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Niloufer Bhagwat on the Conviction of Dr. Binayak Sen and the Arrest of Sudhir Dhawale

Mumbai-based lawyer Niloufer Bhagwat spoke at the public meeting on Dr. Binayak Sen on 17th January, Hum sab Binayak Hai, We all are Binayak . Below is a video of her speech in Hindi. It’s followed by a message from her, in English, that summarizes the meeting.

Dear Colleagues,

Increasingly and in the days ahead the citizens of India will have to remember even as they defend democracy and the right to free speech that. “Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Liberty ” and Indian democracy will have to be vigorously defended as it is facing a serious threat from those who desire that the Constitution of India which is a manifesto of our Freedom Movement should be steadily eroded. I earnestly request that wherever you are whatever your political opinions , if you stand for democracy you must actively defend it in the days ahead , even if your political party does not agree that you do so on account of their own compulsions of adjustment as there is a conspiracy to convert our political system into a authoritarian /fascist state with liberties only for a few and slavery for the rest , with measures being used more in the nature of the Police States in the Arab region as against the political freedom and civil liberties which we have hitherto enjoyed and which have been stamped out in large parts of the country including Central and Eastern India .

In the context of serious developments including the conviction of Dr. Binayak Sen ,I am sending you my report of the meeting held in Mumbai . You do not have to agree with everything , however you have to defend the democratic right of honest citizens everywhere in the country and the right to a free and fair trial for everyone including your political opponents .

At a meeting held at Mumbai’s Vanmali Hall by the Committee for the Release of Dr. Binayak Sen on 17th January 2010, to condemn the conviction of Dr.Binayak Sen and others charged along with him and to focus attention on the unjustified arrest of Sudhir Dhawale, a Dalit activist in Maharashtra who had earlier focussed attention on the Khairlanji case , it was highlighted that the meeting was being held to focus attention on the fact that Democracy was in danger and the paradigm or model of economic development adopted was leading to increased repression of rural India , the tribal people , Dalits , the peasantry and minorities even though they were the ones who were at the receiving end of violence from organizations such as the Salwa Judum, among others . That Justice Krishna Iyer had analysed that the reason why people were being indiscriminately called Naxalites and Maoists was because the Congressmen and Communists among others having become respectable after forming governments and being in power , those who were still hungry and exploited and their defenders were being indiscriminately called Naxalites . A reference was made to the analysis of E.V.Rammohan former Director General of the BSF who has highlighted that majority of the people in Tribal India do not know who was Mao and that the exploitation of Adivasis and Dalits and the trampling of their rights by the upper caste was the real reason for the violence in these regions which could be resolved by land reforms and the cessation of economic and social injustice .

It was pointed out that the following eminent leaders of India had also been charged with Sedition or Rajdrohis namely :-

1. Lok Manya Tilak.

2. Mahatma Gandhi

3. The Ali brother prominent in the Khilafat movement and
the Indian Independence struggle .

4. Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan ( the Frontier or Sarhad Gandhi )

5. Bhagatsingh and others in the Meerut Conspiracy case .

6. Members of Subhash Chandra Bose’s INA .

However that despite Asimnanda ‘s confession and the serious siphoning away of revenues of the State and the commission of serious illegalities in Scams exposed by the Radia tapes which established without doubt the corporatization of policy , no one was similarly charged , not even organizations whose members had covertly organized bomb blasts .

Himanshu Kumar ,the noted Gandhian highlighted that repression on anyone focusing attention on the grievances in rural India was taking place as the paradigm and model of development now being adopted ,was on the pattern of the Western economic model , which was in crisis and Mahatma Gandhi had rejected the model as unsuitable for human development and specifically for India , that is why large areas of the country remained outside the pale of balanced development with villages and tribal India facing serious neglect and gave the example why the unrest in Central and Eastern India commenced when Companies such as Essar resorted to using private militias and even para military formations to clear villages, since they had signed MOUs with the government of Chhattisgarh among other State governments .Himanshu Kumar emphasized that to determine what one could read and not read was not compatible with democracy and the Constitution of India and the government of Chhattisgarh had even tried to label him as a “Naxalite” in the Supreme Court and tried to justify the Salwa Judum. Himanshu Kumar forthrightly emphasized that those Corporates and State governments clearing tribal villages were relying on guns and hence it was they who were following Mao not the tribal people .

A doctor, Dr. Sanjay Nagraj who was familiar with the work of Dr. Binayak Sen highlighted the absolute dedication of Dr. Binayak Sen to the cause of public health which he had made into a life time mission and stated that whereas other colleagues had drifted into private practice, Dr. Binayak Sen was suffering because of his sincerity and dedication which had shocked all members of the medical fraternity in India and abroad who knew of his life’s work and his dedication to non-violence. That the plight had convinced the friends Medical circle and other doctors with a conscience as to the injustice of what had happened to a doctor who had dedicated himself to the medical assistance of the poorest ,was soft spoken and did not believe in violence .

The Dalit activist Kirti Dhawle of the Bahujan Samaj at the meeting and Darshana, the wife of Sudhir Dhawale, illegally arrested by the State of Maharashtra referred to the Dalit question and the mandate of Dr. Ambedkar that it was necessary to struggle against what the Dalits had faced for centuries and were still facing and that the unjustified charge of “Naxalism” was levelled against Dalit andolans after the Khairlanji Case which had resulted in Dalit protests all over Maharashtra . That Sudhir Dhawale had dedicated his life to Dalit struggles for which he was being victimised by casteist elements of the upper castes. The objective and purpose of such arrests was to all reflection on injustices of society and stamp out intellectual dissent and the spread of ideas even though their propagation was within the framework of the Constitution of India . Both emphasized that Dr.Ambedkar and Jotirao Phule had stressed that mass movements for change and democratic protest was the way forward .However anti-democratic forces were against Dalit political awareness .

Niloufer Bhagwat , highlighted that historically several prominent leaders of the freedom struggle had been unjustly charged with Sedition and that Justice Krishna Iyer among others were concerned that those who worked among the exploited and hungry in rural India were increasingly all being labelled as Maoist or Naxalites and that even Communist parties in parliament were committing the same error as they worked mainly with organized Trade Unions in urban centres. Advocate Bhagwat dissected the evidence ,highlighting tthat there was no evidence whatosoever to convict Dr. Binayak Sen and other Co-accused , that the so called letter delivered allegedly was a print out , not even in the list of seized docuemnts nor attached to the charge sheet, with jail officials testifying that Dr. Binayak Sen and Sanyal had exchanged no letters, the evidence hearsay and seriously tainted as there were no eye witnesses , even the site for the arrest of Piyush Guha contradictory as per affidavits before the Supreme Court and Raipur Court , stressing that any one espousing causes in rural India of the peasantry , dalits , tribal people and peasantry was being termed as “Maoist” even though the situation in India was very different from China ,and that the texts of Dr. Karl Marx , Lenin and even Mao Tse Tung which could not be easily understood, as they were written in a different historical context at a different stage of capitalist development of those countries, could not provide the answers to the conditions of India ‘s tribal population and dalits and the peasantry facing a different economic and social situation. Even Communist parties who had only the experience of Trade Union functioning in urban centres were calling those who were focussing on grievances of land seizures in rural India as ” Maoists” or Naxalites. Condeming the arrest of Sudhir Dhawale for keeping books of Marx , Lenin and Mao and for downloading of articles from the internet and keeping charge sheets which are public documents as absurd, in the context of the fact that openly anti-national activity of establishing Salwa Judums, defrauding the national exchequer by subverting political parties and creating a religious divide was not being tried for their anti national and Seditious activity and those concerned about the state of Indian society and rural grievances in the face of peasant suicides and land seizures in tribal and other regions were being arbitrarily arrested and tried for Sedition and being labelled as Maoist and Naxalite even as massive corruption at all levels was eating into the body politic of India .Advocate Niloufer Bhagwat stressed that Dr. Binayak Sen was in fact being victimized due to his exposure of those behind the Salwa Judum who had with violence evicted the Adivasis from hundreds of villages which he did as President of the PUCL in Chhattisgarh and that even the Committee on Land Reforms established by the Ministry of Rural Development had exposed those behind the establishment of the Salwa Judum an illegally armed private army to seize land of the tribals.

This meeting was held to to focus attention on the the clear and present danger and threat to Indian democracy, evidenced by the unjustified conviction of Dr.Binayak Sen and other accused by the Raipur Sessions Court despite the absence of evidence and the unjust arrest of Sudhir Dhawale ,a journalist who has been focussing attention on the injustices perpetrated on Dalits in several areas of Maharashtra . Sudhir Dhawale had earlier focussed attention on the Khairlanji collective murder of a Dalit family over a land dispute . Increasingly the modus operandi of the unjustified arrests is to search computers and books and public documents and then frame the individual questioning as to why books of Dr.Karl Marx , Lenin and Mao along with the books of Dr.Ambedkar were found in the collection of books and why articles are downloaded and read from websites despite the fact that the Constitutionof India does not provide for prohibiting reading of political texts of different countries .

It must be emphasized that police seizure of books and literature including articles is prima facie evidence that the Indian political system is being sought to be taken over by fascism under corporate advise . As fascist literature spreading religious hatred and in justification of the murder of Mahatma Gandhi and others are in open circulation and bomb blasts planted by fascist organizations of the upper castes receiving funds from external sources .

Dr. Ambedkar in militant prose had focused attention on the merciless nature of upper caste/upper class atrocities on Dalits and maintained that democracy and constitutionalism would be seriously endangered by vast inequalities . Dr. Ambedkar Had openly revoted and changed his religion , to-day he would be charged with illegal conversion and some may feel that it is Seditious to read his works .

Jotirao Phule decried the serious neglect of the peasantry his famous book ” Kisan ka Koda “, yet lakhs of farmers have committed suicide since 1995 in Independent India due to the withdrawal of support to agriculture in view of policies imposed on India by agribusiness companies in conspiracy with the leaders of more than one political party which is seditious activity and which has now resulted in a country known for its rich agricultural heritage to decline into negative growth in agriculture.

The last book Bhagat Singh was reading before he was hung was Lenin’s ” State and Revolution “, yet he is a national hero of the country .

It is necessary to recall in the context of the Asimnanda confessions, that political leaders from Maharashtra had stated that anyone found stating that individuals owing their loyalty to the RSS and Hindutva organizations may be responsible for the Pune Bakery bomb blast will be arrested and detained . Indicating that instructions had been given that in Maharashtra no reference should be made to the possibility of these organizations being behind the bomb blasts despite the investigation of Shahid Hemant Karkareji, Joint Commissioner of Police who was killed by the criminal underworld operations which had penetrated Mumbai and who had been threatened before his assassination . Thereafter this was followed by the assassination of Shaheed Azmi the brave young lawyer who defended scores of innocent Muslim youth unjustly charged, including for the Malegaon blasts now confessed to as being the work of Sangh Parivar activists by the Asimnanda judicial confession which is confirmed by Shahid Karkare’s investigation .

All the speakers highlighted that the situation of the Indigenous tribal people of India , the Dalits and minorities (who together constitute approximately 37 % of the population of India along with the peasantry and the agricultural workers was increasingly required to be highlighted, as these sections together comprise more than 60 % of the total population of the country not including unorganized labour who are migrants between rural India and the urban area, even the Girni Kamgar workers in Mumbai had to leave for their villages when they lost their jobs with few staying on in Mumbai unemployed .) There was unanimity that those who focussed attention on the situation in rural India and raised questions of the peasantry , tribal people, Dalits and the minorities ,were increasingly being loosely and without any justification being referred to either as ” Naxalites” or Maoist and innocent Muslim youth as ‘ jehadis ‘ . When in fact most of those being terrorized in tribal India or committing suicides namely the peasantry , or being falsely arrested namely hundreds and thousands of youth in India for so called ” Jehadi” activity of bomb blasts ,do not know who Mao is and are not associated with any violent religious or fascist activity of any kind .

On the other hand those who defamed the late Jt. Commissioner of Police Hemant Karkare as anti-national claim that they are nationalist and patriotic .

A Resolution was passed condeming the arrest of Dr. Binayak Sen and his co-accused and the arrest of Sudhir Dhawale , the Dalit activist ,calling for their release and seeking an amendment of the Indian Penal Code ,in respect of the crime of Sedition and for the repeal of the Chhattisgarh Special Public Safety Act and the Unlawful Activities Act and action against those officers and others who have falsely charged innocent persons for Sedition and other crimes such as bomb blasts which they have not committed .

Our country achieved freedom from colonial rule when Indian citizens did not enjoy freedom and political rights after a struggle of over a century in which many lost their lives and were tortured and incarcerated . Behind our Constitutional rights there is painful struggle , if you allow these rights to diminish they will be difficult to restore .A few consumer goods can never subsitute for the right to speak up against injustice .

Niloufer Bhagwat