A large group of “concerned Indians,” including Adivasi leaders, jurists, lawyers and intellectuals have urged the Union Government, the concerned State Governments and the Supreme Court to appoint a special commission of eminent jurists to oversee dedicated fast track courts for “speedily and impartially” hearing cases of imprisonment of Adivasis accused of being Naxalites.

The open letter has noted that the failure to ensure justice for Adivasis is a grave blot on India’s human rights record. “Our Constitution provides extensive safeguards and rights to Adivasis, which are being violated by not ensuring fair and speedy trials for these thousands of Adivasi under-trials,” it said adding that “on every count — whether humanitarian or strategic — it is imperative that this prolonged failure to assure our country’s Adivasis of speedy, impartial justice be set right immediately.”

Briefing the media about the contents of the letter, which bears the names of many famous personalities including V.R. Krishna Iyer, former Justice of the Supreme Court; actor and director Nandita Das; former U.N. Under Secretary General Nitin Desai; historian Ramachandra Guha; playwright and director Girish Karnad; activist and writer Harsh Mander; and former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court Rajinder Sachar among others, activist Swami Agnivesh said that in Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and West Bengal, a large number of Adivasis remain imprisoned as under-trials for long periods of time.

Assessing the true scale of the problem is inherently difficult as neither the police nor the jail administrations make comprehensive figures public, even after applications are filed under the Right to Information Act.