Parivartan had been doing sustained rationalist activities for more than 10 years. Below you will find a statement of what they had to suffer at the hands of the Baroda Police. Since the problem concerns the larger issue of relationship between social workers and Police Department as well as erosion of civil liberties please respond to their appeal and appropriately condemn the police atrocities on "Parivartan" volunteers.

Please give due publicity to this incident at various forums and news papers to generate effective public opinion against a pernicious trend much evident in contemporary INDIA.

For the past ten years PARIVARTAN has been struggling against superstitions and blind beliefs that has been crippling our society. The organisation strives to build and inculcate a scientific and rational temper among people, with the use of street plays, film shows, slide shows, lectures, posters, pamphlets etc., since the past two years, Parivartan has also been publishing a magazine "Dish" to aid in the process of social awareness. This magazine is published on Kali Chaudas (a day before Diwali, when it is widely believed that cremation grounds become the meeting place for ghosts and spirits.)

Muljibhai Rabari, a resident of Sahayog Apartments in the Akota area of Baroda, is a self-proclaimed traditional witch-doctor and has been operating as one, since the past three years. Muljibhai and his son are apparent experts at curing illnesses, staving off misfortunes and so on. He addresses the varied complaints of the people at his residence, by involving "Leelagiri Mata" a goddess, in whose name he has also converted his residence into a temple. These ceremonies are accompanied by the beating of cymbals, loud chanting etc.

The residents of Sahayog Apartments began to resent these continuously increasing and disturbing activities. Their complaints are that it creates a fear among the children, it disturbs students persuing their studies during the night and that it also hampers their sleep during night time. The "healing" powers of the witch-doctor attracts great number of people who spread a lot of filth and dirt in the area.

Encouraged by a press-note issued by "Parivartan" against a child-sacrifice in Thana, Maharashtra, the residents of the adjacent area approached them to discuss the problem and to plan some action against him. Before this the residents of the area had complained to the police and a report was published in "Loksatta" a local news paper. But to no avail. Muljibhai continued the disturbances and his business flourished.

The "Parivartan" activists, when approached, decided to assist the local people. A meeting took place on 16th May 1988, in which it was decided to protest against the witch-doctor using pamphlets, posters and slogans painted on nearby walls. Besides, a silent demonstration was also planned in front of the witch-doctor's residence. Accordingly, these plans were put into action on 24th May, when approximately 150 men and women gathered to participate in the demonstration.

The second demonstration was held on 31st May, at 7 p.m. When we reached the place, we saw two motor-cycles belonging to the police. Our posters displayed the objective of wielding people away from blind beliefs and imbibing a scientific spirit among people. Our demonstration was staged in a manner that did not obstruct either traffic or people going to and fro into Muljibhai's residence. There was no slogan shouting either. In the mean time, two civil clothes policemen emerged from Muljibhai's house and left on their vehicles. Within ten minutes the Jetalpur PSI Mr.Kadel appeared on his motor-cycle, with some other police-men. This posse of police men then consulted the Sayajigunj police station, after which, in few minutes, Mr.Parmar, the SP, came to the scene with fifteen to seventeen police men in a matador. These police men started creating an atmosphere of terror with brutal abuses and by beating their lathies all over the place. Mr.parmer was a part of the group of policemen who attacked the "Parivartan" activists and the other men, women and children. One of the activist's was slapped on the face and the poster which he held was suddenly snatchd away. Everyone was then ordered to get into the matador - after which it was declared "leave the 'lookhios' behind, only the 'lookhas' need be taken. (Lookha is an insulting colloquial term meaning loafer). Saying this, the policemen pulled the women seated in the matador. Mr.Parmar rushed to the silently standing women and berated them in highly sexy and insulting language.

All the activists thus caught were taken to the Sayajiganj police station where they were treated inhumanly. The requests of the activists to allow them to seek legal and other help fell on deaf ears. The police was obviously confused at the questions asked by the journalists who were present and also the activists regarding sections under which they had been arrested; besides, the police was not able to give us a copy of the F.I.R.

After this, the S.P. Mr.Parmar called them to his office and delivered a 45 minutes long speech, interspersed with abuses and blatant communal and casteist comments. Mr.Parmar angrily asked the activists if they had ever thought of preventing muslim from reading the "Namaz" on trains and he objected to some other muslim customs. With these communal questions, he tried to derogate the stand taken by "Parivartan". Mr.Parmar repeatedly insisted that "Parivartan" is a group of foolish persons. An inspector seated there, Mr. Brambhatt clearly stated that the witch-doctor's activities would not stop.

There were no arrangements for either food or tea during the night long stay in the police chowky. these requirements had to be taken care of by us. On first June, a number of us were handcuffed and taken to the court, despite protests, Kamlaben, one of the women activists was placed with the others (men), in the absence of a woman constable.

We were arrested under the following sections of the Indian Penal Code:

i)   143 Unlawful assembly.
ii)  147 creation of disturbance.
iii) 295(A) 298 slogan mongering etc., to incite people against the
     religious beliefs of a particular sect.
iv)  341 and 342 purposeful attempt at detention of a person in his
v)   504 internal disturbance of peace in an area.

Some of the questions raised by the points given above:

1) It is clear that the various sections clamped down upon the activists are without foundation whatsoever, and have been used to demoralise those protesting against the harmful activities of the witch-doctor.

2) The constitutional Articles 51(A)(H) instructs the Government to attempt to nurture a scientific temper in society. But organisations determined to work in this direction are crushed by the various Government agencies with brute force.

3) According to Article 19(n) 47 of the constitution, right to perform silent demonstrations is fundamental right of the citizen in a democratic state. But this right, like other fundamental rights, is being greatly determined today.

4) The nexus between the police and the reactionary forces portend ill for the future.

5) The attitude of the police towards social activists, is very insulting. Some collective protest against this is essential.

6) Can protests against practices, that endanger blind faith, be interpreted as being harmful towards a particular religious sect?

In the above incident, at no stage, have the activists used slogans or posters that express opposition towards any religion or community.

PARIVARTAN, Govindarao Dev's Wada, Pratap Road, Raopura,

Vadodara - 390 001 (Gujarat)

Protest in this regard may be sent to:

1. The Chief Minister, Gujarat State, Vidhan Soudha, Gandhinagar - 382 009 (Gujarat)

2. The Director General of Police, Gujarat State, Gandhinagar, H.O. 382 010. (Gujarat)

Please send a copy of the protest to Parivartan and B.Premanand.

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Last update: 27 August 1998