ON 8 DECEMBER, Aparna Marandi, 28, and her four-year-old son Alok Chandra boarded a train at Ranchi’s Hatia Railway Station to go to Hyderabad, when plainclothes policemen arrested her. Ironically, Aparna was headed for Hyderabad to attend a meeting organised by the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP).
Aparna, working with Video Volunteers, an organisation that trains marginalised communities in journalistic skills, was arrested by the Jharkhand Police along with Baby Turi, 25, panchayat head of Jitpur in Dhanbad district, social activist Sushila Ekka, 38, from Hazaribag and 16-year-old Sushil. Charged with being Maoists, all were hauled to the Dumka Police Station.
On the evening of 10 December, the police let Baby Turi, Ekka and Sushil go, but not before they signed a document stating that they were arrested on 9 December, a day later than the actual date of arrest. Aparna, however, is still languishing in the Dumka prison.
Why was Aparna arrested? Why was the date of arrest of the other three people changed? What made Aparna and her four-year-old child such a threat that the police had to come in plainclothes to arrest her?
Many questions arise as to the real intent of the Jharkhand Police. The answer could perhaps be found in the four-year-long incarceration of Aparna’s husband, Jeetan Marandi. Jeetan is the State Convener of the CRPP, the same organisation whose meeting Aparana was going to attend before she was apprehended.
Jeetan was arrested in 2009 for his alleged involvement in the infamous Chilkari massacre, when Maoists killed 20 people, including the son of former Jharkhand chief minister Babulal Marandi during a football match. Sentenced to death by the lower court in Jharkhand, he was later acquitted by the High Court in December 2011. Yet, thanks to the Jharkhand Crime Control Act (2002), a non-bailable provision used for preventive detention, Jeetan continues to languish in jail for the fourth straight year on various charges. Aparna had been working relentlessly to get her husband released.
Says Stalin K, Managing Trustee at Video Volunteers: “The reason for picking her (Aparna) up seems to be a way of breaking Jeetan to get a false confession out of him. It is embarrassing for the State if they have no charges to prove against him after he has spent four years in jail.” The lawyer from Dumka, who Stalin tried hiring for Aparna, refused to take up her case on the grounds that he will get into trouble. That, says Stalin, is the impact the State has.
The police have detained Aparna in a case, where Maoists set fire to 8-10 vehicles of a crusher site of GVR Constructions on 27 November at Kathikund, Dumka. She has been charged under several sections, including section 17 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act and section 13 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
However, a phone call gives the lie to the police theory that Aparna and her companions were arrested on 9 December. Minutes before the arrest, Baby Turi, one of the arrested, made a phone call to her husband, Damodar Turi. “She called me on 8 December, at around 4 pm, and told me that the ticket collector was not letting them board the train. After that, her phone was switched off,” recalls Damodar.
ACCORDING TO Baby Turi, the policemen posing as railway ticket examiners asked Aparna and her friends to get off the train with their luggage since they were travelling without reservation. They then led them out of the railway station, which is when Baby Turi got suspicious and called her husband.
“They asked us to sign a document, saying we were going to meet Jeetan in jail,” recalls Baby. “We refused. Finally, they agreed to let us go if we signed on the paper that stated 9 December as the day of our arrest.” Moreover, the police violated all laid out procedures in the detention of Aparna and her friends.
Director General of Police, Jharkhand, GS Rath refused to comment on the grounds that the matter was “subjudice” and concerns the Dumka Police, not him. “The conduct of the police is for the court to judge,” he says. SPHemant Topna spoke along similar lines. “No one has formally complained about the irregularities in the arrest procedures,” he says. “If such a thing comes to my notice, we will investigate it.”