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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.

*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

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Gauri Lankesh was murdered

She was a target of Hindutva forces. She had spoken about this before. Yet, supporters of the government would like us to believe anything except the obvious suspects could be responsible.

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Let us say it loud and clear. Hindu terror units killed Gauri Lankesh. She opposed the RSS, the BJP and these hindutva forces and this killing is the silencing of that voice against hate politics.
B T Venkatesh
Gauri's lawyer

She was the fourth rationalist to be murdered in this manner

She was murdered at point blank range by two assassins who came on a motorcycle in a style similar to other rationalists before her. A professional hit by masked men who knew her routine enough to intercept it, came on motorcycles and fired shots and left.

The killers skills and weapon were good enough to shoot her 4 times in 15 seconds. Like the others, assassins aimed for her chest and head (Govind Pansare was hit in the chest and neck). Like the others before her, she didn't stand a chance. They were stalking her and it was a matter of time before they found her.

Additional striking similarities with murder of Prof Kalburgi

In addition to the similarties in the murders of all four rationalists, there are even more similarities between the murder of Gauri Lankesh and Prof. Kalburgi.

They were both attacked by assassins who came to their homes and attacked them there. (Dabholkar and Pansare were attacked on morning walks).

Like Kalburgi, Gauri Lankesh also was of the view that the Lingayat community was distinct from Hinduism and merited a minority status and was vocal about it. She had also written about the Lingayats in English media.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgaQv3Jmt-Yhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FF_Vx3mAFQM

So far, there is no clearly referenced Naxal threat to Gauri described other than the BJP troll factory's accusations, which are now being published in their echo chambers waiting for mainstream media to treat it "equally" with known facts.

Death threats have become a common factor

Gauri Lankesh had described the communalised atmosphere of Karnataka and threats and attacks by Hindutva forces, compared it with her father criticizing Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi.

She had come up with a list of who likely Hindutva targets were based on threats and put her own name as fourth on the list. Gauri's lawyer is categorical that she was killed by Hindutva forces.

BJP MLA Jeevaraj openly said in public that Gauri Lankesh would be alive if she hadn't written about the RSS.

What dweshbhakts want you to believe

The troll factory wants you to ignore everything above and believe that Naxals are "equally" suspect. Why? No one has an answer. No doubt, this is laying the groundwork for producing a "Naxal" somewhere. Who just happened to attack Gauri in the same manner as other rationalists.

This is a strategy they have performed successfully before too, when they trolled and bombarded a lazy media with enough invented facts that convinced them to look at the Gujarat riots in a "neutral" manner - as in, ignore direct testimonies and facts on record, BJP or Modi is no more responsible than anyone else.

The goal of dweshbhakts is to either discredit Gauri Lankesh to the point where people will not make too much noise about justice for her or to discredit those deamnding justice in order to create a perception that their demand is inconsequential and should be ignored.

Accordingly, they have come up with a lot of bullshit that is being propagated through usual troll networks

Gauri Lankesh was a "criminal"

The party that specializes in slander and organized slander as a method of attacking dissent now sees defamation - something journalists routinely get sued with - as a statement of her character as a "Criminal" - why? Probably because they already have a script for shooting criminals dead being a good thing.
She was already a target of Hindutva's favorite tactic of filing cases in various places to punish the target by being forced to travel constantly to attend them. The one case she lost, she was out on bail under appeal.

Gauri Lankesh's last name was Patrick

This, of course is an out and out justification of killing Christians as "deceptive". Minor problem with that. Either through sheer illiteracy or malice, the name of her newspaper - Gauri Lankesh Patrike, meaning Gauri Lankesh's journal has been misrepresented as "Gauri Lankesh Patrick" being her full name that she concealed in order to appear Hindu. Actually she is from the Lingayat community and BJP only is desperate to claim them as Hindus - they want minority religion status distinct from Hindus.

Gauri was a Naxal sympathizer - they kill their own

Objective of this is easy. They already have followers well trained in making accusations of being Naxal sympathizers. If this one sticks, they are on the home stretch of the propaganda war.
Well, decide. Was she a Naxal sympathizer and useful for their cause or a Naxal target? There is considerable evidence of her being a Hindu target,This appears to be copied accusations from the recent murder of an RSS activist where RSS-BJP held statewide strikes and then one of them was found to be the murderer.

Gauri Lankesh had a feud with her brother

The implication being that he must have killed her. This, to the best of anyone's knowledge is a longstanding ideological difference. Incidentally, her brother is joining BJP. So how does this rumor even let the Hindutva criminals off the hook if she was killed due to ideological differences with a brother with Hindutva leanings?
This brother is now parroting everything BJP prompts - give case to CBI, Naxal threat after saying no Naxal threat and what not.

Gauri was buried, not cremated

The fault for this actually lies solidly with the RSS and its Hindutva brainwashing that their followers have so little knowledge of Indian religions and traditions, that they don't know there are many Hindu communities that bury their dead. This would include Lingayats - the religion Gauri belonged to. But this is deliberate malicious propaganda aimed at exploiting the ignorance they nurture to trigger instant hate for her. Unless of course BJP wants to ask for Lingayat votes after saying those who bury their deads are Christians/Muslims.

Journalists didn't protest for other slain reporters

The objective is so transparent. You don't ask for justice every single time, therefore you can't expect justice in this murder. This piece of bullshit is actually from an alleged journalist examining five handles and deciding that they did not demand justice for previous cases.This is basically gibberish in the name of statistics.This was immediately and abundantly debunked using everything from proofs to education on statistics. No point adding a few hundred words here.

So, dweshbhakts, what is your damage?

How is it that unknown assailants have at their disposal the entire BJP propaganda machinery? Claims of innocence would have been so much easier to prove with simply demanding an investigation and asking killers to be punished. So why not?


What do you know that we only suspect?

Senior journalist and rationalist Gauri Lankesh was shot dead at home today. Her killers knocked on her door and when she opened it, they gunned her down. Yet another vocal critic of fundamentalist Hindutva is shot down by masked gunmen as they go about their routine. Yet another season of shock, protest and promises of an investigation, as practiced trolls smoothly swing into action to "manage" yet another atrocity.

Many fear that this may also be yet another round of leg dragging investigations. Another round of the state looking in your face as dissent is slaughtered. Fear of one thing cannot go on for long.

A threat is always made from a position of weakness. A threat is a desperate gamble to intimidate. A voice silenced in cowardly anonymity is a confession of there being no honorable answers to the questions they raise. It is a confession that there is no one who is willing to be the face of the action, because not even in their eyes is the action justifiable to those they are scamming into blindly believing in them.

I have faced fear many times in my life. I have seen others face fear. And if there is one thing I have seen for sure, it is that a confrontation with fear cannot be sustained. It resolves into cowering inaction or a reckless head on challenge. And sometimes it coalesces into sustained action to defeat the cause of the fear. Today, the voices of dissent fear that their country is in the hands of those who would prefer them dead. Which is how fascists succeed and get away with their murderous ways. Over the last few years, I have seen many voices "play it safe" every dissenting entity with a licence and funds to investigate is looking over its shoulder and hoping to not get the attention of a government they have no faith will play fair.

I have seen journalists who spoke without fear learn to measure their words and "balance" them with something that would please the government, like an offering to vengeful gods. Ones who never feared to lash out at whichever government was in power areasking themselves whether they can afford to play David to a Goliath who can stalk every aspect of their existence. There are those that lash out at the opposition for failing to do an undefinable "something" - anything, I suppose that would let them be true to themselves without fear.

No one can live on the edge of tension forever. One way or the other, it resolves. And the less space remains to cower safely, the more people come out fighting. Those having excessive faith in their impunity should think about this. They cannot kill everyone who calls them unacceptable for what they do to the citizens of the country and the whole. They cannot expect the guarantors of their impunity to attack the jobs of every person who refuses to toe lines and not stand discredited. They cannot investigate every organization that decides to no longer toe subtly conveyed lines.

A tyrant who cracks a whip once inspires fear. A tyrant serial chasing those thumbing their nose at it is a cartoon character. Dabholkar, Pansare, Kalburgi and now Lankesh. Fear gets old. Fury gets old. What is left is a determination. How many are they going to chase after with guns?

Beware, fascists, a reign of fear is only as good as the first confrontation with it. You are forcing more and more citizens to face off with it. One who looks into fear and acts anyway, ceases to be controlled by it.

Today, there are more and more people being reckless about what fate would befall them for speaking truth to power.  The usually careful journalists who abdicate their voice and do barely reported protest marches are using their pens against you and making furious statements that will reach across their spheres of influence. You have killed one of them. They could be next. Do you think they can be brought back to obedience? All of them? Do you have the capacity to keep the country running if enough people decided that your protectors did not deserve to run it? Do you have anywhere to hide when they are forced to give you up to survive? Wield your fear wisely, lest you force too many to fury and any government that shelters you be forced to give you up or fall itself.

There is only so much terrorism can force people to swallow words. If we must die one way or the other, we might as well die once, instead of daily.