How political dissenters end up languishing in jails without bail


Deliberate delays and denial of bail has amounted to sentencing without trial.

Activists of the Kabir Kala Manch, perhaps one of the best known progressive cultural troupes of Maharashtra, heaved a sigh of relief on January 3 when three of their members finally walked out of jail after three-and-a-half years. A Supreme Court bench granted bail to Sagar Gorkhe, Ramesh Gaychor and Sachin Mali.

The apex court’s bail order pointed out that though the state had told the Supreme Court in July 2016 that the trial would be completed within six months, it had, till January 2017, only partially completed the examination (leave aside cross examination) of just one of the 147 witnesses it proposed to examine. Such a rate of progress in trial would have meant a lifetime of waiting for its completion. The bench ordered their release.

Method in the madness of trial delays

While it has become customary to blame the backlog of cases in courts for these seemingly crazy delays in trial, there is at the same time a method in the madness that is quite clearly at work, particularly when in comes to political dissenters.

The delays are often the fruit of a deliberate dalliance between police and prosecution to postpone service of summons, hold back witnesses, neglect bringing the muddemaal or physical evidence to court and other such means to ensure that the trial process is effectively paralysed.

This strategy is deployed because the prosecution is aware that most cases against political detainees are weak and often falsely fabricated by the investigating authority and likely to end in acquittal. These “political” cases are normally instituted under harsher laws like the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and the Public Security Acts of various states. Such laws allow arrests on vaguely defined charges with insubstantial evidence. They also prescribe bail norms which render it difficult for courts to grant bail.

Inordinate delays then become the prosecution’s means for imposing a “sentence” of long years, which entails rotting in jail as an undertrial without bothering to go through the hassle of obtaining a conviction. Thus, though the accused are finally found to be innocent, the judgment offers small comfort for someone who has already spent almost the maximum possible sentence as undertrial.

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Inordinate delays then become the prosecution’s means for imposing a ‘sentence’ of long years rotting in jail as an undertrial without bothering to go through the hassle of obtaining a conviction.

Protection for the perpetrators

Such tactics, while being criminal, neither hold consequences for the investigator or the prosecutor; nor are there any redressal for the victim. A classical case in this regard was related to the Akshardham Temple terror attack of 2002. Six accused in the matter remained in custody for 12 years before being finally acquitted in 2014 by the Supreme Court. The judgment, quoted then in DailyO, explained how the case had been fabricated and the accused framed through concocted statements.

The accused then filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court asking for redressal and compensation for the years lost. Despite the unequivocal observations of the 2014 SC judgment indicating that the accused had been falsely implicated, the same court refused to either punish the perpetrators or compensate the victims. If, in a case which the SC itself has held to be fabricated, there is not scope for recompense, there is obviously nothing much the judicial system can offer by way of righting such wrongs committed by the police-prosecutor combine.

Laxity of the courts

In fact it often seems that the bench too is, unwittingly or otherwise, part of a system that ensures that political dissenters are “punished” without trial. In the case of the KKM members too, though the SC granted bail, almost half of their period spent in custody was during the pendency of their application before the same court.

In another similar case of a political prisoner from Maharashtra, Sudhir Dhawale, editor of the magazine Vidrohi, the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court rejected bail, but ordered a timebound trial within a period of six months — only to extend this period three times over, while each time rejecting Sudhir’s bail. He was finally declared not guilty — but only after serving a “sentence” of 40 months as an undertrial.

Reluctance to grant bail

The irony is that, even where the duplicity of the investigating agency is prima facie quite apparent, the courts have been reluctant to exercise their power to grant bail. A recent case is that of the team of lawyers and human rights activists from Telengana who, in December 2016, were on a fact-finding mission to Chhattisgarh to probe accusations of police atrocities in Bastar. Though they were arrested in Telangana they were taken across the border to Chhattisgarh so that they could be charged under the severe Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act. The basis shown for arrest was the purported seizure of demonetised notes of one lakh, which they were allegedly taking to “help” naxalites in Bastar.

Despite the illogicality of the argument of lawyers carrying demonetised notes from Telangana to naxalites in Bastar, despite the notes being obviously planted and despite there being no law or rule in force prohibiting the possession of one lakh of demonetised notes, the bail applications of the team members were denied first by the magistrate’s court of Sukma and then by the sessions court of Dantewada. The Dantewada court felt that it was premature to grant bail.

The option of approaching the Chhattisgarh High Court in Bilaspur is not only cumbersome but also, considering the delaying tactics of the prosecution, likely to be long drawn out. The Telangana lawyers, research scholars and journalists who are part of this team will now have to prepare themselves to eke out a few months, if not more, in Bastar’s jails — a “sentence” being imposed without any realistic case at all.

Death sentence by encounter

But perhaps they should consider themselves lucky. In their very own state of Telangana, the police have taken the lead in taking this practice of delivering prison sentences to their logical conclusion. On April 7th 2015, five Muslim prisoners, who were on the verge of completion of their trial where they expected acquittal, were killed in cold blood while being taken to court. The Telangana police probably decided that they deserved not acquittal but the death sentence. They executed accordingly.

A similar dubious “encounter” killing of eight undertrial accused of the Students Islamic Movement of India whose trial was reportedly approaching acquittal was executed by the Bhopal police on October 31 2016.

Despite widespread protest by human rights organisations, the political establishment has indicated that those who have carried out these killings enjoy its support. Pehaps an indicator of the forms of justice delivery in the days to come.

By Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves

http://www.dailyo.in/politics/chattisgarh-maoists-bastar-kabil-kala-manch-political-dissenters-fake-encounters-cases-trial-delay-jail/story/1/15045.html

With Dalits resisting gau rakshaks, India isn’t far from annihilation of caste


A significant feature of the current anti-caste struggle has been the near absence of demands for concessions.

It was VI Lenin, leader of the Russian Revolution, who famously said that the indication of a revolutionary situation is when the exploited and oppressed masses refuse to live in the old way and when the exploiters are unable to carry on and rule in the old way.

Anti-caste revolution in the making

A reminder of this came with the scenes of Dalit protests in Gujarat over the last few days against the public stripping and thrashing by gau rakshaks of seven Dalits, who were skinning a dead cow near the town of Una.

Thousands of Dalit protesters took to the streets throughout Gujarat to declare their refusal to silently continue the traditional caste tasks of handling and disposal of dead animals.

Also read: Why Dalits used carcasses of cows in Gujarat to protest

In a vividly inventive agitational move they brought truckloads of dead cattle and dumped them in the grounds and offices at the district headquarters and tehsil centres in various parts of the state. No other action could perhaps be a better assertion of their unwillingness to live and suffer in the old way that the caste laws had laid down.

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As hundreds of carcasses lay rotting before government offices, houses of political leaders, on roads and other public places, upper caste organisations and the state machinery were left running helter-skelter in search of a solution.

As the Dalits demanded that those who considered the “gau” (cow) as their “mata” (mother) should undertake the task of performing the dead cows’ last rites, it became amply clear that there were no takers for this task.

Also read: Dalits are seething in Modi’s Gujarat and it will hurt BJP during polls

None of the gau rakshaks or any other of the activists of the Sangh Parivar were seen coming forward to perform this task. As putrefying cow carcasses were left to be torn apart by stray dogs while the upper castes watched helplessly, it seemed as if the oppressors had no means by which they could continue to enforce the law of Manu in the old way.

The events in Gujarat are not the first indicators of such an anti-caste revolution in the making.

Also read: Why caste will never be annihilated in India

The past several months have seen frequent instances of small and large-scale Dalit resistance to upper caste discrimination and oppression taking place in various parts of the country.

A large number of the confrontations have been around incidents of caste atrocities perpetrated by the dominant castes. But, as it has been argued, this rise in conflict is evidently as much about a greater Dalit readiness to resist as it is about an escalation in upper caste violence.

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The Rohith Vemula incident

A nodal point seems to have been reached with a pan-India mobilisation around the suicide of Rohith Vemula, the Dalit scholar of Hyderabad Central University (HCU). Vemula’s death, widely seen as a sacrifice, while proving a catalyst for the coming together of students across a very wide spectrum, also provided the rallying point for the numerous forces which have felt the need to stand up against the repressiveness of the current casteist and communal order.

While students were seen at the forefront, there have been a host of organisations belonging to the Dalit and other communities which have been galvanised into action.

BR Ambedkar’s revolutionary call for the annihilation of caste, long forgotten by the established Ambedkarite parties, has become the battle cry of this rebellion.

Joint action committees of students in various cities, formed initially for the purpose of justice for Rohith, soon transformed into joint action committees (of a variety of mass organisations) for social justice, with a definite caste annihilation agenda.

Even states where such committees did not emerge could not remain untouched by this anti-caste wave.

Its effects were wide enough to reactivate long dormant organisations formed during earlier periods of struggle. One such organisation was the Dalit Panthers of Gujarat, which gave a call for Gujarat bandh on July 20, 2016 to protest the Una atrocity.

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Resistance with a difference

Some features stand out prominently in the present round of anti-caste struggles.

Very significant has been the near absence of demands for concessions. The subject of reservations, for example, which figured prominently in many earlier struggles has been near absent this time around.

Rather, a key anti-reservation campaigner – Prakash Ambedkar – has been seen at the helm of quite a few of the post- Rohith Vemula battles.

In fact, the agitations erupting independently in various corners of the country have had a distinct focus on issues related to an end to caste discrimination and oppression.

Another key point of departure from previous campaigns is the considerable mobilisation from non-Dalit sections in the present anti-caste struggles.

While Dalit contingents continue to constitute the vanguard, the present movement has seen a wide mobilisation from other castes, which have normally stood on the other side of the caste divide.

The other notable difference has been the conspicuous lack of dependence on assistance from the State apparatus.

Earlier movements have often devoted considerable energies to lobbying with ministers and other ruling class eminences to achieve their demands through administrative or judicial action.

But repeated blatant collusion by a casteist police and a near-zero conviction rate under the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 have drastically downsized expectations. The present movement seems to be concentrating on mass mobilisation on the streets to achieve its goals.

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But the most important feature perhaps is a near absence of established political parties and their mass organisations in the initiation and leadership of the resistance.

Disillusionment with a discredited political leadership – particularly Dalit party leaders – is widespread.

While many have later on tried to jump on to the bandwagon, some like Ramdas Athawale have even had to suffer the ignominy of being turned away by agitators. Students and youth and lower level activists have often been the ones to launch and lead the struggles. This has given this movement a level of spontaneity not seen before.

It is this spontaneity that is its strength, as well as its weakness. It is indicative of the wellspring of discontent that is feeding and will continue for some more time to feed this anti-caste upsurge.

It shows how wide the feeling among younger sections is that the time has come to topple the centuries-old edifice of discrimination and oppression.

A movement, however, needs to grow a leadership and organisation to take it ahead. Thus far the signs of this emerging are few and far between.

It will require to develop through a more conscious and consolidated process, if the present movement is to prove a great leap forward on the revolutionary road towards the demolition of the caste system.

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by Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira

http://www.dailyo.in/politics/dalits-gau-raksha-dal-caste-br-ambedkar-rohith-vemula-una-hcu/story/1/12091.html

Students Spring advances amidst violent State onslaught


Latest phase of student movement draws new centres and sections into ideological battle

Finance minister Arun Jaitley’s latest claim to ideological victory in the nationalism debate seems to have a more timid tone than his earlier assertion of triumph. Earlier, while speaking at the National Convention of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) on March 6, he claimed, rather grandiosely, to have won the “ideological war”. His claim, made just three days after JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar’s release from jail, was based on the Jai Hind slogan Kanhaiya raised and the tricolor that was waved at JNU during his release speech. Interpreting these acts as acceptance of defeat, the BJP ideological general’s proclamation had the degree of finality one normally associates with the adversary signing a document of surrender.

Just 20 days later, Jaitley’s claims had been considerably scaled down. While addressing the Executive Committee meeting of Delhi BJP Jaitley continued to claim “victory”, but this time he merely said that it was the first round that had been won and that the ideological battle would continue. A very significant section to call Jaitley’s bluff was within his very camp.

The lieutenants in his army had been quick to realize that the students’ movement was far from defeated. As Jaitley was speaking to the BJYM, one of its district chiefs had even announced a five lakh reward for Kanhaiya’s tongue; another organisation offered eleven lakh for Kanhaiya’s head. Such calls and the wide applause they received from the Sangh Parivar foot-soldiers on the social media battlefield, could hardly have emerged from victorious ideological warriors. They rather resembled the reactions of the school bully who resorts to strong-arm methods to recover ground lost in an argument.

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Violence on students continues and grows

Strong-arm has been and continues to be an inseparable part of Jaitley’s ideological war against the students. In the earlier phase in the University of Hyderabad (UoH), when the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) was in constant retreat in the face of the growing ideological influence of Rohit Vemula’s Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA), the power of government was brought into play to punish the students with a central minister branding them as casteist, extremist and anti-national. Students later protesting for #JusticeForRohithVemula were physically attacked by RSS members in Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi and other places. The JNU phase saw a cocktail of coercion: FIRs and arrests based on doctored videos, violence by BJP affiliated lawyers, Sangh mobilisation of surrounding neighbourhoods to attack JNU student residents. The latest upsurge of student agitation following last week’s re-installation of the UoH Vice-chancellor has seen brutal use of police, not only in Hyderabad, but also in Kozhikode, Chennai, Mumbai and elsewhere.

The widespread and growing use of violence by the BJP and the Sangh Parivar organisations, both directly and by deploying the government’s coercive apparatus lays bare the lie of the Jaitley claim to victory in the clash of ideas. No ideological victor needs to resort to armed might to seal an argument from which s/he has emerged triumphant.

It is obvious that the Sangh Parivar and its government is experiencing an unusually high level of insecurity in the face of the rising tide of the students movement and the unsettling stirring of ideas it has generated. Challenges to caste discrimination in academia, outright rejection of Dronacharya and Manu and the audacious dream of annihilation of caste; interrogations of nationalism and assertions of the right of nations to self-determination; determined defence of dissent and radical redefinition and re-imagination of existing premises and promises of democracy are all ideas which have, in the last two and half months, broken free of the narrowness of small group discussion behind university walls and have forced themselves onto the streets and into public spaces in ways they have not done before in recent times. It is this churn that the ruling party and its government are trying to violently put down.

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New centres and issues of struggle

The physical violence is viciously one-sided with only one receiving end – the students. The numbers too are definitely stacked up heavily against them, with only a minority in the country being today supportive of ideas of caste annihilation, azadi and dissent. The David-Goliath face-off should have, by all conventional ruling class calculations been a walkover. Something however went horribly wrong (for those in power) and the students succeeded in turning traditional wisdom on its head. Rohith Vemula’s death became a historical rallying point that brought in an extremely wide ranging coalition of forces to demand #JusticeForRohith. While the motives of some supporters like the Congress were largely suspect, the Rohith movement generated genuine, active participation of a wide spectrum of students and youth from various regions, classes, castes and communities who are ready to not only fight against the immediate injustice, but also to carry it ahead towards the goals of social justice and annihilation of caste.

The movement seriously impacted the Sangh Parivar plans to make inroads into Dalit communities and appropriate the legacy of Ambedkar in his 125th Birth Anniversary year. The BJP, whose Central ministers were the prime focus of attack, was thrown on the backfoot and found it impossible to effectively tackle the challenge head on. The Parivar therefore chose the path of diversion by selecting what they thought would be an easier battle-ground – that of nationalism and the question of Kashmir. Their elaborate plan complete with doctored videos by crony media and sedition cases by a compliant police commissioner however had not taken into account the determination of the average JNU student and teacher and of the student and teaching community across the country to stand up in defence of dissent.

Broader and deeper student unity

After some initial “success” in using the bogey of anti-nationalism to divert and divide those standing for #JusticeForRohith, the Parivar plan was beaten back by a student unity that refused to see any difference between the anti-national branding of Rohith Vemula and the anti-national branding of the JNU students who organised the programme on Afzal Guru. At universities across the country, the sight of red flags mingling with blue amidst cries of Jai Bhim-Lal Salaam became the new nightmare of the Sangh Parivar. As azadi became the new war cry resounding at every student protest meet, it became the slogan uniting those fighting for various types of azadi – from azadi from poverty and caste oppression to the azadi to choose one’s own nationalist slogan or not at all. The green flags of Muslim student organisations are also being raised in protest as they join in significant numbers.

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The latest phase of this ongoing Student Spring has followed the attempt by the vice-chancellor of the UoH, an accused in the death of Rohith Vemula, to sneak back to his seat in the early morning of March 22. The ones who planned this from the seat of government grossly underestimated the intensity and unity of the resistance to the VC’s return. Despite tough police action and even arrests in Hyderabad, solidarity demonstrations have been a daily occurrence in several universities across the country, often resulting in clashes with the police or Sangh Parivar organisations.

In fact more centres, more universities, more organisations and students have been adding their voices in support. The increase in numbers has also meant wider differences in ideological orientation with an increase in the criticism on each other within the movement. This criticism, often conducted openly on social media sites, does not seem to have however hampered the unity and expansion of the students’ movement. In fact openness of criticism and openness to criticism can actually have helped to cement a more mature and wider unity.

Meanwhile the responses from the other side have been marked by a lack of credibility and coherence. Arun Jaitley and Venkaiah Naidu have both recently tried to debunk the ongoing student movement as the work of a handful of ultra-leftists and a few Jihadis or separatists in two-three universities. Considering the impact the student movement has had on the country’s political discourse over the last two and half months these statements seem to be quite an exercise in self-delusion.

Just a week after the BJP National Executive passed a resolution stating that refusal to say Bharat Mata ki Jai was unacceptable, Mohan Bhagwat, the chief of its parent organization, the RSS made a statement that the slogan cannot be forced upon the people. These confusions and general disarray in the face of an advancing students’ movement can only be expected to increase in the coming weeks.

By Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira

http://www.dailyo.in/politics/students-spring-rohit-vemula-hyderabad-university-kanhaiya-kumar-anti-national-bharat-mata-ki-jai-rss-mohan-bhagwat-jnu/story/1/9792.html

 

#JNU #Hokkolorob to #JusticeForRohithVemula: India’s student uprising is upon us


The Dalit scholar’s suicide has proved a catalyst for the explosive coming together of young people across an extremely wide spectrum.

“Don’t politicise the young man’s death”, was a refrain repeated ad nauseum by Smriti Irani and the rest of the Sangh Parivar brigade in the immediate aftermath of the death of Rohith Vemula, whose suicide has sparked a wave of protest throughout the country. Sanctimonious sermonising is a preferred mode of defence for a political party caught in a bind. And the BJP, with its unholy lien on smugness and piety, could only be expected to scramble pathetically to grab some moral ground. Some sections of media, also expectedly, joined the chorus, with anchors and panelists voicing alarm that students were being “instigated” and “diverted” from their primary avocations in the degree factory.

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Pontifications that students need stay away from politics are perhaps as old as the organised educational system itself. The preachers would well do to listen to Lala Lajpat Rai, one of the most dynamic leaders of the freedom struggle. In his presidential address to the first All India College Students’ Conference, held in Nagpur in December 1920 he had said, “I am not one of those who believe that students ought not to meddle in politics. I think it is a most stupid theory and an impossible theory too. It is the creation not of confused brains but of dishonest brains.”

Smriti’s dishonesties are legion enough to require no recounting here. Meanwhile, more and more students throughout the country have been voting with their feet on the lines of Lala Lajpat Rai and pouring out, in the campuses and on to the streets, on a variety of issues concerning the academic community and society as a whole. The last year and the first month of 2016 have seen a dramatic upsurge in the students’ movement throughout the country – a veritable Student Spring. Student agitations have seen a scope and sweep not seen since the decades of the sixties and seventies.

Resurgence of student political activism

The present phase of mass student agitation could be said to have started with the Hokkolorob movement, which began in September 2014 as a demand for action on an incident of molestation on the campus of Jadavpur University, Kolkata. When attempts were made to crush protests with a show of police brutality, it rapidly grew to involve tens of thousands of students in Kolkata and then spread to support actions from students throughout the country. The title of Hokkolorob – loosely translated as “let there be a noise” – that the movement took on signified in more ways than one the resurgence of the student political activist on the Indian campus scene – with a bang.

Though recent years had seen major mass movements with a considerable student presence, such as the December 2012 “Nirbhaya” movement in Delhi and the four year long movement of 2009-2013 for a separate Telengana state, Hokkolorob was significant for being a movement that had emerged from a campus issue and had carried within its sweep not only students from a number of other universities, but also teachers, parents and other participants from society at large. It met with success, with the government having to finally give in to the main demand of removal of the vice-chancellor who had ordered the police clamp-down. Soon after, two other prestigious universities of Bengal – Presidency and Shantiniketan – saw student agitations, though the impact was not as widespread as Hokkolorob.

In May 2015 the Smriti Irani led Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD), on the basis of an anonymous complaint, prodded the administration of the IIT-Madras to derecognise the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle (APSC), a students’ body functioning in the institute. Among the “charges” in the complaint was that the APSC was “trying to create hatred against the honourable prime minister” and trying to make SC/ST students “protest against the MHRD and Central Government”. The perverse governmental interference in an academic institution brought about a surge of protest from students in similar institutions against the obviously casteist and undemocratic act. The government and institute were again forced to hastily retreat, but not before a host of similar APSC bodies starting blooming in other campuses all over the country – potential watchdogs against casteist and autocratic institution managements.

Around the same time on June 12, 2015, the students of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) began a strike against the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as the Chairperson of the FTII Governing Council, despite him having nothing of note to qualify him for the task, except his loyalty to the party in power. They too received countrywide support, not only from other students but also from alumni, film personalities and other intellectuals. The government however did not relent and the strike was withdrawn on its 140th day, with the promise to continue the struggle from within. Chauhan’s first visit to the campus was only in January 2016, accompanied by protests, lathi-charge and arrests amidst fortress like security. Thus the FTII dispute continues to simmer with its enduring and deep impact on the student and intellectual community at large.

Occupy UGC is the next ongoing agitation that has spread across the country. It started in Delhi in October 2015 with the students’ occupation of the premises of the University Grants Commission (UGC) to protest its decision to, among other things, scrap non-NET scholarships (which provide small grants to research scholars who are outside the ambit of the National Eligibility Test – NET).

The students were forced out two days later by the police in a pre-dawn swoop, but their pick-up and detention only seemed to serve to further steel their resolve to harden and widen their protest. The protesters have continued since then to stay put at the UGC gates, providing a standard for research students across India to rally around and organise their own protests. There have been been All-India mobilisations at Delhi which have been lathi-charged and water-cannoned, but the movement shows no signs of abating. The government, by referring the matter to a review committee, has tried to send signals of a softening of its stand, but the students have pressed forward with a call for an “all-universities strike” on February 18, 2016.

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Rohith Vemula – resistance icon

It is in this situation of ferment that Rohith Vemula has proved a catalyst for the explosive coming together of students across an extremely wide spectrum, which in turn is providing a rallying point for the sundry forces who have felt the need to stand up against the repressiveness of the current casteist and communal regime.

Though Rohith had been targeted as a Dalit who refused to bow and submit to the casteist dispensation around him; though he, as his suicide note points out, had been reduced in his lifetime to “his immediate identity and nearest possibility”; in death, he rose high, above such categories and limitations, ascending to become the resistance icon of all struggling sections. As this is being written the protests snowball, with the figure for protest actions in various parts of the country on just one day – January 25, 2016 – reaching two hundred and forty two.

Bangaru Dattatreya, the Union Minister who pushed for action on the ASA activists, had, in his letter claimed that the University of Hyderabad (UOH) had become a den of casteists (read Dalits, tribals and all sections desiring the annihilation of caste), extremists (read all those putting up resistance to oppression and exploitation) and anti-nationals (read minorities, particularly Muslims, and all others opposed to the Sangh Parivar’s  Hindutva project). Rohith’s martyrdom has united such “casteists”, “extremists” and “anti-nationals”, not only in the UOH, but across the country. Joint Action Committees demanding justice for Rohith, formed in various universities and centres are now moving to form an All India Joint Action Committee for Social Justice.

The Parivar, though thrown on the defensive, has not remained silent. Organised attacks by RSS members on pro-Rohith protestors have already taken place in Mumbai, Kolkata and other places. These attacks may grow, but their efforts seem pitiable in the face of the rising wave of the Student Spring. This could lead to the more intensive use of the repressive state apparatus. But the movement for democracy and social justice seems to have already become quite a mass phenomenon which would require some stopping. The poet Pablo Neruda would have said, “They can cut all the flowers, but they can’t stop the spring”

By Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira

http://www.dailyo.in/politics/from-hokkolorob-to-justiceforrohithvemula-the-student-spring-sweeping-across-india/story/1/8689.html

Bihar elections are guilty of not bringing up Ranveer Sena massacre of Dalits


The silence of all major political parties speaks volumes for the ruling class consensus on not identifying or punishing the perpetrators of the killings.

It was on August 16, 2015 that Cobrapost.com announced that they had captured “on-camera the confessions of perpetrators of six major massacres of poor, unarmed Dalits in central Bihar, revealing how the Ranveer Sena militia planned and conducted these indiscriminate killings with impunity and how they twisted the long arm of the law, who trained them, who armed them, who financed them and who lent them political support”.

In a remarkable sting operation, the journalist, posing as a filmmaker working on a film on Ranveer Sena, had managed to obtain videographed admissions by important Sena functionaries of their own direct role in the massacres – though the courts had acquitted all the five interviewees who had faced trial. They also talked of the backing and concrete aid in sophisticated arms, finance and help to escape that they received from high level politicians of the likes of former prime minister Chandrasekhar and former finance minister Yashwant Sinha. The high court judge, who had been appointed to inquire into some of these massacres, was also interviewed and he named the RSS and spoke of the role of high level BJP functionaries like Murli Manohar Joshi, Sushil Kumar Modi, CP Thakur and others.

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Bihar elections

It is now well over three weeks since these videos have entered the public domain. All the parties in Bihar have been in election campaign mode, with a flurry of public meetings featuring central leaders of all political parties. Amidst the din and noise of the campaign, the silence around these disclosures is absolutely deafening. Not one major leader has made even the smallest reference to the blatant, even arrogant, professions of guilt of the killers; or even pointed a finger at the high profile politicians named in the sting.

At the press conference for the release of the videos, Cobrapost was accused of timing the release to help RJD and Lalu Prasad Yadav in the coming Bihar elections by targeting the BJP and RSS. But neither Lalu nor Nitish Kumar, nor even Sonia Gandhi have shown any inclination to use the revelations. The reason is obviously because none of the major parties are shown in a favourable light in the exposure – while the BJP and RSS were much more directly involved, Nitish’s  JD(U) ensured that the Justice Amir Das Commission, which was to name the politicians involved, was dissolved without warning, so that it could not submit a report that would expose his alliance partner, the BJP. The RJD and Congress too have not done anything effective to either prevent the massacres or punish the culprits and are today in an alliance with the JD(U).

Ruling class consensus

The silence also brings on display the consensus among the ruling classes and dominant castes vis-à-vis the Ranveer Sena, which received a much wider political backing than similar such groupings. Earlier private landlord armies set up to suppress the Dalits and other oppressed poor peasant sections and their Naxal leadership normally based themselves almost exclusively on a single caste, using the caste affiliation to mobilise even the poorer sections of the caste as foot soldiers. Thus the Kuer Sena comprised of Rajputs, the Bhumi Sena was of Kurmis, the Lorik Sena of Yadavs and the Bramharshi Sena of Bhumihars. There were only some groupings like the Sunlight Sena set up by Pathans and Rajputs that involved more than one community. These private feudal armies disintegrated by the late eighties and early nineties in the face of determined Naxal-led resistance.

The Ranveer Sena however, though begun by and led by the Bhumihars, managed to gain much wider support from all landlord sections. Politically too, though most closely aligned with the BJP, they got the support of the other ruling parties too. They were also much more ruthless and violent than their predecessors. They set up a more organised leadership structure. They gave the impression of a much more class-conscious force representative of landlord interests. These factors managed to gain them much more durable support of the feudal sections who are out to somehow suppress the struggles of landless labourers and poor peasants. This also explains why, none of the political parties campaigning the Bihar elections would risk raising the Cobrapost issue and disaffecting these feudal sections.

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Tilted scales of justice

This ruling class consensus is also reflected in the “justice” provided by the criminal justice system. Things were weighed in Ranveer Sena’s favour from the very beginning. The Inquiry Commission Chairman told Cobrapost how Murli Manohar Joshi threatened investigating officers to go soft on the investigation or they would be put in place when the BJP came to power. Soft investigations obviously led to acquittal of most massacre accused at the trial stage itself. Those who were convicted by the sessions judges were let go by the high court. Another Cobrapost interviewee – a relative of the victims – related how Bhumihar judges in the Patna High Court released all Ranveer Sena members convicted by lower courts. Thus, almost all Ranveer Sena members who faced trial have been acquitted by either the trial court or the high court.

On the other hand, any retaliatory action by the oppressed has experienced the heavy hand of the law. In one case, four are on death row with their mercy petitions pending since the last 13 years, whereas two have had their death sentence commuted to imprisonment for the rest of their natural life. In another case eight were given the death sentence, which was later commuted to life. The scales of justice seem grossly tilted in the Ranveer Sena’s favour.

Maoist tactics

Small wonder then that the Dalits and most exploited classes look to the Maoists for justice and protection from the Ranveer Sena. The earlier Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) had, in the 1980s adopted the method of mass retaliation, which even took the form of massacre similar to that perpetrated by the upper caste senas. There was, however, a review and change in tactics. After the formation of the CPI (Maoist) in 2004, these tactics took the form of selective attacks on ringleaders while sparing the rank and file. Thus when the Maoists organised the mass jail-break in Jehanabad in November 2005, they killed two of the Ranveer Sena inmates, who were leaders known for their cruelty, while allowing 30 to 40 other Ranveer Sena accused to escape. The assassination of Brahmeshwar Singh, the Ranveer Sena Mukhiya, in 2012 within two months of his release too seems to be part of the same tactics.

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These tactics seem to have yielded some results for the Maoists. The Ranvir Sena is today a spent force and there does not seem any other private sena coming up which is willing to take its place. This does not however mean that that the movement of Bihar’s poor for their legitimate rights does not face any opposition. The task of protecting and advancing the interests of the feudal forces, earlier performed by the private landlord armies, is now being directly undertaken by the state forces. Central forces like the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) and CRPF have been moved in along with the Special Task Force (STF) of the Bihar Police. It remains to be seen whether they will be able to do what the private armies were unable to do.

Damming Dalit dissent


Maharashtra police are once again playing the Naxal card to contain protests against upper-caste atrocities.

The growing number and increasing brutality of caste atrocities by upper castes on Dalits and tribals in Maharashtra in recent months has led to considerable disquiet in the affected communities throughout the state.  Discontent, particularly among Dalit youth, has been brewing, with social media like Facebook and WhatsApp generated platforms like “Facebook Ambedkarite Movement (A Non-Political Organisation)” and “Jatiya Atyachar Virodhi Kruti Samiti” being used to vent concern and coordinate action. With political bigwigs of the community busy in pre and post-election manoeuvrings, the movement has seen leadership emerging organically from youth involved in numerous online and offline actions and interactions.

Anger peaked at the particularly butcherous slaughter of three members of a Dalit family at Jawkheda in Ahmednagar district on the night of October 20 2014. The fact-finding report of the Dalit Atyachar Virodhi Kruti Samiti pointed out how the bodies were hacked into such tiny bits and dumped around that the police took all of two days to just locate the entire bodies. As protest meetings and demonstrations spread throughout the state, the politicos and most of the media took a stance of ignoring the issue. Even when almost 500 demonstrators were picked up on October 31 from Wankhede Stadium, the site of the swearing-in of the new CM Devendra Phadnavis, there was a near-total media blackout of the protest. It seemed as if the strategy of the powers that be was to wish away public anger by closing their eyes to it, hoping to wear out or win over those in the lead. Till date not one of the murderers has been arrested. But the police were only too eager to detain the protestors.

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Deliberate Ploys

But as the protests spread and intensified, the state agencies promptly shifted to Plan B of raising a spectre of Naxalism. Ravindra Kadam, Special IG, Anti-Naxal Operations (ANO), told the press that the agitations were part of a conspiracy by Naxalites to create caste tensions and instigate riots in the state. Though Kadam had no substance in his allegations, some sections of the Marathi and English media unquestioningly publicised it, and the Shiv Sena mouthpiece, Saamna, even chose to comment editorially on it.

The ploy of using the Naxal bogey to deal with movements against Dalit atrocities is not new. It was first used by Pankaj Gupta, the then incumbent of the post now held by Ravindra Kadam, during the agitations following the Khairlanji massacre. It was also voiced by RR Patil, the then Home Minister and his comments during Khairlanji found mention and an echo in the present Saamna editorial. It seems the police and politicos follow a pattern.

This ploy however serves many a purpose. Firstly it serves to belittle and discredit the protestors by making them seem to be the pawns of some “external” forces. It questions their sincerity and forces them to go on the defensive to prove their constitutional credentials. The police and government, who are under attack from the Dalit community for their inaction and even support to the upper caste forces perpetrating these atrocities, are thus able to not only deflect attention from their own neglect of their constitutional responsibilities, but are also able to make it seem that the other side is not genuine.

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Implicit Threats

The other underlying rationale for branding the protestors as Naxalites is in the threat it implicitly holds of indiscriminately bringing down repression on them. Despite constitutional provisions guaranteeing free thought and expression, and the government has introduced laws like the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act that criminalise thought and ban ideas, ideologies and the organisations professing them, by declaring them as “unlawful”. Though the Supreme Court has, in several judgments, held that action can only be taken on those who are involved in violence, the police often harass and arrest anyone they claim to have “links”. By linking the banned Maoists to the agitating Dalit organisations, the state agencies are in effect sending out a thinly veiled warning that all activists, if not all participants, in the protests may face the strong arm of the law. They are thus criminalising the ongoing democratic movement and, should it continue to strengthen and spread, they are preparing the grounds for crushing it.

This manoeuvre is however not peculiar to Maharashtra. It has in fact been seen time and again where legitimate struggles have remained resolute and not compromised. The Maruti workers struggle in Haryana was similarly branded as having a Maoist hand and 147 workers have been kept in jail for almost 16 months; the Kudankulam anti-nuclear plant struggle of Tamil Nadu was branded as being inspired by a foreign hand and over a thousand protesters had sedition charges clamped on them; many agitators in West Bengal including the struggling students of Jadavpur University have been accused by Mamata Banerjee of being Maoists and extremists.

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The most convenient part of any such accusations and conspiracy theories is that there is no need and no intention to prove such accusations. Willing accomplices in the media repeat the conspiracy theories a hundred times over without any verification until they are believed to be true. The ANO knows that it will never be called upon to prove a Naxal conspiracy to fan caste tensions and cause riots. The same department had, at the time of my (Arun Ferreira’s) arrest in 2007, told the media that I was plotting to incite caste riots by bombing the Diksha Bhoomi memorial complex in Nagpur. There was however no mention whatsoever of such a plan in either the FIR, the charge-sheet or at any time during the trial. The false propaganda through the media had anyway served its purpose of discrediting me and my co-accused in the eyes of the common man.

This time too, the propaganda of the IG seems to be bringing him some results. Considerable energy of the activists has been diverted to countering the conspiracy theorists, to demonstrate at the newspaper office which propagated the bogus news and in taking the fight against them to court. The distractions and confusions could result in the democratic protests against caste atrocities losing some steam. Such an outcome would however be tragic and against the interests of democracy. A strong movement against caste atrocities is necessity if such incidents are to stop. The present movement has shown great promise and is one of many such movements that are a must along the long journey to achieving that most basic of our democratic tasks – the annihilation of caste. Its right to protest should be protected and upheld by all who dream of a more just and casteless society.

by Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves

http://www.dailyo.in/life/our-city-is-on-the-highway-to-hell-traffic-jams-pollution-delhi/story/1/1393.html