[dropcap]W[/dropcap]e condemn the arrest of five human rights activists, professors and lawyers in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon clashes early this year. The alarming arrest of Advocate and General Secretary of Indian Association of Peoples’ Lawyers (IAPL) Surendra Gadling, Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP) Public Relations Secretary Rona Wilson, Head of English Department Professor Shoma Sen of Nagpur University and member of Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS), cultural activist and founder of Republican Panthers Jaatiya Antachi Chalwal Sudhir Dhawale and anti-displacement activist and Prime Ministers Rural Development Fellow (PMRDF) Mahesh Raut is a clear manifestation of state terror to crush the voices of dissent in this country. The intemperate use of sections of the IPC and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) on all five reveals legal over-reach and exposes the desperation to foist extraordinary and excessive charges on all five to ensure they remain in the clutches of the Fadnavis-Maharashtra government.
All the arrested have consistently worked for the assertion of oppressed and marginalised communities against majoritarian forces, spoken out against Brahmanical patriarchy, upheld peoples’ rights to land, life and dignity, and have strived for the release of political prisoners. Today, after standing for the assertion of dalits, adivasis, Muslims, women, workers, farmers, marginalised sexualities, and oppressed communities, upholding the principles of democracy, and, consequently, being a thorn in the side of a vengeful police force, they are under the custody of impunity. Meanwhile, the perpetrators of violence during the Bhima-Koregaon clashes enjoy the protection of the state, patronage of the RSS and walk free.
Now, with concerted efforts to implicate the arrested, egregious narratives of plots of assassinations is being weaved to defame and keep them in jail. These retributive actions are intended to threaten anyone who speaks out for them and drive a wedge between all struggles for peoples’ rights. In the last few years, wherever people have asserted their rights, the political establishment has clamped down on them with brutal force – be it in Saharanpur or Una, Bhima-Koregaon or Thoothkudi. The assault on the democratic fabric of this country, through the abuse of the legal and judicial process, the stage-managing of media for public trials, and deliberate efforts to build a climate of fear is blatant and pervasive.
Today, more so than ever, it is crucial to reiterate unity in the face of divisive majoritarian politics that uses structural hierarchies to violently suppress different sections of people and communities. We strongly condemn the arrests of these voices of democracy, demand the immediate and unconditional release of all five human rights activists, professors and lawyers and stand united in our opposition to the onslaught of Brahmanical Hindutva fascism.
Abha Bhaiya, Jagori Rural, Himachal Pradesh and One Billion Rising
Abha Dev Habib, Miranda House, University of Delhi
Abhay Regi, Department of History, SOAS, London
Abhijnan Sarkar, editor, Towards a New Dawn and documentary filmmaker
Achin Vanaik, Retired Professor, International Relations and Global Politics, University of Delhi
Adil Jussawalla, poet, magazine editor and translator
Aditya Shekhar, Faculty of Law, University of Delhi
AK Ramakrishnan, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi
Akhil Vasudevan, researcher, Mumbai
Alok Rai, former faculty, Department of English, University of Delhi and writer and translator
Alokananda, alumni, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Hyderabad
Amandeep Kaur, Panjab University, Chandigarh
Amar Kanwar, filmmaker
Amit Bhaduri, Professor Emeritus, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi
Amit Bhattacharyya, Professor, Jadavpur University and Secretary General, Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP)