THE CHHATTISGARH government remains indifferent towards the 10-day group fast started by social activist, Dr Sandeep Pandey, at Raipur, the state capital, which has entered seventh day. The protest was started protesting against the black law in the state, under which activists like Dr Binayak Sen, Ajay TG and others were arrested a year ago.

While the morale of those fasting in protest, including Magsaysay Award winner Dr Sandeep Pandey, Prem Narain Verma, Ram Prakash and Faizal Khan was very high and optimistic, the BJP Government in the state demonstrated its total indifference towards democratic and peaceful method of those protesting against the arrests.

Expressing concern at the growing ruthless character of the state, Sandeep Pandey said that the failure of the state to listen to the voices of peaceful protest and respond to the people’s cries are the major reasons for resorting to extra-parliamentary means by the victims of injustice and violence.

He took severe objection to the article entitled ’Gandhi! Tum Nikal Bhago Chadm Gandhivadiyon ke Beech se’ (Gandhi! You must escape from the midst of pseudo-Gandhians!) by Vishwaranjan, director general of police of Chhattisgarh, appearing in the Hari Bhoomi daily published from Raipur, the capital city of Chhattisgarh. He alleged that the timing of this article’s publication authored by the DGP of the state itself reflects the BJP government’s attitude of targeting and branding all those voices of dissent that do not toe the official line.

In this article, the DGP has poked fun at the group fasting and those participating in it. The DGP has also categorised Dr Sandeep Pandey, a known Gandhian social worker who has led a very courageous people’s struggle by peasants and women in Uttar Pradesh (UP) against Coca Cola, as a pseudo-Gandhian. He included the names of Kanak Tiwari, senior advocate and a Gandhian intellectual and Himanshu, a Gandhian social worker of Vanvasi Chetna Ashram working among tribals in Dantewara for the past three decades in that category.

According to the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), while it should be left to all those targeted by the DGP to respond individually to the vilification campaign against them, it is not lost on all those who have been following the BJP government’s attempt at “targeting” and “branding” of the human rights defenders and rights-based organisations with an ulterior motive to silence their voices of dissent and democracy.

In a statement issued, PUCL has also strongly condemned the district administration’ s insensitivity in dispatching the fasting and protesting groups and individuals to Burha Talab at Raipur, which is also the dumping ground for garbage and dust collected from the capital by contractors and civil administration.

In spite of repeated requests, the Raipur Municipal Corporation (RMC) has failed to clear the vicinity from such foul-smelling garbage that is the breeding ground for mosquitoes and more likely cause for epidemics like cholera and gastroenteritis.

The PUCL and other participating organisations have decided to make this an issue, and get the ground cleared for all times. According to the PUCL, scant regard for the democratic and peaceful protest demonstrates BJP government’s authoritarian tendencies.

The PUCL has also expressed concern that the district administration has not yet conducted any medical check-up on the fasting individuals. It has also not provided any protection to the protestors although written information has been provided to the district administration about the fasting group.

Menawhile, 47 members of Ekta Parishad (Kanker) led by Ratneshwar Nath joined in the 24-hours dharna/chain fasting, nine members of Baiga Mahapanchayat (Lormi) led by Rashmi Diwedi, while nine members from Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha (Jamul) led by Sudha Bhardwaj completed their 24-hours fasting.

Hundreds of people in many countries including India, Pakistan, USA, UK, Srilanka, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Australia and UAE are fasting for 1-10 days from 16-25 June in support of Dr Binayak Sen.