DSU Statement on the Arrest of Jaison Cooper and Thushar Sarathy

February 6, 2015



Condemn the branding, profiling and witch-hunt of people’s activists, intellectuals, lawyers and civil libertarians!

Resist the extension of Operation Greenhunt and its urban avatar to Kerala!

The Kerala government in the recent past has been seized with a frenzy as it has gone on a witch-hunt of several activists, intellectuals and civil libertarians. The latest ‘catch’ are two well-known activsts of Kerala – Jaison Cooper and Thushar Sarathy – who have been vocal on a whole range of issues from displacement of adivasis, rights of muslims, dalits and labourers as well as environmental concerns.

On 30th January, the Kerala police along with the Special Branch arrested Jaison Cooper (who is also a blogger) from his workplace in Ernakulam. On the same day, advocate Thushar Nirmal Sarathy, who is the secretary of CRPP in Kerala and the secretary of Janakiya Manushyavakasha Prasthanam (Peoples Human Rights Forum), was also arrested from Kozhikode while he was addressing the press for a protest programme against increasing violation of fundamental rights in the state. Both of them have now been charged under the draconian UAPA for their supposed ‘Maoist’ connections. Jaison Cooper has also been remanded in police custody for the next 6 days.

The Kerala police in a dastardly manner also raided the residences of Thushar Sarathy, Advocate-activist Manuel Joseph, artist-activist and Jolly Chirayath, the convener of Sthree Koottayma (Women’s Collective). Just 10 days prior to his arrest, Thushar Sarathy had in fact complained to the government about the police tapping his phone. The impunity with which police carries out these raids is clear for everyone to see as these raids were conducted without even displaying any warrants!

Quite ridiculously, the police is now claiming that they found literature ‘praising Maoism’ with Cooper as evidence of his Maoist connections. The police also took away several case files from Thushar Sarathy’s residence without even recording the list of ‘seized items’. And if all this was not enough, the Kerala government and police has now audaciously named several activists, including 17 activists of the organisation Porratam, and is threatening that more arrests will follow. DSU strongly condemns the arrest of Jaison Cooper and Thushar Sarathy, the raids in the houses of several activists and the open threats to many more activists by the draconian Kerala Police.

This is not the first instance of motivated attacks and hounding of people’s activists by the anti-people Kerala government and its police force. The blueprint for the branding of people’s activists as Maoists and their witch-hunt had already been under-preparation for the past two years. These are some of the actions of the Kerala police as it has gone on a rampage against several organisations and individuals:

(1) Two years back, social activists Roopesh and Shiney were witch-hunted by the police which escalated into an appalling slander campaign and hounding of even their children and family.

(2) Last April, in a targeted attempt at vilifying activists, a ‘look-out notice’ of supposed ‘Maoists’ was circulated by the Kerala police carrying the names and pictures of prominent activists from across the state. And then, this was accompanied by incessant media trials of these activists.

(3) Last July, the police seized tapes of several bulletins of Samakalikalam, a popular current affairs programme broadcast by the Kochi unit of All India Radio claiming that they contain ‘subversive messages in support of Maoists’. Bringing to fore the undeclared emergency that prevails where even media persons are not spared, Aradhana, one of the producers of the programme was questioned for several hours by the NIA.

(4) Again, last July a Swiss national Jontathan Baud was arrested by the police after he attended a meeting that commemorated a Maoist leader. It was only after pressure mounted on the govt after condemnations worldwide that Baud was released. The Kerala High Court later quashed the FIR against him and reprimanded the police for filing the case without any substance.

(5) Last December, the office of Keraleeyam, a magazine that focuses on tribal issues was raided by the police. The copies of the magazine, the computers in the office and several pamphlets were all seized and taken away. The police also forcibly kept three staff workers in custody before releasing them after several hours of questioning and intimidation.

(6) Then again in December, two college students were arrested and charged under the draconian UAPA. When asked about the lack of any evidence against them, the police simply retorted that the literature snatched from their houses showed that they were attracted to Maoist ideology! This in fact truly exposes the fascist character of the state where an individual is incriminated for her or his thoughts. Both these students still continue to languish in prison.

There are many more of such incidents and in fact the timing of this concerted witch-hunt is hardly surprising. The deployment of huge battalions of para-military forces and specialised combat forces like the Thunderbolt in the Western Ghats accompanied by increased combing operations in their supposed bid to ‘cull out Maoists’ lays bare the scheme for the extension of Operation Greenhunt here. It is no coincidence that this is happening at a time when vast tracts of land are being leased out to big corporates and numerous SEZ projects are being given clearances. And with the extension of Operation Greenhunt in the adivasi hinterland of Kerala, it was only a matter of time before its urban avatar – gagging voices of dissent, rounding up intellectuals, activists, civil libertarians – followed soon. Anyone who is vocal against this ‘development’ which is in the interest of big corporates are branded as Maoists and hounded in a bid to criminalize dissent. The speedy implementation of this criminalization of dissent amply reveals that the agenda of the Congress regime in Kerala is no different from the Brahmanical Hindutva fascist forces at the centre.

This routine exercise practiced by the state by unleashing brute terror upon the people who speak against its policies is not new to us. Jaison and Thushar’s arrest is similar to the abduction and arrest of Dr. G.N. Saibaba, who was instrumental in mobilizing considerable opinion against the state’s war on the dalits and adivasis of Central and Eastern India, or the abduction and arrest of Comrade Hem of our campus who merely articulated the same through his songs and plays. There are hundreds of political prisoners across the length and breadth of our sub-continent whose only apparent ‘crime’ is talking about the most oppressed sections of the society and their aspiration for an alternative society. But such arrests also reveal the schizophrenic fear of the state of the intensifying resistance of the people which will raise to the ground the very foundations of this oppressive social order. DSU appeals to all progressive and democratic sections to speak out against this McCarthyian withchunt of intellectuals, civil liberations and social activists. We demand that Jaison Cooper and Thushar Sarathy be immediately & unconditionally released.