Tag Archives: Bhima Koregaon

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 Statement On The Majority Judgement Of The Supreme Court Regarding The Arrests Of Sudha Bhardwaj, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Gautam Navlakha And Varavara Rao

WSS condemns the majority judgment of the Supreme Court regarding the arrests of Sudha Bharadwaj, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Gautam Navlakha and Varavara Rao

WSS deeply condemns the majority judgement of the Supreme Court which has dismissed the PIL filed by Romila Thapar, Devaki Jain, Satish Deshpande, Prabhat Patnaik and Maja Daruwalla and has in effect granted the notorious Pune Police impunity to carry on with its fabricated and malafide investigation in the Bhima Koregaon (FIR No. 4/2018) case. The Court in its vague majority judgement has failed to do its duty as a Constitutional Arbitrator and as the vanguard of the fundamental rights under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India to protect the liberty of the dissenting activists – who have been arrested by the Pune police which unabashedly flouted due process.   Continue reading

IIT Kanpur Alumni’s Statement In Support Of Advocate Sudha Bhardwaj And Others

We, a group of alumni of IIT Kanpur and others as students, researchers, faculty, staff and other community members affiliated with the same institute strongly condemn the arrest of IIT Kanpur alumna Sudha Bharadwaj (Integrated MSc., Mathematics, 1979-1984) and other activists namely, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Gautam Navlakha and Varavara Rao, and the raiding of houses of Anand Teltumbde, K. Satyanarayana and Stan Swamy among many others.

These arrests seem to be a mere sequel in an ongoing attempt to intimidate and arrest activists, eminent writers, professors, journalists, and human rights defenders around the country. Continue reading

WSS Statement On The Arrests of Sudha Bharadwaj, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Gautam Navlakha and Varavara Rao

WSS Condemns Arrests of Sudha Bharadwaj, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Gautam Navlakha and Varavara Rao

WSS strongly condemns targeted attack on democratic rights activists, blatantly retributive actions of Maharashtra Police and demands immediate and unconditional release of all arrested activists, lawyers, writers and journalists

WSS strongly condemns the arrests of its member Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj, and activists Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Gautam Navlakha, Varavara Rao, and the raids at the homes of Father Stan Swamy, Dr. Anand Teltumbde, Prof. K. Satyanarayana, Pavana, Anala, Kurmanath, Kranti Tekula and others conducted by the Maharashtra police along with the state police of Telangana, Jharkhand, Goa and Delhi. These searches and arrests are a diversionary tactic to draw attention away from the spine chilling revelations about Hindu Sanatan Sanstha and Hindu Janjagruti in connection to the assassinations and bomb terror which they have been masterminding. 

On the 28th of August, in a coordinated operation, days before the 90 day period for judicial custody period of the five arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case end, several well known academics, lawyers, writers, poets, priests and journalists have been arrested and their homes raided by the police. Just under three months following the arrests of Professor Shoma Sen, Advocate Surendra Gadling, activists Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson and Mahesh Raut, the Maharashtra police appear to be persistently cracking down on all voices that have stood in solidarity with them. This coordinated effort to harass and malign human rights activists all over the country is intended solely to create a sense of terror amidst the democratic people of this country and must be seen as a war against democracy. Despite the fact that no incriminating evidence has emerged in these cases, with no respect or regard for the law, the police continues to arbitrarily arrest and detain activists, lawyers, writers and professionals who have dedicated their lives to ensure that justice is served where it is due. Continue reading

Statement Of Solidarity For Prof. Shoma Sen From The Academic Community

RELEASE PROFESSOR SHOMA SEN!

Statement of Solidarity from the Academic Community

On the Occasion of Prof. Sen’s 60th Birthday

We, the undersigned members of the academic community, are shocked and outraged at the arrest and detention of Professor Shoma Sen on 6 June 2018. The arrests of Prof Sen and four other activist intellectuals were carefully coordinated across states, and come in the wake of the assertion of Dalit, Adivasi, OBC, Muslim unity during the Bhima Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerna Abhiyan organised by the ‘Elgaar Parishad’ in Shaniwarwada in Pune on 31st December 2017. Prof Shoma Sen, who heads the Department of English at Nagpur University, has been charged under various stringent sections of the UAPA, and has been accused of, among other things, inciting the violence in January through her 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. Following her arrest just six weeks before she was due to retire, Prof Sen was suspended from duty at Nagpur University, pending the result of her trial. Currently lodged in the Yerwada Central Jail in Pune under inhumane conditions, she is suffering from severe arthritis and other medical complications and continues to be denied basic facilities like a cot to sleep on and a commode.

Prof Shoma Sen is a respected intellectual and has been an active scholar in the fields of post-colonialism and women’s studies for several  decades. She has also been a long time Dalit and women’s rights  activist, and has advocated the rights of the underprivileged, the deprived, the poor and the powerless. 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. She is also a member of the collective Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS). A respected intellectual active in the fields of post-colonialism and women’s studies for over three decades, Prof Sen was to retire on August 1st, her 60th birthday, with the release of a festschrift in her honour, an edited volume of writings by several friends and colleagues. Instead, it seems, she will spend her 60th in a jail cell without basic medical care or friends and family. After decades of advocating for the rights of the marginalised, standing in solidarity with democratic voices in this country, and ardently fighting for the rights of women  everywhere, Shoma Sen is now one more voice of democracy imprisoned.

Prof Shoma Sen’s 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 considerable concern that dissenting intellectuals and activists are being targetted for arrest under the draconian UAPA. After all the University is a space for dialogue, the exploration and critique of ideas and society, and for creative action. If Shoma Sen was resisting inequalities, it is her constitutional right as a citizen and a crucial part of her job as an intellectual to do so. Dialogue and dissent must remain a crucial part of  any democratic society. The repression of these is a giant step toward fascism. Vindictive and excessive state action is completely unacceptable in a democracy.

We condemn these arrests unequivocally and call for the immediate, unconditional release of Prof Sen and the others who were arrested with her. We demand that her suspension be revoked at once.

1.  A. Mangai (Dr. V. Padma), Associate Professor in English (Retd),
Stella Maris College, Chennai
2.  Abha Sur, Lecturer, Program in Women’s & Gender Studies,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139
3.  Abhijit Sen, Professor (Retd), Jawaharlal Nehru University
4.  Adiyta Nigam, Professor, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi
5.  Amber Habib, Professor, Department of Mathematics, Shiv Nadar University
6.  Amit Bhaduri, Professor Emeritus, Jawaharlal Nehru University
7.  Amrita Pande, Associate Professor, University of Cape Town, South Africa
8.  Anand Chakravarti, Retired Professor, Delhi University
9.  Anandhi S., Professor, Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai
10.  Angela Y. Davis, Distinguished Professor Emerita, History of
Consciousness and Feminist Studies, University of California, Santa
Cruz
11.  Anirban Kar, Associate Professor, Delhi School of Economics,
Delhi University
12.  Aniruddha Das, Associate Professor, Dept of Neuroscience &
Zuckerman Institute, Columbia University, New York
13.  Anita Ghai, Ambedkar University, Delhi
14.  Anjali Monteiro, Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences
15.  Anupama Potluri, Assistant Professor, University of Hyderabad
16.  Anuradha Banerji, Researcher, New Delhi
17.  Anushka Singh, Ambedkar University, Delhi
18.  Ashley Tellis, Associate Professor in English Literature and
Gender Studies, Independent Scholar
19.  Ashok Prasad, Associate Professor, Colorado State University,
Fort Collins, USA
20.  Atul Sood, Professor, Centre for the Study of Regional
Development, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
21.  Balmurli Natrajan, Professor, William Paterson University of New Jersey
22.  Bela Bhatia, Independent Researcher, Bastar, Chhattisgarh
23.  Bittu K., Associate Professor, Ashoka University
24.  Brinelle D’Souza, Faculty Member, Tata Institute of Social Sciences
25.  C.P. Chandrasekhar, Professor, Centre for Economic Studies &
Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University
26.  Carmel Christy K J, Assistant Professor, Kamla Nehru College,
Delhi University
27.  David Ludden, Professor and Chair, Department of History, New
York University
28.  Debjani Sengupta, IP College, Delhi University
29.  Deepika Tandon, Associate Professor, Department of English,
Miranda House, Delhi University
30.  Dolly Kikon, Lecturer, University of Melbourne
31.  Drago Župarić-Iljić, PhD, Researcher, Institute for Migration and
Ethnic Studies, Zagreb
32.  Elizabeth Abraham, Research Fellow, Inter University Centre For
Social Science Research, Mahatama Gandhi Universty, Kottayam
33.  G. Vijay, Member of Faculty, School of Economics, University of Hyderabad
34.  Geetam Tiwari, Professor, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi
35.  Hari Sen, Associate Professor in History, Ramjas College,
University of Delhi
36.  Harjinder (Laltu) Singh, Professor, IIIT Hyderabad
37.  Himanshu, Phd Student, Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai
38.  Inderpal Grewal, Professor, Yale University
39.  Indira Vijaysimha, Associate Professor, Azim Premji University, Bangalore
40.  Indira C, Researcher, Public Health, Pune and Delhi
41.  J Devika, Professor, Center for Development Studies, Kerala
42.  Jayati Ghosh, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University New Delhi
43.  K.P. Jayasankar, Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences
44.  Karen Gabriel, Associate Professor, Dept of English, Director,
Centre for Gender, Culture and Social Processes, St. Stephen’s
College, Delhi University
45.  Karuna DW, Independent Researcher, Chennai
46.  Kavita Punjabi, Jadavpur University
47.  Kranti Saran, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Ashoka University
48.  Lata Singh, Centre for Women’s Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University
49.  Mamatha Karollil, Assistant Professor, Ambedkar University, Delhi
50.  Manpreet Kaur Kang, Professor of English, School of Humanities & Social Sciences, Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, New Delhi
51.  Manu Bhagavan, Professor of History and Human Rights, Hunter
College and the Graduate Center-The City University of New York
52.  Mary E. John, Centre for Women’s Development Studies, New Delhi
53.  Meena Alexander, Distinguished Professor of English, Hunter
College and the Graduate Center, CUNY
54.  Meena Gopal, Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
55.  Nalini Nayak, Associate Professor (Retd), Delhi University
56.  Nandini Sundar, Professor of Sociology, Delhi School of
Economics, Delhi University
57.  Nandini Manjrekar, Professor, TISS Mumbai
58.  Nandini Nayak, Assistant Professor, Ambedkar University, Delhi
59.  Nandita Narain, Associate Professor, St. Stephen’s College, Delhi
University (Former President, DUTA and FEDCUTA)
60.  Navjeevan Singh, Retired Director, Professor of Pathology,
University College of Medical Sciences, Delhi University
61.  Navsharan Singh, Senior Researcher, Delhi
62.  Neeraj Malik, Retired Professor, Delhi University
63.  Nisha Biswas, Scientist, CSIR
64.  Niti Saxena, Independent Researcher, Lucknow
65.  Nivedita Menon, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehri University, New Delhi
66.  Padmaja Shaw, Retd Professor, Journalism, Osmania University, Hyderabad
67.  Panchali Ray, Assistant Professor, School of Women’s Studies,
Jadavpur University
68.  Paula Chakravartty, Associate Professor , Department of Media,
Culture and Communication and the Gallatin School, New York University
69.  Prabhat Patnaik, Professor Emeritus, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
70.  Pradeep Kumar Datta, Professor, Centre for Comparative Politics
and Political Theory, Jawaharlal Nehru University
71.  Probal Dasgupta, Professor, Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata
72.  Queeny Pradhan, Professor, GGS Indraprastha University, Delhi
73.  R Robinson, Faculty Member, Indian Institute of Technology
74.  Rachana Johri, Professor, Ambedkar University, Delhi
75.  Radha Ramaswamy, Founder Trustee, Centre for Commuity Dialogue and Change, Bangalore
76.  Ragini Shah, Clinical Professor of Law, Suffolk University
77.  Rahul Govind, Assistant Professor, University of Delhi
78.  Rajeshwari Sunder Rajan, Professor, New York University
79.  Rajiv Jha, Associate Professor, Shri Ram College of Commerce,
University of Delhi
80.  Rajni Palriwala, Professor of Sociology, Delhi School of
Economics, Delhi University
81.  Rakesh Ranjan, Assistant Professor, Shri Ram College of Commerce, University of Delhi
82.  Ranjana Padhi, Independent Researcher, Odisha
83.  Rina Ramdev, Associate Professor, Department of English, Sri
Venkateswara College, Delhi University
84.  Rita Kothari, Professor (English), Ashoka University
85.  Rochelle Pinto, Independent Researcher
86.  Ruchi Chaturvedi, Senior Lecturer, University of Cape Town
87.  Rupal Oza, Associate Professor, The Department of Women and
Gender Studies, Hunter College, CUNY, New York
88.  S. Durga Bhavani, Associate Professor, School of Computer and
Info Sciences, University of Hyderabad
89.  Sabeena Gadihoke, Professor, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi
90.  Sadhna Saxena, Professor, Delhi University
91.  Sadhna Arya, Associate Professor, Satywati College, University of Delhi
92.  Sandeep Kumar Pattnaik, Researcher, Bhubaneswar, Odisha
93.  Sangeeta Luthra Sharma, Associate Professor, Department of
History, St. Stephens College, Delhi University
94.  Sanghamitra Misra, Assistant Professor, University of Delh
95.  Sanjay Palshikar, Professor, University of Hyderabad
96.  Sanjay (Xonxoi) Barbora, Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences
97.  Sasha Karma Yangchen, Assistant Professor of English, University of Delhi
98.  Satish Kolluri, Associate Professor, Pace University, New York
99.  Satish Deshpande, Department of Sociology, Delhi University
100.  Shefali Chandra, Associate Professor of History, Washington
University in St. Louis
101.  Shirin M. Rai, Phd, FAcSS, Professor,, Department of Politics
and International Studies, University of Warwick, Coventry
102.  Shobha R, Law Student, Sheshadripuram Law College, Karnataka
State Law University
103.  Shobha Ghosh, Professor, Unversity of Mumbai
104.  Soniya Munshi, Assistant Professor, City University of New York
105.  Sujata Patel, Professor and National Fellow, Institute of
Advanced Study, Shimla
106.  Sujatha Surepally, Professor, Dept of Sociology, Satavahana University
107.  Sumit Sarkar, Retired Professor of History, Delhi University
108.  Sunanda Sen, Retired Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University New Delhi
109.  Susie Tharu, Professor (Retd.), English and Foreign Languages
University, Hyderabad
110.  Svati Shah, Associate Professor, University of Massachusetts
111.  T M Thomas, Associate Professor (Retd), Deshbandhu College,
University of Delhi
112.  T. Sobha Rani, Associate Professor, University of Hyderabad
113.  Tanika Sarkar, Retired Professor of History, Jawaharlal Nehru
University, New Delhi
114.  Tulsi Srinivasan, Assistant Professor, Ashoka University
115.  Ujjwal Kumar Singh, Professor, Department of Political Science,
University of Delhi
116.  Uma Chakravarti, Retired Professor, Delhi University
117.  Utsa Patnaik, Professor Emeritus, Jawaharlal Nehru University New Delhi
118.  V. Geetha, Feminist Historian
119.  Vaibhav Vaish, INSPIRE Faculty Fellow, Indian Statistical
Institute, Bangalore Centre
120.  Vanessa Chishti, Assistant Professor, Jindal Law School
121.  Vikas Bajpai, Assistant Professor, Centre for Social Medicine
and Community Health, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
122.  Vilas Ghogre, Masters student, University of Hyderabad
123.  Virginia Saldanha, Theologian, Indian Christian Womens’ Movement
124.  Zoya Hasan, Professor (Retd.), Jawaharlal Nehru University

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.

शोमा सेन, सुधीर धावले , सुरेन्द्र गड्लिंग, रोना विल्सन और महेश राउत की महाराष्ट्र पुलिस द्वारा गिरफ्तारी की wss द्वारा भर्त्सना

शोमा सेन, सुधीर धावले , सुरेन्द्र गड्लिंग, रोना विल्सन और महेश राउत की महाराष्ट्र पुलिस द्वारा गिरफ्तारी की wss द्वारा भर्त्सना
यौन हिंसा और राजकीय दमन के खिलाफ महिलाएं (WSS) देश भर में नागरिक अधिकार कार्यकर्ताओं पर कठोर दमनकारी  कानूनी कार्रवाई के तहत अपनी सक्रीय  सदस्य, प्रोफेसर शोमा सेन के साथ-साथ अन्‍य प्रमुख दलित और मानव अधिकार कार्यकर्ताओं की मनमाने ढंग से की गयी गिरफ्तारी से स्तंभित है और सरकार के इस कदम की घोर निंदा करती है. Continue reading