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About Vidyut

Vidyut has a keen interest in mass psychology and using it as a lens to understand contemporary politics, social inequality and other dynamics of power within the country. She is also into Linux and internet applications and servers and has sees technology as an important area India lacks security in.

A group of people protesting the nationwide crackdown on human rights activists were picked up and arrested at Liberty chowrasta near the Ambedkar statue in Hyderabad around 11am on August 29. The protesters were not even allowed to stand near the Ambedkar statue and were arrested and detained by Hyderabad police. Some bystanders were also picked up and nearly 5 vans full of people have been dragged and taken away. Nearly 250 police personnel have been deployed in the vicinity. Protesters, however, continue to gather around the area.

dissent is patriotic

The protests were organised in connection with the August 28 raids against on human rights activists, lawyers, journalists, teachers and cultural activists and trade unionists. Pune police conducted raids on the houses of Varavara Rao, poet and renowned activist, Sudha Bharadwaj a well known civil rights activist and lawyer who has been working and organising labourers in Chhattisgarh, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira, Mumbai based activists who have repeatedly expressed dissent against the State and Gautam Navlakha, also a civil rights activist and journalist who has extensively written about the Human Rights violations in the State of Jammu and Kashmir. They were arrested for allegedly having ‘Maoist’ links and being connected with the Elgaar Parishad. Right-wing Twitter trolls have been quick to brand them ‘Urban Maoists’.

The arrested have been booked under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and 3 of the 5 arrested are expected to be presented in court today.

Apart from this Father Stan Swamy, who has been organising Adivasis in Khunti, Jharkhand has also had to experience the wrath of the Pune Police who presented him with a warrant written in Marathi. Interestingly, Swamy had nothing to do with the Elgaar Parishad!

It is clear that the State is hell-bent on stifling voices of dissent that threaten their electoral power. This witch-hunt is a clear threat to a Democracy and the Constitutional Principles of Freedom to dissent.

Human rights defenders and activists have expressed their solidarity and concerns over the State's unprecedented attack on these activists. Protests meetings and conferences have been organised in various parts of the country.

Originally published here.

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We, the undersigned, are shocked by the serial raids across the country on the homes of activists and public intellectuals who are critical of the government and the ruling party at the Centre. The arrests of prominent activists and intellectuals Sudha Bharadwaj, Vernon Gonsalves, Gautam Navlakha, Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Kranthi Tekula and others, are nothing but an attempt by the government to strike terror among those who are fighting for justice for the marginalised. This is also an attempt by the BJP to invent a false enemy and engage in scaremongering in order to polarise the 2019 elections in its favour. Already, the government and the media houses close to the BJP have been trying to spin a false narrative of a Maoist conspiracy since June, 2018. Terms like “urban naxals” are invented in order to stifle any criticism of the government. We have learnt that the Delhi Police, after having arrested Sudha Bharadwaj, waited for Republic TV to arrive before taking her to the court. This simply shows that the arrests are incomplete without the accompanying sensationalist media propaganda to demonise activists, human rights defenders and intellectuals.

The so-called raids carried out on the houses of these activists are aimed at creating a spectacle, as the writings and views of these intellectuals are already publicly known and are well documented. This seems like a conspiracy to divert attention from the gravity of the Sanatan Sanstha conspiracy to carry out serial bomb attacks on Eid and Ganesh Chaturthi! The same Sanatan Sanstha was also involved in the murder of Gauri Lankesh, as per the ongoing investigations by Karnataka police. Today’s arrests have been carried out in order to give cover to the murderers of Gauri Lankesh. People like Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha and others who have been arrested are friends of the people who have dedicated their entire lives to the betterment of the Indian public. By arresting them, the BJP is only exposing its insecurities and its intolerance to any dissent or criticism of its policies.

The arrests should be seen in continuation with the recent attacks on pro-justice voices such as Swami Agnivesh, Umar Khalid and many other student activists from Delhi to Lucknow. A BJP lawmaker from Karnataka even advocated the murder of “intellectuals.” Both the arrests and the physical attacks on justice loving people must be seen in a series of attempts to stifle dissent and deny social justice.

We demand immediate release of the arrested individuals, dropping of all false and malicious charges, as these arrests are politically motivated and unjustified.

Shehla Rashid Shora, former Vice-President, JNU Students’ Union.

Mohit Pandey, former President, JNU Students’ Union.

Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Author, Journalist, Publisher.

Neha Dixit, Journalist.

Jignesh Mevani, MLA Vadgam, Gujarat.

Sanam Sutirath Wazir, Human Rights Activist.

Nakul Singh Sawhney, Documentary Filmmaker.

Teesta Setalvad, Journalist and Social Activist.

Harish Iyer, Equal Rights Activist.

Swami Agnivesh, Arya Samaj, Social Activist.

Admiral L Ramdas

Lalita Ramdas

Shabnam Hashmi

Vidyut, blogger.

Ashok Bharati, Dalit Leader

Maj Priyadarshi Chowdhury, SC, ESM Activist & Coordinator Joint Agitation of Farmers, Dalits & ESMs

Shri VM Singh, Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sanghatan

Kumar Prashant, Chairman, Gandhi Peace Foundation to the statement

If you agree with the above statement, please add your name in the comments and I will periodically add names to the post.

Avinash Bali (also known as Avinash Solanki), key witness and the complainant in the case double murder of Keenan Santos and Reuben Fernandes in 2011 has been found murdered in MIDC area at Chakala in Andheri. He had been missing for 24 hours before the body was found. The identity of the body has been confirmed and investigations are underway.

Keenan and Reuben along with their friends, including Avinash Bali had objected to the accused passing lewd remarks at the women in their group as they stood at a paan shop after dinner together. Avinash Bali had slapped Jitendra Rana. Angered, the accused went away and returned with a group of people armed with knives, sticks and cricket stumps and attacked the group. Keenan Santos was fatally injured and died soon after, while Reuben Fernandes died in intensive care later.

Avinash had taken charge and rushed his friends to hospital. He followed up on the case with the police and was the complainant. The accused were both remorseless as well as unafraid after being identified and arrested. There were reports of intimidation of witnesses and political connections of the accused. Police personnel who had come to investigate the chawl where the accused lived were attacked by residents in one instance.

Previous posts summarizing reported news on the case:

Facts of the murder of Keenan and Reuben

Developments in the Keenan and Reuben case

While the government promised "fast tracking" the case in the face of public anger, Jitendra Rana, Satish Sulah, Sunil Bodh and Deepak Piwal were convicted and given life imprisonment in the case in 2016.

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Those seashells you see in shops and people's home? Turns out they are real. And they may have been alive when collected. A mind boggling article in the National Geographic describes in "Seashell souvenirs are killing protected marine life", the thesis project of Amey Bansod, who initially came to Kanyakumari to study the livelihood of shell artisans, and discovered, to his horror, an industry of stripping protected marine life by the tons.

Which of us hasn't seen sea shell souvenirs? From small jewellery to religious conches, sea shells are pretty and inexpensive enough to be metaphors - "kawdiyion ke daam" (for the price of cowries - shells of sea snails) is an Indian version for "dirt cheap".

India has traditionally had uses for some kinds of shells. Cowry shells were currency in ancient times. They are used in traditional board games, or by astrologers. Conch shells are used in religious rituals and often considered auspicious (or maybe an old fashion trend?) in decorating homes. While I was aware that sea shells are used in decoration, for some absurd reason, I always imagined that most of the cheaper shells we get were plastic. Though I also remember wondering why anyone would make shells when they could be found for free on beaches.

The naive person that I was, I firmly believe in "Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints" - I got to the ripe old age of 41 without even realizing that all the shells decorating book binders and ornaments, being sold on ebay for aquariums and home decoration, being used for religious purposes.... THEY ARE ALL REAL! We are literally surrounded by casual celebration of the deaths of the mollusks that inhabited them.

Turns out that they are indeed not manufactured, because they are simply taken in mind boggling quantities from the sea and beaches and sent ahead to be processed. We are talking of 30 to 100 tons of sea shells being processed through one factory alone per month and 30,000 to 40,000 workers in the Kanyakumari area alone. The larger scale of destruction given the size of our coastline is mind boggling. This includes endangered species protected by CITES, which India is obliged under international agreement to protect.

However, expecting government officials to recognize endangered species or enforce harvesting limits is not a simple thing. Recognizing many rare species takes an expert and fudging limits on any exploitation that can't talk back or file lawsuits is routine in India, whether forests or sand or marine life.

But when a live creature turns into one among many in tons and tons of shells harvested to feed our endless greed for decoration, it is cruelty for little more than casual amusement. While some harvesting is inevitable given their beauty and the art they help create, there needs to be some rational enforcement to protect these animals from simply being killed wholesale.

What can we do, people?

*PUBLIC STATEMENT BY ADVOCATE SUDHA BHARADWAJ*

Visiting Professor, National Law University Delhi and National Secretary,
Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties

I have been informed that Republic TV aired a programme on 4 July 2018, presented by anchor and MD Arnab Goswami as “Super Exclusive Breaking News”.

The programme, which is being repeatedly shown, contains a long list of ridiculous, scurrilous, false and completely unsubstantiated allegations against me. Goswami has claimed that I have written a letter (identifying myself as “Comrade Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj”) to a Maoist – one “Comrade Prakash” - stating that a “Kashmir like situation” has to be created. I am also accused of having received money from Maoists. I am also said to have confirmed that various advocates, some of whom I know as excellent human rights lawyers and others whom I do not know at all, had some sort of Maoist link.

I firmly and categorically deny that the letter referred to by Goswami – if at all such a document exists - has ever been written by me. I firmly refute all the allegations that the Republic TV has made against me, defaming me, causing me professional and personal injury. In its programme, the Republic TV has not revealed the source of such a letter. I find it curious that a document purporting to contain evidence of such serious crimes should first surface in the studio of Arnab Goswami.

I have been a dedicated trade unionist since the past 30 years, working in the organisation of the late legendary Shankar Guha Niyogi, Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha, in the working class shanties of Dalli Rajhara and Bhilai, and hundreds of workers are witness to the fact. As a part of my work as a trade unionist I became a lawyer in the year 2000 since when I have fought scores of cases of workers, farmers, adivasis and poor people in the fields of labour, land acquisition, forest rights and environmental rights. Since the year 2007 I am practising in the High Court of Chhattisgarh at Bilaspur and was nominated by the High Court to be a member of the Chhattisgarh State Legal Services Authority. In the last year I have been teaching at the National Law University Delhi in the capacity of a Visiting Professor, where I offered a seminar course on tribal rights and land acquisition; and a part of the regular course on law and poverty. As a part of the programme of the Delhi Judicial Academy, I addressed the presiding officers of labour courts from Sri Lanka. My pro-people positions and work as a human rights lawyer are a matter of public record. I am perfectly aware that they stand in direct opposition to the views so loudly and frequently expressed by Arnab Goswami and Republic TV.

In my opinion the present malicious, motivated and fabricated attack on me is because I recently addressed a press conference in Delhi to condemn the arrest on 6 June of Advocate Surendra Gadling. The Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL), an organisation of lawyers has also strongly taken up the issue of other lawyers such as Advocate Chandrashekhar of Bhim Army and Advocate Vachinathan arrested after the Sterlite firing. It is clear that in targeting such lawyers, the state is trying to silence those who stand for the democratic rights of citizens. The state strategy is to create a chilling effect and deny equitable access to the legal system. Also very recently the IAPL had organised a fact finding into the difficulties faced by lawyers in Kashmir.

As a human rights lawyer I have appeared in cases of habeas corpus and fake encounters of adivasis in the High Court of Chhattisgarh and also made representations to the National Human Rights Commission in the defence of many human rights defenders. Recently the NHRC had sought my assistance in investigating a case in Village Kondasawali ( Sukma, Chhattisgarh). In all these cases I have acted with the professional integrity and courage expected of a human rights lawyer. This indeed appears to be “my crime” which has earned me the super exclusive attentions of Arnab Goswami.

I have asked my lawyer to send a legal notice to Arnab Goswami and Republic TV for their false, malicious and defamatory allegations against me.

Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj
New Delhi, 4th July