Free Baba Jan and the 13 environmentalists!
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By Dr Amjad Ayub Mirza 30 April 2019
(Vanguard has received a request to publish an article on the struggle to free revolutionary environmentalists sentenced to 40 years jail in Pakistan. The struggle took place in a part of Jammu and Kashmir that is seeking independence. We know no more of the events, but are happy to show our solidarity with the comrades concerned by publicizing their call for freedom from prison. Several footnotes have been added for clarity.)
Baba Jan and 11 of his comrades-in-arms are serving 40 years double life sentence in Gahokoch Jail in the Pakistan occupied Gilgit Baltistan (1). Baba Jan shot to fame when he began to organise protest meetings against the attempts of the multinationals that were conducting geological survey of the valley of Hunza in order to extract minerals (2).
In January 2010 heavy rains caused a massive landslide that blocked the passage of river in Hunza resulting in the formation of an artificial lake at Attabad. Twenty people died as numerous villages were wiped out due to the landside and the consequent lake. Baba Jan began a campaign for the allocation of compensation to the families of the deceased as well as for the poor affectees knows as ‘Attabad Affectees’.
Despite efforts by Baba Jan the local puppet government of Gilgit Baltistan did not pay any attention to the misery of the displaced and the families of the dead.
Further overflowing of the Hunza River caused further loss of life and property. 19 peoples died bringing the total to 39. More than 100 houses were swept away. During the early period of the disaster the local government had promised to calculate the damage and pay compensation to those who were affected by the disaster. However many months passed and nothing happened.
Using public transport Baba Jan travelled for more than 80 hours to Rawalpindi, Lahore and Karachi holding press conferences and meeting with civil society organisations to highlight the plight of the people of Attabad affectees.
After one year in August 2011 more than 200 families took out a peaceful protest and blocked the main highway at Aliabad that connected Gilgit Baltistan with Pakistan. In order to disperse the crowd the Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), Babar Ali, ordered his troops to open fire on the protestors. A father and a son died as a result of the firing.
This caused huge anger and uproar in the valley of Hunza and wider Gilgit Baltistan. After four days of rioting a case was registered against the police officer. Later if was found that the FIR (3) was bogus and fake and that no arrests were made. Instead the police arrested Baba Jan and his four comrades and charged them under the Terrorism Act for rioting. At the time of the protest that claimed the lives of a father and his son, Baba Jan was out of the city.
While in jail Baba Jan became involved in creating solidarity among the Shia and Sunni prisoners who were kept in segregation from one another. Due to his efforts to establish class solidarity among the Shia and Sunni prisoners Baba Jan along with his four other comrades were brutally tortured in the prison. They were denied any medical attention or treatment. Meanwhile the DSP was promoted and made the Superintendent of police.
The news of torture of Baba Jan and his comrades caused a massive string of protests and in October 2012 the administration was forced to release Baba Jan and his four comrades on bail. The case continued and in September 2014 Baba Jan and 11 other comrades were charged and sentenced to 40 years rigorous imprisonment.
Above-mentioned comrades come from working class and landless farmer families with humble economic means. Tehreek.net is demanding Baba Jan’s immediate and unconditional release and an immediate withdrawal of the fake cases against him and his 11 fellow comrades (4).
Join us at Tehreek.net and help us add weight to the growing pressure on the governments of Pakistan and Gilgit Baltistan to free these sons of the occupied territories of the Himalaya.
(1) Gilgit Baltistan is a disputed part of the occupied and broken state of Jammu and Kashmir that is administered by Pakistan. Since the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947 this region remains divided and occupied by India and Pakistan. The case is lying pending with the United Nations.
(2) For further background to this case, see https://nation.com.pk/14-Jun-2016/baba-jan-s-recognition-as-the-voice-of-gilgit-baltistan-is-threatening-the-agenda-of-the-powers?fbclid=IwAR0CaSj-aHyWPWxN-QJi2CA8rSksDocbZD_CP6KSW_lSxg1MuSdhhLvjsQg
(3) A first information report (F.I.R.) is a written document prepared by police organizations in countries including India, Bangladesh, Pakistan etc. when they receive information about the commission of a cognisable offence…..FIR is an important document because it sets the process of criminal justice in motion. It is only after the FIR is registered in the police station that the police take up investigation of the case.
(4) Tehreek e Itefaq e Rai (Movement for Consensus) is initiating a revolutionary struggle in the occupied lands of Himalaya (Tehreek.net).
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