Leaders Voice against State Repression of Rights Activists
The protest programme at Parliament Street in Delhi by Campaign Against State Repression on Rights Activists saw the participation of over four thousand people from Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu and all other parts of the country. The programme was presided by Professor G Haragopal. Justice BG Kolse Patil, D Raja, Manorajan Mohanty, Arundhati Roy, Dharamvir Gandhi, S Vanchinathan and others addressed the gathering. The programme began with cultural performances from Praja Kala Mandali from Andhra and Telangana, and cultural organisations from Punjab and Haryana.
Setting the stage for the programme, Prof. Haragopal laid out the purpose of the programme and welcomed the gathering. Advocate S Vanchinathan, the lawyer who was fighting for the release of residents of Thoothkudi who subsequently found himself jailed under draconian and colonial laws like the Goondas Act, spoke of the struggles of the people of Tamil Nadu. He reminded the gathering that the struggle against Sterlite in Thoothkudi has strong similarities with the struggle of Maruti Suzuki workers in Haryana. In both cases, the government in power did everything in its capacity to protect the interests of the corporations over the people of this country. He said, the TN police under the instructions of Sterlite-Vedanta Company imposed a ban on internet, created a condition of fear and ordered the firing on the people of Thoothkudi. After the targeted shooting of TN Commandos was released, the BJP government along with the Intelligence Bureau started claiming that the protests were a Naxalite conspiracy. He stated that the current government, the BJP, is doing everything in its power to invent enemies to justify its actions. Justice BG Kolse Patil reminded us that we must remember that we have evidence of the crimes of former CM of Gujarat Narendra Modi and Amit Shah in light of the 2002 Gujarat massacre of Muslims. Justice Patil said, two classes of people exist in India – the struggling people of the country and the parasitic class who live on the labour of the struggling masses. The people who neither believe in democracy nor the Constitution are sitting in Parliament today and what we face today is an unprecedented case of an undeclared Emergency. He warned against the Brahmanical nature of the state that is crippling all the democratic institutions, including the education system, by negating the collective intelligence of the country. This, he felt, is something we should strongly oppose while we strive for a world without repression.
Dharamvir Gandhi, independent MP in Rajya Sabha, remarked that the struggle for the rights of dalits, adivasis, Muslims and all marginalised communities need to be fought both inside the Parliament and outside it. And, he reiterated the need for all democratic forces across the country to fight against state repression and fascism expanding all over the country. Writer Arundhati Roy spoke of the breaking of two locks in the early 90s, the locks of Babri Masjid and the end to the restraints on exploitative global capital. She felt that we need to understand both capitalism and casteism in order to understand the nature of the state as both work hand in hand. The arrests of Prof. GN Saibaba, Rona Wilson and Advocate Surendra Gadling reveals that anyone amongst us could be arrested next by this exceedingly vindictive state; a state that is ready to let the country burn in order to retain control in the 2019 elections. She called the BJP the Bharat Jalao Party that spreads the politics of hatred and urged everyone to unite in the face of this hatred. Kavita Srivastava of PUCL raised the threat to all democratic institutions and activists in the lead up to the 2019 elections. As democratic state institutions collapse under the weight, journalists are constantly threatened by the police, and activists thrown behind bars under UAPA and other draconian laws. She asked for the repeal of UAPA, a draconian law which has progressively been made more draconian through amendments in 2008 and 2012.
Vinay Ratan Singh from the Bhim Army spoke of the continued incarceration of Chandrasekhar for challenging caste oppression. The government has set the silence of the Bhim Army against atrocities and caste-based oppression as the price for Chandrasekar’s release. On 2 April 2018, those protesting against the government were killed, arrested, and their families continue to struggle, without food. Bhim army will continue to raise their voice against caste oppression, through education, of this and the next generation. D Raja, member of Parliament, reminded the people that the constitution was enshrined to protect the people of the country but instead, under the current regime, it is being dismantled and abused and most importantly subverted to serve the ends of those in power. He challenged the BJP and the Sangh Parivar about the history of this country particularly highlighting their history in being hand in glove with the colonial state. He called the effort to build a Hindu Rashtra an attempt to establish fascism and destroy democracy. He condemned state repression, be it in the form of name-calling to outright violence, on the people fighting to save democracy in the country.
Baby Turi from Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan, Jharkhand, challenged the continuing persecution, false arrests and cases against adivasis involved in Pathalgarhi, challenging the escalated grab of land and forests. She demanded the repeal of UAPA. Prashant Bhushan also shed light on the trend of arresting those who are facing repression, such as Muslims, Christians, Dalits, Adivasis, and those raising their voices against the repression, while the perpetrators of violence and atrocities are not even investigated. This he found was visible in the case of Stan Swamy and 10 other activists being charged with sedition in Jharkhand. Surendra Gadling, representing GN Saibaba in the false case under UAPA, is arrested under UAPA. In Thoothkudi, those protesting against Sterlite are shot and killed, those leading the movement arrested. The BJP government is looting the country, while their promises of bringing a strong Lokpal, targeting black money and corruption, are all forgotten. Vijay Mallya, Mehul Choksi and Nirav Modi are allowed to flee the country under Modi’s watch. The attack on the people of this country as visible in Assam with the NRC is another effort by the current government to establish a Hindu state favourable to its ends. Prof. Manoranjan Mohanty reminded all that while oppressed groups have been fighting injustice but there are two new dimensions to the current regime: one, relentless repression by army and paramilitary forces, and two, mob lynchings. This is done in the name of ‘national security’. This national security is nothing but security for corporate and capital. We are fighting for the security of peoples. During the Emergency, we fought for civil liberties and democratic rights, but those are not sufficient anymore. The fight needs to be strengthened through unity.
Rinchin from WSS also brought to the fore the two issues of repression on women and the loot of land. She found that capitalism and patriarchy stood firmly on the ground established by a repressive state, a state that runs roughshod over the constitutional rights of adivasis as in the case of the Pathalgadi movement in Jharkhand and the assaults on women by CRPF in Bastar. She reminded that someone like Mahesh Raut who had been working for the rights of gram sabhas as enshrined in the constitution in Gadchiroli has been incarcerated and declared anti-national. She asked where are the voices of the women who have been raped, and then forcefully held under the custody by the state. She asked the gathering to resolve to fight against both capitalist loot and the patriarchal system that exists to crush the people of the country. Sujato Bhadra spoke of the Bhangar movement and the effort to crush it as indicative of the various forms of repression visible in the country today. Rajeev Yadav of Rihai Manch said that these arrests are a warning to the people that anyone who will speak will be jailed and today’s protest is an indication that people will not be threatened this way. Aparna of IFTU spoke about the banning of trade unions like MSS in Jharkhand and how the state is afraid of workers organisations that are reminding the people about the struggles of workers all the way from the Russian revolution to now. The struggle for Podu land in Telangana where the government is running JCBs on land of the people and filing cases against those speaking against it is indicative of the anti-people nature of the government. She said that we must remember that two people from amongst us, Professor GN Saibaba and Rona Wilson, are now behind bars for speaking against the loot of land and for the release of political prisoners while right wing perpetrators of violence like Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide roam free.
Buta Singh of Association for Democratic Rights talked about party controlled media trial that is on–going all over the country. Sawarnjit Singh, Tapas Chakrabarty, Prof. Laxman and Kranti Chaitanya all spoke of the need to unite in the face of repression. Parvez Ahmad spoke of how today is a gathering of people of all shades but what is common is our struggle against fascism and how people like Gauri Lankesh, Gadling and Chandrasekhar and all spoke about justice and now they are silenced. All participants reiterated the need to fight against the murder of constitutional rights and the need to unite and fight against all forms of state repression. The programme culminated with revolutionary songs in various languages by groups from all over the country.