Academics and activists demand immediate release of all arrested in Bhima-Koregaon case

Activists from various organisations make a human chain in protest against the arrest of five activists in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon violence case. | PTI Photo

Citizen’s Solidarity with the Voices of Democracy demanding the immediate release of the incarcerated in the Bhima Koregaon-Elgar Parishad case

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