Rss

  • stumble
  • youtube
  • linkedin

Archives for : Political Prisoners

India -The force of a dissenting verdict

The writer is a women’s rights lawyer

In his dissenting verdict, Justice Chandrachud disagreed with the views of then Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice A.M. Khanwilkar.

Poet-Social activist Varavara Rao

 Poet-Social activist Varavara Rao

There have been times in history when dissenting verdicts have not only pointed to the failure of a majority ruling to protect the fundamental rights of citizens but over time, the principles upheld by minority rulings have moved on to become the law of the land. The much-acclaimed minority view upholding the citizen’s right to life and liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution even in an Emergency in the ADM Jabalpur case by Justice H.R. Khanna immediately comes to mind.

The dissenting verdict of Justice D.Y. Chandrachud in the PIL by Romila Thapar and four other eminent citizens against the arbitrary arrest of five left-leaning activists — Varavara Rao, the 77-year-old poet from Hyderabad, advocate Sudha Bharadwaj, who works for the rights of adivasis, advocate Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves, activists from Mumbai and Thane, and journalist and former member of the editorial team of acclaimed journal Economic and Political Weekly Gautam Navlakha — in the Bhima-Koregaon incident does precisely this. It outweighs the majority judgment in legal and factual reasoning.

Eminent jurist and constitutional law expert Soli J. Sorabjee, in a recent article, expressed the hope that this brilliantly-articulated dissenting verdict may, at some future date, become the majority view of the Supreme Court. He explains that a judge on a bench does not usually dissent from the views of his/her companion judges. However, when a judge believes that the court’s judgment would not be in the public interest or results in subverting the Constitution or results in gross violation of the fundamental rights of a group of people, he or she is constrained to write a dissenting judgment.

When the issue concerning the personal liberty of the arrested persons came up before the Supreme Court, the majority did not accept the plea that the arrest of the five activists was unjustified and directed them to approach the subordinate courts for appropriate relief, and ordered the continuation of their house arrest for a further period of four weeks.

The PIL was not seeking to establish the innocence of the arrested activists. It was merely seeking an independent inquiry by a court-appointed special investigation team. Therefore, the issue before the court was whether the investigation carried out by the Maharashtra police was fair, unbiased and unmotivated. In this context, the majority verdict overlooked the lapses which were sufficient to indicate that the investigations were not being carried out in an impartial manner.

In his dissenting verdict, Justice Chandrachud disagreed with the views of then Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice A.M. Khanwilkar. The dissent endorses judicial interference on the core issue of liberty as the constitutional duty of the court to ensure justice is not compromised.

“Dissent is a symbol of a vibrant democracy (where) voices in opposition cannot be muzzled by persecuting those who take up unpopular causes,” Justice Chandrachud held, and listed several circumstances which cast a cloud on the ability of the Maharashtra police to carry out a fair and impartial investigation.

Of particular relevance is the press conference held by Pune’s joint commissioner of police hours after the Supreme Court admitted the PIL on August 29 and stayed the transit of arrested activists from their homes to Pune, saying the police had sufficient evidence. On August 31, the additional director-general of the Maharashtra police held a press briefing, where several letters were selectively flashed to the media to suggest that the arrested activists were involved in a plot to assassinate the Prime Minister. A few months before her arrest, a letter attributed to advocate Sudha Bharadwaj was flashed on a television channel on July 4 to create the impression that she had links with Maoist organisations.

These letters were not produced before any court of law and were not mentioned in the remand applications filed before the magistrates. These incriminating letters did not form part of the case diary in the investigation against the activists. Additional solicitor-general Tushar Mehta had himself submitted before the Supreme Court that there was no basis to link the five arrested activists to the alleged plot to assassinate the Prime Minister. But though there was no allegation on record that the activists were involved in a plot to assassinate the Prime Minister, the police made an attempt to create a public impression to that effect through its media briefings.

Based on these circumstances, Justice Chandrachud held that there was an attempt by the police to tarnish the reputation of the arrested activists by selectively leaking information to the media. The police revelations fuelled the narrative that the arrested activists were “urban Naxals”.

Justice Chandrachud also noted that the investigation, which started as an inquiry into the Bhima-Koregaon violence on January 1, 2018, got deflected with allegations of a plot to assassinate the Prime Minister. He also dealt with procedural lapses over the arrests and glaring discrepancies in the investigation. It was undisputed that none of the five were present at the Elgaar Parishad in Pune on December 30, 2017 which the police claimed had incited the violence on January 1, 2018.

A cumulative effect of these circumstances, especially the selective media revelations by the police to besmirch the reputation of arrested activists by linking them to an assassination plot that had no mention in the case diary, led Justice Chandrachud to hold that “this is a proper case for the appointment of a special investigation team”.

What is surprising is that the majority opinion written by Justice Khanwilkar makes no reference to the circumstances listed by Justice Chandrachud. It makes a curt statement that “no specific material facts and particulars are found in the petition about mala fide exercise of power by the investigating officer”. There is no reference to the press conferences held by the Maharashtra police to create the impression that the activists were “urban Naxals”. However, the activists hailed the verdict as it opened up the avenue to approach the high courts for bail. Justice S. Muralidhar of the Delhi high court, based on the shoddy arrest procedure adopted, has already granted bail to Gautam Navlakha, one of the activists placed under house arrest in New Delhi. It is here that the minority verdict which discussed the issue threadbare will come to the aid of the arrested activists.

The day after the Supreme Court verdict, addressing a press conference, eminent historian Romila Thapar asked the government to define the phrase “urban Naxal”, saying either the government does not understand the meaning of the term or activists like her do not. “We were all born Indians, lived as Indians all our lives. These activists are fighting against social injustice. Terming them ‘urban Naxal’ is a political move,” she said.

Asian Age

Related posts

Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves file bail pleas in Pune court

Arun FerreiraArun Ferreira
PUNE: Activist-lawyers Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves, who were among the five persons arrested by the Pune police on August 28 in the Elgar Parishad probe, filed separate bail applications in the Pune sessions court on Friday.

Siddharth Patil, counsel for Ferreira, and Rahul Deshmukh, who is representing Gonsalves, told TOI the bail pleas were filed in the court of additional sessions judge K D Vadane.

Patil said, “We have made out a case of bail for Ferreira primarily on the grounds that he has been under house arrest for more than a month now and the police have found nothing incriminating from the material recovered from him. Our plea also states that his arrest was a ploy to keep him away from legally representing some of the already arrested activists.” Ferreira has also argued that he has been acquitted in all the previous cases regsitered against him and that he deserves to be granted bail relief in the instant case.

On his part, Deshmukh said, “The plea by Gonsalves has questioned the legality of his arrest. We have argued that a combined reading of the September 28 judgment by a three-member bench of the Supreme Court, which extended the house arrest of all activists by four weeks to enable them to exercise other remedies available under the law, makes out a case against their custodial interrogation by the police.”

Activist-poet P Varavara Rao’s bail plea is expected to be filed on Saturday by a team of lawyers from Hyderabad while activist Sudha Bharadwaj’s bail plea is likely to be heard on October 10. Lawyer Hafeez Kazi told TOI, “The state government has already moved a special leave petition in the Supreme Court against the Delhi high court’s October 1 order that ended the house arrest of Gautam Navlakha (the fifth activist). We will have to wait and see what view the apex court takes on the SLP.”

All five activists were arrested for alleged links with the banned outfit CPI (Maoist), which, the police claims, was behind the organisation of the Elgar Parishad. Alleged inflammatory speeches and provocative statements at the Parishad contributed to the January 1 violence at Koregaon Bhima, the police claim, and that Elgar Parishadwas part of a larger Maoist conspiracy to create social unrest and overthrow a democratically elected government.

Related posts

India’s Unforgivable Laws

Several unconstitutional laws in India repress its citizens. A reading list from the EPW Archives.

As the second branch of government, the purpose of the legislature is to make laws that uphold the fundamental rights of all citizens. However, when met with extraordinary circumstances, the Indian legislature has made laws that have not only neglected fundamental rights, but also contradicted them. Often the use of these draconian laws has continued well after the circumstances in which they were created have passed. But they have endowed the state with excess powers to violate constitutionally guaranteed rights at both the individual and community level.

There is a need to conceptualise these laws in terms of what they purportedly combat, and what they actually combat. Usually, these unconstitutional laws are designed with a protectionist rhetoric against a threat (which could be real or imagined). But what they actually protect is the ruling dispensation’s ability to bypass human rights.

The most recent example of this is the use of the National Safety Act (NSA) to arbitrarily arrest 160 Muslim men in Uttar Pradesh, in the one year that Yogi Adityanath has been its chief minister. In August, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) was used to arrest five human rights activists, by accusing them of being “Naxals” operating against the state.

Through EPW’s archives, we look at how India’s draconian laws are sometimes mobilised to serve partisan interests.

1) ‘National Security’ Laws to Suspend Fundamental Rights

In 2000, the NSA was used in Uttarakhand to target two civil rights activists Jasodhara and Abhijit Dasgupta, who ran the NGO, Sahayog. They had published a booklet, AIDS aur Hum, promoting sexual health that scandalised the local community. From Harsh Sethi’s article, which documents this incident, it is apparent that here, the use of the NSA was not politically motivated. It was used because the booklet was seen as explicit and perceived as a moral offence to society. The NSA simply served as an excuse to humiliate the activists and hold them to account in the name of public decency.

Even a cursory examination of the actual sequence of events, makes clear that despite the widespread dismay, even anger, at the ‘foolishness’ of the concerned NGO, what is today being termed ‘public protest’ has been carefully organised and orchestrated. For nearly a month before the offices of Sahayog were ransacked, both staff and trainees at their field office roughed up, and leading activists arrested, the local media in the region had been carrying on a campaign against the group, targeting in particular the booklet.

Perhaps more sinisterly, NSA has been deployed against those who have protested against gross human rights violations committed by the military and the government. In 1992, Niloy Dutta, Parag Kumar Das and Ajit Bhuiyan were arrested in Guwahati under unspecified sections of the NSA. It was alleged that they were disrupting the process of peace-building in Assam and were involved in “anti-national” activities that threatened the sovereignty of the country. They were released eight weeks later after the arrests were met with much protest. They were the founding members of Manab Adhikar Sangram Samity (MASS), which had been compiling evidence of military atrocities in the state for the past year.

MASS had accumulated incontrovertible evidence of army atrocities and flagrant violations of human rights by the armed forces during operation Rhino. It had sent three groups fully equipped with audio and video gadgets to three zones of the slate to compile cases of army atrocities. Braving severe restraints imposed by the army and civil authorities, these groups had succeeded in recording cases of arrest, torture, molestation, rape, killing and so on. With painstaking effort they compiled a comprehensive 65-page report enlisting the cases of army atrocities, which included 13 cases of death in army camps, seven cases of rape, as many as 120 cases of brutal torture, 139 cases of illegal detention and 63 cases of indiscriminate army raids in villages, unlawful public beatings and torture, all with specific dates, places and blow-by-blow accounts of the incidents, fully substantiated by physical evidence. They also recorded the most brutal incidents on films. Most damaging of all was a video cassette which had recorded the atrocities on women much of which cannot be written and shown in public.

2) Detaining Kashmiris in the Name of ‘Public Safety’

The Public Safety Act (PSA) is another act that has been used indiscriminately in Kashmir to facilitate preventive detentions of “suspected militants”, especially since Burhan Wani’s death in 2016. The PSA has been called a “lawless law” because of the arbitrary nature in which it is used. In his article published in May 2018, Gaurav Bhawnani pointed out that in the 130 days following Wani’s death, over 500 PSA detention orders were issued to clamp down on the turmoil in Kashmir. Bhawani argues that the arbitrariness of the act is best illustrated by human rights activist Khurram Parvez’s arrest.

The scope for arbitrary detentions under the PSA is tremendous. On an average, each person has been identified as having committed offences under three first information reports (FIRs). However, most of these FIRs are “open FIRs.” The police merely record that a certain incident has occurred, and even if some names are recorded, the FIR also states “and others.” Therefore, any person can be arrested under these FIRs as having been involved in the protests. The scope for misuse is best highlighted by Khurram Parvez’s case. The police dossier listed four FIRs as the grounds for his arrest. However, he was not named in a single one of these FIRs. He was just one of those “others” to have been arrested as a consequence. Another case that highlights the scope of misuse is that of Abdul Rasheed Bhat. As per the records of his government job, he was present at work at the time of the offence, but was named under all three open FIRs listed in his PSA dossier.

3) ‘Anti-Terrorism’ Laws to Repress Dissent

After the November 26, 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 was amended to become India’s main anti-terrorist law — merely four years after the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) was repealed. However, some of the provisions introduced in the UAPA’s amended version were almost replicated from POTA, and broadened even further,  wrote Ravi Nair. The provisions for arrest under the amended UAPA were as vague as they were in POTA. Nair wrote that the key problem with the UAPA is that it fails to understand the multidimensional nature of terrorism, and what makes acts of terrorism distinct from other forms of crime.

The 2008 UAPA Amendment extends the maximum period of pre-charge detention to 180 days, if after 90 days the public prosecutor can show that the investigation has progressed but more time is needed. This standard is inadequate. A judge considering the extension of pre-charge detention should consider whether there is adequate evidence against the accused, justifying his/her continuing detention, not merely whether the investigation is progressing.

The UAPA has been misused rampantly, and several controversial arrests have been made under it. For instance, the arrest of Delhi University professor G N Saibaba, and his comrades, on the allegation of being Naxals. Susan Abhraham’s 2017 article details the case against Saibaba and his consequent imprisonment based on flimsy evidence. She also points out various procedural lapses.

The major charge of the prosecution is that the accused in this case were waging war against the country and supporting the ideology of a banned organisation, CPI (Maoist). Anybody can easily understand that to “wage a war” somebody needs weapons and none of the six accused were shown as possessing any weapon on them when arrested, nor did the police find any in searching their houses. Supporting an ideology, even if the same ideology is adhered to by a banned organisation, cannot be a crime. Such a verdict would not have been possible without the extreme provisions found in the draconian anti-terror UAPA.

In June 2018, in an article titled Urban Maoist, Anand Teltumbde wrote that the “draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) gives the police unaccountable authority to arrest, slap any number of charges, and ensure that the arrested rot in jail as the law meanders through the courts”. He was writing in defence of Sudhir Dhawale, Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut and Rona Wilson – all Dalit activists –  who were arrested under the UAPA, allegedly for being associated with the “Elgar Parishad”. The state insinuated that they were Maoists or Naxals who engaged in inflammatory speech that eventually precipitated the violence at Bhima-Koregaon. Incidentally, in August, Teltumbde himself faced arrest under the UAPA, ostensibly for being an “urban naxal”.

While the search warrant clearly mentioned “Bhima–Koregaon,” the chief minister stated that they did not have anything to do with Bhima–Koregaon. On 6 June, the police arrested four of them and Mahesh Raut, a noted social activist and member of the Prime Minister’s Rural Development (PMRD) fellowship who after passing out from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) has devoted his life to the tribals of Gadchiroli. The police made out a story that the Elgar Parishad was organised and funded by the Maoists, which was duly publicised by the media ignoring the repeated explanation of Kolse Patil that he along with Justice Sawant was its convener, that they did not spend any money, and that none of the arrestees had much to do with it.

4) Terrorism Laws to Target Minorities and Marginalised Groups

In 2003, activist Gautam Navlakha wrote, “A law is bad in itself when it overturns all notions of natural justice on its head and allows the executive to apply the law at its subjective discretion.” Navlakha was discussing the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), which in February 2003 was used to arrest 28 Dalit and Adivasi agricultural workers in Uttar Pradesh, who were allegedly Naxalites. Some of those arrested were later shot in an encounter killing. Navlakha outlined how the “preventive” nature of POTA allows the law to be misused.

Like its predecessor TADA the promulgation of POTA falls in that category of law where persecution is embedded in it. Let us recall that TADA’s pathetic conviction rate of 1 per cent obscured its wide use as a preventive detention measure where more than 76,000 persons were detained for years on end destroying lives, and ruining their kith and kin…POTA has established itself as a piece of legislation that is meant to terrorise precisely those sections of the population which are vulnerable and are victims of gross injustices and therefore the maximum numbers of those charged under POTA are landless or land-poor dalits and adivasis accused of being Naxalites, Kashmiris fighting against oppressive Indian rule or Muslims accused of working in tandem with Pakistan’s ISI.

Writing in 2004, Ujjwal Kumar Singh argued that “like all extraordinary laws, it [POTA] bypasses due process, so that abuse/ misuse is woven into its provisions”. But he also identified a larger trend which suggests that POTA has been used surreptitiously to restructure centre–state relations away from federalism.

POTA epitomised an executivisation of law, giving the executive extraordinary powers of initiating procedures and investigations under the act. Subsequent developments have shown a further deepening of this executivisation through (a) the judicial affirmation of the procedures laid down in POTA, and (b) further augmentation of the process by authorising a review process as a quasi-executive and quasi-judicial function.

POTA was preceded by the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1985 or TADA. When it was repealed a decade later, a report in EPW said, “The abuse of TADA is built into the law itself. By replacing normal law and procedure it eats into the foundations of democracy.” According to the report, by mid-1994, 76,166 people had been arrested under TADA but less than 4% were actually found guilty.

Today it is widely accepted that TADA has been thoroughly misused. Large numbers of innocents have been arrested. Protests against the Act have also grown. In this situation every political party has suggested some change in the Act to curb large-scale arrests. However, it is not so widely accepted that the provisions of TADA are themselves responsible for such a state of affairs.

https://www.epw.in/engage/article/indias-unforgivable-laws

Related posts

Pune Court slams Yerwada jail for witholding books

Court slams Yerwada jail for witholding books

Surendra Gadling
Prison authority showcaused for sharing 2 out of 10 books

The sessions court on Thursday slammed the Yerwada central prison authority for not providing books to Surendra Gadling, the lawyer and activist, who has been lodged in the jail for alleged Maoist link.

The district and sessions judge, KD Vadane, issued a show-cause notice to the prison authority for not following the court’s order.

Gadling and Shoma Sen, who was arrested on June 6, also for alleged Maoists links, filed for bail before the court.

Their bail application were heard on Thursday.
During the hearing, Gadling’s lawyer Nihalsing Rathod filed a complaint against jail authorities alleging that they did not provide books to Gadling. On June 25, the court had passed an order to provide him books.

Related posts

Bhima Koregaon case -WSS condemns the majority judgment of the Supreme Court

 

WSS deeply condemns the majority judgement of the Supreme Court which has dismissed the PIL filed by Romila Thapar, Devaki Jain, Satish Deshpande, Prabhat Patnaik and Maja Daruwalla and has in effect granted the notorious Pune Police impunity to carry on with its fabricated and malafide investigation in the Bhima Koregaon (FIR No. 4/2018) case. The Court in its vague majority judgement has failed to do its duty as a Constitutional Arbitrator and as the vanguard of the fundamental rights under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India to protect the liberty of the dissenting activists – who have been arrested by the Pune police which unabashedly flouted due process.  

The short sighted majority judgement has held that there is no form of malice in the investigation conducted by the Pune Police and refused to interfere with the current investigation and dismissed the prayer demanding that the investigation be referred to a Special Investigation Team (SIT). It has further held that the arrests were not initiated to curb dissent but to investigate the connection of the aforementioned activists Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj, and activists Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Varavara Rao and Gautam Navlakha, to banned organisations.

On the other hand, the exhaustively reasoned dissenting judgement of Justice D.Y. Chandrachud most explicitly states that on inspection of the evidence submitted by the Maharashtra Police, its claim of connecting all the accused persons to a banned organisation is contrary to logic.  He further takes cognizance of the use of electronic media by the Maharashtra for besmirching the reputation of the above activists. The dissenting judgement deemed the press conferences held by the Pune Police and the leakage of such letters which are still under investigation stage, ‘disturbing’ and to be “causing serious concern” and holds that the manner in which the ADG has behaved casts a cloud on the investigation and purports bias on the part of the Pune Police. Furthermore, he also specifically mentions and condemns the vilification campaign run by Republic Channel against Sudha Bharadwaj, who is one of the arrested activists and member of WSS.

He further goes on to say that the police are not adjudicators nor can they announce guilt and very strongly asserted that the Pune Police “is manipulating public media” to create and facilitate a media trial. He further in his judgement takes stock of the lack of credibility in the letters and finally holds that “the conduct of the Pune police fortifies the need to a fair investigation” and that “Dissent is a part of a vibrant democracy”, however unpopular the dissent is Criminal law is amenable to Constitutional mandate and hence the court as the constitutional arbitrator has the duty to exercise its jurisdiction under Article 32 to ensure that liberty is not sacrificed at the altar of conjecture. In the past few weeks we have been witness to several judgements of the Supreme Court such as the Adultery Judgement, the Sabrimala Judgement, and the Sec. 377 Judgement, where civil rights and liberties have been invoked and elaborated upon, loftily reading them as the spirit of the Constitution and the democratic framework. As these civil liberty claims are given a much needed boost and careful articulation by the Supreme Court, matters of political import have met with a cold, rigid, conservative approach.  All these lofty judgements and the principles on which they are based will cease to have meaning if they are not applied by the court in cases where individual liberties and claims are impinged upon by the State.

WSS reiterates its strong condemnation of the targeting of dissent and suppression of all resistance. The attack on democratic rights activists, lawyers, journalists and writers has happened in draconian waves, where those active in defending the arrested are picked up in the next round of arrests. The first round of arrests in this particular Bhima Koregaon case targeted WSS member Professor Shoma Sen, Advocate Surendra Gadling, activists Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson and Mahesh Raut. Advocate Surendra Gadling was the lawyer for Prof. G.N. Saibaba, Mahesh Tirki, Vijay Tirki, Pandu Narote, Hem Mishra and Prashant Rahi, while the others arrested with Advocate Gadling were active in condemning that round of arrests. Prof. Shoma Sen was Head of the English Department at Nagpur University and a dedicated feminist and anti-caste activists and two months away from superannuation at the age of 60 when she was picked up by the police. Mahesh Raut however appears to have been solely targeted for being active against state sponsored displacement in Gadhchiroli and in trying to implement Constitutional provisions safeguarding adivasi rights. It appears that the attack on Sudha Bharadwaj was likewise primarily targeting her work on the ground as a lawyer and trade unionist in implementing Constitutional provisions in safeguarding adivasi land rights and labour rights for the last three decades in Chhattisgarh. As part of Janhit, an organization providing legal aid, she has taken up cases of illegal land acquisition, violations of forest rights, environmental issues, forced evictions, human rights violations, and violations of laws like the Forest Rights Act and Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA), etc. Apart from the scores of cases she has fought for workers across the state. Sudha had also spoken out against the previous round of arrests through the long-standing civil liberties organization, PUCL, and the Indian Association of People’s Lawyers. The repeated and concentrated attacks against Advocate Surendra Gadling, and then Advocates Sudha Bharadwaj and Arun Ferreira who were active in protesting the arrest of a lawyer who is just doing his job in defending his clients from marginalized dalit adivasi Muslim and bahujan backgrounds, show a clear pattern of clamping down on dissent even within the framework of the court system, not to mention clamping down on the social activists working outside the court system in civil society. This has a chilling effect on all activists standing with marginalized communities and sends a clear message that marginalized communities have no hope in fighting for the on-ground implementation of their Constitutionally guaranteed rights.

In the meantime, those who actually assaulted the Dalit Bahujan and Muslim communities in Bhima Koregaon roam freely with impunity. This FIR was filed first, in Pune (rural) and names Milind Ekbote and Sambaji Bhide as the instigators of the violence. It is therefore a mystery as to why the Ambedkarites who are upholding constitutional values of Liberty, equality and fraternity and were demanding the arrest of these perpetrators, were arrested instead of the perpetrators, on the basis of a second FIR filed in Pune (urban), which has no connection to any actual violence! This is meant to strike terror amongst the vast majority of people who have been daring to speak out against the anti-people policies of the state.

The entire framework of the UAPA has no place in a modern democratic system and the time has come for the Constitutional courts to hold this draconian law as unconstitutional for violating the rights of countless citizens. It is well known that in UAPA cases, the chances of bail are minimal and the time spent in custody by those charged is effectively used as punishment. It is a fear mongering and vindictive tactic of branding. Whatever happens in the court, the larger political struggle for democratic rights and opposing UAPA, and opposing the corporate assault on adivasi people in the greed for mining these lands will continue and intensify.

We demand the immediate and unconditional release of all arrested in the Bima Koregaon case, the punishment of the real perpetrators of violence and the repeal of draconian laws such as UAPA.

 

Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS)

 

Convenors Ajita, Nisha, Rinchin and Shalini; Email ID [email protected]

Related posts

India – Modi and the art of distraction

‘The arrests of Sanatan Sanstha members for committing murder and stockpiling explosives with the alleged intent of committing mass murder must be embarrassing to a majoritarian government,’ notes Devangshu Datta.

The great Jadugar K Lal once told me that stage magic just involved using imagination, followed by careful scripting and practice.

He said the really difficult thing was learning the art of distraction.

Misdirecting the audience’s attention was, he said, a skill that far transcended the performance of smooth sleights of hand and the crafting of clever mechanical illusions.

It is a skill that the current political establishment has learnt well.

Whenever it’s under pressure, it creates some sort of distraction to drag attention away from the embarrassment of the moment.

 

The dawn raids by the Pune police on activists across the country was undoubtedly an attempt to do just that.

It succeeded since the arrests have dominated the news cycle for the next two days.

The question is, what was so embarrassing that the Centre decided to risk public opprobrium and ridicule by arresting elderly academics and lawyers on absurd charges?

It’s hard to find answers.

Could it have been demonetisation?

A Parliamentary committee had just criticised the exercise in no uncertain terms, pointing out the many undesirable outcomes.

The Reserve Bank of India’s annual report has also underlined the futility of the foolish exercise, which, if you remember, led to the deaths of over 100 people and caused misery to hundreds of millions.

Practically all the cash came back.

Cash held by the public now is back above pre-demonetisation levels.

The structure of household savings has changed for the worse, with the aam jantapulling money out of banks.

Bureaucrats told to defend the move have been reduced to risible statements like ‘Demonetisation worked, don’t ask how.’

Or, perhaps, it’s the meanness displayed in disbursing relief funds to Kerala? The southern state will require many, many thousands of millions to bootstrap out of this calamity.

The Centre is being niggardly in releasing tiny amounts in dribs and drabs.

Enough ‘friends of the establishment’ have pushed out faked images of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh delivering aid to lead the cynical among us to wonder why no real images could be produced.

And the less said about refusing aid from abroad the better.

The excuse is that this is government policy.

Well, surely this brave decisive government could change the policy?

However, it might not be Kerala or demonetisation that required fuzzing out of primetime focus.

The arrests of Sanatan Sanstha members for committing murder and stockpiling explosives with the alleged intent of committing mass murder must be embarrassing to a majoritarian government.

Maybe the civil rights activists were arrested in order to ensure that mass media did not focus on those arrests?

Or is it actually the Rafale controversy that the government doesn’t want debated on primetime?

There are so many weird elements to that story that it would be hard to peddle it as fiction. One government negotiates for 126 planes.

The next government decides to pay much larger sums for 36 planes.

What’s more, an industrialist who has never fabricated a plane in his career and whose companies owe over Rs 450 billion, suddenly becomes a joint venture partner of Dassault Aviation.

The French say they have no objection to the costs being mentioned in Parliament.

The Indian government says it can’t mention the numbers because it has a secrecy clause in a treaty with France!

Maybe it’s not the Rafale controversy either.

It could just be the record prices of diesel and petrol and the record weakness of the rupee.

After all, the current prime minister spent a lot of time excoriating the last government for the weak rupee and the high price of fuels.

Or, it could be the release of the Sudipto Mundle-led committee report on real sector statistics that suggested the last government did a better job in terms of generating growth.

Or, it might be Doklam, where the People’s Liberation Army has apparently been settling down.

Or, it may be the failure of helicopter diplomacy in the Maldives.

That’s a lot of potentially embarrassing stuff that could have made it to the news cycle.

Instead, we had the spectacle of 70-year-old academics being interrogated on why they read books on Marx and Mao.

Well played!

http://m.rediff.com/news/column/modi-and-the-art-of-distraction/20180920.htm?src=whatsapp&pos=news

Related posts

Bhima Koregaon: Read the FIR that triggered the arrest of activists & lawyers

 

On Friday, the Supreme Court reserved its verdict in the case challenging the arrest of activists and lawyers in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence.

The matter was heard by a Bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkarand DY Chandrachud.

The arrests came based on a complaint by one Tushar Damgude, which led to an FIR on January 1 this year. As per his complaint, Damgude, who is 37 years old, is a post-graduate in History but has been engaged in the construction business for the past 4 years.

Tushar Damgude with Sambhaji Bhide (Image: Facebook)

The FIR which sets out the complaint by Damgude is replete with tirades against the Kabir Kala Manch and Dalit activism.

It states that Damgude learnt from Facebook about an event of Elgar Parishad to be organized on December 31, 2017, at Shanivar Wada, Pune.

On this date, he went to the ground in front of Shanivar Wada, Pune for the Elgar Parishad Program at about 2 pm in the afternoon.

The complaint then speaks about the persons who were present for the program.

“Sagar Gorkhe, person who gave background of the program Sudhir Dhavale, artists who sung and performed dramas Jyoti Jagtap, Ramesh Gaichor, and others, and at the same time as speakers, Jignesh Mewani, Umar Khalid, Vinay Ratan Singh Prashant Dontha etc were there.”

The complaint proceeds to state about Kabir Kala Manch and how Damgude came to know about its members from social media.

“I have read the information about Kabir Kala Manch and its members in social media and newspapers. That’s why I know the members of Kabir Kala Manch.”

He gives details about the slogans and speeches which were made at the program.

“…Bhima Koregaon has given a lesson, bury this neo peshwayi in cemetery, break it to the size of mustard, bury peshwayi, this is a war cry of Sidnak. The Peshwayi has arrived in new form, she needs to be knocked off, o soldier, she needs to be knocked off… like slogans were shouted from time to time, thereby making an inflammatory statement inciting enmity within society.

The Peshwayi has arrived in new form, she needs to be knocked off, o soldier, she needs to be knocked off… sung this song again, also presented dance and street play on the same, thus made a inciteful presentation which would incite communal hatred in the society.”

Many speakers delivered inflammatory speeches, and objectionable and inflammatory books were also kept for sale at the place of the said program, Damkude alleges.

Facebook Post of Tushar Damgude where he highlights excerpts from the Books sold CPI (Maoist)

The complaint then makes allegations about how the CPI (Maoist), a banned organisation, misguides Dalits and propagates radical Maoist ideas of violence. He also alleges that Sudhir Dhavale, Harshali Potdar and other activists of Kabir Kala Manch have undergone inquiry on allegations of connection with Naxals.

“I say that, the policy of banned organization namely Communist Party of Iindia (maoist) is to misguide dalits community, and propogate radical Maoist ideas which is of violence and not that of constitutional means. As a part of this policy, Sudhir Dhawale of Kabir Kala Manch and their other activists, in the similar manner, at different places in Maharashtra State, inflammatory and communal hatred inciting speeches, misguiding history, again inflammatory speeches and streetplays were performed.”

As a result of this, stone pelting, violence, and arson erupted in Bhima Koregaon and abutting areas, Damgude concludes.

And thereafter in Maharashtra, human loss and economic loss and communal hatred developed…..Hence my complaint is against (1) Sudhir Dhawale, anchor of the program (2)Sagar Gorkhe and his other artists, (3) Harshali”

Read the translated copy of the FIR below:

Bhima Koregaon: Read the FIR that triggered the arrest of activists & lawyers

Related posts

Human rights activists’ arrest: Will this be another case of justice delayed?

 

Human rights activists' arrest: Will this be another case of justice delayed?
Human rights activists’ arrest: Will this be another case of justice delayed?

KAMAL MITRA CHENOY

A number of severe laws have been existing in the annals of Indian politics and society. We often fail to assess them.

 

For example, the British mandated a new law in 1942, which came to be known as the Armed Forces Special Powers Ordinance, 1942. This law was promulgated to crush the Quit India movement.
Later, it became a feared Act — the Armed Forces Special Powers Act — used by the Army to crush insurgency.

Then, the Indian state promulgated a host of anti-terror laws.

These included (not necessarily in that order) the MISA (Maintenance of Internal Security Act), POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act), and, of course, the UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act), among others.

This has strongly influenced the Army and police in their fight against terrorism.
But have the five activists jailed in the “urban Naxal” case been violating any of these laws?
There were three sets of lawyers involved:

Additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta tried to prove the five activists — Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha — guilty.
He took the bench through the allegedly recovered documents, including pen drives, laptops and hard discs.

Justice DY Chandrachud clearly stated, “We cannot sacrifice liberty at the altar of conjectures.”
When Mehta persisted that the judges should look at the evidence at length and not at a “few pages”, Justice Chandrachud stated, “Of course we will take a holistic view after going through the entire set of documents that would be shown to us. We will look at the evidence, but with a hawk eye.”

Justice Chandrachud also said, “We must differentiate between armed struggle against the government and expression of dissent by a section of people because of generations of suppression. Please keep this distinction in mind while presenting evidence. The shoulders of all, be it the government or the Supreme Court, should be broad enough to take criticism and dissent.”

When Tushar Mehta intervened, advocate Prashant Bhushan interjected and claimed that the letters and documents being cited were “fabricated” evidence.

To this, CJI Dipak Misra bluntly said, “We cannot deal with your allegation… We are at the preliminary stage of finding whether the evidence makes up a prima facie case for police to arrest the petitioners.”
The activists, through counsels AM Singhvi, Anand Grover, Ashwani Kumar, Rajeev Dhavan and Prashant Bhushan, vigorously argued that they were targeted for dissent against the ideology and practices of BJP-led governments and were arrested to muzzle criticism.

They argued that systematically unverified reports were leaked to the press by the Pune Police in an attempt to tarnish their reputation through a “media trial”.

Expectedly, Mehta denied this. He claimed, “The arrests are not remotely connected to their dissent against the government. But if some persons are energising a machinery for planned activities to cause widespread law and order problem in the country, we must look at these with a little more seriousness.”
There lies the paradox.

On the one hand, Mehta was dismissing the allegation that the arrests were connected to the activists’ dissent; on the other hand, he was talking of “energising a machinery”.

If these arrests “are not remotely connected to their dissent against the government”, then why are the five activists accused of wanting to “widespread law and order problem in the country…”?

Senior advocate Ashwini Kumar, who appeared for the petitioners, submitted, “Action against citizens under penal statutes, such as the UAPA, must pass the test of reasonableness, rationality and procedural fairness as mandated under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.”

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi contested the Pune police’s claim that a comrade named Prakash, who was identified as Saibaba, had written to these five activists. Singhvi raised questions over the possibility of this as Saibaba has been in jail since March 2017.
He also questioned the process of the Maharashtra police using witnesses from Pune to make arrests in Faridabad.

“What business do the Pune Municipal Corporation employees have in Faridabad?” Singhvi asked as he contended that the five activists were arrested because “they had been writing strongly against the other arrests made in June”.

Senior advocate Anand Grover, who appeared for those arrested in June, said that the Pune police had lodged two FIRs on the Bhima Koregaon violence. The second FIR cannot be used for starting a fresh investigation, when the first FIR is pending, he argued. He also pointed out that the police had not complied with any procedure while making the arrests. It was a fit case for being sent for an independent investigation, he said.

Seeking an independent inquiry, senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan also said that the unfairness began with the police going to the media with evidence.
The accused were “five respectable people who had been writing for a long time,” he said, adding that the case “is nothing more than a relentless pursuit of some people.”
“You target liberal and Left people,” he said, remarking, “(the) court will have to see if Pune police have targeted these people again and again and again.”

These are very serious issues here.
Why was the “evidence” shown to the media?

This would mean that the media could prejudge the later proceedings.
The very “contradiction” underlying Tushar Mehta’s argument; “falsely” linking Saibaba to the activists — all these take us to a much larger debate.

The Romans would say reductio ad absurdum — reducing an untenable charge to the absurd.
The trial is not over yet.

But those who follow it will see for themselves how the police apparently often create their own evidence.

 

Or, they delay it.

As the dictum goes, justice delayed is justice denied.

Related posts

UP Govt to Release Bhim Army Chief Chandrashekhar Azad,after 15 months in Jail #Goodnews

After 15 Months in Jail, 

The Dalit rights activist, accused in the 2017 violence in Saharanpur and booked under the NSA, was to be released on November 1.

Chandrashekhar was booked for his alleged role in last year’s caste violence in Saharanpur district, involving Dalits and upper caste Thakurs.

In a major decision, the Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government on Thursday decided the early release from jail of Bhim Army Chief Chandrashekhar Ravan, who is behind bars on NSA charges after last year’s Saharanpur caste violence. He was to be released on November 1.

Mr. Chandrashekhar was booked for his alleged role in last year’s caste violence in Saharanpur district, involving Dalits and upper caste Thakurs.

The UP department, which is under CM Adityanath himself, in a statement said the decision was taken on sympathetic grounds taking into consideration the representations by Mr. Chandrashekhar’s mother and the “current situation.”

The NSA allows the state government to detain any person it feels poses a ‘threat to the security of India’ or could ‘disrupt public order’. Its application is to be renewed every three months if the government is of the opinion that the person continues to be a threat. The application of NSA on Azad was last renewed in July and would have lapsed again in November.

Now, according to police sources in Saharanpur, they are waiting for the order to reach them and will release the three accused as soon as it does. Members of the Bhim army and Azad’s family have gathered outside the Saharanpur jail.

Azad’s family and Bhim Army member outside Saharanpur jail. Credit: Abrar Ahmed

“This is a victory for us and the confidence that people had in Chandrashekhar Azad. I also appeal to people to celebrate this occasion but abide by the constitutional values that we stand by,” said Kamal Walia, district president, Bhim Army, Saharanpur.

Violence broke out in Saharanpur last year after tensions had began in April over the installation of a Ambedkar statue in Shabbirpur. The Dalits wanted the statue to be installed in the Ravidas temple in the village and the dominant Thakur community objected. The police urged the Dalit community to not install the statue in the ‘interest of peace’.

On May 5, 2017, the Thakur community took out a procession commemorating Maharana Pratap. The Dalit community objected because the “DJ was too loud”. This led to violence as a mob armed with swords, thick bamboo sticks, country-made revolvers and bottles filled with petrol ransacked the Dalit ghetto of the village, burning down 55 homes. Several Dalits were grievously injured. One member of the Thakur community died. Five Dalits were booked for murder.

A few days after the violence, the Bhim Army – a small and relatively unknown Dalit social organisation at the time led by Azad – called for a mahapanchayat in Saharanpur town to protest against the violence in Shabbirpur. The police denied them permission and the protest turned violent as vehicles were set ablaze, stones were pelted and a police post was damaged.

Cases were registered against almost every known member of the Bhim Army, and they rose to national prominence while in hiding. Its founder, Chandrashekhar, a lawyer from the village of Chhutmalpur, gained the status of a young Dalit icon, and the Bhim Army became a symbol of Dalit assertion.

In June, Chandrashekhar was arrested along with several other members of the Bhim Army. The five Dalits from Shabbirpur charged with murder had already been arrested earlier.

On October 15, two of the five charged with murder were booked under the draconian NSA. A couple weeks later, on November 3, Chandrashekhar too was booked under the NSA, a day after he had been granted bail by the Allahabad high court on the charges that the police had filed.

The Hindu

Related posts

Political prisoners start hunger strike today in Yeravda Central Jail

    Today, on 13th September, the martyrdom day of the great revolutionary Jatin Das, who sacrificed his life while on hunger strike for the political rights of the prisoners, 6 political prisoners in Yerwada jail have gone on a one day token hunger strike.
Initially Jatin Das worked in the Congress Seva Dal along side Subhash Chandra Bose. However, later he joined the revolutionary organization Hindustan Socialist Republican Association. He had mastered the craft of making bombs.
The Bombs which were thrown at the assembly hall by Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt, with a stand that an explosion was required to make the deaf hear, were prepared by Jatin Das. Thus say the history. The revolutionaries while in Jail went on a hunger strike demanding that revolutionary prisoners should be treated as political prisoners. Jatin Das, who too participated in the hunger strike exhibiting glorious determination, died on the 63rd day of the hunger strike on 13th sept 1929. He was only 25 at the time.
That 13th sept, the martyrdom day of Jatin Das be declared as “Political prisoners’ rights day”, draconian laws like ‘Unlawful Activities Prevention Act’ and Armed Forces special Power Act be abolished, capital punishment be abolished, and political prisoners be given humane treatment are the prime demands of the prisoners.
Those on hunger strike include Adv Surendra Gadling, writer-editor Sudhir Dhawale, Mahesh Raut, Rona Wilson, being tried under the UAPA and Arun Bhelake and K Muralidhar, accused in other cases.
We must understand that when these prisoners are held for certain political ideas and action based on those ideas, they must be recognized as political prisoners. In the pre independence india the revolutionary political prisoners raised a similar demand before the british regime, but it was not fulfilled, and it remains unfulfilled even after 71 years of independence.
Books are as much essential for a thinking political prisoner as food for a human being. Hence, books of Law and a study of Judgements by High court in various cases are necessary for Adv Surendra Gadhling to satisfy his intellectual quest. The administration has obstructed the provision of these books despite clear orders from the session court.
Sudhir Dhawale, who is a writer and an editor, needs books on economics, sociology and Ambedkarite dalit movement in particular.
Mahesh Raut holds a post graduate degree from TATA institute of social science and is a researcher of tribal and forest laws, relevant policies and movements. He needs books about his subject of study.
Intellectual activity is necessary for the human brain to remain active. If the political prisoners are deprived of the reading material they need, it means they are being consciously harrassed.
The jail administration has intentionally been harrassing an intellectual like Surendra Gadling since last 3 months. The administration has shifted him as many as 5 times withing the jail so far, which is clearly a part of the harrassment.
The Jail administration has even refused to provide them the warm clothes. The administration has in clear terms denied provision of anything whatsoever on humane grounds. They are being harassed under the disguise of Law. A similar situation prevails among most political prisoners in other Jails as well.
*◆Demands: ◆*
*●1. Abolish UAPA/AFSPA and all other Draconian laws*
*●2. Abolish Death Penalty*
*●3. Declare and Observe today’s day (13 September) as ‘Political Prisoners Rights Day’.*
*●4. Give humane treatment to all the inmates irrespective of crime allegedly committed and irrespective of caste, class, gender, religion, etc.*

Related posts