By Our Correspondent
PUNE—Massive protests by Dalit, Muslim, Other Backward Class Organisations including progressive groups under the banner of Bhima Koregaon Shauryadin Prerna Abhiyan, were held outside the Pune District Collectors office seeking immediate scrapping of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), alleging “institutional murder” of social activist Father Stan Swamy.
The organizations demanded the release of all intellectuals, activists, and academicians currently in jail connected with the Bhima Koregaon case. Furthermore, they requested the government to constitute a Special Investigation Team (SIT) inquiry to reinvestigate the case.
Manav Kamble of Swaraj Abhiyan, a Maharashtra-based organization working for Dalit rights, said, “It is around three years that the activists have been arrested without any proof of their involvement in the conspiracy in the fake Bhima Koregaon case. The central government has muzzled dissent and does not want the truth to come out in the case. The prisoners’ rights have been trampled with impunity with no bail in sight. The state murdered Father Stan Swamy, and the government has to be made accountable to the country’s constitution. We demand that all the Bhima Koregaon prisoners be released with dignity and honour as they are the protectors of the constitution,” he said.
Mulniwasi Muslim Manch President Anjum Inamdar said, “Father Swamy’s death is murder and not death. The government is behind the murder of Father Swamy. Arsenal consulting firm has punched holes in the fake theory of the police regarding the arrest of innocent activists in the Bhima Koregaon case. The laptops of activists were hacked, and the agencies planted evidence to frame the activists. This criminal activity has to be studied and exposed to ensure that justice is done to the innocents jailed in this case. The police have used the same framing method to fabricate false cases against the Muslim youths in bomb blast cases to protect the real and hidden masterminds. Muslims have been blamed for terrorism by the agencies for achieving their sinister plan of suppressing dissent and the rights of common citizens of India. The right-wing leaders named Milind Ekbote and Manohar Bhide, who are the main accused in the case, must be arrested,” he said.
Prominent Social worker Maruti Bhapkar said, “Everybody knows the role of the right-wing behind Bhima Koregaon violence, but the state is protecting the instigators and perpetrators. Therefore, we demand repeal of UAPA and also the arrest of the original culprits in the case so that justice is served to the masses and also the innocents languishing in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case,” he added.
Nationwide movement against repression, oppression needed
The National Alliance for People’s movements working for the rights of Adivasis and prominent civil rights social organizations in a detailed statement said that Fr. Stan Swamy’s institutional murder must lead to a nationwide movement against draconian, anti-people laws and state repression. Prominent social activists Medha Patkar, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), and National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM); Dr. Sunilam, Adv. Aradhna Bhargava, Kisan Sangharsh Samiti; Rajkumar Sinha, Chutka Parmaanu Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti, Amula Nidhi, (JSA) NAPM, Madhya Pradesh condemned the state for its inhuman treatment of Father Stan Swamy in prison.
The NAPM stated that the news of the cold-blooded killing of Fr. Stan Swamy by all the institutions that held him arbitrarily in custody for over nine months has shaken not just the ‘conscience’ of India but the entire world. This incident shall remain a permanent blot on India’s claim of being a ‘democracy,’ which oversaw the custodial torture and consequent ‘death’ of an 84-year-old human rights defender living with Parkinson’s for a crime he never committed. As the world mourns this spartan saint, whose only mission was to fight for justice for the oppressed, we are left with many unanswered questions about the state of our nation and the future path of struggle.
Hailing from Tamil Nadu and moving into faraway Jharkhand, Stan spent many decades of his life amongst Dalits and Adivasis, learning from and engaging with their everyday struggles against state and systemic oppression. A firm believer in the power of peace and constitutional rights, he fought until his last breath against forced land and resource alienation and for justice to thousands of undertrial Adivasis, rights of Gram Sabhas under PESA, and release of all persecuted prisoners. He also earned the ire of the BJP Govt and the NIA for his powerful role in solidarity with the Pathalgadi self-rule movement and his well-researched PIL seeking the release of more than 4,000 Adivasi undertrials across jails in Jharkhand.
“While we all are inconsolably mourning the killing of Stan by the Centre and the NIA, it is a matter of some relief that this moment has indeed become an occasion for national and international outrage, spontaneous protests at hundreds of places and has set the stage for the world-at-large to know more about Stan’s meticulous body of work and the injustice meted out to Adivasis and Dalits either due to dispossession and displacement from their lands and forests for corporate projects and profits, denial of fair rehabilitation or false incarcerations for extended periods,” it stated.
For the first time, in over three years since the fake Bhima Koregaon (BK) charges were filed and arrests made, leaders of 10 political parties have written to the President of India, calling upon him to ensure that the BJP Govt releases all persons arrested on politically motivated charges in BK or other cases, under UAPA. While this is a delayed welcome step, we know that unless these parties (many of whom have been in favour of UAPA) take a clear public position against UAPA, their limited pleas will not impact. Therefore, it is high time all parties and groups which feel that the BJP is throttling democracy and opposition in India must take an open and unambiguous stand against UAPA and sedition.
From Gandhi to Gauri or, more recently, Mahavir Narwal to Fr Stan, we all know that the ideological killers of all these brave hearts are the same. On the one hand, their singular aim to convert this nation of diverse identities into a monolith Hindu Rashtra needs to be confronted and defeated head-on. But, on the other hand, their pro-corporate agendas of pushing ahead the Farm Laws and Labour Codes need broader resistance. The seven-month-long farmers’ movement is a stellar example of mass people’s opposition, the NAPM pointed out.
“Our challenge lies in building and supporting similar, collaborative and sustained movements of the working class and oppressed peoples, against dilution of labour laws, environmental laws, draconian laws, corporate attacks, and resource loot in Schedule-V areas as well as for ensuring accessible public health, education, and livelihood, income security for all. Human rights defenders, social activists, people’s organizations are facing an unprecedented clampdown today. Only a united and defiant push-back by all democratic forces can keep the fascists and authoritarian rulers in check,” the NAPM stated.