Arundhati Roy rings pre-poll alarm

Arundhati Roy in New Delhi on Friday. Picture by Prem Singh

New Delhi: Several counter-establishment figures on Friday called for unity to oust the BJP from power at a large gathering demanding the release of political prisoners, including alleged Maoists arrested on the charge of inciting violence.

“Those who kill thousands in the country now sit in Parliament. Our task is not just to defeat them but to send them to jail,” Booker winner Arundhati Roy said.

“They won’t inquire into the mysterious death (of judge B.H. Loya) but they will arrest you and me and call us traitors. The next few days will be very dangerous. What they have started from Assam will be brought to Bengal and Delhi. They will decide who is a real Indian; the rest won’t get rice or a vote or Aadhaar.”

She added: “If we fight each other then the flames will burn for a thousand years. This Bharat Jalao Party is ready with matchsticks, before the polls…. They are afraid. They know they stand on the edge of defeat. What will they not do to return to power? What lies will they not spread…. These people have to be removed from Parliament this time.”

Far Left outfits, Ambedkarite and human rights groups had gathered to demand the release of Rona Wilson, spokesperson for the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners; Sudhir Dhawale, editor of Marathi fortnightly Vidrohi; lawyer Surendra Gadling, academic Shoma Sen, former Prime Minister Rural Development Fellow Mahesh Raut, Bhim Army leader Chandrashekhar Azad, CPIML Red Star’s Alik Chakraborty and others.

Punjab MP Dharamvira Gandhi, suspended from the Aam Aadmi Party, was among those who addressed the rally, which attracted several Punjabi peasants from communist groups.

Gandhi told The Telegraph: “I came to speak for human rights defenders whose lives are under threat for speaking up for Dalits, tribals and farmers…. We are here to fight against this targeting of activists by the state that is imposing this corporate-funded nationalism and religious fanaticism.”

A former Bombay High Court judge, Justice (retired) B.G. Kolse-Patil, one of the organisers of the Elgaar Parishad, which is under the glare of the Pune police, said: “When the country wants to progress, these rulers want India to go back to what it was 5,000 years ago…. When I retired, I promised that I wouldn’t fear the police or prisons…. Those who opposed the freedom movement are now running the show. Unless and until we unite, we cannot fight these forces.”

The Bhim Army’s Vinay Ratan Singh said: “I believe in the Constitution but I feel bad that those who work for education and young people are made Naxals by this government…. We know how to form governments and also how to pull them down. I challenge the state to do what they want, I challenge MPs to debate with eight and 14-year-olds from our Bhim Army schools.”