I just received word that an old friend and fine activist, Bay Area teacher Dave Pugh, has been detained by the Indian police while investigating struggles of Indian peasants and tribal people in Orissa who are protesting displacement resulting from rapacious mining and industrial development. His guide and translator were also detained.
We don't do this much at FotM, but I urgently request that folks read the press release after the fold, which has information on how to contact the Indian government to demand the release of the trio. There is an Orissa government email address, and fax and phone numbers for Orissa and for the central government. Please help let these these officials know that Dave's friends and the broader progressive community in the US are watching.
Also, when you do take action, please let us know so we can track and coordinate the protest and let folks in India who are defending those detained know what's up here. Also please cc any email protests or announcements to GN Saibaba, who is working actively on their defense. His email is janadolan(at)gmail(dot)com.
UPDATE: Some of the phone and fax numbers in the original press release did not work. We have retained those we believe are correct. Keep an eye on this space for further updates.
THE PRESS RELEASE
Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan
The Orissa police detained Mr. David Pugh, a teacher from US on 12th August along with advocate Miss Protima Das and an anti-displacement activist Mr.Pradeep who accompanied him assisting in translation and showing the area in Kalinganagar and Sukinda on their way back to Bhubaneswar.
They were taken to Badchan Police station near Chandikhol. Mr. David Pugh was kept for 5 hours in the police custody from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. in night. He was mentally tortured illegally. After that they released him and asked to stay back for interrogation again on 13th August in the afternoon. Miss Pratima and Mr. Pradeep are being kept under detention.
Mr. David Pugh visited Kaliganagar and Sukinda to see the Industrialization and its effects on the People and the movement against industrialization and mining. Miss. Protima Das was requested to help Mr. David Pugh as translator and Mr. Pradeep as guide as he belongs to the Sukinda. They all had gone to Kalinganagar after attending a People's Tribunal on Displacement, Sez and Corporate Violence in Orissa organized in Bhubaneswar by Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan, an anti-displacement front of movements from various parts of India including that of Orissa. Activists from all areas in Orissa had come to explain their conditions of destitution and destruction at the People's Tribunal.
Amin Maharana, a Central Council member of Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan is also suspected to be detained by the Police from Bhubaneswar. He is an Environmental and anti-Displacement activist working in Sukinda area for many years now. He is a cultural performer. He has written many songs about people's devastation due to displacement and also released an audio CD on the issue.
The Government of Orissa has been unleashing brutal repression on the anti-displacement movement for the last two years. The detentions are part of the larger plans of the Government to coerce the people to accept the displacement and give up their lands.
We appeal to all democrats to immediately intervene and put pressure on the Govermenent of Orissa to release Miss. Pratima, Mr. Pradeep and Mr. Amin Maharan, (if he is also arrested) without subjecting them to any kind of harassment.
We demand the Government of Orissa to immediately release Miss Pratima Das, Mr. Pradeep and Mr. Amin Maharana and stop harassing Mr. David Pugh.
Mr. David Pugh is again taken into custody at 2 pm now and being interrogated at Bhubaneswar hotel in Bhubaneswar by the police officials.
NOTE: All numbers are as dialed from outside of India.
Chief Secretary & Chief Development Commissioner of Orissa: 011-91-674 - 2536700 Phone,
Chief Secretary & Chief Development Commissioner of Orissa: 011-91-674 - 2536700 (Fax)
FOR THE INDIAN NATIONAL GOVERNMENT
The Prime Minister's Office
South Block, Raisina Hill,
New Delhi, India-110 011.
Fax: 011-91-11-23019545 / 011-91-11-23016857.
(This is not a template and identical letters will not help Dave much, but it suggests one approach that you might take to get these folks sprung. The most important thing is that a stream of faxes, emails and phone calls be directed at the Indian authorities.)
Subject: The Matter of David Pugh
Dear Chief Secretary & Chief Development Commissioner
As an acquaintance of Dave Pugh for many years, I was shocked to get notice that he has been detained--evidently without charges--in Orissa.
The press release forwarded to me indicated that he was "mentally tortured illegally." I do not know what this consisted of, but I am extremely alarmed. Were drugs given him or needed medications withheld?
The government of United States, where I am a citizen, has brought lasting shame on itself by torturing detainees. One would hope that India has not stooped to such a level.
Further I understand that Dave's guide and translator--a Miss Pratima Das and a Mr. Pradeep--have been detained for helping him to understand the situation and struggles of Indians protesting displacement resulting from mining and manufacturing,
Surely in a country like India, which prides itself on its democratic traditions, helping foreign visitors understand even complex and awkward social reality is not considered a crime.
I urge you in the strongest possible terms to cease hounding David Pugh and to release those who were helping him immediately. I request reassurance that this is being dealt with without delay.
I will be communicating with other friends of Dave and, if necessary, with elected officials here, to see that this matter is resolved.
With great concern,