Prominent Citizens Condemn Continued Incarceration of 16 in Bhima Koregaon Case

“Democracy upholds the fundamental right to life and liberty alongside the right to freedom of speech and expression, assembly, association and movement in our country. The Supreme Court of India deemed the right to privacy as integral to the right to life and personal liberty guaranteed in Article 21 (K.S. Puttaswamy vs. Union of India 2017). The use of digital surveillance as a weapon by the government against the people of the country is a violation of this fundamental right. It makes a mockery of the principles of democracy and exposes the vacuity of the claims of national security.”

We, the undersigned, condemn the continued incarceration of the academics, cultural activists, human rights activists, lawyers, poets and trade unionists arrested in the Bhima Koregaon-Elgar Parishad case and unitedly demand their immediate release. After three years of media trial, harassment, raids and arrests of 16 persons, one of the arrested, Father Stan Swamy died on July 5th following wanton medical neglect in custody amounting to institutional murder.

Those who remain in custody include professors Anand Teltumbde, Hany Babu and Shoma Sen, cultural activists Jyoti Jagtap, Ramesh Gaichor and Sagar Gorkhe, writer and anti-caste activist Sudhir Dhawale, anti-displacement activist Mahesh Raut, lawyers Arun Ferreira, Surendra Gadling and Sudha Bharadwaj, human rights activists Gautam Navlakha, Rona Wilson and Vernon Gonsalves and poet Varavara Rao. Now, with the revelations in the Pegasus Project, it is clear that 8 of the 16 were under surveillance for several years before their arrest. Moreover, the Arsenal Consulting reports show how evidence was planted in the devices of at least two of the arrested. The revelations have unambiguously exposed the extent of illegal military-grade surveillance on the arrested, their families, colleagues and friends. Besides violating their privacy, the extraordinary measures taken to silence voices of dissent in the name of national security stands exposed.

The utilisation of cyber weapons to target, implicate and then incarcerate dissenting voices has expanded immeasurably, more so when these are done without oversight or accountability. With surreptitious planting of incriminating digital documents, reliance on such ‘evidence’ to establish prima facie case in courts, widespread arrests alongside a vicious media trial and, finally, prolonged incarceration without trial, the erosion of the fabric of democracy is complete. The use of highly advanced and tailored digital attacks on human rights activists, journalists, judges, lawyers, politicians and a broad range of citizens of this country shows the desperation of a government teetering on the edges of the law and the manipulation of the state machinery to serve its ends. Accompanied by legal over-reach through the invocation of colonial laws like sedition and the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the actions of the current regime shows that the incarcerated remain in the custody of unabashed impunity.

This impunity is egregious when contrasted with those upholding the principles of democracy. All the arrested have worked for the assertion of the most oppressed and marginalised in society and spoken out against majoritarian Brahmanical Hindutva forces, Brahmanical patriarchy and upheld the right to life, land, livelihood and dignity. They have steadfastly campaigned for the rights of political prisoners before becoming political prisoners themselves. While the perpetrators of violence against Adivasis, Dalits, Muslims, women, workers, peasants, marginalised sexualities and oppressed communities enjoy the protection of the state, those incarcerated in the case are publicly maligned, implausible plots and political intrigue are ascribed to them and then the draconian UAPA is invoked to deny them bail. They are further dehumanised in prison, deprived of regular access to legal counsel and communication with family members, denied adequate medical care and detained indefinitely. These are the actions of a retributive regime, a regime that upholds Brahmanical Hindutva fascism beneath the veneer of a constitutional democracy.

Democracy upholds the fundamental right to life and liberty alongside the right to freedom of speech and expression, assembly, association and movement in our country. The Supreme Court of India deemed the right to privacy as integral to the right to life and personal liberty guaranteed in Article 21 (K.S. Puttaswamy vs. Union of India 2017). The use of digital surveillance as a weapon by the government against the people of the country is a violation of this fundamental right. It makes a mockery of the principles of democracy and exposes the vacuity of the claims of national security. The Supreme Court has time and again reiterated the need to uphold the principles of democracy, demanded a review of colonial laws and upheld dissent as a safety valve of democracy. Father Stan Swamy died as an undertrial due to apathy and sheer criminal neglect. Along with timely justice, it is imperative that his co-accused are guaranteed the fundamental right to a life with dignity. Upholding the rule of law and the principles of justice, we demand the immediate and unconditional release of all the arrested in the Bhima Koregaon-Elgar Parishad case. We unequivocally demand the release of all political prisoners.

In solidarity,

  1. AK Ramakrishan, Professor, JNU
  2. Amit Bhaduri, Professor of Economics
  3. Amit Chaudhuri, Novelist
  4. Amitabha Pande, IAS (Retd), Former Secy to Govt of India
  5. Amitav Ghosh, Novelist
  6. Ananya Vajpeyi, Writer and Scholar, New Delhi
  7. Anand Patwardhan, Independent Filmmaker
  8. Annapurna Menon, Doctoral Researcher, Univeristy of Westminster
  9. Anvar Ali, Poet
  10. Atamjit Singh, Playwright and Theatre Director
  11. Biju Mathew, Associate Professor, Rider University, New Jersey
  12. Binu Karunakaran, Journalist, Kerala
  13. Binu Mathew, Journalist, Kerala
  14. Bivitha Easo, Research Scholar, Uni of Hyderabad
  15. Bratati Pande, Retd faculty, Dept of Economics, Univ of Delhi
  16. Chaman Lal Retired Professor JNU
  17. Chris Sinha, Honorary Professor, University of East Anglia
  18. Damodar Mauzo, Writer and Critic, Goa
  19. Dilip Simeon, Writer, Delhi
  20. Freny Manecksha, Journalist, Mumbai
  21. Gabriele Dietrich, Activist, Madurai
  22. Gauhar Raza, Chief Scientist, NISCIR, New Delhi
  23. Geeta Seshu, Journalist, Mumbai
  24. Ghanshyam Shah, Retired Prof, JNU, New Delhi
  25. Gita Ramaswamy, Hyderabad Book Trust
  26. Githa Hariharan, Author
  27. Gyanendra Pandey, Professor of HIstory, Emory University
  28. Henri Tiphagne, Advocate and National Working Secretary, Human Rights Defenders’ Alert – India ( HRDA)
  29. InSAF India (International Solidarity for Academic Freedom in India)
  30. Jayasree Kalathil, Writer and Translator, London
  31. Jeet Thayil, Poet and Activist
  32. John Dayal, Journalist and Activist
  33. Joseph Mathai, Publisher and Civil Rights Activist
  34. Jyotsna Kapur, Southern Illinois University
  35. Kalyan Raman N, Writer and Literary Translator, Chennai
  36. Kanji Patel, Poet, Gujarat
  37. Karen Gabriel, Professor, St Stephen’s College, Delhi University
  38. Kavin Malar, Journalist and Activist
  39. Kavita Krishnan, Author and Activist, New Delhi
  40. Kavitha Muralidharan, Journalist and Independent Writer
  41. Keki Daruwalla, Poet, New Delhi
  42. Kutti Revathi, Poet and Filmmaker, Chennai
  43. KP Fabian, Analyst, Writer, Former Diplomat
  44. Laila Kadiwal, Lecturer in Education, UCL
  45. Lotika Singh, Honorary Research Fellow, University of Wolverhampton
  46. Madhu Bhaduri, Former Ambassador of India
  47. Maheen Mirza, Filmmaker, Bhopal
  48. Malathi Maithri, Poet, Anangu Feminist Publications
  49. Mallika Sarabai, Indian classical dancer and activist
  50. Meena Dhanda, Professor of Philosophy, University of Wolverhampton
  51. Meena Kandasamy, Writer and Poet
  52. Mohan Rao, Retired Professor, JNU
  53. Mridula Garg, Writer
  54. Mukul Kesavan, Editor
  55. Namita Gokhale, Writer
  56. Nandini Chandra, University of Hawaii at Manoa
  57. Nandini Dhar, writer, teacher and alternative media activist
  58. Nandini Sundar, Sociologist
  59. Nandita Narain, St Stephen’s College, Delhi University
  60. Naveen Gaur, Delhi University
  61. Neel Chaudhuri, Playwright and Theatre Director, New Delhi
  62. Neepa Majumdar, Associate Professor, University of Pittsburgh
  63. Nivedita Menon, JNU, New Delhi
  64. Oishik Sircar, Kolkata
  65. Pamela Philipose, Journalist, New Delhi
  66. Pankaj Bisht, Hindi writer
  67. Pankaj Butalia, Filmmaker
  68. Parvati Sharma, Author
  69. PK Vijayan, Delhi University
  70. Prasad Chacko, Social Worker, Ahmedabad
  71. Prem Chandavarkar, Bengalur
  72. Pritam Singh, Professor Emeritus, Oxford Brookes Business School
  73. Pushpamala N, Artist, Bangalore
  74. Rahman Abbas, Writer
  75. Rajathi Salma, Novelist and Poet
  76. Rakesh Ranjan, Faculty, Shri Ram College of Commerce, Delhi University
  77. Rita Kothari, Professor, Ashoka University
  78. Ritty Lukose, Professor, New York University
  79. Rohini Hensman, Writer and Independent Scholar, Mumbai
  80. Roja Suganthy Singh – President, Dalit Solidarity Forum in the USA and ICWI – Executive Committee
  81. Rukmini Bhaya Nair, Professor Emerita, IIT Delhi
  82. S Anand, Publisher, Navayana
  83. Sachin N, Faculty, Dyal Singh College, Common Teachers’ Forum, Delhi University
  84. Sangeeta Kamat, Professor, University of Massachusetts at Amherst
  85. Sanjay Kak, Filmmaker, New Delhi
  86. Sanjeev Kumar, Professor, University of Delhi
  87. Saroj Giri, Faculty, Political Science, Delhi University
  88. Satchidanandan, Writer and Poet, New Delhi
  89. Shah Alam Khan, Professor, AIIMS, New Delhi
  90. Sheetal Chhabria, Historian, Connecticut College
  91. Shuddabrata Sengupta, Artist, Raqs Media Collective
  92. Sivakami Palanimuthu, Novelist
  93. Sohail Hashmi, Writer, Filmmaker, New Delhi
  94. Sruti Bala, Associate Professor, University of Amsterdam
  95. Subhasis Bandyopadhyay, IIEST, Shibpur
  96. Subrat Kumar Sahu, Independent Filmmaker and Journalist, New Delhi
  97. Suchitra Vijayan, Writer and Barrister, New York
  98. Sudhanva Deshpande, Author, Actor, Publisher
  99. Sumangala Damodaran, Professor, Ambedkar University
  100. Surinder S Jodhka, Professor of Sociology, JNU, New Delhi
  101. Swati Mukund Kamble, Independent Researcher
  102. Tanweer Fazal, Professor, University of Hyderabad
  103. Thirumurugan Gandhi, Activist, May 17 Movemement, Tamil Nadu
  104. TM Krishna, Musician and Author
  105. Uma Chakravarti, Academic and Activist
  106. Vanchi Nathan, Advocate, Madurai High Court
  107. Venugopal N, Editor, Veekshanam
  108. Vijay Prashad, Chief Correspondent, Globe Trotter
  109. Vivek Narayanan, Professor of English, George Mason University
  110. Vivek Sundara, Rights Activist
  111. Zoya Hasan, Academic and Political Scientist

Categories: Campaign, Statements

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