A webinar was organised with major initiative of Indian Christians for Democracy on 25th October, Sunday, 2020 from 11.00 to 1.00 pm. Dr. Fr. Prakash Louis the founder of the Indian Christians for Democracy forum initiated, planned and executed this webinar. Roselle Solomon and Ranjan Solomon hosted the webinar. Dr. John Dayal moderated the webinar.

The objectives of the webinar were 1) Keep pressure on for the release of all falsely accused and arrested; 2) False accusation, detention and arrest becomes a debating point and the government gives up this practice; 3) Nation-wide demand for the repeal of UAPA.

Aloka Kujur, an activist, poet and human right defender of Jharkhand who worked very closely with Stan was in tears as she spoke and stated that Stan who fought to defend the rights of the Adivasis is himself denied of his rights by this unjust government. Stan worked for the release of all the under trails in Jharkhand prisons. She was in tears when she said that if Stan is not there, the Adivasis of Jharkhand would be finished. But now he is an undertrial at the age of 83. Aloka Kujur stated forcefully that the government of India wants to dislodge and displace the Adivasis from their original habitats full of rich resources. To succeed in this it is arresting those who are opposing this move and imposing NIA in the name of national security. She called upon all present to network together for the release of Stan and all the others.

Ranjan Solomon, Prakash Louis, Syeda Hameed, Aloka Kujur, Frazer Mascarenhas, Kavita Srivastav, Harsh Mandar, Joe Xavier, Dr. Michael William and Prakash Louis also spoke in the webinar.

All the participants reiterated these facts:

1)Bhima Koregaon struggle is an historical struggle for the assertion of the rights of the Dalits

2)What happened on January 1st, 2018 in Pune was a caste and communal clash, spearheaded by the upper castes against the Dalits

3) Even before this incident, many of the activists and academics and human rights defenders were taken on custody in the name of being ‘Urban Maoists’ and in extension accused of causing security threat to the nation

4)Following from that and just after January 1st, 2018, many more activists and academics and human rights defenders were falsely accused and arrested

5) Proper procedure was not followed while the accusation was made, when the arrest was made and when the charge sheet was filed

6) Some of these people are languishing in jail from August 2018. Some of them were ill-treated and were not given proper food and other basic facilities

7) All these were directly overseen by the BJP lead Maharashtra government under the direction of Home Ministry of Government of India which has the track record of being communal, casteist, corrupt, autocratic, authoritarian and undemocratic

8)As soon as a new dispensation came into power under the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, the Bhima Koregaon case without any consultation with the government of Maharashtra was shifted to National Investigation Agency (NIA)

9)From then more arrests are undertaken without any proper investigation, filing of charge sheet, hearing of those accused and arrested, etc.

10)It is reported that earlier over 5,000 page charge sheet was prepared and now it has gone up to 10,000 pages and how many thousand pages it would take to close this case is a million dollar question

11)All the speakers highlighted this fact that all the arrested are people of repute and have been socially committed to the cause of the poor and are academically and intellectually of high caliber

12) An 83 year old, catholic priest who is suffering with Parkinson disease who had dedicated over 40 years of his life for the protection of the rights of the Adivasis of Jharkhand is now struggling to defend his own rights as a human being, a citizen, a senior citizen and a person with ailments. But all reiterated the fact that his spirit is very high and said that he identifies himself with all those who have been falsely accused and arrested by the vested interests of the country

13) Similarly, many Dalit, Adivasi, Minority youth all over the country are languishing in the jails after being named ‘Maoists’ and ‘Terrorists’. Many youth due to the caste exploitation are accused of having stolen from an upper caste landlords house or farm and are also treated as undertrials even after 10 to 15 years. This forum demands the release of all these persons too.

Demands

1)All present demanded immediate and unconditional release of Stan and all the accused in this case

2)Instead of fabricating false cases and trying to keep these in the prison, the government should proceed with legal regulations and since they are not guilty should release them

3)Till that time provide adequate safety and security, food and health care facilities in this pandemic time.

An authoritarian, undemocratic and anarchic government: The members present stated powerfully this government is busy spreading hatred and division among the citizens in the name of caste, class, gender, religion and region. With this deep seated crisis, how can India be taken to 21st century and how can all the citizens get at least their basic needs fulfilled is a million dollar question. It has already done huge damage and it will destroy this country.

Slogans were
 We promote everything that promotes democracy in India;
 We challenge everything that challenges democracy in India;
 We oppose all those who are trying to grab the resources of the country in the name of the growth of the country;
 We demand the immediate and unconditional release of Stan and all those arrested in Bhima Koregaon case;
 We are aware of the hidden agenda of the present regime and hence we will continue our struggle.

Solidarity Action
 No Indian can afford to be complacent and say that I am not affected and let anything happen. Challenging this attitude, we invite all the Indians to come to the streets and oppose the sinister moves of the present regime;
 It is time that the Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims, Christians and all the common and concerned citizens of India join together in one struggle against this fascist and divisive forces. This protest should take the form of a massive tsunami;
 All religions teach us Indians that in times of crisis stand united and all religions teach us to oppose all those who are spreading hate and division among humanity;
 We will work with all the social, cultural, political and secular individuals and organisations to oppose the agenda of the present regime and uphold the constitutional values.

Solidarity from the Christian Community

All the participants present, especially the secular and civil society activists reiterated the demand on the Christian community to come out not only when their interests are touched but when the issues of the common masses and those who stand by them are falsely accused and arrested by this undemocratic government.

Further, it should also join with all the civil and secular initiatives to protect the constitution and human rights defenders.

Fr. Dr. Prakash Louis finally summed up and thanked all the speakers and participants. He also reiterated the fact that we need to continue to build greater solidarity and keep up the pressure on the government to release these at the earliest.

The following were the Coorganisers of this national webinar: Alliance Defending Freedom, All India Christian Union, Aman Bradari, Catholic Priests Conference of India, Coalition of Religious for Justice (Western Region) Delhi Forum, Indian Christians for Democracy, Indian Christian Women’s Movement, Jesuits in Social Action, National Council of Churches in India, National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations, North East India, FOUM of Religious for Justice and Peace, Muslim Women’s Forum, United Christian Forum, etc. to name a few.


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