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After a year in jail, Jharkhand activist facing sedition charges granted bail

Last year, Gujarat ATS officials had arrested Kachchap and 2 others for allegedly conspiring to instigate followers of Satipati cult for violent uprising against the state government
Last Updated : 03 August 2021, 12:52 IST

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After languishing in Surat jail for over a year on sedition charges and "waging war against the nation," the Gujarat High Court on Tuesday granted bail to Jharkhand resident and tribal activist Babita Kachchap, said to be associated with the Pathalgadi movement. The Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) had arrested her along with two other associates- Samu and Birsa Oreya- in July 2020 from Tapi and Mahisagar districts in south Gujarat for allegedly inciting locals tribals "to wage war" against the government to asset tribal rights over resources.

High Court judge S H Vora pronounced the order on Tuesday granting relief to Kachchap, 34. The court allowed the petition and ordered to release her on bail on executing a bond of Rs20,000 with one surety of the like amount to the satisfaction of trial court. Kachchap was arrested by ATS officials on July 24, 2020. She moved high court in February this year through advocate AA Zabuawala after a sessions court rejected her bail plea.

While considering her plea for bail, justice Vora noted that the FIR against her is primarily based on cases registered in her home state Jharkhand. "No actual violence or breach of peace occurred at any point of time and more particularly during her presence in the state of Gujarat and the FIR in question is registered only on account of other similar offences registered in the state of Jharkhand," the order states. It says that the state government hasn't challenged her submission that cases against her were withdrawn by the Jharkhand government.

The order also says that material seized from her is anyway available on internet and no other incriminating material was pointed out "to infer that an attempt is made on the part of the applicant to make out an offence punishable under section 121 (A) (waging war against the nation), 124 (A) (sedition) of IPC on the face of the material itself." The order also mentions that witnesses' statements "do not indicate that on account of raising voice by the applicant in the line of her interpretation of fifth schedule, there is any overt act or any response from anyone in public and therefore, presence of mens rea which is essential element to make out an offence under section 124 A and 153 (a) (promoting enmity between different groups) of IPC is not available on record."

Last year, Gujarat ATS officials had arrested Kachchap and two others, said to be activists of "Pathalgadi movement", for allegedly conspiring to instigate followers of Satipati cult for violent uprising against the state government. The FIR stated that an intelligence input was received that "Babita Kachhap is involved in instigating the followers of Satipati cult to violent means in pursuit of their objectives. The intelligence input further indicated that her area of activity is Kevadia (seat of Statue of Unity), Dahod and Chhota-Udepur.” Her two other accomplices Samu and Birsa Oreya were active in Vyara.

The FIR alleged that the trio were "instigating" the tribal followers of Satipati cult by wrong interpretation of the Vth Schedule of the Constitution of India and Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA)." This act provides for the rights to territorial integrity to tribal panchayats whose permission is required for any development on the land. This law prevents land transfer to non-tribals but there have been several instances of misuse of the law in the state. Satipati movement denounces the government of India and doesn't believe in its laws. The followers believe that they have the sovereign right over the forest and other natural resources.

Satipati movement has remained non-violent in the state which originated from Vyara in Tapi district led by Kunwar Keshri Singh. On the other hand, Pathalgadi movement, which also seeks Adivasi rights over the resources by self-rule and prohibits outsiders, has turned violent several times. Pathalgadi has originated from Khunti district in Jharkhand, the birthplace of tribal icon Birsa Munda.

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Published 03 August 2021, 12:52 IST

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