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We the following writers, film makers, artists, students, academics and social movements express our deep concern over the continued, unjust imprisonment of Dalit activist and Bhim Army leader Chandrashekhar Azad ‘Ravan’ by the Uttar Pradesh government.

Azad is in prison since June 2017, put away as a threat to ‘national security’ for championing the cause of India’s Dalits – a community repeatedly subjected to racist violence, rape, inhumane untouchability practices, social, cultural and political discrimination. Due to the high level of impunity in cases involving Dalit victims, they have no way of asserting their rights through the judicial system.

We believe the only reason why Azad and his associates have been targeted for imprisonment is the fact they refuse to be intimidated by the threats of both private armies of the upper-caste as also strong-arm methods of the state machinery. Like Malcolm X, the visionary leader of the black community in the United States, Azad is searching for ways to protect Dalit rights fearlessly in a way that is not only constructive but also effective.

Going beyond mere rhetoric Azad organised Dalits into the ‘Bhim Army’– named after Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar, one of India’s greatest intellectuals, who drafted the Indian Constitution. The Bhim Army’s main work has been to form over 300 study circles among Dalit students in western Uttar Pradesh to spread education and organise self-defence against violent attacks by high caste groups.

Azad was initially arrested on charges of ‘inciting violence’, following clashes between upper caste Rajputs and Dalits in Saharanpur district of Uttar Pradesh. In November 2017 the Allahabad High Court granted bail in all four cases against him and his associate Kamal Walia, observing the charges were false and politically motivated. The police could not provide evidence of Azad’s specific role in the incidents of violence or of possessing weapons of any kind.

The regime however promptly re-arrested Azad under the draconian National Security Act (NSA), that allows the state to put away anyone without bail for a year. The NSA is in a long line of Indian laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), that violate all known norms of civil rights and are used by the Indianauthorities to suppress democratic dissent.

Worryingly there are reports of attempts to break him both mentally and bodily while in prison, including through instigated attacks against him by other prisoners. Azad has also had to be hospitalized once due to ill-health and has expressed fears state authorities may try to physically eliminate him, under some pretext or the other.

We feel Azad and the Bhim Army’s fight is not just about India’s Dalit community but for preserving Indian democracy and Constitution itself, under severe attack from extremist political groups seeking unchallenged dictatorial power. The serious threat posed to the life of Azad is similar to that faced by countless other human rights defenders throughout India, in places like Kashmir, Chhattisgarh and the North-East.

It is in this context that we, the undersigned, call for Chandrashekhar Azad’s immediate and unconditional release from prison and the dropping of all false charges against him. We also call upon all those concerned about the state of human rights in the country and the fate of India’s democracy to join the campaign for Azad’s release.

To join the campaign contact:
releaseazad@gmail.com

Signatories:

  1. Anand Teltumbde
  2. Akhileshwari Ramagoud
  3. Anand Patwardhan, Film Maker, Pune
  4. Anjali Monteiro, Academic and Filmmaker, Mumbai
  5. Apoorvanand, Academic, New Delhi
  6. Arshad Ajmal, Social Worker, Patna
  7. Arundhati Dhuru, National Alliance of People’s Movements
  8. Avinash Pandey, Asian Human Rights, Commission., Hongkong
  9. Alwyn, Human Rights Department, Indian Social Institute, Bangalore
  10. Dr. Aurobindo Ghose, Lawyer, Author, Human Rights Activist
  11. Abdul Rupan
  12. Abhishek Bhattacharyya, PhD student, University of Chicago
  13. S. Anandalakshmy, Chennai
  14. Ali Mohsin, Writer
  15. Arpita Jaya, Student, University of Hyderabad
  16. Abdul Vajid P
  17. Ashok Mathew Philip, Director, SICHREM
  18. Anvar Ali, Poet
  19. Ajmal Khan A.T (Researcher and activist, Mumbai)
  20. Arun Kumar Singh, Researcher, Writer and Activist
  21. Anil Kumar
  22. Archana Seker, Activist and Writer, Chennai
  23. Amudhan RP, Film Maker/Media Activist/ Founder, Marupakkam Film Festival
  24. Dr. Aruna Gnanadason, Chennai
  25. Aparajay, Chennai
  26. Battini Rao, Convener, People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (P.A.D.S)
  27. Binu Mathew, Editor, Counrtercurrents.org
  28. Anand Jagtap, Officer On Special Duty ( OSD ), Slum Sanitation Programme ( SSP)
  29. Balkrishna Namdeo, Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pensionbhogi Sangharsh Morcha
  30. Bittu Karthik Kondaiah Rai, Sonipat, Haryana
  31. Budukuttu Krishikara Sangha (BKS)
  32. Bindu Doddahatti, Advocate, Alternative Law Forum, Bangalore
  33. Bilal Khan
  34. A.K.Biswas
  35. Bob Stuart
  36. Carmencita Karagdag, Spokesperson and Convenor, Voices of Women for Justice and Peace
  37. Fr.Cedric Prakash, Ahmedabad
  38. Dr Chandra Muzaffar, President, International Movement for a JUST World, Malaysia
  39. Coorg Organisation for Rural Development (CORD)
  40. Cynthia Stephen, Independent writer and Researcher
  41. Civic Chandran, Editor, Kozhikode, Kerala
  42. Communist Propaganda Forum
  43. Dalit Peoples’ Democratic Front
  44. Denis A. Conroy, Freelance Writer, Australia
  45. Dev Desai
  46. Deba Ranjan, Film maker, Orissa
  47. Deepa, All India Vice President, DYFI
  48. David Bodapati, Health Activist, Journalist
  49. Dhanapal Venkatachalam, Freelance translator
  50. Dhirendra Panda, Human Rights Activist, Bhubaneswar
  51. Dominic Fergus-Allen
  52. Emily Spence, Writer, Massachusetts, USA
  53. Emerson Samuel, Social Activist
  54. Faraz Ahmad
  55. S Faizi, Ecologist, Trivandrum
  56. Farooque Chowdhury, freelancer, Dhaka, Bangladesh
  57. K P Fabian, Former Ambassador
  58. Dr. Goldy George, Social Scientist, Dalit Mukti Morcha
  59. G. Hassan, Australian Academic
  60. Ra. Su. Gandhi, Co-ordinator, Ilanthamizhagam Iyakkam, Chennai
  61. Gita Ramaswamy, Publisher, Hyderabad
  62. George Pulikuthiyil
  63. V. Geetha, Writer, Chennai
  64. Hartman de Souza, Writer, Goa
  65. Harbans Mukhia, former Rector, JNU
  66. Haridas Narangapetta,
  67. Ish Mishra, Academic, New Delhi
  68. Ilayaraja, State President, Tamilnadu Students Front
  69. Ishwarbhai Prajapati
  70. Dr. S. Q.R.Ilyas, National President, Welfare Party of India
  71. Jai Sen, researcher and writer, New Delhi
  72. K.P. Jayasankar, Academic and Filmmaker, Mumbai
  73. Jagadish Chandra, New Socialist Alternative, Bangalore
  74. Jenny Romero Llaguno, Women Writers Against Tyranny
  75. K.K.Jishnu, Idukki, Kerala
  76. Kaushik Tekur, Student, HCU
  77. Joseph Grosso, writer, activist, librarian in New York
  78. Joseph Mattam
  79. John Scales Avery, Scientist and peace activist, Denmark
  80. John Chuckman
  81. John Dayal, Activist, Writer, General of All India Christian Council, New Delhi
  82. Jon Kofas
  83. James Rothenberg, writer
  84. Prof Jagmohan, Shahid Bhagat Singh Creativity Center, Jallandhar
  85. Jithendran Charvakan, Media Activist
  86. Julia Lagoc
  87. Kaitsu Vaara, Finland
  88. Kavin Malar, Writer/ Journalist, Chennai
  89. Kaushik Tekur, Student, HCU.
  90. Kamal Mitra Chenoy, Academic, New Delhi
  91. Kanaga Varathan
  92. Kavin Malar, Writer/Journalist, Chennai
  93. Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Feminist and Human Rights activist, Mumbai
  94. Kavitha Sornavalli, writer and Journalist, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
  95. Kritika A, Journalist/Researchcer/ Student, Kerala
  96. A.S.Jaswal
  97. Karuna D.W., Researcher, Chennai
  98. Dr. Ludwig Watzal, Journalist and Editor, Bonn, Germany
  99. Mohammad Ashraf, I.A.S. (Retired), Former Director General Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir
  100. Makkal Sananayaga Kudiyarasu Katchi (Peoples’ Democratic Republican Party)
  101. Madhumita Dutta, Researcher, Teacher
  102. B.C.Mehta, Emeritus Professor of Economics.
  103. Dr. Mustapha Marrouchi, University of Toronto, Canada
  104. Madhusudanan
  105. Madhu Bhaduri, former diplomat, New Delhi
  106. Mustafa Desamangalam, Film Maker
  107. Meghnath, Film Maker
  108. Manu, PhD Student, Chennai Mathematical Institute
  109. Manisha Sethi, Academic, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi
  110. Manas Ray
  111. Mir Suhail, Founder, Daily Muslim Express
  112. Maya Pramod, Thalasserry
  113. May 17 Movement, Tamil Nadu
  114. Mohinder Ram
  115. National Adivasi Alliance (NAA)
  116. Nawab Khan, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha
  117. Neelima Sharma, Dramatist, New Delhi
  118. CR Neelakandan, Writer, Environmental Activist,
  119. Nilanjan Datta, Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR), West Bengal
  120. Nivedita Dwivedi, Independent Writer
  121. Pratap Antony, Secunderabad
  122. Prashant Bhaskaran
  123. VT Padmanabhan, Anti-Nuclear Campaigner
  124. Padmaja Shaw
  125. Prabhat Kumar Chaudhari,
  126. Parimala, Young Tamilnadu Movement
  127. Dr. Partho Sarothi Ray, Joint Action Committee for Social Justice, West Bengal
  128. Prasant Paikray, POSCO Pratirodh Sangarsh Samithi
  129. Priyanka Sandiya, Research Student, TISS
  130. Prafulla Samantara, President, Lok Shakti Abhiyan
  131. Rabin Chakraborty, Frontier, Kolkata
  132. Raj Bangar Spokesperson for the Kent Ravidasia Community, United Kingdom
  133. Rajkumar Kamble
  134. Rahul Varman, Academic, IIT, Kanpur
  135. MSP Rao
  136. Rob Currie, Solidarity Group of Arenal, Nicaragua
  137. Rinchin
  138. Robert J. Burrowes Ph.D., Australia
  139. Rohan D’ Souza, Associate Professor, Kyoto University, Japan
  140. Romi Mahajan, USA
  141. Rijuta Mishra
  142. Rekha Raj, Amnesty International, Bangalore.
  143. Reetika Khera, Associate Professor, Economics, IIT, Delhi
  144. Rashida Bi, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh
  145. Rachna Dhingra, Bhopal Group for Information and Action
  146. Ramdas Rao
  147. Rafeek VGLA
  148. D.K.Rathore
  149. M.K.Ratheesh, Ernakulam
  150. Ron Forthofer
  151. Satinath Sarangi Bhopal Group for Information and Action
  152. Sarita Malaviya, Children Against Dow Carbide
  153. Samraj Poet
  154. Sankara Narayanan
  155. Senthalir
  156. Shalini Gera, Advocate, High Court of Chhattisgarh in Bilaspur
  157. Shobha Aggarwal, Advocate & member, PIL Watch Group
  158. Sheshu Babu, Writer
  159. C.M.Sherif
  160. Shashank Kela, Writer, Chennai
  161. Sharad Behar, Bhopal
  162. Sindhu Menon, Special Correspondent, Labour File
  163. Sukruta Alluri, Research Scholar, CSSSC, Hyderabad
  164. K.P. Sasi, Film Maker, Writer, Activist
  165. Satya Sagar, Public Health Activist, New Delhi
  166. Solomon S.J.
  167. Sourav, Journalist, Free Press Journal
  168. Shiva Shankar, Professor, Chennai Mathematical Institute
  169. Sahib Khawaja
  170. K Satchidanandan, Writer
  171. Sandeep Pandey, NAPM
  172. Sajeev Narayan
  173. Siddharth K J, Independent Researcher, Bengaluru
  174. Shamsul Islam, Author, New Delhi
  175. Suvashish De
  176. Dr. Sylvia Karpagam, Public health doctor and researcher
  177. Soorya Kanthi
  178. Sreejith Diwakaran, Journalist, New Delhi
  179. Sreedhar, Environics Trust
  180. Stan Swamy, Human Rights Activist, Jharkhand
  181. Sumanta Banerjee, Writer
  182. V.Srinivasan Human Rights Activist,Chennai,Tamilnadu
  183. Sharada J Schaffter, Chennai
  184. Sarath Cheloor, Dynamic Action, Kerala
  185. Sukhdev Vishwapremi, National Convener, People’s Campaign for Socio – Economic Equality, Himachal Pradesh
  186. Susan E. Davies, Oikotree
  187. Dr.V.N.Sharma
  188. Shaji M.K.
  189. Tomy Mathew, Journal of Counter Culture Perspectives
  190. Tridib Reeves
  191. Uma Chakravarti, Academic, New Delhi
  192. Dr. V. G. Venturini, Australia
  193. Dr, Veena Shatrugna M.D., Former Deputy Director, National Institute of Nutrition,
  194. Vidya Bhushan Rawat, Activist, writer, Delhi
  195. Vikas R. Mourya
  196. T. Venkat, Independent Journalist, Chennai
  197. Vivek Sundara, Human Rights Activist, Mumbai
  198. P.K.Vijayan
  199. Vijay Shah
  200. Vijay Kumar Bairwa
  201. Vinod Mubayi
  202. Vinoth Kaligai, Spokesperson, Ilanthamizhagam Iyakkam, Chennai
  203. Venkat Kolagari
  204. Valson Thampu
  205. William Nicholas Gomes, Human Rights Defender/Freelance Journalist, UK
  206. William Stanley, Social Activist
  207. Yugank, Research Scholar, Ambedkar University, Delhi
    208. Dr B Karthik Navayan, Human Rights Activist, Bangalore
    209. K. Sudhir, Architect, Chennai
    210. Rahul Varman, Academic, IIT Kanpur
    211. Gurpreet Singh, the publisher of Radical Desi, Canada and cofounder of Indians Abroad for Pluralist India.

6 Comments

  1. K SHESHU BABU says:

    Many persons have been illegally imprisoned for their protests against human rights violations. Azad has been in the forefront of struggles for justice to the dalits and marginalised sections. He, along with Saibaba and others, must be released immediately. In solidarity

  2. Sally Dugman says:

    It is not enough for us to sign a petition to suggest Chandrashekhar Azad ‘Ravan’ to be released from prison. We must write essays so as to rally and encourage the people rejecting his imprisonment to protest in masse.

    Whenever I think about him, I start to get tears in my eyes. It is because I can’t imagine losing another shining light — someone like a Martin Luther King, Jr. and so, so many others who were jailed and/or murdered for fighting the status quo — an ugly racist or caste system.

    So someone needs to post our writings on the topic to encourage others to take a strong, proactive stand. Then someone needs to organize to protest in the ways that we do about gun violence in the USA.

    I have a fantasy. It goes like this. … You see, my friend slung a sign on his neck that said “I am a USA citizen” and the Serbs with their machine guns were afraid of my government such that they would not shoot through him to get to the Bosnians that he’d lined up protectively behind him. … He wasn’t certain about the way that his action would turn out, but he absolutely did know about what he needed to do during the time that he acted as a peace advocate in Europe quite some years ago.

    So here is my fantasy. I make a mask of Ravan’s face — a photo on cardboard and wear it. I put on a yellow stocking on my raised hand. I put on a blue scarf. I put on a sign that states: “I am a USA citizen. Hands off and bullets off of me.” Then I talk at a rally that I put together and if I need one — a Hindi translator — fine since I already have my speech already good-to-go in my head.

    Then we’re all marching to the prison where he is detained and I have a bullhorn and I am yelling for his release, and we are chanting when I or another person is not yelling through the bullhorn.

    I talked about a Jewish student in my latest essay. He said in the video that I included — if you save one person, you save the world according to Jewish tradition. … Well, that is the way that I feel about Ravan. Someone has to go and save him. … A group has to march like all-get-out the way that we do in the USA.

    PLEASE SAVE HIM!!! … Fight the goon squads and their government backers in the ways that we do, pleeeasse!

    1.2 Million People In 450 Locations March For Gun Reform – YouTube
    Video for BIGGEST MARCH FOR OUR LIVES MARCH IN USA YOUTUBE
    ▶ 12:40
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Eg0Lvlae2g
    21 hours ago – Uploaded by Secular Talk
    At least 1.2 million people marched for gun control over the weekend at events across the US, according to …

    People around the world join March for Our Lives rallies – YouTube
    Video for BIGGEST MARCH FOR OUR LIVES MARCH IN USA YOUTUBE
    ▶ 2:34
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UenH1u9Acf4
    3 days ago – Uploaded by Washington Post
    People around the world marched for more gun control on March 23. Subscribe to The Washington Post on …

  3. What are the names and email contact details of Uttar Pradesh authorities so that we can write and demand Azad’s immediate and unconditional release????

    • Sally Dugman says:

      A whole group of us would like this information. Hopefully, we can get it to put pressure on the authorities and make them sweat from worrying. … Personally I am adamant that I will do everything that I possibly can from half-way around the world (in USA) to stop another social justice or environmental justice moralist to be passively killed through medical neglect or actively killed while illegally jailed … In the USA, we have the First Amendment. So I can say whatever I please as long as it doesn’t incite a riotous action, harm or murder. … In my view, some lawyers have to get up courage and go to the Indian Supreme Court to petition for a similar law in India so that you won’t be shut up, roughed up or killed for sedition or other wrongs according to your society’s social rules.

      Constitution of United States of America 1789 (rev. 1992)

      First Amendment | Constitution | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute
      https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/first_amendment
      Amendment I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
      First Amendment · ‎Establishment Clause · ‎Free Exercise Clause · ‎Fighting Words

      First Amendment to the United States Constitution – Wikipedia
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution
      Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
      ‎Twenty-first Amendment · ‎Freedom of speech · ‎Right to petition

      You might want to see whether this fellow or his students could help in this sort of matter of changing laws of your land. Anyone can find his contact information online. … He’s one of the best lawyers in the USA and he likes taking on difficult cases while having argued here, as a self-taught lawyer, all the way to the US Supreme Court. Certainly, he is gifted and bright!

      Meet a convicted felon who became a Georgetown law professor …
      https://www.cbsnews.com › 60 Minutes › Newsmakers
      Oct 15, 2017 – Jailhouse lawyers are prisoners who manage to learn enough about the law while incarcerated to help themselves and other inmates with legal problems. We get letters from them every week. Tonight, we are going to introduce you to Shon Hopwood, who is arguably the most successful jailhouse lawyer …

  4. Sally Dugman says:

    My friend Sheshu wrote, “Though expressing solidarity in writings may definitely add to the dissenting voices, some concrete steps are also needed. Mass protests outside prisons and dhranas, lawyers unions staging strikes in courts, debates and discussions among public, awareness workshops from human rights activists, etc should be intensified all over the country. Agitations only can have some affect on rulers and courts to address the issues.”

    If anyone in India does contact Shon Hopwood at Georgetown (as mentioned in my prior commentary) for help, please feel free to ask him about whom else to contact and whether any Georgetown students could help. As part of training, law students often take on cases.

    In addition I recommend that other Georgetown professors be contacted for the same reasons to ask (1) could they or their students help with release of illegally held dissidents and (2) help with trying to change the Indian constitution to include something like USA First Amendment rights. Thirdly, they can be asked, too, about whom else to contact and for you to get their contact information.

    One can get email addresses, postal addresses and phone numbers by putting individually each of these three sets of wording in one’s search bar:
    (1) uttar pradesh prison email
    (2) jail superintendent uttar pradesh
    (3) uttar pradesh government email

    Then one can contact these officials.