COMMITTEE FOR THE RELEASE OF POLITICAL PRISONERS
185/3, FOURTH FLOOR, ZAKIR NAGAR, NEW DELHI-110025
DATE: 18 APRIL 2018
Strongly condemn the harassment of Rona Wilson, Public Relations Secretary of CRPP, and others in the name of ‘search operations’
As part of a shocking search operation conducted by the Pune (Maharashtra) police on April 17, 2018, at the residences of various activists in Maharashtra, the home of the CRRP Public Relations Secretary, Rona Wilson was also searched in Delhi. The Committee for Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP) strongly condemns the police raids in the residences of peoples activists in the strongest words.
At around 6.00 a.m in the morning, the Pune (Maharashtra) police conducted simultaneous raids at the homes of prominent activists in Maharashtra namely Sudhir Dhavale (Dalit activist, Republican Panthers), Harshali Potdar (Activist, Republican Panthers), Ramesh Gaychor, Jyoti Jagtap, Sagar Gorkhe, Rupali Jadhav and Dhawala Dhengle (all Kabir Kala Manch activists) allegedly in relation to the violence that ensued after the bi-centenary celebrations of the battle of Bhima-Koregaon on 31 Decemeber 2018 and the subsequent bandh. Alongside, Pune Assistant Commissioner of Police, Ganesh Gawade, and Nagpur DCP, Suresh Bawche, searched the residence of prominent people’s lawyer, Surendra Gadling.
On 31st December 2017, an Elgar Parishad was organised to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the battle of Bhima-Koregaon which was attended by thousands who gathered to raised their voice against the forces of Bramanical Hindutva Fascism. On the following day, that is, 1st January 2018, a mob carrying saffron flags instigated by Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote attacked the masses and activists who had gathered for the commemoration. It should be noted that instead of taking timely action against those who incited and perpetrated violence that ensued after the Elgar Parishad, the state machinery has chosen to devote its time and attention to target and harass activists and lawyers who have been speaking against the anti-people policies of the government. Both the main forces behind the pre-meditated violence on 1st January 2018, Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote, are right wing activists closely connected with the ruling BJP and the Sangh Parivar. The police forces have failed to arrest Sambhaji Bhide in connection with this case. Rather, they seem interested in conjuring up an elaborate tale of how the songs of peoples’ resistance sung by activists at the commemoration on 31st December were deliberately intended to incite violence! Allegedly under the same pretext of investigating the Bhima Koregaon incident, a team of Pune police led by Deputy Commissioner of Police Pravin Munde and investigating officer, Shivaji Pawar searched the residence of Rona Wilson in Delhi by arbitrarily trying to frame him under the Sections 153 a, 117, 505 1 (b), 34 of the IPC. The police has seized his laptop, phone, books and some money from his residence under the pretext of this arbitrary raid.
Rona Wilson has been an activist for several years, advocating for the cause of political prisoners all over India. As Public Relations Secretary of the CRPP, he has been at the forefront of organising numerous conventions against the unconstitutional nature of draconian laws like UAPA and AFSPA, and against the arbitrary use of death penalty, specifically against Muslims and Dalit minorities. He is an active voice in the campaign for the release of political prisoners condemning the anti-people ploys of the state machinery for arbitrarily persecuting minorities and marginalised sections.
That these raids are happening at a time when voices of Dalit resistance are transforming into an avalanche of resistance against the anti-people policies of the state indicates the deliberate attempt by the powers that be to stifle all voices of protest. Moreover, it exposes the brazen vengeance of the state against Dalit upsurge organising against the unbridled loot and plunder of resources by imperialist capital aided by the forces of Hindutva Fascism. By targeting activists and peoples lawyers, the state is blatantly trying to snuff out even voices of defense from political prisoners. It must be understood that violence that ensued in Bhima Koregaon is being used as an alibi by the ruling classes to browbeat activists and lawyers who have been fighting for the people into silence. These pre-meditated raids reflect the desperation of the increasingly police state and its growing tendency within the executive to frame activists and lawyers under false charges and keep them in confinement under prolonged incarceration.
It must also be highlighted that this arbitrary and illegal search has come at a time when CRPP has been able to gather public opinion against the conviction of Dr. GN Saibaba, Hem Mishra, Prashant Rahi, Vijay Tirki, Mahesh Tirki and Pandu Narote. The Gadchiroli Sessions Court, in its 827 page judgment, inadvertently exposes the workings of a national security state which uses the instrument of law to thwart dissent. It is not a coincidence that when retired judges and prominent lawyers have agreed to speak at a convention (proposed for April 22, 2018) condemning the Gadchiroli Sessions Court judgement, the state machinery has used the pretext of the Bhima Koregaon incident to harass Wilson in order to divert the attention of the public and stop their mobilisation against the judgement of Gadchiroli Sessions Court.
The CRPP strongly condemns the arbitrary police raid conducted at the residence of Rona Wilson and other activists from Maharashtra which is nothing but a tactic to intimidate activists and prevent them from mobilising people and raising voice against the violence perpetrated by the state.
IAPL condemns harassment of Advocate Surendra Gadling and Dalit activists in the name of ‘Search operations’
In a shocking development, the Pune (Maharashtra) police today, April 17, 2018 at around 6.00 a.m. conducted simultaneous searches at homes of prominent activists in Maharashtra namely Sudhir Dhavale (Dalit activist, Republican Panthers), Harshali Potdar (Woman activist, Republican Panthers), Ramesh Gaychor, Jyoti Jagtap, Sagar Gorkhe, Rupali Jadhav and Dhawala Dhengle (all Kabir Kala Manch activists) in relation to the violence that ensued on the day of bi-centenary celebrations of the battle of Bhima-Koregaon on January 31, 2018 and the subsequent bandh.
The Pune police also conducted a search at the Nagpur home and office of Surendra Gadling, a People’s Lawyer practicing there. His computer Hard disk, DVDs and other e-storage devices were seized by the police. Surendra Gadling is the General Secretary of the Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL) and has been an active member since its formation in 2004. He has, since the last three decades, been litigating cases of those marginalized in the Indian judicial system, especially Dalits, tribals and workers from various backgrounds. He played a significant role in defending those incarcerated in draconian laws of TADA, POTA and UA(P)A including that of Sudhir Dhavale, Prof. G.N. Saibaba and also in defending rights of tribals arrested by the police under fabricated FIRs. Adv. Gadling has also fought for the rights of dalits in numerous atrocities such as the Khairlanji massacre. He himself has been resisting the anti-people stance of the state as a Human Rights activist and People’s Lawyer and due to this popularity, has even contested Bar Council elections for Maharashtra and Goa.
On December 31, 2017, an Élgaar Parishad was organised in Pune commemorating the 200th anniversary of the battle of Bhima-Koregaon wherein the Peshwahi rule in Maharahtra was defeated. The Elgar Parishad was organised with the stated objective of fighting Brahminism and Fascism i.e. the neo-peshwahi. The program was hugely successful and attended by thousands from across the state. However on January 1, 2018 the following day, those commemorating the event were attacked by a mob carrying saffron flags and instigated by Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote. These two right wing activists are closely connected with the ruling BJP and the Sangh Parivar and this attack was part of a pre-meditated plan.
Following this attack, the dalit community and sections from the Other Backward Castes (OBC) and Muslim communities participated in a State wide Bandh calling for the arrest of Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote. The police, rather than arresting these two instigators of the violence, retaliated by conducting massive combing operations in Dalit bastis and arbitrarily searching homes and arresting up young men. Thousands of people were detained illegally. FIRs under sections 153A, 505(1), 117 and 34 of IPC were registered against activists including Sudhir Dhavale, Harshali Potdar, Ramesh Gaychor, Jyoti Jagtap, Sagar Gorkhe and also against Jignesh Mevani (an elected Gujarat MLA) and Umar Khalid (a student leader) for participating in the Elgar Parishad.
Instead of taking strict and timely action against the inciters of the violence that ensued in Bhima Koregaon, the state machinery has sought to target activists and lawyers who are fighting regressive trends in the society. As for Advocate Gadling, his harassment is a clear case of targeting him for his persistent defence of numerous Rights activist and those arrested in fabricated cases. Gadling’s name was not even mentioned in the FIR, wherein the Pune Police have sought action. Being a dalit lawyer and activist, seems to be the rationale for making him a ‘natural’ target of the Pune FIR.
The Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL) condemns the search conducted in the home and office of Advocate Surendra Gadling. Such search is nothing but an attempt to prevent Advocate Surendra Gadling from performing his professional duties, and representing clients targeted by the state, and such action amounts to interference with the administration of justice. IAPL also condemns the searches and harassment meted out to other activists and stands with them in this difficult hour of state hounding. IAPL declares that such searches are for the sole purpose of distracting people’s attention from the real culprits of the Bhima-Koregaon violence.
Adv. Sudha Bharadwaj
(IAPL, Vice President)
Adv. Ankit Grewal
(IAPL, Joint Secretary)
Adv. Arun Ferreira