Statement from Coordination of Democratic Rights Organisation (CDRO)

CDRO strongly condemns the arrest by Maharashtra police in the early morning of June 6, 2018 of Adv. Surendra Gadling, senior advocate from Nagpur and General Secretary of India Association of Peoples’ Lawyers (IAPL), Prof. Shoma Sen, Head of Department of English, Nagpur University, Sudhir Dhawale, poet and Editor of Vidrohi from Mumbai, Rona Wilson, public relations secretary of Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP) from Delhi and Mahesh Raut, activist from Bharat Jan Andolan and former Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellow for Gadchiroli District.

These arrests and raids have been made based on the FIR registered on 8th January 2018 in Pune following the large scale protests held against the attacks on the Bhima-Koregaon commemorative function on 1st January 2018. These attacks were instigated by leaders of RSS-linked organizations, Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote. The government of Maharashtra, instead of punishing the actual perpetrators and instigators of the Bhima-Koregaon violence has been trying to pin the blame on organizers of the commemorative function. The FIR, which was originally lodged u/s 153(A), 505(1b), 117 and 34 of the IPC later had sections of the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) added to it. It is utterly condemnable that the Maharashtra government has charged activists and lawyers with UAPA under these trumped up charges while the actual perpetrators of the violence are roaming around freely.

It is also to be noted that a fact-finding organized by CDRO which recently visited Gadchiroli following the so-called encounter by the Maharashtra police C-60 special forces there that had resulted in the death of 40 people including Maoist combatants and adivasis found clear evidence of a fake encounter and cold blooded murder of the victims. Adv. Surendra Gadling, Prof. Shoma Sen and Mahesh Raut played important roles in facilitating this fact-finding. Therefore it appears that the Maharashtra government has decided to arrest them, together with the other activists and lawyer, to exact vengeance for their role in exposing this mass murder by the Maharashtra police.

The Maharashtra government routinely uses the draconian UAPA to persecute dissenters and any persons who oppose the policies of the state. Currently Prof. Saibaba and five coaccused people are imprisoned in Maharashtra after being convicted in a sham trial under various sections of the UAPA. Now, Adv. Surendra Gadling who was their defence lawyer in that trial has been himself charged under UAPA. These actions clearly show the anti-democratic functioning of the Maharashtra government which has made the arresting of activists and human rights defenders and charging them under UAPA a routine affair.

CDRO strongly condemns this highly anti-democratic and repressive action of the Maharashtra government and the complete violation of all constitutional norms by the State and the Central governments and demands the immediate release of Advocate Surendra Gadling, Prof Shoma Sen, Sudhir Dhawle, Rona Wilson and Mahesh Raut.

On behalf of CDRO,
Asish Gupta,Coordinator.


Constituent Organisations: Association for Democratic Rights (AFDR, Punjab), Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR, West Bengal); Asansol Civil Rights Association, West Bengal; Bandi Mukti Committee (West Bengal); Civil Liberties Committee (CLC, Andhra Pradesh); Civil Liberties Committee (CLC, Telangana); Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR, Maharashtra); Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR,Tamil Nadu); Coordination for Human Rights (COHR, Manipur); Manab Adhikar Sangram Samiti (MASS, Assam); Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR); Peoples’ Committee for Human Rights (PCHR, Jammu and Kashmir); Peoples Democratic Forum (PDF, Karnataka); Jharkhand Council for Democratic Rights (JCDR, Jharkhand); Peoples Union For Democratic Rights (PUDR, Delhi); Peoples Union for Civil Rights (PUCR, Haryana), Campaign for Peace & Democracy in Manipur (CPDM), Delhi; Janhastakshep(Delhi).

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COMMITTEE FOR THE RELEASE OF POLITICAL PRISONERS

185/3, FOURTH FLOOR, ZAKIR NAGAR, NEW DELHI-110025

6 JUNE 2018

STRONGLY CONDEMN THE ARRESTS OF CRPP PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY RONA WILSON, ADVOCATE SURENDRA GADLING (EXECUTIVE MEMBER CRPP AND GENERAL SECRETARY IAPL), SUDHIR DHAWALE, PROF. SOMA SEN AND MAHESH RAUT BY PUNE POLICE BY FRAMING THEM UNDER UAPA!

Today, in the early morning hours, the Pune Police arrested CRPP Public Relations Secretary Rona Wilson, Advocate Surendra Gadling (CRPP AND IAPL), Prof Soma Sen (Nagpur University), Sudhir Dhavale (Dalit activist, Republican Panthers) and Mahesh Raut (anti-displacement activist) by falsely framing them under UAPA after alleging 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. Following close on the heels of arbitrary search operations conducted by the Pune police on 17 April 2018 at the residences of these activists in Maharashtra and Delhi, the present arrests are clearly a deliberate attempt to unleash terror upon activists and lawyers who have been raising their voices against the anti-people policies of the present BJP led NDA government. CRPP condemns all the five arrests in the strongest words and demands their immediate and unconditional release.

Sticking to its script enacted on 17th April while conducting so called ‘search operations’ at the residences of the above activists, the Pune Police arrested the above activists around 6 am in the morning from Maharashtra and Delhi.

As per the Maharashtra police, the arrests have been made under Vishrambaug PS FIR no. 4 of 2018 dated 8th January 2018 under Sections 153(A), 505(1)(B), 117, 120(B), 34 IPC and, now, 13, 16, 17, 18, 18(B), 20, 38, 39, 40 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2008. Rona Wilson was arrested early in the morning and produced at Patiala House Court which sanctioned his transit remand upon the appeal of the Pune Police. The FIR under the pretext of which the arrests were made is registered against Sudhir and members of Kabir Kala Manch to which the names of Rona Wilson and Surendra Gadling were later added after court conceded to the prosecution’s appeal. However, the new arrests of Professor Soma Sen and Mahesh Raut whose names were never mentioned in the court papers and were just added by the police today, reveal the desperation of the state to somehow frame a case by arbitrarily associating names of peoples’ activists all the way from Maharashtra to Delhi to construe their cock and bull narrative of supposed Maoists plotting the violence that ensued after the Edgar Parishad conference in Bhima Koregaon after 31st December!

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 arrest activists and lawyers under the draconian UAPA for speaking against the anti-people policies of the government and the repeal of UAPA citing its use to incarcerate thousands of innocent youths under false cases without bail by the Hindutva state machinery. 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 and Advocate Surendra Gadling in Nagpur in April.

Wilson has been an activist for several years, advocating for the cause of political prisoners all over India. As Public Relations Secretary of the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners, he has been at the forefront of organising numerous conventions against the unconstitutional nature of draconian laws like UAPA, AFSPA etc. 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. CRPP member and Advocate Surendra Gadling has been fighting the cases of many innocent people who have been framed under UAPA and was instrumental in the acquittals of many including Sudhir Dhawale. He has also been representing Delhi University Professor, G N Saibaba and others who were punished with life sentence last year under UAPA by the Nagpur Sessions Court. Professor Soma Sen, Sudhir Dhawale and Mahesh Raut are active voices of resistance in solidarity with people movements’ across the country against the tightening tentacles of Hindutva Fascism.

That these arrests 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 arrest has come at a time when CRPP has been able to gather public opinion against the conviction of Prof. 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 these simultaneous raids and arrests are happening after the state ordered continuous firing by para military at Chaibasa village in Jharkhand in March in the name of fighting Maoists followed by the dastardly fake encounter of more than 40 adivasis and Maoists in Gadchiroli in April this year. As the drama of yet another parliamentary election is due to unfold in May 2019, the BJP led NDA government will unabashedly expose its violent fangs of fascism to suppress and polarise the united voices of people’s resistance emerging from all corners of the subcontinent, from Kashmir to Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu, by directly waging war on the oppressed people in the so called frontier regions and hinterlands and at the same time targeting and incarcerating activists and voices of dissent from urban areas.

The Committee for Release of Political Prisoners strongly condemns the arrests of Rona Wilson and other activists from Maharashtra which is nothing but a tactic to intimidate activists from mobilising people and raising voice against the violence perpetrated by the state.

In protest,

SAR GEELANI ( President)

AMIT BHATTACHARYYA (Secretary General)

SUJATO BHADRA (Vice President)

SUKHENDU BHATTACHARJEE (Vice President)

MN RAVUNNI (Vice President)

P. KOYA (Vice President)

MALEM (Vice President)

HANYBABU MT (Media Secretary)

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Statement from Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights, Maharashtra

The Pune Police at 6-00 am today, 6th June, 2018, arrested Adv Surendra Gadling, General Secretary Indian Association of People’s Lawyers from Nagpur, Prof Shoma Sen, Head of Department of English, Nagpur University, Sudhir Dhawale, Editor Vidrohi from Mumbai, Rona Wilson, Public Relations Secretary Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners and Mahesh Raut, anti-displacement activist from Bharat Jan Andolan and former Fellow at Prime Minister’s Rural Development (PMRD) for Gadchiroli District.

These arrests and searches have been purportedly made under the FIR registered on 8th January, 2018 at Vishram Baug Police Station, Pune with regard to the holding of the Elgar Parishad on 31st December, 2017 by the Bhima-Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerna Abhiyan. This FIR, originally registered u/s 153(A), 505 (1)(b), 117 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), was made a conspiracy case in March 2018 and now has had sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) added to it. The arrests today have thus been made under UAPA, which has several draconian provisions which ensure long detention and makes it difficult to obtain bail.

These arrests are in the face of the mass demand of several political parties and human rights organizations and activists and the Prerna Abhiyan in particular to arrest the leaders of Sangh Parivar organizations, Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote, who were responsible for the violence on 1st January, 2018 at Bhima-Koregaon. The Phadnavis government, which has been protecting these actual perpetrators of the violence, has been attempting to create a false narrative that the violence at Bhima Koregaon was caused by the Elgar Parishad and that banned Maoist organizations are behind the Prerna Abhiyan.

The Bhima-Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerna Abhiyan is a coalition of around 260 mass organizations under the Chairmanship of Retired Supreme Court Justice P B Sawant and includes prominent political figures like Adv Prakash Ambedkar, leader of the Bahujan Republican Party (Bharip) and Justice Kolse-Patil (Retd). In commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima-Koregaon that vanquished the Peshwa rule, the Abhiyan had organized a mass meeting on 31st December, 2017 at the historic Shaniwar wada in Pune, with several prominent speakers like Retired High Court Justice Kolse Patil, Adv Prakash Ambedkar, Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani and others. The Elgar Parishad was organised with the stated objective of fighting the Nav-peshwahi. The program was hugely successful and attended by thousands from across the state. However on the following day, those commemorating the event at Bhima-Koregaon were attacked by a mob carrying saffron flags and instigated by Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote, two right wing activists who are closely connected with the ruling BJP and this attack was part of a pre-meditated plan.

The entire operation has been stage-managed by the Maharashtra government keeping in mind the judicial enquiry headed by Justice J N Patel (Retd) in order to ensure that submissions from the victims of the Hindutva and State violence are suppressed. It has also been done to queer the pitch for the forthcoming elections in the State as well as 2019. The BJP government is desperate to create a reign of terror in order to polarize the dalit and bahujan votes. And also to create a terror narrative thereby protecting the real terror culprits Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote who will ensure votes for the BJP.

CPDR strongly condemns this open show of State terror and complete bypassing of the Rule of Law by the BJP governments in the State and the Centre and demands the immediate release of Advocate Surendra Gadling, Prof Shoma Sen, Sudhir Dhawle, Rona Wilson and Mahesh Raut forthwith .

Dr Anand Teltumde
(General Secretary)
Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights, Maharashtra
(6th June 2018)

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Statement from Association for Protection of Democratic Rights

The Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) condemns the arrest of advocate Surendra Gadling, a lawyer who has represented many political prisoners including Prof. G.N. Saibaba, and well-known women’s movement activist Prof. Shoma Sen from Nagpur, poet Sudhir Dhawale, editor of the magazine Vidrohi, from Mumbai and Rona Wilson, public relations secretary of the Committee for Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP), from Delhi by Maharashtra police in the early morning of 6 June 2018. The APDR also strongly protests the raid on the residence of activist Mahesh Rout in Nagpur. All facts said above show to what depth democracy is made to sink by the grace of corporate aggression!

The police have linked those arrested with the Dalit protests at Bhima-Koregaon. It is deplorable that Maharashtra and central governments are trying to throttle the sympathisers of the Dalit movement instead of addressing their grievances. Further, as if incarcerating disabled and sick Professor G.N. Saibaba in life-threatening conditions was not enough, they have now locked up even his legal counsel.

We demand that the Maharashtra and central governments stop this repression immediately and release all those arrested unconditionally.

(Dhiraj Sengupta)

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Statement from Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression

Condemn the arbitrary arrests of Shoma Sen, Sudhir Dhawale, Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson, and Mahesh Raut by the Maharashtra Police!

Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) is outraged at the arbitrary arrest of its valued member, Professor Shoma Sen along with other leading Dalit and human rights activists, in an alarming crackdown on civil liberties activists throughout the country.
Today, on 6th June 2018 at 6 am in the morning, Professor Shoma Sen, Advocate Surendra Gadling, cultural activist Sudhir Dhawale, human rights activist Rona Wilson and anti-displacement activist Mahesh Raut were arrested from different locations in Nagpur, Bombay and Delhi by the Maharashtra police. Professor Shoma Sen – Head of the English Department in Nagpur University and a long time Dalit and women’s rights activist, Advocate Surendra Gadling — General Secretary of the Indian Association of Peoples’ Lawyers (IAPL), Sudhir Dhawale — editor of the Marathi magazine Vidrohi and founder of the Republican Panthers, Rona Wilson – human rights activist and Secretary of Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP) and Mahesh Raut — anti-displacement activist working with Gram Sabhas in the mining areas of Gadhchiroli and a former Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellow — are all reportedly arrested in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon riots that took place in January 2018. These arrests follow intense harassment of these activists; and many of them had their houses raided earlier this year in April by the Maharashtra police along with raids at the homes of Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) activists Rupali Jadhav, Jyoti Jagtap, Ramesh Gaichor, Sagar Gorkhe, Dhawala Dhengale in Pune and Republican Panther activist Harshali Potdar.

These arrests are in response to the assertion of Dalit, Adivasi, OBC, Muslim unity during the Bhima Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerna Abhiyan organised by the ‘Elgaar Parishad’ in Shaniwarwada in Pune on 31st December 2017. The Abhiyan was organised at the eve of bi-centenary of the battle between Peshwas and the British near the village of Koregaon on the Bhima River. The British regiment largely consisting of people from the Mahar community had stood up against the Peshwas and this is seen as a fight against the Brahmanical forces historically perpetuating caste discrimination against some of the most marginalised people of the country. Today, this battle is being witnessed again under the regime of Brahmanical Hindutva fascism of the current government that is crushing the voices of marginalised once again through its coercive forces. This year, the Abhiyan was attacked by right wing organisations in the state of Maharashtra, and attackers were brandishing saffron flags, with the active support of the state police. This resulted in the death of one and injuries on several people. The leaders inciting the violence went on to file cases of violence against the organisers of the programme along with several unnamed persons resulting in immediate mass arrests of dalits, activists and participants, all over the state of Maharashtra by the state police.

In the wake of the violence, on 3rd January, several dalit, OBC, Muslim and Maratha organisations and leaders joined hands and called for a united Maharashtra Bandh calling for unity and condemning brutal violence and divisive politics of Hindutva forces. Led by Prakash Ambedkar, grandson of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and leader of Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh, the bandh was observed by people all over the state of Maharashtra. During the mass peaceful bandh, the Maharashtra police detained and arrested over 5000 people, mainly dalits, from across the state. Of the thousands arrested, several were taken from their homes, including children, while the mainstream media completely blacked out the entire operation of the state government and the police. This reveals deep rooted casteism, Brahmanical and feudal arrogance of the state as well as its extreme fear of the assertion of the most marginalised people of the country. By filing cases against several thousand people, the state attempted to intimidate and coerce the people into silence.

Those who attacked the Bhima-Koregaon Abhiyan were treated differently. Despite Sambhaji Bhide, leader of Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan and one of the main persons who orchestrated and incited violence, being charged under Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and Arms Act after widespread protests from across the country, he walks free and gloats about his actions openly while receiving the blessings of politicians and ideologues of Hindutva. Milind Ekbote of Hindu Ekata Aghadi was arrested in March 2018, but was out on bail a month later. The efforts to raid the homes of several activists, taking away their phones, pen drives, hard drives, and laptops of the activists of the Elgaar Parishad has deprived them of the evidence that proves the involvement of people like Sambhaji Bhide. Several activists who were not at the Elgaar Parishad programme are now being picked up and arrested in order to portray them as Naxals. This narrative suits the interests of the state that is bent on protecting the Hindutva brigade while attacking the dalits, adivasis, Muslims and women of this country. This is further illustrated after the death of Pooja Sakal, a young dalit woman, was found dead in mysterious circumstances in a well near her home in Koregaon. Instead of investigating this death, the police along with the caste Hindus of the village have worked hard to ostracise the entire dalit population from Koregaon’s dalit basti.

Now, the string of arrests shows the targeted attacks on the people speaking for the rights of dalits, adivasis, Muslims and women. The arbitrary arrests also indicate a concerted attempt by the Indian State to break the backbone of the Dalit Movement against the unjust caste system. From the dilution of the hard-won SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act to the arrest of Dalit activists such as Chandrashekhar Azad ‘Ravan’ of the Bhim Army under the draconian National Security Act (NSA), it is clear that the Indian State is conducting a vicious witch-hunt of all the activists who are raising their voice against caste atrocities. On the other hand, instead of taking action against the perpetrators of the violence during Bhima Koregaon Abhiyan, the state machinery is focused on targeting activists, professors, and lawyers who have condemned the violence of the Hindutva leaders as well as the police. These raids come at a time when the people of the country from Thoothkudi to Kalinganagar, Gadchiroli to Delhi have risen up united against the anti-people policies of the state. The crushing of such voices of dissent is a direct attack on the democracy of this country and intends to intimidate people into silence. Today, we must come together, condemn the arrests of these activists and reaffirm our resolve to speak out boldly against the fascist state.

WSS unequivocally stands in solidarity with Professor Shoma Sen and all the others arrested today, and demands
· The immediate and unconditional release of Professor Shoma Sen, Advocate Surendra Gadling, Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson and Mahesh Raut
· An end to the vindictive harassment and state repression of all those activists and intellectuals who organized or spoke at the Elgaar Parishad
· A high-level investigation into the widespread violence organized against Dalit, OBC and Muslim communities in the aftermath of the Bhima-Koregaon commemoration.
· Immediate arrest of Sambhaji Bhide on serious charges of rioting, attempt to murder and under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, and cancellation of bail of Milind Ekbote.