‘If we want democracy to function as per Constitution political prisoners must be released’

All nine activists arrested and booked for cases related to the Bhima Koregaon violence have written to Maharashtra’s Governor Ch. Vidyasagar Rao appealing, “if we really want democracy to function as per the Indian Constitution then all political prisoners should be released.”

The letter dated June 17 written by advocates Surendra Gadling, Sudha Bharadwaj; writer Sudhir Dhawale; Professor Shoma Sen; activists Rona Wilson, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Mahesh Raut; and, poet Varavara Rao, a copy of which has been accessed by The Hindu, states, “we are all political prisoners and have been inside Yerwada jail since one year. Five of us were arrested on June 6, 2018 for being associated with Elgar Parishad and behind the violence that took place on January 1, 2019. The rest of us were arrested on August 28, 2018.”

The letter, in Hindi, says, “we have been booked with false charges of being anti-nationals, spreading enmity between communities and criminal conspiracy and other offences. They say, this is because, “agar desh ka matlab log hain, toh ek desh ke logon ne, logon dwara chuni sarkaar ke khilaaf bolna aur anya logon ko bhi waisa sochne ke liye utsaya, yeh rajdroh (sedition) ya deshdroh kaise ho sakta hai (If a nation is its people, then if citizens of that nation have spoken and encouraged other citizens of that nation to speak against a government elected by those people, then how does that constitute to be sedition or treason.)”

aThe letter further says, “through Elgar Parishad’s speeches, arousing songs and drama, people were not provoked against the government. In fact people were told to raise their voices against injustice, atrocities and exploitation and vote BJP out of power as it is working against the Indian Constitution.” The undertrials say, “we made an appeal to the people to, ‘save constitution, save democracy and save the country’ and these are the reasons why we have been implicated and grave injustice is meted to us.

“Bail and not jail is the principle clearly followed by the Supreme Court, yet our bail applications have been delayed by the prosecution and our bail hearings have turned into mini media-trial. The e-mails that have been allegedly exchanged by us with Maoists have been shared with the media but they have not been shared with us. No electronic evidence against us has been given to us and we have all been denied equal justice and timely justice,” the letter points out.

They mention that, “those who have a different political view and a voice of dissent, their voices have been muted and they have been tried for being anti-national. As soon as the new government has come, mob-lynching has begun. They are not being stopped and they continue to spread religious fanaticism. The government is not seen probing against those who support Nathuram Godse openly so sabka vikas (everyone’s trust) is a deceit.

“If there is democracy and the Constitution then why don’t we have the same law for everyone in the country. Why is someone inside and someone outside. If we really want democracy to function as per the Constitution then all political prisoners should be released,” the activists appeal.