All arrested human rights defenders must be immediately released, and all false cases dropped

bhima koregaon

Since early morning 28th August, homes of 10 well-known public activists in Mumbai, Ranchi, Hyderabad, Delhi, Faridabad and Goa were raided by Maharashtra Police, and 5 have been arrested. With the intervention of the Delhi HC and SC on 29th Aug stalling their transit remand, there are presently under house arrest.

The arrested include Human Rights activist Gautam Navlakha and Trade Unionist Sudha Bharadwaj in Delhi, activists Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonzalves in Mumbai, Poet activist Vara Vara Rao in Hyderabad. Also raided were homes of Dalit intellectual Anand Teltumbde in Goa, Father Stan Swamy in Ranchi, Advocate Susan Abhraham, Professor K Satyanarayana from EFLU, and journalists KV Kurmanath and Kranthi Tekula. In an earlier move related to the same case, 5 activists, Sudhir Dhawale, Soma Sen, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut and Rona Wilson, were similarly arrested from Mumbai, Pune and Delhi who continue to rot in Pune Jail without bail.

Fabricated charges under criminal conspiracy, and the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967 are thrust on these human rights defenders. This relates to the Bhima Koregaon ‘violence’ on 1st January this year, when thousands of Dalits returning from bicentennial celebration of the annual gathering, this time against the ‘new Peshwas’, were attacked by dominant caste goons–led by Shambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote–under protection of the government. This was later randomly expanded, to a criminal conspiracy to ‘assassinate the Prime Minister’, through a forged letter not submitted to the Court but rather ‘leaked’ to Republic TV, and creating the bogey of ‘urban Naxals’.

All arrested human rights defenders must be immediately released, and all false cases dropped

Not Random, but Coordinated Attack on Ideological Opposition and Movements

So, rather than being random, these arrests, as in Police statement, for being “suspected to have links with Elgar Parishad that is leading the violent Dalit movement in Maharashtra” is symptomatic of a coordinated attack by the deep State on two levels primarily – to crush the ideological opposition (‘the anti-nationals’, and now the ‘urban naxals’) by killing, arresting, silencing or co-opting its public voices, and to stem the politicisation and assertion of mass movements like the insurgent Dalit movement. And of course not to let the two mix where they show tendencies of doing so.

This is in the broader atmosphere of the viciousness and impunity with which the State machinery is being actively wielded by the RSS-BJP in coordination with its vigilante groups to selectively target its critics and silence movements. Along with the RSS work in the mass psyche to build fascism from ground-up, there is a general right-ward shift in the polity, not limited to the Central government alone. The killings of Dabolkar, Pansare, Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh and the recent attack on Umar Khalid come up as stark examples of critics being silenced. And this is just the more well-known tip of the iceberg. The continued incarceration of Bhim Army Chief Chadrasheskar Azad Ravan under NSA for over a year, the Life Imprisonments of Graziano, Pricol, Maruti (with the State prosecutor demanding death penalty!) workers in Jail without bail over 6 years, the thousands arrested after 2nd April Bharat Bandh by Dalits, the killings of 40 Adivasis in Gadchiroli, and of 13 Tuticorin protestors, crackdown on Pathalgadi movement, and the thousands arrested and tortured after the Bhima Koregaon ‘violence’ are part of countless ‘unnamed’ toilers.

Arrest Ekbote, Bhide, and halt the organized terror activities of the Sanatan Sanstha

It is public knowledge by now that the real instigators of the violence in the aftermath of the Bhima Koregaon annual gathering this year was masterminded by Milind Ekbote and Shambhaji Bhide alias Bhide Guruji, who has patronage of PM Narendra Modi. They were never arrested despite cases being registered against them after the massive Dalit protests that ensued after January, while key witnesses in the case, like 19-year old Dalit girl Pooja Sakat, was murdered.

Related to this network, are other Sanghi terror organisations – Sanatan Sanstha, Hindu Janjagruti Samiti and Shri Ram Sene, as part of a design and operation to engage in killings and disruptions in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Goa. Linked directly to Bhide’s Shri Shiv Pratisthan, as various media reports and Police investigations testify, are the arrested criminals of the Sanatan Sanstha in Maharashtra: Vaibhav Raut, Sudhanwa Gondhalekar, Sharad Kalaskar, Shrikant Pangarkar, Avinash Pawar. While there is not a shred of evidence against the so-called ‘urban Naxals’, conclusive evidences have come pointing to direct links of these criminals with the murder of Dabolkar, Pansare, Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh – who were in their ‘Hit Lists’. Gauri Lankesh murder-accused has confessed to being indoctrinated at Goa’s Sanatan Sanstha. In the Dabolkar murder, it was found that his shooter Sachin Andure and his accomplice Sharad Kalaska were trained by arms trainer Rajesh Bangera, and Amol Kale and Amit Degwekar. Cash in envelopes drawn from Sanatan Sanstha account and bank pass book from where the money was drawn was found in Degwekar’s possession. Pansare’s murderers, Shrikanth Pangarkar and Samir Gaikwad, and also Kalburgi’s murderers Amol Kale and Shankar Narayan, all have links with Sanatan Sanstha, which operates in 22 registered names in various cities and districts in MH, Kar, Goa. The raid at the arms-making unit or factory in Nala Sopara and seizure of huge cache of arms and ammunitions by the Police, the plans to blow up or create blasts at six theaters and at least 4-5 Ganapati mandaps in different parts of Maharashtra including Mumbai, Pune, Sangli and Solapur, and pin the blame on the Muslim community, point to a well-oiled terror machinery which is precisely to subvert democracy.

These are not few terrorist individuals but a sinister fascist ideology. When Diptesh Patil, a member of the Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti another front of Sanatan Sanstha, claims to the Indian Express, “We don’t have a parent organisation but we work closely with the VHP, HJS, Sanatan Sanstha, Bajrang Dal, and both the Shiv Sena and BJP”, it points to the seamless coordination of the ‘fringe’ and the ‘mainstream’ maintained by the RSS and normalization of this terror. The establishing of their ideological hegemony through a fascistic Hindu Rashtra, thus also helping handle Imperialist crisis, is diametrically opposed to the idea of a secular socialist federal democratic republic envisioned by revolutionary freedom fighters like Bhagat Singh.

This normalization of terror and complete State impunity given to Sanghi terrorists must stop. The government should immediately arrest Milind Ekbote and Shambhaji Bhide. It should use stringent provisions in law to halt and punish the organized terror activities of the Sanatan Sanstha and its linked organisations.

The Challenge before Us

However, rather than arrest and prosecute the real accused of both the Bhima Koregaon violence and the murders of Lankesh and Dabolkar, the Police is keeping itself busy by arresting those who are raising their voices for real democracy and freedom – both the ideological opposition and the mass movements. The use of UAPA, NSA and other draconian ‘anti-terror’ laws which suspend all civil liberties is today blatant, expansive and casual, which and cannot be allowed in a democracy.

It must be said here that this builds up on the regime of laws beefing up the security State (like the UAPA or AFSPA itself, or anti-cow slaughter laws for instance, or the planned introduction of ‘blasphemy laws’ in Punjab) that the previous so-called ‘secular’ Congress government provided. Taking this several steps further, and destroying the impunities and niceties of safe spaces of bourgeois legality, the RSS-BJP brings on an additional element to use both distinctly and along with State power – the mass psyche nurtured and created to legitimize and take forward the fascist movement. The series of lynchings of primarily Muslims and Dalits and oppressed communities, and their normalization, now extends itself to various other spaces, even the material situation of the majority of the toilers in the country is rapidly deteriorating.

To fight these cannot be limited to the question of ‘2019’ alone. Our struggle against the ascendant fascist movement and state, power and capital must confront the limits of our struggles today. These limits cannot always be externalized–that some saviour parliamentary opposition will clobber itself up and take the lead, that we shall engage in civil isolated resistance in our terrains and be contained. The specificities and strength of resistance mass movements of the toilers must be engaged with, and we have to also confront the present lack of a coherent historical imagination.

Many instances of resistance by mass movements have been seen in the last phase. Taking the Dalit movement itself, which the Maharashtra Police is so keen to stop from ‘turning violent’, has shown an insurgence not be contained within the system. Besides Bhima Koregaon, the working class Dalit upsurge showed itself in the last phase showed itself in the assertion of the Bhim Army in Saharanpur, and the spontaneous 2nd April Bharat Bandh. Even after repression, 10,000 activists of the Bhim Army rocked Delhi on 19 August which was largely ignored by the ‘national media’ or discourse setters. The ‘leaderless’ mass Dalit upsurge during the 2nd April Bharat Bandh in fact sent the State completely on backfoot temporarily, before it sprung into action arresting and foisting false cases on thousands across the country. No amount of BJP minister dramas of ‘dinners with untouchables’ have been able to offset the rage caused by the real attacks on education, health, jobs and dignity of the working class Dalit population in the country, and mess up RSS wet-dreams of a subservient Dalit population governed by the varna shrama within a monolithic Hindu fold versus ‘external enemies’. Even as simultaneous attacks on workers, peasants and those protecting their commons increase manifold everyday in the general rightward shift, the resistance beyond the suffocating electoral games is very much alive.

It is the understanding, strengthening and expansion of such movements (learning from history of struggle) of the toilers for ‘real democracy’ in the country which all progressive forces and individuals must take forward. Along with this, the task of democratically working out an imagination of an alternative beyond what the system offers us, has to engaged with renewed energy again today.

We demand:

  1. All arrested human rights defenders must be immediately released, and all false cases dropped.

  2. The government should immediately arrest Milind Ekbote and Shambhaji Bhide. It should use stringent provisions in law to halt and punish the organized terror activities of the Sanatan Sanstha and its linked organisations.

Krantikari Naujawan Sabha
30 August, 2018


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