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‘Life not comfortable in jail, Shoma has lost 7 kgs´

‘Life not comfortable in jail, Shoma has lost 7 kgs´

The Times of India / by Shishir Arya

Nagpur: “It’s Independence Day and the second year of my unfreedom begins. Last year on 14th August, I was shifted into the separate cell, my compact little world,” reads a letter written from Yerawada Jail by Shoma Sen, one of the five accused in Bhima Koregaon violence case, to her husband, Tushar Kanti Bhattacharya in Nagpur on August 15 this year.
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One year later: process has become punishment, say activists’ family members

One year later: process has become punishment, say activists’ family members

The Hindu / by Sonam Saigal

It has been a year since poet Varavara Rao, unionist and human rights lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj, and activists Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira have been arrested and charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for their alleged links with the CPI (Maoist) and for their alleged role in the Bhima-Koregaon violence.
Their family members, who spoke to The Hindu on Wednesday, said, “The process has become the punishment”, and it is extremely disheartening that it has become very difficult for them to even get bail.
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The Imprisoned Nine

The Imprisoned Nine

All the people who are the focus of this campaign have been accused of being associated with what has come to be known as the Bhima-Koregaon case.
At December 31, 2017 about 260 organizations had come together on to the common platform Elgar Parishad (‘loud declaration committee’) to challenge the rising tide of communal forces in India and to fight for maintaining the essentials of the Indian Constitution. The next day they all had gone to Bhima-Koregaon, where every year since the 1990s thousands of Dalits converge at the village Bhima-Koregaon to symbolically commemorate a battle fought in 1818. 

Charges against the Activists

– That they had made inflammatory speeches at the Elgar Parishad.
– That they are acting on behalf of, or are members of the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoists).
– That they were plotting to assassinate the Prime Minister.

Lack of Evidence

As it turns out, most of those arrested were not even at the Elgar Parishad event, the charges about the links to Maoists entirely shown to be based on fabricated evidence and so far the charges about the assassination plot had not even a single piece of evidence produced.

The Imprisoned Nine: Who is …?

Who is Sudha Bharadwaj?
All posts related to Sudha Bharadwaj
Who is Sudhir Dhawale?
All posts related to Sudhir Dhawale
Who is Arun Ferreira?
All posts related to Arun Ferreira
Who is Surendra Gadling?
All posts related to Surendra Gadling
Who is Vernon Gonsalves?
All posts related to Vernon Gonsalves
Who is Varavara Rao?
All posts related to Varavara Rao
Who is Mahesh Raut?
All posts related to Mahesh Raut
Who is Shoma Sen?
All posts related to Shoma Sen
Who is Rona Wilson?
All posts related to Rona Wilson
Who is Sudha Bharadwaj?

Who is Sudha Bharadwaj?

By India Civil Watch

Sudha Bharadwaj is one of India’s best known ‘people’s lawyer’. She has spent more than three decades working with the most marginalised sections of people in the mineral-rich conflict-ridden central Indian state of Chhattisgarh. Away from the media glare, her ear firmly to the ground, this trade union activist and lawyer has fought numerous battles (protests, negotiations, court cases) against powerful corporate powers, and the Chhattisgarh state. Her fight has always been to defend worker rights to a living and dignified wage and conditions of work, and indigenous people’s constitutional rights to their land, and to expose the frequent (at times, endemic) atrocities (rape and sexual assault against women, murders, and pillage of entire villages) committed by unconstitutional state-sponsored armed militia against people resisting forced displacement.

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Who is Arun Ferreira?

Who is Arun Ferreira?

By India Civil Watch

Arun Ferreira is a human rights lawyer from Mumbai, India. He is a member of the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR) and the Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL). He studied at Mumbai’s St. Xavier’s College where he developed a strong social conscience, and organised the institution’s canteen workers to demand better work conditions. After college, he worked with slum dwellers in Mumbai before becoming a community organiser in Vidarbha (rural Maharashtra state).

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Who is Vernon Gonsalves?

Who is Vernon Gonsalves?

By India Civil Watch

Vernon Gonsalves is trade unionist, activist, an academic (former professor of business management in a college in Mumbai) and a writer, who writes extensively on Dalit and adivasi rights, the conditions of prisons in India and the routine violation of rights of prisoners. Along with Arun Ferriera, he has authored a number of popular articles on the condition of Indian jails, the abuse of authority by Indian police, and draconian laws such as the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), a piece of ‘anti-terror’ legislation with a wide ambit and vague concepts, which allows its misuse against academics, lawyers and human rights defenders. Equally importantly, their writings expose the hypocrisy of democracy in India.

In one of their scathing reports on ‘fake encounters’ – a routine extra-legal killing carried out by the Indian police, they write:

Fake encounters are murders by the state and therefore a gross contempt for rule of law and this is known to all in the political, bureaucratic, judicial and media establishment.
Nevertheless they have become so routine as to acquire the acceptance and even silent approval of those running Indian “democracy”.

They continue to show the shocking levels of impunity enjoyed by the police thus:

In Maharashtra, a “successful” encounter by the police claimed more than 40 adivasi lives in Gadchiroli in April 2018, without a single police personnel being injured. The Maharashtra Police celebrated their “success” with a party of song and dance at the Gadchiroli police headquarters. The videos were not only shared on social media but also publicised approvingly by all the mainstream networks. One national daily called it a mantra of “Work hard, party harder!” Rare are the stories of even Nazi occupation armies celebrating and jubilating at the mass killings of the citizens they subjugated. For a force presumably tasked with the protection of the people, the death at their hands of more than 40 fellow citizens from the poorest of poor communities of their land should have been cause for regret, if not mourning. While their obscene display of delight is thus a telling commentary of how they have been instilled with contempt for the country’s laws and its people, the loud cheers from the sidelines by the media — the self-admitted fourth pillar of any democracy — is a more damning comment on the pathetic state of India’s polity.

Not surprisingly, both Arun Ferreiera and Vernon Gonsalves have incurred the wrath of the same police and security personnel.

Brief Biography
Vernon Gonsalves was born to a Mangalorean Catholic couple, and grew up in a lower-middle class chawl in Byculla in south Mumbai. He graduated with highest honors from mumbai University. He started as a management trainee at Siemens before becoming a social worker in Maharashtra’s Chandrapur area. He has taught business management and economics at various colleges in Mumbai, including Ruparel College, HR College of Commerce and Economics, and Akbar Peerbhoy College of Commerce and Economics. Gonsalves is married to Susan Abraham, a lawyer who is also defending Advocate Surendra Gadling – one of the B-12 arrestees. They have a 23-year old son, Sagar.

Gonsalves, along with Arun Ferreira, writes regularly on prevailing law and order issues, and is critical of the establishment. He also writes extensively on Dalit and tribal rights, the condition of prisons in India, and is a vocal about wanting UAPA to be scrapped. In their detailed critique of the UAPA, Vernon and Arun explain why it should be repealed. They have also co-authored a number of articles on the Daily O, one of which for instance, exposes the nonsensical claims made by the Pune police for the arrests.
Commenting on the alleged ‘Rajiv Gandhi-type’ assassination plot to kill the Prime Minister (an allegation made as part of the charges against many of the B-12 arrestees), Gonsalves writes:

“The sole purpose seems to be to whip up a false narrative, favourable to the current regime. Sidetracking the demands of the Dalit movements to punish the Hindutva leaders and the organisations responsible for the attacks of 1 January 2018 on the congregation at Bhima Koregaon can be another probable purpose.”

Gonsalves has been previously arrested under UAPA in 2007, and kept in jail for six years before being acquitted of all the cases against him except one, which is still pending. Vernon was not a regular writer prior to 2013. It was during his time in prison from 2007-2013 that he started writing short stories. He started writing regularly in early 2014, months after he was released from the prison.
On 19 August 2007, the Maharashtra Anti-Terror Squad arrested Gonsalves from his residence in Mumbaii. They alleged that he was a “top-level” Naxalite, who possessed explosives, that he was an ex-central committee member and former secretary of Maharashtra State Rajya Committee of the Maoists. He was charged in 20 cases under the UAPA. On June 27, 2013, Gonsalves was released from prison. He was acquitted in 17 cases against him, discharged in one, with one underway trial, and convicted in one case for which he had already spent time in jail.

Speaking to Rediff after his release, he said:

“The falsehood was evident even to the magistrate. During the trial, the explosive expert was called to give his assessment. He said with the kind of explosives mentioned, it could blast a whole station and I was supposed to have stored it here? It is absurd for such things to be stored in a match-box-size house of sorts that we live in. The expert did mention the unlikelihood. It was all absurd.”

Gonsalves’ son, Sagar, who is now witnessing Vernon’s most recent arrest observes: “Any form of freedom of expression and dissent is only tokenism. If you have ideals and they question you and your authority, then you will be arrested.” He continues about his father:

“Among the many things that I admire greatly about my father is his commitment to his beliefs and ideals. To stand up for what is right and help those whose rights are denied- he has always done that and will continue to do so. This did not deter him the last time and will not do it now as well. He has an unbreakable spirit and will always stay true to what he believes in”

 

India Civil Watch
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Who is Varavara Rao?

Who is Varavara Rao?

By India Civil Watch

Varavara Rao (VV) was born in Warangal in 1940. He finished his MA in Telugu literature from Osmania University. He worked as a lecturer in several colleges and transformation towards revolutionary ideas started in Varavara Rao’s mind during his tenure in Mahabubnagar district.

Work
Varavara Rao has been writing poetry since 1957. Warangal was one of the first places to respond to the Naxalbari movement, which began in Bengal in around 1967. In 1969, with Varavara Rao as one of the driving forces, Warangal saw the rise of a literary group called Thirugubatu Kavulu (Rebel Poets), which associated itself with the armed struggle going on in Andhra’s Srikakulam district then.
Virasam was formed as a culmination of the Srikakulam struggle and Varavara Rao has been a part of its executive committee since its inception. As a part of Virasam, he toured Andhra Pradesh extensively, while continuing his literary endeavours.

Inspired by the proletarian Cultural Revolution on the world stage and the Naxalite politics on the national scene, he entered into an engagement with politics and literature that was to deepen in intensity and commitment over the next five decades. VV worked as a college lecturer until 1988, and spearheaded an energetic literary magazine, Srjana, for several decades. During his many trysts with life in jail as a “prisoner of conscience”, he translated the work of Ngugi Wa Ngugi wa Thiong’o (https://ngugiwathiongo.com/) (the Kenyan novelist, activist and theorist of postcolonial literature) into Telugu, and wrote his own prison diary, Sahacharulu (1990), which was translated into English as Captive Imagination. His varied literary endeavours of the past five decades were recently collected and published in a single volume.

He has around 15 poetry collections against his name. His thesis on ‘Telangana Liberation Struggle and Telugu Novel – A Study into Interconnection between Society and Literature’ is considered to be landmark in Marxist literary criticism in Telugu.

Poetry
Words
Poetry is a Open Secret

Cases
Varavara Rao was arrested in October 1973 under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA). He was also arrested during the Emergency and was kept under stringent scrutiny. Unlike other inmates who were released when the Emergency was lifted, Rao was arrested again at the entrance of the jail and kept imprisoned for an additional week.

He survived many attempts on his life post-Emergency.

He was among the 46 accused of conspiring to overthrow the Andhra Pradesh government in the Secunderabad conspiracy case and was sent to jail once again in 1985.

Rao was also an accused in the Ramnagar conspiracy case where he was alleged to have attended a meeting where the plan to kill Andhra Pradesh Police constable Sambaiah and inspector Yadagiri Reddy was hatched. He was finally acquitted of the charges after 17 years in 2003.

He went on to become an emissary for the People’s War Group in peace negotiations between the Andhra Pradesh government and Naxalites. After multiple rounds of talks failed, his organisation Virasam was banned. Following the ban of Virasam, Rao was arrested once again in 2005 under the AP Public Security Act and sent to Chanchalguda Central Prison in Hyderabad.  The case was struck down under the Public Security Act on 31 March 2006 and Rao obtained bails in all other cases.

He has been arrested four-times since the formation of the new Telangana state in 2014.

Rao’s name had surfaced in the investigation when Pune police arrested Surendra Gadling from Nagpur in June 2018, in connection with the Elgaar Parishad rally case. A letter was recovered from Gadling in which Rao complimented him on the success of attack launched by Naxalites in Surjagad area of Gadchiroli. He was arrested from his home in Hyderabad on Tuesday, 28 August 2018.

 

Interviews with VV Rao

A Poet Against the State
The Poet as the Revolutionary

 

 

India Civil Watch
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Who is Sudhir Dhawale?

Who is Sudhir Dhawale?

By India Civil Watch

After spending close to four years (2011-2014) in jail in India (where he was denied every kind of human right) on charges of being a ‘Naxalite’, Sudhir Dhawale was acquitted of all charges. Reflecting on his traumatic experience, Sudhir soberly identifies his private struggle as being part of a much larger public and collective struggle for democratic values. Sudhir:

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Who is Surendra Gadling?

Who is Surendra Gadling?

By India Civil Watch

Surendra Gadling is a human rights lawyer and General Secretary of the Indian Association of Peoples’ Lawyers (IAPL). Among those he has represented are numerous human rights defenders arrested on fabricated charges of being anti-national.
As the Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL) notes about the recent arrest of Surendra Gadling (and many others):

“Advocate Surendra Gadling is an iconic example to many dalit lawyers defending their oppressed communities. Particularly after the Maharashtra Bandh and the 2nd April Bharat Bandh by dalit communities all over India, hundreds of poor dalit youth have been picked up and incarcerated in patently false cases. Many groups of dalit lawyers started getting together to defend them, even free of cost. No doubt this must have caused great unease for the vindictive state apparatus. The bias of the State is all the more obvious when the leaders of Hindutva organisations named in many complaints and FIRs as instigators of the Bhima Koregaon violence – Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide – whose anticipatory bail applications have been refused by even the Supreme Court, still roam free.”

Brief Biography
Gadling began as an apprentice in the railways soon after finishing college in the 1980s. He actively participated in many socio-cultural movements in Nagpur. He along with his friends- Sambhaji Bhagat, an activist, a people’s poet and balladeer, and Vilas Ghogre, also a prominent poet and activist from Mumbai who committed suicide to protest the 1997 Ramabai killings (https://www.hrw.org/reports/1999/india/India994-08.htm) of Dalits– started an organisation called Awhan Natya Manch. This group would organise cultural evenings in the bastis of Nagpur and engage in conversations around rights and oppressions.

Gadling began his career almost two decades ago in Nagpur fighting cases of those arrested under the draconian TADA (Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1985), and UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967).

In addition to his work as a lawyer, Gadling is also a leading Dalit rights activist. He was part of an independent fact-finding team that probed the ‘encounter’ deaths of 40 alleged Maoists killed by the police in Gadchiroli district in April. Last month, Gadling was also part of a team that visited Kashmir to condemn the persecution of human rights lawyers in the state.
In his nearly two-and-a-half decade long legal practice in Nagpur and other districts in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, Surendra Gadling has handled thousands of cases. He is known to have mastered stringent laws like TADA, POTA and later UAPA. “Almost all cases filed under these laws have been handled by him over last two decades. In them, barring only three cases, he managed to get acquittal in all others,” says his junior partner Nihalsingh Rathod.

As Arun Ferreira, who himself was represented by Gadling when he was arrested and jailed for five years in 2007 for alleged Maoist activities and then acquitted after spending 40 months in jail reflects,

“Gadling has become a thorn for the state government because in his entire career, he has managed to get a lot of acquittals for political prisoners who were falsely charged with Naxalism and other crimes.”

He also worked as a special public prosecutor on dowry-related cases and was one of the leading lawyers in connection with the Khairlanji agitation – a protest movement launched after the gruesome caste-murders of a Dalit family in Maharashtra.
He is also a lawyer for Prof. G.N. Saibaba, a wheelchair-bound Delhi University professor sentenced to life imprisonment by a district court in Gadchiroli for aiding the Maoists. Prof. Saibaba is appealing the verdict.
Saibaba’s conviction has not just proved to be a major jolt to the human rights movement, as the rights defenders have argued in past year, it also landed Gadling in a vulnerable situation. Describing those several instances where he was “targeted” by the state, Gadling told the court that veiled and unveiled threats intensified after he decided to take up Saibaba’s case.

“The police officers investigating the case would casually tell me I was next in the line. They even went to the extent of planting false allegations in the media. This was happening when I was appearing as a profession lawyer in the court,” Gadling explained.

He also claimed that in at least five to six instances, the police, especially those in Gadchiroli and Nagpur have tried to implicate him in false cases.

“They would claim I am a wanted/ accused person even when I was appearing before them. But they never arrested me. This was only to break my morale. I have worked in the face of severe threats to my life and damage to my professional credibility. It has not been easy,” he added.

India Civil Watch
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