He wrote the book, he says to condemn the recent violence between Hindus and Christians in Kandhamal, but on Monday, Lenin Kumar was arrested by the Orissa police on charges of writing and publishing “inflammatory” material that could cause “communal unrest”. A day later, his bail plea was rejected by the sub-divisional judicial magistrate (SDJM) of Khurda and he was remanded to judicial custody. Lenin’s wife, Rumita Kundu, has also alleged that the police tortured her husband. Now, civil right activists, writers and journalists are up in arms against the state Government and are planning a protest march to Raj Bhawan on Thursday.
Lenin Kumar, a hardware engineer and editor of a quarterly Oriya magazine, Nishan, was arrested under sections 295 and 1539(A) of the Indian Penal Code on Monday for his book Dharma Nare Kandhamalare Raktara Banya (Bloodletting in Kandhamal in the name of religion). Two others who helped him print and circulate the book have also been arrested and their bail pleas rejected as well. At least 700 copies of the book were seized from the printing press and the press sealed. Deputy Commissioner of Police (Bhubaneswar), Himanshu Lal, added that some Maoist literature was also seized from Lenin’s press and more charges will be pressed against him.
According to the police, pages 38 to 41 of the 80-page booklet contain most of the “objectionable” material. Quoted in these pages are parts from a piece written by CPI leader D Raja and first published in the June 18-24, 2000, issue of the party’s mouthpiece New Age. This piece, say the police, makes various allegations against the RSS, including that the Hindutva outfit asks followers to store firearms for use in riots, coerces Dalit Christians to chant ‘Shri Ram’ and ‘Om’ and forces Dalit, Muslim and Christian girls into prostitution. Calling the arrest “patently illegal”, civil rights activist Sudhir Patnaik, who will be part of the march, said: “The two sections under which Lenin was held warrant that police take permission from either the state government or Centre before an arrest is made. How can Lenin be arrested for writing against communal violence while organisations like the RSS and VHP, which incited communal disharmony in Kandhamal through their writings and press statements, have not?” asked Patnaik.
However, DCP Himanshu Lal, begs to differ. “At this stage, sanction from the government is not necessary. We will seek sanction only after submitting the chargesheet,” he said.
Lawyer Biswapriya Kanungo, who on Wednesday moved the court of the Khurda sessions judge against the bail rejection order of the SDJM, protests that the arrest is a violation of the fundamental right to freedom of speech. “The arrest is nothing but an infringement on the creativity of a writer,” he said.
Noted journalist Rabi Das, meanwhile, qquestioned: “Are we becoming a police state? This means all those who write against VHP and RSS will be arrested,” said Das.