jail for participating in anti-government protests, and accused of inflammatory speech. Despite this he has continued awakening the masses. Whether it the issue was displacement or corporate loot Jiten Marandi was there with his troupe. He was there in the fight to release political prisoners. Perhaps it became difficult for the government to tolerate this man who was becoming the emblem of popular resistance in Jharkhand. It became necessary to silence this voice of opposition. It became even more urgent to suppress him because his voice was becoming a weapon in the resistance against the loot of jal-jungle-zamin and mineral resources by national and multinational corporations. Every act of repression was making it even more potent. This is the truth behind the conspiracy against Jiten Marandi, this is the reality of Jharkhand today.