Sanhati statement against repression of activists by Maharashtra government

September 24, 2013

We condemn in the strongest possible terms the recent actions of the Maharashtra state government and Anti-terrorism force (ATF) in arresting the student and cultural activist Hem Mishra, and journalist and activist
Prashant Rahi, and the raid on the residence of Dr. G. N. Saibaba, an academic and activist, in Delhi. These actions of the Maharashtra government, which violate all tenets of human rights and also all legal norms, demonstrate the desperate attempts by the Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra to clamp down on all dissent as well as to increasingly take up a right-wing agenda in competition with the BJP for electoral gains. We fear that in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, we will see more such actions by state governments and the central government, as both the Congress and the BJP compete with each other to adopt more strident positions against peoples’ movments in India.

Hem Mishra, a former student from Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, and a popular cultural activist, had travelled to Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra for treatment of an ailment of his arm, when he and two other
people were detained by the Maharashtra police and subsequently charged under the UAPA. Prashant Rahi, a journalist and political activist, who had been intimately involved in taking care of the legal and other needs of political prisoners all over India, was picked up by the same Maharashtra police from Raipur in Chattisgarh where he had gone to arrange for legal matters connected to a case against a political prisoner. He was taken to Maharashtra and then shown to have been arrested from Gondia district and charged under the same case with Hem Mishra. Subsequent to that, a 50 member strong team of Maharashtra and Delhi police raided the home of Dr. G N Saibaba, well known academic and activist, in the premises of Delhi University, alleging that he had received some stolen material from Hem Mishra, and confiscated his computer and other property.

This hyper-activity of the Maharashtra police in arresting cultural and political activists without any criminal charges against them, and raiding peoples’ homes with absurd charges, over three states, is in stark contrast to their inaction in the murder case of the highly respected rationalist movement activist Dr. Narendra Dabholkar in Pune. Although the killing happened more than a month ago, not a single arrest has been made till now. Narendra Dabholkar, who was shot down in broad daylight while on a morning walk on the streets of Pune, was well known to have raised the ire of Hindutva organizations with his outspoken critique of superstitious practices and role of Hindu godmen. Although a number of Hindutva organizations had openly issued threats against Dr. Dabholkar, and his murder is widely believed to have been committed by hired killers, the Maharashtra police has not been able to arrest a single person in the case till now. This clearly shows the disinterest of the government in pursuing the communal and fascistic elements responsible for the murder of Dr. Dabholkar, while they are putting all efforts in arresting pro-people activists and implicating them in false cases.

This string of of episodes of state repression is in continuation with the low-intensity war on an all-India scale against the oppressed common people of India unleashed by the ruling classes in 2009 which is well-known by the name of Operation Green Hunt. Murder, torture, imprisonment and implication under false cases have all been strategies adopted under this operation to silence all voices of dissent and resistance. Now it has become increasingly clear that with the Lok Sabha elections scheduled in 2014, and the opposition BJP putting up the fascist Narendra Modi as their de-facto prime ministerial candidate, the Congress and its governments in various states will adopt a more strident right wing agenda to take the wind out of BJP’s sail. On one hand as they will adopt populist pretences by trying to pass laws on food security and land acquisition, on the other they will worsen the wave of repression to appear to be strong on questions of “national security” in competition with the BJP. The executions of Afzal Guru and Ajmal Kasab were done so that the BJP is not able to make it into an election issue. In the same manner, this wave of repression on activists and movements is in order to impress upon corporate and ruling class interests their readiness to combat what they define as the “greatest internal security threat” and to improve the investment climate.

We therefore strongly oppose these repressive actions being done for narrow electoral gains and in the interest of the ruling elite and demand the immediate release of Hem Mishra and Prashant Rahi and withdrawal of all charges against them. We also appeal to all pro-people forces to act unitedly to prevent a complete degeneration of the Indian polity into a fascistic situation in the run-up to the forthcoming elections.