Many of SPSS/MW members have FIRs being filed against them by various state officials. At present, there are 4. A team of members, led by Rajendran N (Asst. Professor, Azim Premji University) conducted a fact-finding mission to understand the causes for these FIRs and see if there was any grain of truth to them. Based on detailed interviews with SPSS members, government officials, police officials and even persons at the district hospital, the Fact-Finding Team produced a 35-page report.
Here is conclusion of the report:
The FFT (Fact Finding Team) makes the following observations: One, at least one of the FIRs led against Sanjay Sahni – the most recent one – is wholly false, since there is incontrovertible evi-
dence to suggest that Sanjay was over 400 kilometres away in Ranchi. The others stand
on very weak ground, with the incongruent testimonies of a small set of government of-
cials weighed against consistent accounts of a large number of SPSS workers and other
Two, the state has failed to engage with organically formed civil society movements as
partners in the delivery of welfare for all. In fact, the very opposite happens: agitating
citizens – largely Dalit and illiterate women in this context – are seen as impediments to
the natural order of things. There is also a tendency for the higher levels of the state to
privilege accounts of members of the lower bureaucracy over that of the citizens – this only
serves as a means to exacerbate the trust decit that exists between citizens and the state.
Three, the administrative system engages in acts that stretch, break and surreptitiously
circumvent legal safeguards put in place to ensure the protection of workers’ and citi-
zens’ rights. Furthermore, as the Mahant Maniyari Mukhiya’s testimony shows, the local
players are unabashed about their involvement in these acts and see them as neccessary
for smooth functioning of the state.
Four, the local bureaucracy employs FIRs as a strategic tool to quash and silence people’s
voices and struggles for justice.
SPSS is a unique movement, homegrown and run by largely Dalit and illiterate women.
Let alone celebrate this fact and engage positively with SPSS, the state fails to even be
lukewarm towards the people’s movement. Instead, it engages in a witch-hunt, repeat-
edly ling false FIRs against members in an attempt to quash local struggles. This is
unfortunate and dangerous. Individual members are fearful of more blatant attacks on
their person and seek solace in collectiveness. It is time that sympathetic voices within
the state took rm stands on these issues and trusted evidence provided by workers and
neutral parties. These FIRs also continue to emphasize that civil society movements
across the country need to be vigilant and constantly engage in documenting events to
take charge of the narrative.