Friday, December 18, 2020

For Those Dividing Indians in Order to Rule Them, Adivasis are Clearly Not Farmers

 The Bharatiya Janata Party’s first response to any dissent is predictable. Union ministers go on the offensive, calling the dissenters anti-nationals, Maoists, jihadis etc. Sadly, by now, what is equally predictable is how the media amplifies this propaganda. 

The Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan) decided to mark December 10, International Human Rights Day, by remembering several prominent activists arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention Act (UAPA), especially those arrested in the name of Bhima Koregaon, and the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. The release of these activists has been a long-standing demand of the Ugrahan group, though it is not part of the minimum common program of the farmers unions, which is focused on the repeal of the Modi government’s three farm laws. 

The BJP has predictably, used this occasion to issue dire warnings about the infiltration of the farmers’ movements by “leftists”, “anti-nationals”, “Maoists”, the “tukde tukde gang” and so on. As of now, they have not had the guts to call the thousands of army veterans returning their medals in solidarity with the farmers, the “award wapsi gang”, but that may be only because the media has not highlighted this out of consideration for the pro-army image the government is trying to cultivate. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

SC’s Shaheen Bagh Order: Fundamental rights for Commuters, No Country for Protestors

 For the last two years, while driving from Delhi University in north Delhi to my home in the south, I find that if I miss the small unmarked turn on the left off a flyover to go to ITO, there is no way I can reach central Delhi without considerable backtracking.  The government claims that the Pragati Maidan makeover that has blocked the road is for the public good, even if that claim has been contested, both by way of public petitions and legally. But whether or not it is indeed for the public good, can I assert that my rights as a commuter matter more than the project, especially since like many other projects, it is taking indefinite time? In a city that is increasingly bisected by flyovers, cyclists and pedestrians are routinely inconvenienced and blocked.  Are they not commuters too? In the government’s eyes they may be c-class citizens who need not be factored in while making urban plans, but technically they are still equal citizens even if not equal commuters. But would the courts even entertain their petitions?

Remembering Swami Agnivesh

Remembering Swami Agnivesh Swami Agnivesh’s office – at the back of the old united Janata Dal office - was an open house. Centrally located, accessible to people who came to protest at Jantar Mantar, the office consisted in the main of a large table. Whenever I would drop in to consult Swami Agnivesh on some issue related to our case against Salwa Judum, there would be different people sitting with him. But the wide circle of Swamiji’s acquaintances only fully struck me when I attended his 80th birthday celebrations organized by the Arya Samaj at Pyare Lal Bhavan almost a year to this day. The hall was filled to overflowing with people. On the stage sat other Swamis, while in the audience were women who had been part of the Beti Bachao Andolan encouraged by Swami Agnivesh, people who had accompanied him on a long march to Deorala to protest after the sati there, people who had benefitted from the Bandhua Mukti Morcha that he set up. 

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Press Release, 6th August 2020: NHRC Orders Chhattisgarh Government to Compensate Human Rights Defenders Rs 1 lakh each “for Mental Agony and Violation of Human Rights” caused by false charges and arrests

The National Human Rights Commission has directed the Chhattisgarh State Government to compensate human rights defenders Rs 1 lakh each for false cases filed against them, with compliance within six weeks.


On 5th November 2016, the Chhattisgarh police lodged an FIR against us under various sections of the IPC, Arms Act, and UAPA for the alleged murder of one Shamnath Baghel of Nama village, Sukma District. The case was supposedly filed on the written complaint of Shyamnath Baghel’s widow, Vimla Baghel. However, she is on record saying she did not name anyone. On 15th November 2016, the Supreme Court gave us protection from arrest. In 2018, since the Chhattisgarh police had not taken any steps to investigate or close the matter, we filed a petition in the Supreme Court. Following Court directions, the Chhattisgarh government investigated, and finding there was no case against us, dropped the charges in February 2019. The NHRC had also taken up this matter in 2016, along with the police burning our effigies and IG Kalluri threatening to stone us if we entered Bastar.


In February 2020, taking note of the Chhattisgarh Police admission that there was no case against us, the NHRC noted:


 “In our considered opinion, these persons would have certainly suffered a great mental pain and agony as a result of registration of false FIRs against them by the police, which is a violation of their human rights and for this the State Government should compensate them. Therefore we recommend and direct the Government of Chhattisgarh through its Chief Secretary to pay a sum of Rs One Lakh each as monetary compensations to the six persons namely Prof Nandini Sundar, Ms. Archana Prasad, Shri Vineet Tiwari, Shri Sanjay Parate, Ms. Manju and Shri Mangla Ram Karma, whose human rights were gravely violated by the Chhattisgarh police.”


Monday, May 25, 2020

Amit Shah's 'Bhima Koregaon Model' Used For Anti-CAA Protests

The recent arrest of Jamia student Asif Iqbal Tanha and two JNU students, Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal, both activists with Pinjra Tod, shows that the Union home ministry is convinced the ‘Bhima Koregaon model’ works and must be replicated.

What is this model? You start with a few arrests, for instance, the first round of the Bhima Koregaon five or the Jamia students Safoora Zargar and Meeran Haider. Then you widen the net indiscriminately to build up a picture of an immense threat to the nation from a nexus of Dalits and Maoists, Islamists and Marxists or whatever. In actuality, the major threat this government fears is the Constitution, in whose name all these activists have worked, and which the ruling party wants to gut.

As with the Bhima Koregaon struggle which was a symbol of Dalit assertion against neo-Brahminism, the BJP government is trying to completely change the narrative around the anti-CAA protests. At least six clear motives appear to be at work in both cases.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Gross abuse of power by UP Govt & Police

When it comes to the gross abuse of police power by the Adityanath administration in UP and its intolerance of press freedom, it is clear that COVID-19, the lockdown and social distancing make no difference whatsoever. 

Yesterday, April 10, at 2 pm a plainclothes man came to our home and said he had come from the Ayodhya ‘prashasan’ to serve notice on Siddharth Varadarajan. He would not give his name. I told him to leave it in the mailbox. He refused. 

At 3:20, he came with 7-8 uniformed men (at least 2 not in masks) in black SUV, no number plates. Only two identified themselves. On insisting, they gave plainclothes man's name as Chandrabhan Yadav, not designation. They said they’d driven from Ayodhya for this urgent work! 

They refused to let me sign the notice—"Our rule is not to give it to women and minors”—. When asked to be shown the rule, they sought instructions on phone and let me sign. Then, they phoned their boss to say “notice has been received”. 

The notice asks @svaradarajan to appear in Ayodhya April 14, 10 am (when lockdown will still be in force) in connection with FIR registered by the police for a factual @thewire_in story which said Adityanath & others had attended a religious event in Ayodhya after the lockdown.  The link is below: