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Archives for : September2018

‘Sinister homo sapiens’: Pratap Bhanu Mehta uncovers the essential danger underlying the nationwide raids and arrests

All Indian parties have construed Maoism as a threat and all of them, from the Congress to the Trinamool Congress, have been draconian in their own way. But what is different this time in not just that there are operations or arrests.

Written by Pratap Bhanu Mehta | New Delhi | Updated: August 31, 2018 12:05:09 am

elgaar probe, elgaar arrests, pune police arrests, elgaar parishad, supreme court elgaar event, bhima koregaon violence, maoist links, intellectuals arrest, UAPA, indian express, sudha bharadwaj

These arrests came just at the moment when those groups were in the spotlight for the organised killing of intellectuals.The arrests of, and raids on, some of India’s most credible human rights advocates like Sudha Bharadwaj and others is a chilling moment. It is the sign of a cowardly, arbitrary and oppressive state that will use any means to intimidate dissenters. Much has been written about the legal and civil rights aspects of these cases. But it is important to not lose sight of the political and rhetorical specificity of the moment in which these cases have been filed. They are not isolated cases, they are just one element in the production of a new and dangerous ideological complex.

Three appalling realities have in the past hobbled the democratic legitimacy of the Indian state. It is not a piece of whataboutery to remind ourselves that laws like the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, and other sedition laws have been misused and abused consistently. Their very existence is a scandal. No political party has had the courage to oppose them. Second, as one of the raided, Anand Teltumbde, pointed out brilliantly in his work, the state has used fear-mongering to suppress those who most actively do advocacy on behalf of marginalised groups like the Adivasis and Dalits.

The Maoists can be a menacing threat in localised contexts. But we use Maoism as a pretext to delegitimise genuine rights claims of the marginalised, to stigmatise their political agency as a threat to the state. It also makes it easy for the privileged to crowd out the genuine moral claims of Dalits and tribals by consistently portraying them as a sinister threat. A state that cannot distinguish between a genuine moral claim and subversive threat will be its own undoing. Third, no party is committed to independent credible policing, or a less than Kafkaesque legal system, that can address genuine threats without politicisation or partisanship. These are enduring blots on us.

But this general backdrop cannot excuse the specificity of what is going on. The most alarming aspect of the current situation is that these specific arrests and raids are a pretext for something even more sinister: The creation of permanent internal war. This is an excuse to say that the nation is always under peril — first from anti-nationals, then the urban Naxals, and maybe next will be Homo sapiens. The idea of a nation under constant peril is the pretext for legitimising excessive state power, it is the pretext for targeting your opponents as traitors, and it is the pretext for creating the conditions where the necessity of a “strong” leader who can confront the peril becomes an inevitability.

All Indian parties have construed Maoism as a threat and all of them, from the Congress to the Trinamool Congress, have been draconian in their own way. But what is different this time is not just that there are operations or arrests. There is a massive and compliant propaganda machinery that whips up this threat into a generalised political McCarthyism, night after night. The goal is to create a society where we find treason everywhere. It is to enshrine suspicion as the default political mode of operation because suspicion will ensure we prey upon each other as citizens rather than collectively hold the state accountable.

It is also not an accident that the exaggeration of these threats serves as convenient distraction in three senses. These investigations were started in the context of the Bhima Koregaon agitation. Those investigations also seem to be repeating elements of the profound moral and legal inversion this government has produced: The victims are construed as the perpetrators and the perpetrators as heroes of an ideological cause. Conspiracy theories are usually baseless or assume too much cleverness. But it is hard not to be appalled by the fact that there seems to be a serious attempt to turn away the spotlight from the fact that groups speaking in the name of Hindutva are becoming the most serious and violent threats to the constitutional order of the republic.

These arrests came just at the moment when those groups were in the spotlight for the organised killing of intellectuals. What better for a republic than that, when faced with a real threat, conjure up an exaggerated one?
The second sense of distraction is the more generalised: Polarisation. We always assumed the potential polarisation will come from Hindu-Muslim issues. There are elements of that. But there is another polarisation playbook that can appease the secular and make every Twitter warrior feel virtuous: The nation.

For a government that promised a focus on the economy it is remarkable how much it wants public discourse to not focus on the economy. We should give government carte blanche on the economy, while the citizens take up the mantle of national security, finding a subversive in every lawyer, a potential terrorist in every intellectual, a violent revolution under every constitutional claim. Another wonderful inversion.

The third sense of distraction is the state’s attempt to impugn the autonomy of genuine social movements. The traditional social movements, labour, farmers, have often dissipated in the face of contradictory economic interests and political factionalisation. But pivotal Dalit and Adivasi movements still remain potent and the state neutralises them by ideologically attacking them.

I do not personally know any of those who have been targeted. But Teltumbde’s work has been an indispensable guide to anyone thinking of caste politics in India. Sudha Bharadwaj’s work has been exemplary in its courage and commitment to the moral vision of the Constitution. She was kind enough to preside over the Krishna Bharadwaj memorial lecture I delivered at Jawaharlal Nehru University, a lecture which the JNU administration tried to prevent from being held. These quotidian facts only underscore that this assault is really about intimidating intellectuals and curtailing advocacy.

It is also part of the larger ideological complex of branding life in public universities as more of a threat to the nation than an intolerant nationalism. Arun Ferreira’s Colours of the Cage, is a searing portrait of the Indian criminal justice system. Whatever you think of his ideology, the book should make you sit up and think about the torture that is at the heart of our state.

This may not be a declared Emergency. And, statistically, the crackdown might pale in relation to the Emergency. But the Emergency was merely about power. What we are seeing is something more insidious: The production of a psychological complex where everyone is a traitor. It is time for the courts and civil society to push back against a power that seeks to not just imprison our bodies, but stultify our souls.

The writer is vice-chancellor, Ashoka University. Views are personal

Sinister homo sapiens

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Statement against police action on Prof. Anand Teltumbde and others – Students, Faculty and Alumni of IIT Kharagpur

We, the undersigned students, faculty and others from IIT Kharagpur are shocked with the treatment that the police forces have meted out to our ex-colleague, Prof. Anand Teltumbde and other intellectuals. His residence in Goa, where he is working as a Senior Professor and Chair, Big Data Analytics at Goa Institute of Management (GIM), was intruded by the police forces without permission in his absence. This police action was part of the large scale raids and arrests of eminent scholars, intellectuals and lawyers across the country on Tuesday.

As described by Prof. Teltumbde, “My wife, after reaching Goa spoke with security and got the horrific description of the entire process. In the morning hours, a police van accompanied by two police vehicles gate crashed into the campus. They took away all the cell phones of security personnel and disconnected landlines. They enquired about me and picked up one security person from the main gate for showing the house. At the second gate, they repeated the same, taking away all cell phones and disconnecting the phone line, and came over to our house. They threatened the security guard to get the keys. He brought the duplicate keys and the process of opening the house took place as described above. The entire process is conducted as though I was a dreaded terrorist or a criminal. The police could have enquired with me whatever they wanted to, either by sending a police official or calling me to the Police Station. But the entire intention is to create an atmosphere of terror and project that I had already done some dreaded crime…”

Prof. Teltumbde has been known as a renowned management professional and a scholar. He graduated as a Mechanical Engineer from VNIT Nagpur and pursued a degree in Management from IIM Ahmedabad. He did his doctorate in Cybernetics and has held responsible positions in the corporate sector such as Executive Director and Managing Director of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. and CEO of Petronet India Ltd. Even while being in the corporate sector, unusually, he published over 20 research papers in prestigious journals. Later, he was invited to serve as a Professor in IIT Kharagpur, where he taught business management courses for more than five years before joining GIM. Currently, he heads the Big Data Analytics program of GIM and has launched a post-graduation course this year, the first of its kind in the country.

With all his engagements in his professional life, he always had the intention to contribute back to the society. He has made his intellectual contribution toward studying various social issues and has published hundreds of articles along with a regular column, “”Margin Speak”” in the prestigious Economic and Political Weekly (EPW). He has published 26 books which have been well received and widely read in India and abroad by prestigious publishing houses such as Zed books, Routledge, and Penguin RandomHouse. Moreover, he delivered hundreds of lectures across India and abroad, carrying out the role of a public intellectual for the past three decades. Prof. Anand has been a winner of several laurels, awards and honorary doctorates from different universities.

As an outstanding scholar, management professional and writer, he has been a sought-after person in the country and has attracted easy attention towards any opinion he makes. We think, that his critical analysis of various social issues has brought him into the list of the persons who are an eyesore to the current ruling dispensation.

As Albert Einstein said, “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”, with all his intellectual contributions, Prof. Teltumbde has lived his life as an honest truthseeker and has questioned any injustice throughout his life. Whatever criticisms he made, and whatever questions he placed, he has made it with utmost scholastic discipline. Moreover, as in insinuation of his connection with Bhima-Koregaon or Elgar Parishad, he has been a critique of the episode and his criticism has been published in The Wire [].

Keeping all his activities and credentials in mind, it is quite unfortunate that a scholar like him has had to bear such a treatment from the State without any iota of wrongdoing. We condemn this treatment of him and other intellectuals, who have lived a life significantly contributing towards the society, have been made to meet. We think that this, if not amended imminently, will seriously affect the democratic ethos of our country.


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Gujarat: Fishing licence suspended as ‘Brahmins object’, fishermen move High Court

The petition mentions that this year on February 2, the contract for fishing was suspended because “certain persons belonging to Brahmin community” had raised objection against fishing in Pratapsagar lake on the ground that their religious feelings would be hurt. (Representational Image)

The Gujarat High Court on Wednesday issued a notice to the state government on a petition moved by an association of fishermen for revoking the suspension of their fishing contract licence. Their licences are under suspension as per the order of Sabarkantha district collector following representation by a group of Brahmins and also in view of a public interest litigation (PIL).

The division bench of Justice Anant S Dave and Justice Biren Vaishnav has sought the government’s reply by September 9.

The petition has been moved by Asha Matsya Vikas Khedut Mangalam Mandal through its president Ashaben P Makwana, 35, a resident of Jawangadh village in Sabarkantha district.

The petition mentions that this year on February 2, the contract for fishing was suspended because “certain persons belonging to Brahmin community had raised objection against fishing in Pratapsagar lake on the ground that their religious feelings would be hurt if fishing activity is permitted in the lake.”

The petition said the government issued an advertisement for tender for fishing contract in June 2017. The association’s tender was accepted and on October 24, the contract was awarded for fishing in Pratapsagar reservoir for five years with retrospective effect from July 2017 to June 2022.

By the time the tender was awarded to the association, one Hiralal Punamlal Joshi from the district had filed a PIL in the High Court, challenging the tender on the ground that fishing in the Pratpasagar lake amounted to hurting religious feelings.

Joshi withdrew the PIL in April this year and also wrote a letter to the district collector’s office, saying that he didn’t have any objection to the fishing tender.

The petition mentions that the fishing contract awarded in October, 2017 had a rider that the contract was subject matter of the outcome of the PIL.

The petitioner’s lawyer Subramaniam Iyer said that despite the withdrawal of the PIL by Joshi, the district authorities have not revoked the suspension of the fishing licence.

The petition mentions that the fishermen’s association had filed an application through RTI, which revealed that some people from Raygadh village, close to the lake, had submitted a memorandum to the Sabarkantha collector in June 2017.

The petition says, “From the text of the memorandum it appears that certain persons belonging to Brahmin community had raised objection against fishing contract being awarded pursuant to advertisement on the ground that their religious feelings would be hurt if fishing activity is permitted in the Pratapsagar lake.”

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India – Meet The five renowned ‘strangers’, the petitioners to SC for release of Human rights activists

Meet the petitioners who moved top court

New Delhi: The five petitioners who moved the Supreme Court on Wednesday against the arrest of the five activists were described by the prosecution as “strangers” who could not seek bail for “someone else”.

The five petitioners may be “strangers” to the BJP government but not to the nation: one is among the foremost historians in India, another is an economist honoured with the Padma Bhushan, the third a professor emerita and Oxford scholar, the fourth a sociology professor and the fifth a renowned civil liberties crusader who happens to be the daughter of the late Field Marshal, Sam Manekshaw.

None of them has ever been linked to the Maoist insurgency, before or during the era of “Urban Naxals” or “Half-Maoists”. Below is an introduction to those who consider Romila Thapar, Devaki Jain, Prabhat Patnaik, Satish Deshpande and Maja Daruwala as “strangers”:

Romila Thapar

Romila Thapar

A professor emerita of history at JNU, the 86-year-old Thapar helped found the varsity’s Centre for Historical Studies. A scholar of ancient history, her most famous works are Asoka and the Decline of the Mauryas (1961) and Early India: From the Origins to AD 1300, for which she won the US Library of Congress’s Kluge Prize in 2008.

Thapar is a pioneer in ancient historical research, who gave new insights into ancient India by studying primary sources like archaeology and who revealed that Aryans were a linguistic group, not a race.

She studied in Panjab University and London’s School of Oriental and Asian Studies.

After the demolition of the Babri Masjid, she went beyond the confines of academic writing to speak out against the communal interpretation of history.

Thapar opposed changes to school history textbooks – one of which she had authored -when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was in power. She then faced several threats and harassment.

A petition against her was filed with the Kluge Chair in Countries and Cultures of the South at the Library of Congress in 2003, alleging that she was “Marxist and anti-Hindu”. She declined the Padma Bhushan twice, on principle that she only accepted honours from academic bodies for her work.

Devaki Jain

Devaki Jain

A Padma Bhushan awardee, Jain led in the field of feminist economics.

The daughter of the diwan of the erstwhile Mysore princely state M. A. Sreenivasan, Jain read in Oxford. She founded the Indian Social Studies Trust in Delhi and was the Chair of the Advisory Committee on Gender for the United Nations Centre in Asia-Pacific and a member of the advisory panel of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for the 1997 Human Development Report on Poverty and for the 2002 Report on Governance.

She was also a member of the Eminent Persons Group of the Graça Machel Study Group appointed by the UN to assess the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children.

She was married to the late Gandhian, freedom fighter, planner and former high commissioner to South Africa, L.C. Jain. Television journalist Sreenivasan Jain and Supreme Court advocate Gopal Jain are their sons.

 Prabhat Patnaik

Prabhat Patnaik

A professor emeritus of JNU who helped set up its Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Patnaik studied at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, and went to Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship in 1966. He taught at Cambridge.

He was the chairman of the Kerala State Planning Board from 2006 to 2011 and was part of a four-member task force of the UN to recommend reform measures for the global financial system in 2008.

He specialises in macroeconomics and political economy and had published seminal works such as Time, Inflation and Growth (1988), Economics and Egalitarianism (1990), Whatever Happened to Imperialism and Other Essays (1995) and Re-envisioning Socialism (2011). Patnaik is also a columnist for The Telegraph.

He has worked on the dynamics of a mixed economy, theory of imperialism, and Marxist theory. Patnaik has been one of the main voices among the retired faculty against the current administration of JNU and the vilification of its students and teachers under the BJP regime.

 Satish Deshpande

Satish Deshpande

The youngest petitioner, 60-year-old Deshpande is a sociology professor in Delhi University known for his work on caste. His empirical research on Dalits have highlighted their absence in academia and the socially inferior position of Dalit converts among Christians and Muslims.

He studied in JNU and later in the University of California. He has been on committees for publishing school textbooks.

 Maja Daruwala

Maja Daruwala

The daughter of the late Field Marshal, Sam Maneckshaw, she headed the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative for 20 years, where she focused on prison and police reforms.

A lawyer by training, Maja has worked in India, England, Singapore and Sri Lanka. She sits on several charitable boards, including the International Women’s Health Coalition, NAMATI, International Record Management Trust and Public Affairs Centre, Bangalore. She is a recipient of the Nani Palkiwala Award for protection and preservation of civil liberties in India.

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India – The Language used in press reports in Hindi on rape #Vaw

दुष्कर्म. And रेप. The paradoxical language of बलात्कार in a Hindi newspaper

A look at 16 issues of Dainik Bhaskar

by-Saumya Agrawa

A Hindi newspaper reader in the Prithviraj Road area of Delhi. In Dainik Bhaskar, one of India’s most-read dailies, rape is politely referred to as दुष्कर्म. PhotoVíctor IniestaCC BY 2.0

There is an international spotlight on India’s ‘rape culture’, and continuing outrage by the Indian media and public about it. And every day, there are stories of rape and sexual violence in the newspapers. But the public reaction is generally one of indifference. Is that because people have seen too many news items about rape? Or is that because of the way in which such news is reported? What impact could the language used to present rape and sexual violence have on the minds of newspaper readers?

With these questions in mind, I decided to parse the Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar, looking at issues from May 16 to May 31, 2018.

What struck me right away were the terms that the newspaper used to describe sexual violence — some were euphemistic, others minimised the incidents, and in some cases, Hindi transliterations of English words were used, perhaps as a device to distance from the severity of the crime.

For sexual harassment and assault, words like छेड़छाड़ (‘chhed-chhad’, teasing), बदसलूकी (‘badsalooki’, misbehaviour), अश्लील हरकत (‘ashleel harkat’, obscene act) and यौन उत्पीड़न (‘yaun utpeedan’, sexual harassment) are used.

Rape is usually politely referred to as दुष्कर्म (‘dushkarm’, misdeed). In other cases, the English word ‘rape’ is transliterated into Hindi (रेप). The reason for this use of another language is unclear, since there exists a Hindi word for rape — बलात्कार (‘balaatkaar’). It hints perhaps at an underlying perception that rape is alien to the readers, and they should be ‘protected’ from the idea of it. The correct Hindi term for rape was used only once in the 16 days that I looked at Dainik Bhaskar.

This reticence is not evident in the language used to describe sexual crimes. These details often shape the way readers view the victims — “नुकीले सामान और लोहे की रॉड से हमला किया गया” (attacked with sharp objects and iron rod), “बच्ची की चीखें” (the screams of the girl), “हवस का शिकार” (prey of lust), “चाकू की नोक पर धमकाकर” (threatened at the tip of knife). This kind of language evokes fear as well as pity for the victims. Rarely do we see empowering messages such as “पीड़िता युवती ने हिम्मत नहीं हारी” (victim did not lose courage) and “पीड़िता को इंसाफ मिलना चाहिए” (the victim should get justice).

The headlines of stories about sexual violence are also problematic in that they focus excessively on victims — where they were, what they were doing, their profession, their age. They are spoken of as passive subjects of crime, while the rapist’s agency is glossed over. For example: गुरुद्वारा नानक प्याऊ में महिला सेवादार से छेड़छाड़, मामला दर्ज (Volunteer at Gurudwara Nanak Piao molested, incident reported), महिला बॉक्सर से बदमाशों ने सरेआम बदसलूकी की (Woman boxer harassed openly by miscreants), 6० साल की मेंटली रिटायर्ड [sic] महिला से रेप का आरोपी वीडियो के आधार पर गिरफ्तार (Man accused of raping 60-year-old mentally challenged woman arrested on the basis of video).

In headlines such as these, the victim’s identity or characteristics can be seen to define the story — readers are encouraged to focus on her, rather than the perpetrator’s criminal actions. The content of the stories also reflects this tendency to highlight the victim’s behaviour — while she is rarely shamed or blamed openly, there are insinuations that her actions played a role in the crime. For example, in this story about an abduction and subsequent rape, certain details subtly gave information on how the victim’s decisions sealed her fate — that she was a club dancer and the “matter unfolded late on the night of May 27” (“मामला 27 मई देर रात का है”).

It is curious to note the paradox of journalists graphically describing incidents and freely giving details about victims, but avoiding the use of बलात्कार, the correct term for rape. To me, this reflects a fundamental disconnect — rape is more than a दुष्कर्म or misdeed. It is not an import from the West that must be written of using a foreign word. Rape is a universal problem, but it is also an Indian problem and we can start to address it by acknowledging it unflinchingly in our own language.

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India -After arrest of Human rights activists, Now Journalist illegally detained #WTFnews

Release journalist Aasif Sultan from illegal detention
Srinagar, Sept. 1:
The Kashmir Working Journalist Association (KWJA) and Kashmir Journalist Association (KJA) have taken strong note are shocked and outraged to learn that a Srinagar based journalist, Aasif Sultan, has been under illegal detention at Police Station Batamaloo for the last six days.
We demand his immediate release from illegal custody, and action against police officials in charge of the station, and S P South Srinagar for keeping a journalist under illegal detention for a week.
Sultan, an Assistant Editor with the monthly newsmagazine, Kashmir Narrator, has been picked up from his home in Batamaloo on Monday night, purportedly for questioning, and since then police has not released him.
We have learnt that Sultan is being questioned for his report on slain Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, published in a recent issue of Kashmir Narrator, along with other stories and has been asked to report his sources to police. Apart from the mistreatment meted out to him in custody, he is also being put questions about his “political ideology”.
The editor of Kashmir Narrator, Showkat Motta, said police has been dilly dallying Sultan’s release through hollow assurances. He said, rather than releasing Sultan at the earliest, SP South Srinagar, G V Sundeep Chakravarthy even questioned him about his “political ideology”.
“I thought I will resolve the issue with them amicably and was trying to avoid confrontation but they (police) are prolonging his illegal detention,” Motta said. “They are asking him who he has talked to, why he has done this and that story, They are discussing headlines with him in lock up and pressurising him to become police source.”
It is no secret that police and intelligence agencies have been trying their best to police the media in Kashmir, and harassing the media organisations and journalists has been a routine, but we want to make it clear that the journalist fraternity will fight such efforts tooth and nail.
We are seeking release of Sultan at an earliest and ask the government and police chief to explain the laws and rules under which he has been kept in lockup for the past six days.
Both KWJA and KJA also demand initiation of disciplinary and legal action against police officials for violation of the fundamental rights of an individual through prolonged illegal detention

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Odisha- Release the seven innocents of Kandhamal


Seven innocent Christians – six of them illiterates – have been languishing in jail since they were arrested on the charge of murdering Swami Laxmanananda. After over four years of non-stop trial in the Fast Track Court, all of them were found guilty and were convicted to life imprisonment on October 3, 2013.

The judgment claimed that the swami’s assassins had carried out the murder in a ‘highly professional manner’1 . Though the charge-sheet mentioned that the criminal antedecent of each accused was ‘under investigation’, the prosecution could not cite a single criminal charge against any of the seven accused.

Note: The following true story of each of the accused is excerpted from the forthcoming investigative book ‘Cry of the Oppressed’ by Anto Akkara – the journalist author who has pursued Kandhamal passionately from the day one. Since surnames are common, first names are used to avoid confusion

1. Bhaskar Sunamajhi – a lamb branded wolf

An illiterate, Bhaskar Sunamajhi was playing cards with his village friends in Kutiguda village when police came to call him around noontime on December 13, 2008. Being a ‘gram rakhi’ (village protector), police used to come even at odd hours to fetch Bhaskar to accompany them for crime investigation and other sundry works.

“You can return tomorrow,” Bhaskar’s wife Debaki recounted the police’s words when they took him away. When Bhaskar did not return even after two days, she went to the police asking for the whereabouts of her husband. “Has he not returned?” was the sarcastic response from the constable at the Kotagarh police station.

Later, a senior officer came in and told her: “He will come after six months.” However, even after more than seven years, Bhaskar is yet to return home. The jail in Phulbani (headquarters of Kandhamal district) has been his home since then.

In the verdict, the judge cited the testimony of Prashanta Kumar Parida2 – recorded a year after the murder – that he had been told by one Parbat Panigrahi “two/three years back” that Bhaskar was “hand in globes (read gloves) with them (Maoists) and has undergone Maoist training at Daringbadi for about 15 to 20 days.”

The fact that this testimony itself had been recorded eight months after Parbat had been shot dead3 – raises serious doubts about its credibility.

The allegation that Bhaskar was a Maoist and that he had attended 15-20 days of Maoist training at Daringbadi was denied by his wife Debaki. In an interview at her Spartan home in October 2015, Debaki insisted that in their 8 years of marriage (when he was arrested), Bhaskar had “never ventured out from his home.” “He never travelled to anywhere far away from the village except to the Kotagarh market and the police station.”

As for the murder charge, even the Hindu neighbours of Bhaskar were equally indignant. “This is a total lie. He was with us on the day (the Swami was skilled),” Birancha Paraseth, Bhaskar’s Hindu neigbhbour, vouched for the innocence of Bhaskar.

“He is a good man. He will not do such a crime like killing of a Hindu leader. All of us feel very bad about this,” quipped another Hindu, Pavitra Sanseth.

“Sir, if we all could have gone there (to the court) and explained his innocence. Please tell us how we can help and ask for his release,” he added.

2. Munda Badmaji – ‘dumb’ man among seven convicts

Take the case of Munda Badmajhi who was picked up by the police in his sleep from his house in the night on October 4, 2008 from his village of Duringpodi under Madaguda panchayat (village council). Bandigudali, his wife, did not shy away from revealing the true character of her beloved from the same village she had married 21 years ago – when I met her at her house in October 2015.

An illiterate like Munda, Bandigudali said candidly: “He never went outside the village even for buying his own clothes as he could not distinguish between different denominations of notes. I had to go buy lungi for him. He had to depend on others for everything.”

“He cannot communicate properly. He would not even mix with other village people due to lack of self-confidence or join them for a drinking session. He works in the field, eats and sleeps at home – like an animal. He is like a dumb man,” she added bluntly stopping short of describing her husband an ‘idiot’.

Yet, the judge who convicted the seven accused declared that the prosecutor had argued the case meticulously4 and produced the ‘reliable witnesses’ to prove the murder charge against the accused.

Prosecution even claimed to have recovered a ‘muscle loading gun’ (hunting gun) from the house of Munda who cannot even handle currency notes.

“We never had a gun and my husband could not even use a gun. This is shocking,” asserted Bandigudali. Further, she pointed out that no police or investigator ever visited her house to verify such an allegation after the midnight raid when her husband was dragged away in sleep.

3. Bijay Kumar Sanseth – Being popular costs heavy

Bijay Kumar Sanseth, the only one who has been to school among the seven Christians convicted for the Swami’s murder, was a leading government contractor of Kotagarh and a Christian leader from the Baptist community.

Police called up Bijay on his mobile phone on December 12, 2008 when he was in the Kotagarh market. “When he came back home in the evening, he told me that police had called him to the station and that a senior officer wanted to meet him next day,” Pabitra Sanseth, Bijay’s wife recounted, sitting in her house at Madhuguda, 8km from Kotagarh.

On December 13 morning, Bijay went to the field to till the land with his new tractor and returned home by 10 am. That was to proceed to the police station as the police had asked him to. Bijay did not return home for the night, Pabitra said. Later she came to know that Bijay had been taken to Rayagada jungle, over 100 km from Kotagarh.

However, the investigating officer cooked up a different story and told the court that “on 12.12.2008 he got reliable information regarding presence of the accused persons Bijay, Garnath, Buddha, Bhaskar near a forest near village Sartul under Kotgarh police station to attend a meeting held by Maoists. On 13.12.2008, he reached Kotgarh P.S. and found that Kotgarh police had already apprehended Bijay and Garnath. He interrogated both of them. On the next day, he apprehended Bijay, Garnath, Buddha and Bhaskar and shifted them to Chandili police station on security point of view for further interrogation.”5

But the investigating office also made a fanciful claim alleging that Bijay was with six others who stood near the gate of the Kotagarh High School on the busy main road and discussed publicly the conspiracy to murder the Swami6 . This claim was attributed to Mahasingh Kanhar (Prosecution Witness 17), a Kandho tribal migrant to the region and active member of Sangh Parivar. Mahasingh who had initially refuted the prosecution claim attributed to him, But he made a u-turn and later endorsed the prosecution claim on his retrial…

(This entire cooked up plot that stretches human imagination to wildest level is dissected and the fallacy exposed in the chapter titled ‘Questionable Evidences’.)

“Wherever I go, people tell me ‘He was a good man. Why he is in jail?” Salei Sanseth, illiterate father of Bijay told me in October 2015 at his house – adjacent to the house of his imprisoned eldest son.

“The popularity of my son and his high contacts with government officials have led to this tragedy,” Salei explained how his son got framed up as accused in the Swami’s murder.

“Many were jealous of him,” summed up Salei. As the secretary of the Baptist Union in Kotagarh, he added, Bijay knew three of the accused Christians and all of them were named in the murder along with Bijay.

In their hurry to cook up the case, the investigation team even failed to record his proper age. While the charge-sheet says he was born in 1972, his real year of birth in the voter id is recorded as 1966.

4. Gornath Chalanseth – friendship with police no help

Gornath Chalanseth suspected nothing when the Kotagar police officials called him for a meeting in the first week of December 2008. Being active in politics and a member of Kotagarh Block panchayat, Gornath had couple of sessions with the police.

On December 13 early morning, police came and Gornath went with them with his cousin pastor Paramanand Badaseth accompanying them. From the police station, pastor Paramanand saw Gornath being taken away in a police van. As Gornath did not return for a couple of days, pastor Paramanand inquired about him from a friendly policeman and learnt that he had been taken to Rayagada jungle along with Bijay, Bhaskar and Budhadev.

Along with Bijay, Gornath was also accused of distributing sweets in the church solely based on the testimony of Mahasingh.

“The evidence of P.W.17 (Mahasingh) that soon after the incident accused Garanath and Bijaya were distributing sweets at Kotgarh Church further indicate principle object behind the conspiracy which nothing but assassination of Swamiji,” claimed the judgment 7.

“The police never came to verify if sweets had been distributed in the church at all,” asserted Pastor Paramanand in charge of the Baptist church attached to his compound.

Moved by the framed up story of the innocent Christians, Sujit Dolemajhi – the Hindu sarpanch of Madaguda, Baleswar Nayak – former sarpanch and other top 10 Hindus of the area went to Mahasingh’s house along with pastor Paramanand. Mahasingh told them to wait and called the police. The Tumudibandh police arrived promptly and questioned them why they were ‘forcing him’ and threatened to arrest them.

But the sarpanch told the police: “We are not forcing him but telling him in friendly manner why he should bear false witness to put innocent people in trouble.” …

5. Durjo Sunamajhi – charged with murder despite being away

A home guard for the police, 35-year old Durjo Sunamajhi was in drunken stupor on October 4, 2008 night when police barged into his house in Budapada village. They carried him away in sleep when he was wearing only a lungi. Neighbours who woke up hearing the commotion saw the police carrying him while he muttered: “Who are you? Why are you carrying me?”

After putting Durjo in the van, police banged on the door that fell apart and searched the house. Hearing the noise, when his wife Gumili got up and asked the police what they were doing.

“Don’t make noise,” the police told her. They searched the house and picked up the broken ancestral hunting gun that was lying unused for years.

“My husband never touched a gun. The gun was broken and only the barrel was there,” recalled Gumili.

Gumili has not yet understood how the police could charge her husband with the Swami’s murder as he was not even in Kotagarh area on the fateful day.

Durjo had accompanied Debonath Rupamajhi, Andrea Sunamajhi and Sukantho Mallick and reached Muniguda railway station on August 22 to go to Kerala seeking employment.

“When the train came early next morning, they were sleeping and missed it but stayed at the platform,” said Jeremiah Sunamahji, who had met Indian president Pranab Mukherjee on September 7, 2015 with a delegation of Kandhamal survivors demanding the release of the seven innocent Christians. He reiterated his uncle was not in Kandhmal on the day the Swami was murdered.

Further, he added that Durjo’s elder brother Sarbe Sunamajhi had even shown the train ticket to Kerala to the police to prove that he was not in the area on the day of the Swami’s killing. Sadly, the illiterate villagers did not have the wisdom to preserve their tickets to contest the police claim…

6. Sanatan Badamajhi – axe planted by police nailed him

“We were sleeping when the police came in at around 11 pm and forced open the door. They made him (Sanatan) stand in the veranda and kept an axe there. When I saw the axe, I asked the police: “Who kept the axe here?” recounted Badusi – wife of Sanatan Badamajhi, a labourer living in a one-room house in Parigado village.

“But they did not respond. They took him away along with the axe saying, he will return tomorrow,” she added.

Meanwhile, Nimantho Badamajhi, Sanatan’s elder brother, came out of his house hearing the commotion. But, police sent him back saying:”You go and sleep. Nothing will happen.”

Badusi later came to know that police had brought the axe from the house of Mukantho Mallick, a Hindu neighbour who had accompanied the police to identify Sanatan’ s house.

“Later, Mukantho had been repeatedly complaining that the police took away his axe. I had only one axe and it is still in my house,” Badusi reiterated.

Days before his arrest, Badusi said, some of the Hindu village leaders had cautioned Sanatan that he would be arrested and asked him to go away.

On the day Swami was murdered (August 23), Sanatan had gone for community pasturing – to tend the 100 cattle and sheep of the entire village with 22 families – 16 Christian and 6 Hindu. Each adult had to go for this pasturing duty by turn as they lived together as a community.

“He came back in the evening and had not gone anywhere (on the day Swami was murdered),” asserted Longisha Badmajhi, Sanatan’s Hindu neighbor. Nakula Mallick, another Hindu who had accompanied Sanatan on pasturing on the day, too vouched for his innocence.

“Police never came to investigate or ask anything about him. If we had been called, we would have testified for him in the court,” Nakula pointed out.

The judge who convicted all the seven accused had sprung a surprise even to the prosecution. While the prosecution had claimed to have ‘siezed’ two guns from the houses of the accused, the judge had made it three,. The third gun, according to the judge, had been seized from Sanatan’s house!

“His (investigation officer S K Patnaik’s) evidence with regard to seizure of the muzzle-loading guns from the house of Duryodhan Sanamajhi, Munda Badmajhi and a gun from the house of Sanatan Badmajhi clearly implicate the above accused persons,” claimed the judgement8 .

Despite the judge professing that “I have carefully gone through the entire evidence adduced by the investigating officer”9 , he has committed a blunder when he declared that a third gun had been recovered from the house of Sanatan Badmajhi…

7. Budhadeb Nayak – son threatened with arrest to trap father

“Be careful and go into hiding,” Mohindero, a gram rakhi (village protector), cautioned Budhadeb after he got hint of a police plan to arrest some of the Christians for the Swami’s murder.

But Budhadeb told him nonchalantly: ‘I am not a robber.”

However, the Hindu leader’s caution soon came true. Police reached Budhadeb’s house looking for him. Lingaraj, his 20-year old elder son was at home and the police told him: “Your father has killed Swami Laxmanananda.” Police even threatened to arrest him unless he informed the whereabouts of his father.

On the night of December 13, police came again and arrested Budhadeb while he was sleeping. “He was wearing only a lungi and baniyan. They tied his hands to take him away. He asked for clothes and I gave him a shawl,” recalled his wife Nilandri.

Three days later, the family met him in Balliguda jail. The police had the same concocted claim that he had been with Maoists in the jungle on December 12 as in the case of Bijay, Bhaskar and Gornath…





Watch this video that provides vital clues to ‘Who Killed Swami Laxmanananda?’. It’s from ‘The Agony of Kandhamal‘ – a DVD produced by dubious India Foundation – ‘saffron truth factory’.

“The actual intention of the Europe, US, the Pope and Sonia Gandhi was to convert the entire region into the independent Christian land. ..god has sent me from Himalaya and it was stalled. That is why their campaign was to drive away swamiji and create a Christian land. As long as I am alive I shall not let you do that” – this boastful claim seemed to have been capitalized upon by vested interests.

The swami along with four others were mysteriously murdered on the night of Janmashtami 2008.

The DVD portrays Christian victims of Kandhamal as Hindus while Hindus claim: ‘The Christians are eating happily in the relief camps. We Hindus are not getting anything to eat. We end up wandering in the jungles.

That is how Sangh Parivar manufactured truths to fool the Hindus of the nation.

Related posts

Why are the Indian authorities afraid of a ‘half-Maoist’?

Ninety-percent-disabled Indian professor GN Saibaba is dying a slow death in prison, accused of having ‘Maoist links’.

by &
Professor GN Saibaba during an interview at his residence in the Delhi University North Campus on July 6, 2015 in New Delhi, India [Sushil Kumar/Getty Images]
Professor GN Saibaba during an interview at his residence in the Delhi University North Campus on July 6, 2015 in New Delhi, India [Sushil Kumar/Getty Images]

Since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took the reigns of power in New Delhi in 2014, assaults on public intellectuals, humanists, rationalists and secular forces have reached a feverish pitch. By the time the BJP completed its fourth year in office, prominent public figures such as scholar Govind Pansare, academic MM Kalburgi and journalist Gauri Lankesh were murdered by “unidentified assailants”.

As we write, Maharashtra Police made five fresh arrests of rights activists, including the veteran Telugu poet Varavara Rao, and raided the homes of journalists and scholars across India.

In June 2018 alone, five Dalit rights activists, including a lawyer and a professor were arrested for allegedly inciting violence against the very Dalit community (“untouchable” castes) they represent. These arrests were made under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), which enables the prosecution of Indian citizens merely on the basis of their ideology and thoughts, not necessarily for any actual crimes they might have committed.

In addition to this legalised persecution, dozens of Muslims and Dalits were subject to live burnings and public lynching by the so-called “cow protection” vigilante groups, most notably in the BJP-ruled states of Maharashtra, Haryana and Gujarat.

But perhaps the most astonishing case of all would be the arrest and life imprisonment of the wheelchair-bound professor, GN Saibaba, for his alleged connections with Maoist revolutionaries. 

The 827-page verdict delivered by the Gadchiroli District and Sessions judge reads more like an extension of Franz Kafka’s epic novel, The Trial, riddled with senseless details about how five hard disks, 30 CDs and DVDs, and three pen drives recovered from Saibaba’s home were labelled, stored and transported by various investigative authorities, with barely a legible sentence on the actual crime committed by the accused.

The only passage that holds some credible meaning is the judge’s own lack of faith in his judgment: “The imprisonment for life is not a sufficient punishment to the accused, but the hands of court are closed with the mandate of Section 18 and 20 of UAPA”.

And the only crime committed by GN Saibaba is the possession of the above-mentioned “digital devices”, which consisted of some “Maoist literature and documents” and, by association, were adequate enough to prove his “digital” links to the Maoist revolutionaries operating in the remote jungles of East and Central India.

Yet, on the basis of this “literary” evidence alone, the Sessions judge came to the unmistakable conclusion that Saibaba is a “member” of the Community Party of India (Maoist).

Not only do these charges have little or no factual basis, but they render themselves impossible to any logical or rational substance given that Maoists are banned revolutionaries who operate discretely and anonymously, often using aliases and longhand notes to communicate internally.

They rarely use mobile phones or other “digital devices” and it is highly doubtful that they have equipped themselves with a printing facility in the jungle to produce membership cards and go about distributing them like marketing vouchers.

A “membership” with such a closed organisation, especially for an outsider, is a highly subjective, self-pronounced association based on one’s political views and ideological proclivities. But even if we assume that Saibaba is a “member” of the Maoist party, as the Kerala High Court has reasserted in an erstwhile case in 2015, it is not a crime in itself, unless the activities of the “member” in question are unlawful.

The Supreme Court of India went even further to censure the law enforcement authorities for randomly arresting people for possessing Maoist material, issuing a directive that owning Maoist literature does not make one a Maoist, no more than owning a copy of Gandhi’s autobiography makes one a Gandhian! 

Be that as it may, if Saibaba’s crime is worth life imprisonment in solitary confinement, then we need to go no further than the fraternity of Bollywood stars and Indian politicians to get a glimpse into the Janus-faced justice system in India.

Maya Kodnani, a cabinet minister of Gujarat in 2004, was convicted in 2012 for orchestrating the massacre of 97 Muslims, including 36 women and 35 children in Naroda Gam and Naroda Patiya in February 2002.

Ironically, Kodnani was the Minister for Women and Child Development at the time of these killings, and was seen by the witnesses at the crime scene distributing swords to the Hindu mobs. For the brutal killing of 97 people, some of whom were butchered, mutilated, and even burned alive, she received a generous 28 years of imprisonment by a lower court. In April 2018, the Gujarat high court overturned the sentence. Kodnani walks free.

Salman Khan, a popular Bollywood star, was acquitted in a 2002 hit-and-run case after the testimony of his bodyguard, who stated that the actor was driving under the influence of alcohol when his car rolled over five homeless men sleeping on the pavement, was mysteriously deemed unreliable in an appeal 13 years later. 

Sanjay Dutt, another chest-thumping star, who was charged for the possession of illegal arms that were used in the Mumbai blasts in 1993 – killing some 300 civilians – received a mere five-year sentence, and was released on “good behaviour” after serving only three and half years, excluding numerous paroles, special family visits and a month-long furlough to look after his ailing wife.

While these three cases were dragged on for years, Saibaba’s case was wrapped up in a record time of three years. And luckily, these important personalities were not in possession of objects as lethal as “Maoist literature”, but just swords, AK-56s, explosives, and SUVs that roll themselves over innocent bystanders. 

But for a man whose sole crime was to own “digital devices”, even if he is 90 percent disabled, suffering from some nineteen other diagnosed illnesses, the same justice system shows little compassion to grant a bail.

Reiterating these concerns, the United Nations Human Rights Office of the Commissioner issued an unequivocal statement: “We would like to remind India that any denial of reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities in detention is not only discriminatory but may well amount to ill-treatment or even torture”. 

Efforts to put Saibaba behind bars started in 2013 when the Maharashtra police approached the Aheri Judicial Magistrate to obtain a “search warrant” to see whether some “stolen property” from their state could be found in Saibaba’s house in another state in New Delhi.

The alleged property theft had occurred some 760 miles away from where Saibaba lived. On September 12, 2013, 50 police personnel and intelligence officials raided Saibaba’s house on the University of Delhi campus.

Under the pretext of recovering “stolen property”, they confiscated Saibaba’s laptop, hard disks, pen drives, CDs and mobile phones. During his interrogation, Saibaba fully cooperated with the police authorities, even providing them passwords to all his personal electronic devices.

But little did the professor know that his research material, teaching notes and political writings would be used as evidence for his alleged links with the Maoists. 

On May 9, 2014, when Saibaba was returning home from his office, policemen in civilian clothes obstructed his car just 200 metres away from his house and detained him. 

Since then, the state agencies have launched a systemic media campaign against Saibaba, painting him as the face of the so-called “urban Maoists” – an utterly senseless label given that there is no such thing as “rural Maoists”, even if the latter appear to be the state’s preferred enemy, to say nothing of the “jungle Maoists”, “slum Maoists” or “suburban Maoists”.

If that is not enough, referring to the five Dalit Rights activists arrested on June 6, 2018, India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley came up with an even more creative label, “half-Maoists“:

Willingly or otherwise, they become the over-ground face of the underground. They are a part of the democratic system. They masquerade as activist; they speak the language of democracy; they have captured the human rights movement in several parts of the country but always lend support to the Maoist cause.

If speaking the language of democracy or “capturing” human rights movements automatically translates into lending support to the Maoist cause, then the authors of this opinion piece should be called “quarter-Maoists”, “non-resident Maoists”, if not “cosmopolitan Maoists”.

But such endless streaming of prefixes to Indian Maoism by the state-sponsored Indian media has all but a single-minded, foregone agenda: to cast out anyone who questions state atrocities against Adivasis (India’s tribal people) – be they academics, environmentalists or Dalit activists – as “urban Maoists”. 

Like the “polluted” Dalits who were ostracised from the village proper to preserve the “purity” of the Brahminical castes, Maoists have become the new untouchables of India, whose very ideological proximity to one’s pedestrian views or private thoughts is enough to label him/her as their card-carrying member. 

In Chattisgarh alone, this ostracising campaign has reached such contagious proportions that when 10 tribal men, alleged sympathisers of Naxals – a vernacular term for Maoists – were killed by the state police in 2010, a bench of Supreme Court judges went on recordto say that: “First, you say that operations are conducted against Naxals, then Naxal sympathisers and then sympathisers of such sympathisers. What is all this?”

GN Saibaba is a glaring victim of this systemic campaign to outcast Maoism from the civic and public spheres of debate, discussion and dissent. How else could we explain his incredible transformation from a child of illiterate peasants to a force so fearful and lethal that a small-scale army of “2000 police persons, 100 vehicles, and 20 land-mining clearance machines” was mobilised just to escort him from police station to court? What was his crime? What are the weapons of his choice? 

The mineral wealth upon which some 20 million Adivasis have settled from time immemorial is the major bone of contention. Their capital worth, as speculated by the Indian corporate elite, is $1 trillion. The easiest way to acquire this treasure trove is by bulldozing the Adivasis.

GN Saibaba came into the media limelight in early 2010 when he began to speak against the notorious military offensive Operation Green Hunt launched by the Indian state in November 2009. Its aim was to crush the Maoists, but the prize of it would have been the 55,000 hectares of mineral-rich Adivasi land, known variedly in the paramilitary’s shorthand as “Pakistan” or “Red Corridor”.

But it is not that GN Saibaba became an overnight sensation. He had a long history of championing issues of social justice and civil coalition movements. In 1997, he became the General Secretary of the All India People’s Resistance Forum. In 2004, he co-organised the Mumbai Resistance, which showcased alternative forms of civil society resistance to the World Social Forum. 

But why was Saibaba drawn to issues of civil and social justice in the first place? Is it so inconceivable that someone born into a “backward caste” family, who lost every inch of their three acres of farmland to the moneylenders, added with the burden of physical impairment, is drawn to the struggles and suffering of Dalits and Adivasis?

Is it so intolerable that Saibaba, a professor at a publicly funded university, chose to teach, speak and research on civil rights movements, tribal resistance and Maoist revolution?

Spare a thought for his colleagues at Delhi University, who risked their own careers to launch a sustained campaign against Saibaba’s imprisonment, some of whom indeed became the targets of repeated harassment, various disciplinary actions and suspensions by the university administration. And the process of outcasting many members of Saibaba’s Defence Committee as “urban Maoists” is already under way.

Not because these members sympathise with Maoism, but simply because they sympathise with someone who is allegedly sympathetic to Maoist views. The Brahminical logic triumphs yet again: one becomes “polluted” not only because one comes in direct contact with an “untouchable” person, but also because one touches someone who has allegedly touched an “untouchable” Dalit!

When the Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen spoke in support of Binayak Sen – a physician and a civil rights activist, who is currently facing life imprisonment under the same sedition law which was used to silence Saibaba -, the Indian intellectuals in the West applauded his courage for questioning the shirking democratic values in India.

But the same intellectuals who offered the world various intellectual optics of postcolonial theory and subaltern studies, built on the histories and struggles of peasants, tribals and Dalits, have remained eerily silent about the persecution of a disabled public intellectual who literally crawled his way from a remote south Indian village to the elite educational institutions in India because he couldn’t even afford a wheelchair.

The figure of Saibaba is indeed one of a crawling creature whose dignity is being incrementally stripped away by the prison authorities who refuse him access to a special-needs toilet, medical treatment and spousal visits and haul him in and out of police vehicles like a piece of baggage.

Saibaba now sits in Nagpur Central Jail, in the solitary confinement of the notorious Anda (egg-shaped) cell with 360-degree surveillance, disabled from below the waist, enabled by his only functioning hand, and doing what he knows best – putting his pen to work:

The closure of my voice within me exploded my crippled body from each of my organs. One after the other, my organs started bursting. The silence within me explodes into shooting pain. My vocal cords acquired lesion making my voice a thin and inaudible shrill. My heart broke with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. My brain has started having blackouts with a condition called syncope. My kidneys are silted with pebbles; gallbladder gathered stones and pancreas grew a tail of pain called pancreatitis. Nerve lines in my left shoulder broke under the conditions of my arrest, named as brachial plexopathy. More and more organs of silence replaced the original. I have been living with explosive and shooting pain day in and day out. I am living on the margins of life.

A 10 percent able body. A “half Maoist”. Full life sentence. A slow and screaming death, organ by organ.

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India – Arrest of Activists- Desist from Malicious Media Trials

The Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI), a forum for media professionals from across the country, is deeply dismayed at the unprofessional, biased and non-factual reporting on the case of the recent arrests of human rights activists from several Indian cities. On the morning of August 28, 2018, a team of the Pune Police arrested advocate and law teacher Sudha Bharadwaj from Faridabad; poet and writer Varavara Rao from Hyderabad; activist and journalist Gautam Navlakha from Delhi; advocate Arun Ferreira and writer and activist Vernon Gonsalves from Mumbai.

Raids were also conducted at the houses of Father Stan Swamy in Ranchi; journalists Kranthi Tekula and KV Kurmanath as well as professor K Satyanarayana in Hyderabad, professor Anand Teltumbde in Goa and advocate Susan Abraham in Mumbai. Laptops, mobile phones, hard drives and other material have been seized, in some cases without warrants, and in others, with a warrant in a language (Marathi) that most of the accused could not read or understand.

All the raids and arrests have been conducted on the basis of a single First Information Report (FIR No. 4/2018) filed at the Vishrambaug Police Station, Pune regarding the violence that broke out in Bhima Koregaon on January 1, 2018. As part of the investigation into the same incidents of violence, the police had, on June 6, arrested a number of dalit activists and academics – Dr Sudhir Dhawale, activist-lawyer Surendra Gadling, professor Shoma Sen, activist Mahesh Raut and research scholar Rona Wilson.

Large sections of the media seem to be unquestioningly reproducing police handouts, without even basic scrutiny or attribution. It is important to note that, although the FIR does not name any of the five individuals arrested on August 28, they have been accused under several sections of the IPC and also the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act under which bail can be denied for up to six months.

The police action appears to be hinged on a dubious letter (flashed on Republic TV on June 8 as a ‘super scoop’ and reproduced in the Deccan Herald on August 29) claiming a conspiracy to “end Modi-Raj” with a “Rajiv Gandhi-type incident”. The media reproducing this letter have not taken the trouble to ascertain the veracity of this and other letters “leaked” to the press. If these letters were indeed extracted from the electronic devices belonging to the activists, were they subjected to forensic tests to validate their authenticity? Why are these “leaks” and their timing not being thoroughly investigated by the independent media? If the letters were genuine and seized through legitimate process, why has the police not produced these in court?

On July 4, in a programme on Republic TV, anchor Arnab Goswami alleged that Sudha Bharadwaj had links with the Maoists and claimed that she had written a letter to one “Comrade Prakash”. In a public statement, and later a case filed against Republic, Ms Bharadwaj strongly refuted these claims that she said amounted to defamation. Given the timing of these so-called “revelations” through planted fake letters, it can be reasonably concluded that the police and the state have been using selected channels to orchestrate the arrests by astro-turfing public opinion before the actual arrests.

Despite the absence of any evidence, on August 29, some television channels screamed about the arrests of “Urban Naxals” – a peculiar coinage now in vogue to describe anyone who has expressed dissenting opinions from those of the government in power. The term “Urban Naxals” was first defined in an essay by filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri in the right-wing magazine Swarajya in May 2017. He termed them ‘urban intellectuals, influencers or activists of importance’ who are “the ‘invisible enemies’ of India”.

Taking a cue from the right-wing websites, mainstream media houses have, without due diligence, reproduced terms that demonise the arrested human rights activists. Newspapers (for example Deccan Herald, front page, August 29) branded those arrested as “Maoist sympathisers” without an iota of evidence. Deccan Chronicle’s front-page headline in the Bangalore edition asked, “Did these 5 Reds plot PM kill?” and its strapline described four of the five arrested as “Maoist sympathisers” (Varavara Rao was spared).  Likewise, Times Now with its hashtag #MaoistCrackdown and Republic with its #NationalistsVsMaoists and #IndiaVsMaoists seem intent on polarizing opinion and casting dissenters as “anti-national”. The arrested human rights defenders have fought all their lives to uphold Constitutional values such as equality and justice — in clearly peaceful non-violent ways. The electronic media’s irresponsible branding of people is akin to defamation and violates the Code of Ethics of the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) which at the outset prescribes impartiality and objectivity in reporting and further says “Channels should strive not to broadcast anything which is obviously defamatory or libellous”.

We learn from reliable sources that the police, after arresting Sudha Bharadwaj, waited for the crew from Republic TV to arrive before taking her to court. Republic TV was also present in the early morning surprise raids in Mumbai. This sensationalized “live” streaming in collusion with the police serves no public interest.

Following the arrests, several Telugu channels ran stories claiming that a big Modi assassination coup-in-the-making was unearthed and all the arrested were part of the coup, providing fund and arms etc. These stories, with no evidence, or attributing these theories to the police, were aired as though they were facts.

It appears to be a concerted effort by certain sections of the media to create an impression that these individuals constituted a group of conspirators, when in fact the only commonality between them is that they have been consistently representing in court and speaking out on behalf of marginalized communities, such as Adivasis, Dalits, workers and political prisoners. They have been highlighting violations of human rights by the state machinery and stressing the need for the rule of law in accordance with the Constitution of India.

Indeed, the Hon’ble Supreme Court itself, in response to a petition by five eminent intellectuals and activists declared on August 29, that “dissent is a safety valve of democracy” and granted relief to the human rights activists, placing them under house-arrest until the next hearing, preventing the police from remanding them to Pune. Exposing its agenda, Times Now dubbed the Supreme Court order as an “Interim Setback”.

It is worth noting that the arrested activists and lawyers constitute a crucial link between the marginalised populations and urban English media. Their contribution in unearthing stories of importance from forgotten parts of the country and explaining them to a metropolitan audience is invaluable.

While all independent institutions are under threat, India fortunately has a robust judiciary that can adjudicate with autonomy and due process. However, the same cannot be said for large sections of the mainstream media. The lack of vigilance and unquestioning acceptance of the version of law enforcement agencies does not bode well for the future of the media in this country.

We appeal to the media community to:

·         Confine itself to its role of watchdog, questioning and investigating events and issues of public interest and importance

·         Desist from irresponsible and malicious media trials and building up public opinion based on prejudice and fabricated evidence

·         Stop playing the role of mouth-piece for state agencies and promoting a pro-establishment narrative on issues

·         Provide sober, accurate, fair, balanced and unbiased reporting of facts

·         Stand in solidarity with media colleagues subjected to harassment and slapped with fabricated cases

The Network of Women in Media, India

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Full Text Of Arundhati Roy’s Open Statement- #MeTooUrbanNaxal

The vulnerable are being cordoned off and silenced. The vociferous are being incarcerated.

#Me Too Urban Naxal: Full Text Of Arundhati Roy's Open Statement
Arundhati Roy

This morning’s papers (August 30 2018) settle something that we have been debating for a while. A front-page report in the Indian Express says “Police to Court: Those held part of anti-fascist plot to overthrow govt.” We should know by now that we are up against a regime that its own police call fascist. In the India of today, to belong to a minority is a crime. To be murdered is a crime. To be lynched is a crime. To be poor is a crime. To defend the poor is to plot to overthrow the government.

When the Pune police conducted simultaneous raids at the homes of well-known activists, poets, lawyers and priests across the country, and arrested five people—high-profile civil rights defenders and two lawyers—on ludicrous charges, with little or no paperwork, the Government would have known that it was stirring up outrage. It would have already taken all our reactions into account, including this press conference and all the protests that have taken place across the country, before it made this move. So why has this happened?


Recent analyses of real voter data as well the Lokniti-CSDS-ABP Mood of the Nation survey have shown that the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi are losing popularity at an alarming pace (for them). This means that we are entering dangerous times. There will be ruthless and continuous attempts to divert attention from the reasons for this loss of popularity and to fracture the growing solidarity of the opposition. It will be a continuous circus from now to the elections—arrests, assassinations, lynchings, bomb attacks, false flag attacks, riots, pogroms. We have learned to connect the season of elections with the onset of all kinds of violence. Divide and Rule, yes. But add to that—Divert and Rule. From now until the elections, we will not know from when, and where and how the fireball will fall on us, and what the nature of that fireball will be. So, before I speak about the arrests of lawyers and activists, let me just reiterate a few points that we must not allow our attention to stray from, even while it rains fire, and strange events befall us.

1. It has been a year and nine months since November 8, 2016, when Prime Minister Modi appeared on TV and announced his policy of demonetization of 80% of the currency in circulation. His own Cabinet seemed to have been taken by surprise. Now the Reserve Bank of India has announced that 99% of the currency was returned to the banking system.  The Guardian in the UK reports today, that the policy has likely wiped 1% from the country’s GDP and cost approximately 1.5 million jobs. Meanwhile, just the printing of new currency has cost the country several thousand crores.  After Demonetization, came the Goods and Services Tax— a tax that is structured in ways that have dealt a further body blow to small and medium businesses that were already reeling under Demonetization.

While small businesses, traders and most of all the poor have suffered enormously, several corporations close to the BJP have multiplied their wealth several times over. Businessmen like Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi have been permitted to decamp with thousands of crores of public money while the government looked away.


What kind of accountability can we expect for all of this? None? Zero?

Through all this, as it prepares for the 2019 election, the BJP has emerged as by far the wealthiest political party in India. Outrageously, the recently introduced electoral bonds ensure that the sources of the wealth of political parties can remain anonymous.

2. We all remember the farce in Mumbai at the ‘Make in India’ event inaugurated by Mr Modi in 2016 at which a massive fire burned down the main tent of the cultural festival. Well, the real bonfire of the idea of ‘Make in India’ is the Rafale fighter plane deal, that was announced by the Prime Minister in Paris seemingly without the knowledge of his own Defense Minister. This is against all known protocol. We know the bare bones— a deal had already been put in place in 2012 under the Congress-led UPA government to buy planes that would be assembled by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. That deal was scrapped and reconfigured. Hindustan Aeronautics was surgically excised. The Congress Party as well as several others who have studied the deal have alleged corruption on an unimaginable scale and have questioned the involvement in the “offsets” deal to Reliance Defence Limited, which has never built a plane in its life.

The Opposition has demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe. Can we expect one? Or must we swallow this whole fleet of planes along with everything else and not even gulp?

3. The investigation by the Karnataka police into the assassination of the journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh has led several arrests which have in turn led to the unveiling of the activities of several right-wing Hindutva organizations like the Sanathan Sansthan. What has emerged is the existence of a shadowy, full-blown terror network, with hit-lists, hide-outs and safe-houses, flush with arms, ammunition and plans to bomb, kill, and poison people. How many of these groups do we know about? How many are continuing to work in secret? With the assurance that they have the blessings of the powerful, and possibly even the police, what plans do they have in store for us? What false-flag attacks? And what real ones? Where will they occur? Will it be in Kashmir? In Ayodhya? At the Kumbh Mela? How easily they could derail everything— everything— with some major, or even minor attacks that are amplified by pet media houses. To divert attention from this, the real threat, we have the hue and cry over the recent arrests.


4. The speed at which educational institutions are being dismantled. The destruction of Universities, with fine track records, the elevation of phantom universities that exist only on paper. This is arguably the saddest thing of all. It is happening in several ways. We are watching JNU—Jawaharlal Nehru University—being taken down before our very eyes. The students, as well as the staff, are under continuous attack. Several television channels have actively participated in spreading lies and fake videos that have endangered the lives of students and to an assassination attempt on the young scholar Umar Khalid who has been mercilessly defamed and lied about. Then you have the falsification of history and the identification of the syllabus—which will, just in a few years’ time, lead to a kind of cretinism from which we will be unable to recover. Finally, the privatization of education is undoing even the very small good that the policy of Reservation did. We are witnessing there-Brahminization of education, this time fitted out in corporate clothes. Dalit, Adivasi and OBC students are once again being pushed out from institutions of learning because they cannot afford the fees. This has begun to happen already. It is completely unacceptable.

5.Massive distress in the agricultural sector, increasing numbers of farmers’ suicides, the lynching of Muslims and the relentless attack on Dalits, the public floggings, the arrest of Chandrashekhar Azad, leader of the Bhim Army who dared to stand up to attacks by Upper castes. The attempt to dilute the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes Atrocity Act.

Having said this much, I come to the recent arrests.

None of the five people who were arrested yesterday, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bhardwaj, Varavara Rao and Gautam Navlakha—were present at the Elgar Parishad rally that took place on December 31st 2017, or at the rally the following day when approximately 300,000 people, mostly Dalit, gathered to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Bhima–Koregaon victory. ( Dalits joined the British to defeat an oppressive Peshwa regime. One of the few victories that Dalits can celebrate with pride.) The Elgar Parishad was organized by two eminent retired judges, Justice Sawant and Justice Kolse Patel. The rally the following day was attacked by Hindutva fanatics, which led to days of unrest. The two main accused are Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide. Both are still at large. Following an FIR registered by one of their supporters, in June 2018 the Pune police arrested five activists, Rona Wilson, Sudhir Dhawle, Shoma Sen, Mihir Raut and the lawyer Surendra Gadling. They are accused of plotting violence at the rally and also of plotting to kill the Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  They remain in custody, charged under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Fortunately, they are still alive, unlike Ishrat Jahan, Sohrabuddin and Kauser Bi, who, years ago, were accused of the same crime, but did not live to see a trial.

It has been important for Governments, both the Congress-led UPA and the BJP to disguise their attacks on Adivasis, and now, in the case of the BJP, their attack on Dalits— as an attack on “Maoists” or “Naxals.” This is because, unlike in the case of Muslims who have been almost been erased from electoral arithmetic, all political parties do have an eye on those Adivasi and Dalit constituencies as potential vote banks. By arresting activists and calling them “Maoists’, the Government manages to undermine and insult Dalit aspiration by giving it another name—while at the same time appearing to be sensitive to “Dalit issues.” Today, as we speak, there are thousands of people in jail across the country, poor and disadvantaged people, fighting for their homes, for their lands, for their dignity—people accused of sedition and worse, languishing without trial in crowded prisons.

The arrest of these ten people, three lawyers and seven well-known activists also serves to cut whole populations of vulnerable people off from any hope of justice or representation. Because these were their representatives. Years ago, when the vigilante army called the Salwa Judum was raised in Bastar and went on a rampage, killing people and burning whole villages, Dr Binayak Sen, then the General Secretary of the PUCL (Peoples Union for Civil Liberties) Chattisgarh spoke up for its victims. When Binayak Sen was jailed, Sudha Bhardwaj a lawyer and Trade Union leader who had worked in the area for years, took his place.  Professor Saibaba, who campaigned relentlessly against the paramilitary operations in Bastar stood up for Binayak Sen. When they arrested Saibaba, Rona Wilson, stood up for him. Surendra Gadling was Saibaba’s lawyer. When they arrested Rona Wislon and Surendra Gadling, Sudah Bhardwaj, Gautam Navlakaha and the others stood up for them… and so it goes.

The vulnerable are being cordoned off and silenced. The vociferous are being incarcerated.

God help us to get our country back.

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