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WSS strongly condemns the State Sponsored Hindutva Violence in Delhi!

WSS demands immediate action against BJP ex-MLA Kapil Mishra for inciting violence & against Delhi Police Commissioner for failure to maintain law & order

In the wake of the incendiary speech given by BJP ex-MLA Kapil Mishra on February 23th 2020 where in the presence of the DCP he said, “…if the Chandbagh and Jaffrabad roads are not cleared, then, after (Donald) Trump’s visit, we won’t listen even to you.” Since this speech, the last three days have witnessed a concerted mobilisation of right-wing goons in North East Delhi, several thousands who arrived in vehicles, carrying weapons, including swords, hammers, sickles, iron rods and bats. On February 24th, this mob faced off against those who had been participating in the Anti-CAA-NRC-NPR protests in the area, predominantly Muslims from the adjoining neighbourhoods. In an effort to disperse the protesters, the police used tear gas aimed at the peaceful Anti-CAA-NRC-NPR protest sites. A short distance away, petrol bombs were being used by BJP-RSS-Bajrang Dal-led forces to burn Muslim homes and shops in Dayalpur, Maujpur, Kardampuri, Bhajanpura, Jaffrabad and Chand Bagh. In Noor-i-ilahi area, along the metro station, several men armed with guns, stones and other weapons were seen charging forward while the police did not respond to the unfolding situation. The Gokulpuri tyre market was set ablaze. Videos of stone-pelting have revealed a frenzied mob flinging stones with slogans praising Modi, chanting “Jai Shree Ram” and “Bharat Mata ki Jai” interspersed with vile anti-women expletives.

As per reports from hospital officials, at least 35 people, mostly Muslim men have been killed as of now, along with one police personnel, with the death toll rising every hour. Hundreds of men, women and children are injured with distress calls made from GTB hospital urging people to provide medical aid. Videos have surfaced of one person who has been tentatively identified as Mohammad Furkan being beaten to death by the mob. Hotels, shops, petrol pumps, homes, warehouses and several hundred vehicles have been gutted; arson and looting is continuing on homes and shops in Brahmpuri Kalyani and other areas. Women and men from homes were gathered to march in rallies led by Bajrang Dal with communal slogans. People in vehicles were stopped, their IDs checked by helmet wearing armed mobs and Muslim men and women were beaten, verbally abused and sexually assaulted. Everyone crossing the Maujpur crossroads was being stopped and told to chant “Jai Shree Ram”. Two mosques have been attacked, damaged and desecrated by the Hindutva mobs. These mobs put on a full display of Hindutva dominance, walking in large groups with lathis and celebrating in the roads. Despite section 144, Delhi Police personnel are visible in videos being circulated as silent spectators hand-in-glove with the mob or unwilling to intervene to stop the violence. In some videos Delhi police are beating muslims with lathis and taunting them, asking if this is the azaadi they want. Such partisan participation in the violence is completely abhorrent and unacceptable. While some women, men and children remain in the sites of anti-CAA-NRC-NPR protests, a large number of Muslims have fled the area. Hordes of men with lathis continue to march through streets with the intention of instilling fear in those hiding inside their homes, asserting Brahmanical control and Hindutva masculinity through crude displays of strength.

The violence unleashed on 24th February continuing well into the intervening nights of 24th and 25th February are an expression of Hindu terrorism unleashing backed by the state. The violence is part of the larger unfolding of the Hindu Nationalism that has been the corner stone of the government’s public policy. We as WSS see, the current violence as an on-going expression of anti-Muslim and anti-Islam political articulations propagated by the RSS over the years, the basis of which is subjugation and/or exodus of Muslims. Despite the community reclaiming symbols of the nation, whether the national flag, national anthem, or Constitution, they are being profiled by their religious location as anti-national. The insistence by the goons on screaming “Jai Shree Ram” or “Bharat Mata ki Jai” are
expressions of the association of the nation-state with a particular religion and the tacit association of the people of a geographical territory as belonging to that religion. The invocation of ‘Bharat Mata’ by the right-wing terrorists, firstly, conceptualises the notion of a mother as a Hindu mother, and secondly, uses that to abuse women from a religion other than Hinduism. These acts and articulations stand in direct opposition to the secular and democratic pledge of the country as enshrined in the Preamble of the Constitution.

The attack on Muslim personhood, in the sexual and physical violence, on men and women are further acts to humiliate, subjugate and dehumanise the Muslim person. This violence has been the underlying in the relationship of the Muslim person with the state. The fallacy and the limit of the secular project lies in the responsibility of proving the secular credentials of the secularism on the Muslim person. Any and all expressions of the assertion of the Muslimness of the Indian-Muslim is seen by the current right-wing regime as a threat to India, and its association in their ideology with Hinduism. The current violence is part of the bigger Hindu-Hindi-Hindustan articulations of the right-wing. The manner of escalating of violence and it’s spread reeks of a well-planned and executed act, almost on the lines of Godhra 2002. We are witness to a pre-planned attack on the lives, livelihood and homes of Muslims in Delhi. With a large Muslim population living in these areas, this targeted attack reveals the ways in which the BJP-RSS-Bajrang Dal have fed the blood lust of a mob brought to these locations in vans and vehicles or pulled from Hindu majority localities nearby. The inaction and reticence of the Delhi Police reveals a marked complicity in the violence in North-East Delhi. This is a pogrom in the making. The convergence in the role of right-wing leaders and the police and the administration in the deaths of several people and the wanton destruction of property clearly marks these as state sponsored attacks on the minority community. The majoritarian display of brute force explicitly reveals the chauvinist masculinity of the brazen Hindu man armed with the impunity provided by the current political dispensation.

The lack of political response in the light of escalating violence is worrisome and disappointing. The newly elected AAP government jumped into action only very late in the night, and the response was not sufficient and is proving inadequate to deal with the scale of the problem. The Delhi home minister, Delhi CM, deputy CM, have effectively demonstrated a dereliction of duty. The main culprits though are the central government controlled police, who have not just been inactive but have been seen participating in the violence, and the Home Minister, who has effectively sanctioned their actions and those of his party members. As of now the violence is worsening, not de-escalating despite widespread awareness of the seriousness of the situation.

In light of the extraordinary situation with which we are confronted, WSS strongly and unequivocally condemns the BJP-RSS-Bajrang Dal led violence. We also condemn the inaction and silence of the state and central government in the wake of the violence. We demand:
1. Immediate restoration of law and order, de-escalation of violence, and fulfilment of the duties of law enforcement agencies.
2. The Delhi government must immediately begin serious efforts to restore the right to safe living of the Muslim community – men, women, children – in these violence-wracked neighbourhoods and across the city. All efforts must be made to ensure that those who have been forced to flee are able to return and live in their homes safely.
3. The Supreme court should take suo moto cognisance of the violent situation and act urgently to contain the violence.
4. The state should be providing immediate medical relief on site, in homes of the injured, and ambulance services to those injured. People trapped in these areas should be provided rations by the state government, in light of the destruction of their homes, livelihoods and property.
5. Immediate and stringent action against BJP ex-MLA Kapil Mishra for inciting violence, as well as all individuals and policemen seen engaged in stone-pelting and beatings.
6. The ongoing violence should be investigated by a SIT.
7. Immediate resignation of the Delhi Police Commissioner Amulya Patnaik, Delhi LG Anil Baijal and Home Minister Amit Shah

contact: againstsexualviolence@gmail.com

प्रधान मंत्री, श्री नरेंद्र मोदी के लिए खुला पत्र

प्रधान मंत्री, श्री नरेंद्र मोदी के लिए खुला पत्र
3 फ़रवरी, 2020

*भाजपा के लिए मतदान डालो, नहीं तो तुम्हारा बलात्कार होगा! क्या दिल्ली की औरतों के लिए यही आपका चुनावी सन्देश है?
आपकी पार्टी महिलाओं और बच्चों पर गोलियों का लक्ष्य बनाने के लिए भी भीड़ को प्रोत्साहित कर रही है
कृपया अपनी पार्टी को महिलाओं को हिंसा की धमकी देने से रोकें
आप संविधान की गरिमा को कायम रखते हुए चुनाव लड़ें।*

प्रधान मंत्री महोदय,
हम सभी आपको एकता के भाव से सम्बोधित कर रहीं हैं; हम भारत देश और दिल्ली की महिलाएं-हिंदू, मुस्लिम, सिख, ईसाई, आदिवासी और दलित- महिलाओं के प्रति हिंसा के इस भयंकर वातावरण के लिए चिंतित हैं जो आपकी पार्टी के सदस्यों द्वारा केवल एक चुनाव जीतने के प्रयास के लिए बनाया जा रहा है.
• जब अनुराग ठाकुर, केंद्र सरकार के वर्तमान मंत्री भीड़ को ‘गोली मारो सालों को’ चिल्लाने के लिए प्रोत्साहित करते हैं, कृपया यह ध्यान में रखिए की यहाँ पर ‘सालों’ वह लाखों शांतिपूर्ण प्रदर्शनकारी महिलाएं है जो कई शहरों के मैदानों में, उद्यानों में छोटे बच्चों को अपनी गोद में लिए बैठी हैं.
• आपकी पार्टी के एक और प्रचारक, उत्तर प्रदेश के मुख्य मंत्री, अजय सिंह बिश्त उर्फ़ ‘योगी आदित्यनाथ’ ने दिल्ली में अपना प्रचार यह बोलके शुरू किया कि ‘बोली से नहीं तो गोली से मानेंगे!’
• जब माननीय गृह मंत्री श्री अमित शाह लोगों को यह बोलते हैं की 8 फ़रवरी को इतने ‘ज़ोर’ से इ.वी.एम बटन दबाओ की ‘प्रदर्शनकारियों को करंट महसूस हो’. क्या वो महिलाओं को करंट लगवाना चाहते हैं?
क्या भाजपा अब खुलेआम भारत की महिलाओं और बच्चों के जीवन को ख़तरे में डाल रही है? यह बात इतिहास में लिखी जाएगी और देश इसके लिए कभी आपको माफ़ी नहीं देगा, प्रधान मंत्री महोदय। देश ने आपकी पार्टी के सदस्यों द्वारा बनाया गया हिंसक माहौल और नफ़रत फैलाने का परिणाम प्रत्यक्ष रूप से देखा है; जिसने जामिया में मासूम छात्रों पर 30 जनवरी को गोली चलाने के लिए ‘राम भक्त’ गोपाल तथा एक और हथियार धारक आतंकवादी को 1 फ़रवरी, शाहीन बाग़ की महिलओं पर गोली चलाने के लिए प्रोत्साहित किया । Continue reading

An Appeal To The Conscience Of The Nation (On The Bhima Koregaon Case)- Stan Swamy

 

An Appeal to the Conscience of the Nation – on Bhima-Koregaon case –

Stan Swamy

[Foreword: India has vowed to be a socialist, secular, democratic republic. Sadly, all these values are steadily being eroded in the present political developments. About 20 intellectuals, professionals, activists who are working for the fundamental rights of the poor and marginalized and upholding the above mentioned constitutional values are being labeled ‘urban naxals’ and are being harassed no end either as ‘accused’ or as ‘suspects’. Their premises have been raided, their electronic devices seized, serious cases filed. Some are already in prison, others face arrest anytime. I {Stan Swamy) am one of the ‘suspects’, I was also raided on 28th August 2018, even after more than four months Pune police have not made any charges, and when I appealed to Bombay HC [No.4741 of 2018] to quash the FIR against me my petition was rejected. Instead it authorized Pune police to continue its investigation on me, without prescribing any time frame, to see if I have committed any offence under UAPA and if needed take strong legal action. Really an open-ended offer to the police ! Several of the accused have refuted the charges against them. But the court seems to go by police’s version with scant regard to what petitioners are saying.

This is an appeal to all democratic minded individuals/groups/ organizations/ movements/ordinary citizens who are genuinely concerned about the steadily deteriorating human rights situation in our country and to raise their voice against it. – Stan Swamy ]

The following considerations may be taken for what they are worth:

  1. Justice PB Sawant, one of the organizers of the Bhima-Koregaon ‘Elgar Parishad’ event on 1st January 2018, in an interview testified that For years these pilgrims had been going to Bhima Koregaon, no incident happened. Why did it happen last year only? Our sources tell us that these two people (Bhide and Ekbote) were working at least two months before the violence there because they knew many people were going to come because of the 200th anniversary.
    This government wants to protect the Hindutva forces. They have been consistently trying to protect Hindutva activists who had indulged in violence…
    no Maoists were involved in the programme and the activists had been arrested because they criticised the government.

[ Pavan Dahat in HUFFPOST – NEWS, 30/12/2018 ]

Why the Investigating Officer and the courts did not pay attention to the above statement of a respected judge is a point of concern.

 

  1. Various fact-findings took place, the most prominent amongst them was one conducted at the behest of Pune Rural IG, Vishwas Nagare Patil, wherein ex-mayor of Pune was part of the team which visited many places and submitted its report on January 20, 2018. Summarising the report we find the following chronological events narrated in the report. Note the careful planning by communal forces.
  1. On December 16, 2017, one person namely Kaustubh Kasture had posted on Facebook that there would be riot on January 01, 2018, this person is supporter of Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote
  2. On December 30, 2017, Milind Ekbote took a meeting in Bhima Koregaon, whereat he decided to treat January 01, 2018 as black day and ensure bandh  all across the area.
  3. On December 29, 2017, memorial of Govind Mahar, who has legend to his credit of having shown courage to cremate the dead of Sambhaji Maharaj son of Shivaji Maharaj, came to be defiled. This resulted into a riot like situation in Vadu Budruk and adjacent areas, however all the villagers acted with responsibility and sorted out the issue amongst themselves and peace was restored. By December 30, 2017, though the issue at the Vadu Budruk was resolved peacefully, it is said that Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote, instigated the villagers.
  4. On December 30, 2017, a message was circulated on social media that there is a meeting called by Sambhaji Bhide in Vadu Village on January 01, 2018 and the supporters should gather in large numbers.
  5. On the night of December 31, 2017 Pradip Kand, Anil Kand and Ganesh Kand were threatening hotel owners to ensure bandh on January 01, 2018.
  6. Women in the vicinity knew prior about the riot on January 01, 2018, President of Tanta Mukti (dispute resolution) Committee, namely Vaibhav Yadav, had stored sticks and swords in his shop a night before.
  7. Suddenly on late night December 31, 2017, a letter was sent to police station, near Bhima Koregaon purportedly written by Bhima Koregoan Gram Panchayat, wherein police were informed about the bandh to be observed next day. [Nihal Singh Rathod in The Leaflet, 6 January 2019]

The Bombay HC while giving credence to the police version of the events has not asked the police whether any other reports were made. Could it have asked for this report to see the other side of the coin?

  1. Within a week, the Pune Rural Police registered at least 22 FIRs, including Anita Sawale’s, in multiple incidents of attacks against the pilgrims across different routes leading to the war memorial. The state government has stated before a Pune court that there are over 1,400 suspects in these cases, and estimated a total loss to public property of over Rs 1.5 crore. In the first information report registered against her complaint, Sawale named Manohar Bhide, president of the Shiv Jagar Pratishthan, Milind Ekbote, president of the Hindu Janjagran Samiti, and their “savarna sathidar”—savarna associates. [The CARAVAN – News – 14 September.2018 by Sagar]

To my knowledge, no courts have directed the police to act upon these FIRs. It is strange that one man’s FIR has galvanized against human rights activists and the defenders of the poor but 22 FIRs got no response and interestingly the judiciary did not comment on it.

  1. The raid of my living room-cum-office by Pune police on 28th August 2018 was illegal and inhuman.
  1. Both the Search Order and the Report-cum-inventory were written in Marathi language which i could not understand.

The search on my premises at 6 am 28th August 2018 by Pune police accompanied by a contingent of Namkum police thana, Ranchi, Jharkhand, was illegal. When I asked to see the Search Warrant the Pune police showed a Search Order. It was in Marathi language which I do not know. Hence I asked them to give me a translation of the Search Order either in Hindi or English so I could understand the nature of the order. The Pune police responded that it was not possible and that the search had to be carried out immediately. Thus they forcibly entered my room and spent three hours scrutinizing everything. They seized my laptop computer, a tablet, a camera, mobile phone and some instrumental music CDs. Then they produced a report-cum-inventory of seized articles which was also in Marathi language and asked me to sign the same. At this point I refused to sign a document in Marathi language which I do not understand until after an oral translation was done.

Pune police had brought two persons from Pune as ‘Panch’ which makes the Search illegal

The law on Search prescribes that a few respectable civilian people in the area be present during the search and that they sign as witnesses. But Pune police had brought two ‘panch’ along with them who signed as witnesses. This is a gross violation of the law and caused injustice to me. There were raids all over India on those who speak against injustices, but these raids did not follow the well-laid procedures. Its illegal nature is blatant.

  1. Torture in Police Custody: Adv. Arun Ferreira, one of the accused, was tortured in Pune Police Custody.

Arun Ferreira alleged in the court that he was beaten up during custodial interrogation. He said that on November 4 around 4 pm, during the interrogation he was punched about 8-10 times by the Investigating Officer (I.O.) Shivaji Pawar. The IO also hit him in the eye. While beating up Ferriera, IO Pawar was asking him questions about Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL). On November 5, he was taken to the Sassoon hospital. Injuries and contusion near eye were noted by the doctors at Sassoon hospital while conducting his medical examination.” [Sushmita in Sabrang News, 6 November 2018]

This is a serious human rights issue. Just last year when the United Nations Human Rights Council was trying to muster the nations of the world to sign the Treaty Against Torture, the Indian envoy loudly proclaimed “The very idea of torture is completely alien to Indian culture” ! On this basis India did not sign the UN document against torture. But everyone knows the police everywhere in India do torture prisoners to extract ‘confessions’. And when even eminent persons who have dedicated their life for the cause of the oppressed masses are subjected to this inhuman practice it is a matter of serious concern. This is also a violation of Supreme Court observing ‘custodial torture’ as a violation of human dignity and degradation that destroys self-esteem of the victim and does not even spare his personality.” [SC – SCC No. 416 / 1997 D.K.Basu vs State of WB]

But strangely enough, the judge at the Pune court did not comment on the petitioner’s mention of the torture. Silence from the judiciary on this vital aspect of human rights is painful.

I have thought these things aloud. I am sharing some questions that popped out. I do hope we can get answers.

[This Appeal is released on the occasion of the Republic Day when India took on the mantle of a “socialist, secular, democratic Republic’.]

 

 


WSS Perspective Document On Sexual Harassment And Mechanisms For Redressal Of Complaints

This document is the outcome of a series of discussions within WSS in Delhi that began in late 2016 and picked up pace early in 2017. The purpose of this process was:
A. To share experiences of and develop a perspective on sexual harassment, sexual
violence and a range of other ways in which women are undermined (which we
have grouped under the term ‘gender discrimination’) in different kinds of
institutions, including spaces of progressive political interaction.
B. To outline our political perspective on how these questions may be approached
and dealt with, including but not limited to redressal mechanisms.
C. To propose a redressal mechanism for WSS.

Please click  on below link to access the full document.

WSS Perspective Document on Sexual Harassment

Vasantha Kumari’s Statement Of Defence Against Fabricated News

I condemn and firmly deny the false statements made by Ankur Sharma of www.mynation.com in an article updated on 8th July 2018 on the same website. This article, without citing any reference, says that the Ministry of Home Affairs has released a report wherein it has been stated that I have “met Jharkhand officials and ministers asking them to lift the ban imposed on the PFI and Mazdoor Sangathan Samiti (MSS)”. This is completely false. Though there is nothing wrong in anyone approaching officials and ministers to lift any ban, the fact is that I have never even been to Jharkhand in more than a decade and have not approached anybody, whether ministers or officials, anywhere, whether in Jharkhand or elsewhere in this regard. I strongly deny this claim and condemn such dubious news reports aiming to accuse me of false allegations.
This false statement has been made with the malicious intent to target me, my family and particularly, my husband, Prof. GN Saibaba. In the current atmosphere of intolerance and abuse of law, I fear for the well-being and safety of my family. I request all activists, friends, concerned citizens and democratic organizations to condemn these fabrications and support me.
AS Vasantha Kumari
WSS
New Delhi
9th July 2018

Statement Condemning The Attack On Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj

Statement condemning the attack on Advocate Sudha Bhardwaj

We the undersigned wish to place on record our utter disgust, contempt and outrage at the latest in the series of machinations by Republic TV, working to its brief as a propagandist for the ongoing crusade against all those who take public stands in defence of democracy, secularism, human rights, Constitutional propriety and rule of law.

Republic TV’s latest target is Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj, National Secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Vice President of the Indian Association of Progressive Lawyers and Visiting Professor at the National Law University Delhi. She is widely-known for her three decades of work as a trade unionist, human rights defender, environmental lawyer and a respected advisor to several state institutions including the state legal aid bodies and the National Human Rights Commission. Continue reading

Shoma Sen – Demonising a Beloved Teacher and Life-long Activist

Shoma Sen – Demonising a Beloved Teacher and Life-long Activist

A teacher, a reader and learner, an intellectual, an activist and a human rights defender. Shoma Sen is all of the above, and more. The state would like the world to believe that she is involved in ‘anti-national’ activities, but that’s the price that many citizens are paying today for asserting their right to speak out, to dissent, and understand and articulate the world around them.

The early years

Social institutions, thriving on feudal patriarchal notions are disapproving of women’s participation in production and laud her reproductive roles; violence against women at the familial and societal level is given social sanction and women are confined to a dependent life within the domestic space. Therefore, women’s access to economic and political activity itself is a first step to their participation in decision making processes rather than the symbolic steps towards their “empowerment” that are seen in this system.

Shoma Sen, Contemporary Anti-Displacement Struggles and Women’s Resistance: A Commentary, Sanhati, November 3, 2010

Shoma spent her early years in Bandra in what was then Bombay. The 1970’s were a turbulent period. At that time, almost everyone had sympathies with the Left. While in college, she was with the Vidyarthi Pragati Sanghatana (VPS) and she edited Kalam, the student magazine. She was involved in supporting the workers during the textile strike in Mumbai of the 1980’s. During this time, Shoma became a lecturer in Mumbai and a part of Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR), and helping bring out the CPDR magazine, Adhikar Raksha.

Shoma moved from Bombay to Nagpur, where her daughter Koel was born. Shoma spent the next few decades of her life living in Nagpur with her partner and daughter, teaching in colleges and working to build a democratic movement that recognises and fights for the rights of the most marginalised and vulnerable sections of society. Shoma and Koel stood by her partner throughout the difficult times that he was arrested and released between 2007 and 2017. 

Working with women

As Shoma says (ibid), “If democracy and development are to be really meaningful to women in India, then ways must be evolved to include women in these processes and not simply make symbolic gestures for their empowerment.”

Shoma’s home has always been a refuge for women struggling to survive and make ends meet; she has done everything in her power to help them fight an unjust system. She is an active member of the national collective, Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS). She was an early member of the Nagpur-based Stree Chetna. She later became the founder convener of the Committee against Violence on Women (CAVOW) and edited its magazine, Stree Garjana. The organisation took part in fact finding visits to examine the implementation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Manipur after Thangjam Manorama’s brutal killing in 2004 and the allegations of sexual violence by the Salwa Judum in South Bastar in Chhattisgarh. CAVOW also played a role in organising legal aid for many women political prisoners during the early 2000s. Shoma also convened an adivasi mahila sammelan at Ranchi in March 2006. She has been a long-time Dalit and women’s rights activist, advocating for the rights of the marginalised and powerless. In an essay titled ‘The Village and the City: Dalit Feminisms in the Autobiographies of Baby Kamble and Urmila Pawar’, she looks at the ways in which mainstream feminism has tended to ignore the problems of caste, resulting in a distinct Dalit feminism that acknowledges patriarchal oppression from outside and within communities. In 2011, she was a part of Indian Association of Women’s Studies (IAWS) national conference in Wardha. In recent years, Shoma has been involved with Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR) in Nagpur. She has been helping voices of resistance be heard, voices that are being silenced everywhere in the current socio-political climate.

A life spent teaching

We are appalled and outraged by the arrest of Sen, one of our most distinguished and popular teachers in English. She is also a scholar of national repute in the domains of culture studies and critical theory.”

Supantha Bhattacharya, associate professor & colleague, Nagpur University, Times of India, June 20, 2018

Shoma got involved with the Women’s Studies department at Wardha’s Hindi Vishwavidyalaya, and being fluent in Hindi, often helped cover the shortage of teachers and examiners. She taught in ad hoc positions in several colleges, like the People’s Welfare Society (PWS) College in Indora, Nagpur, leaving home (and her then young daughter) early in the morning to get to work. After college hours, she would visit women (many of them Dalits and victims of domestic violence) in the slums and ghettos of Nagpur to discuss their issues and concerns.

She joined Rashtrasant Tukadoji Maharaj Nagpur University, heading its English department. As a teacher, she was appreciated by both students and seniors. Promoted as Head of Department and respected for her intellect, Shoma has been an active scholar in the fields of post-colonialism and women’s studies for several decades. Her articles have appeared in scholarly publications such as the Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) and The Journal of Commonwealth Literature. She is a valued member of the University community and an important voice in the struggle to uphold human rights. She has travelled to deliver lectures and talks and is a popular teacher, with a passionate interest in reading, researching and teaching literature and women’s studies. Shoma is due to retire in July 2018 after more than three decades of exemplary service. Today, after all these years, her friends and colleagues are in shock at this brazen display of force by the police on her and the other four arrested, and wonder if this is the fate that awaits all those who speak out against poverty, inequalities and injustice.

Now, days before she was scheduled to retire in June 2018, the university, where she spent so many years of her professional life, suspended her for being detained by the police under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The state that confronts its own citizens

With fifty per cent of the population largely deprived from economic and political activity, such a democracy cannot be real in any sense and the participation of women in struggles is a process of democratisation. If the gender axis of such struggles is sharpened then this trajectory is more likely to lead to equality and women’s liberation.”

Shoma Sen, Contemporary Anti-Displacement Struggles and Women’s Resistance: A Commentary, November 3, 2010 in Sanhati

Shoma was arrested in pre-dawn raids conducted simultaneously across four cities along with four others. They were Surendra Gadling, a respected lawyer who fought multiple pro bono cases for adivasis, dalits and political prisoners and General Secretary, Indian Association of Peoples’ Lawyers (IAPL); Sudhir Dhawale, founder, Republican Panthers Jaatiya Antachi Chalwal (Republican Panthers Caste Annihilation Movement) and editor, Vidrohi magazine; Rona Wilson, public relations secretary of Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP) and Mahesh Raut, anti-displacement activist and former Prime Minister Rural Development Fellow (PMRDF). All those arrested have at various times spoken against the brutalities committed by state forces and the police against its citizens and have fought for the release of political prisoners. These arrests come in the wake of the assertion of dalit, adivasi, OBC and Muslim unity during the Bhima Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerna Abhiyan organised by the ‘Elgaar Parishad’ in Pune on December 31, 2017, and the attack by right wing organisations following the extraordinary unity among the communities.

Shoma has been charged under various stringent sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), and has been accused of, among other things, inciting the violence in January 2018 through speeches; of doing so on behalf of the banned CPI (Maoist); of having links with and harbouring fugitive members of this party at various times; and of fundraising for them. By charging her with extraordinary number of sections of the IPC and UAPA, the police want to project her as a “dreaded criminal” and this legal overreach is intended to ensure a prolonged stint in police and judicial custody, irrespective of the validity of the claims. These charges are meant to serve as a life sentence to the arrested by the police, reaffirmed through the media, even if the judicial system finds them innocent in the days to come. Her arrest is part of the State’s ongoing efforts to intimidate and silence people who have been outspoken or critical of its anti-people policies.

It is a matter of grave concern that dissenting intellectuals and activists are being targeted in this manner by the state. Most of the media too is playing its role as an “arm” of the government, instead of doing what it is supposed to do, i.e., to conduct independent investigation before publishing its stories and refraining from sensationalism and media trials.

After a lifetime of working for others, people like Shoma Sen are branded ‘anti-national’ by the Indian State. Humane and perceptive people who have spent their lives working to recognise, transform and build a more democratic society, are being treated as criminals waging war against ‘national interests’. Here, we must ask, whose interests are being served? Dialogue and dissent is a crucial part of any democratic society. The repression of these voices and vindictive and excessive state action is completely unacceptable in a free democracy.

Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS), a network of women working for a democratic society, against patriarchy, caste discrimination, communalism and bigotry, stands in solidarity with Shoma Sen and all those arrested under these unconscionable conditions and demands their immediate and unconditional release.