Listen to this article:
New Delhi: Five of the 16 accused in the Elgar Parishad case have written an open letter as they completed four years of imprisonment on Monday, June 6.
The open letter, jointly issued by Shoma Sen, Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson, Mahesh Raut and Sudhir Dhawle, affirmed that four years of incarceration has not “destroyed” their hope and resolve to fight for the downtrodden and the underprivileged.
The letter was sent out by the lawyers of the accused.
While Sen is lodged in Byculla Prison, others are in Taloja prison. They have been incarcerated since June 6, 2018.
“All of us are committed to take up the cudgels for the labourers, the underprivileged and the downtrodden,” they said.
The letter notes that “workers, students, writers, poets, scholars, journalists and even common people” who go against the ruling powers of the country, even while fighting for human rights are threatened.
The writers also highlight how terrorism laws are used to suppress rights movements and quell dissent.
Of the 16 accused, Sen, Gadling, Wilson, Raut and Dhawale were arrested on June 6, 2018. Poet Varvara Rao, Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves were arrested on August 28, 2018. Both Rao and Bharadwaj are currently out on bail. One of the accused Father Stan Swamy died during the custody on June 5, 2021.
Reproduced below is the full letter.
Four Years Later…
Today is 6th June 2022. It is four years since we have been arrested in the matter of Bhima Koregaon-Elgar Conference. Professor Shoma Sen, Advocate Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson, Mahesh Raut and Sudhir Dhawale were arrested on 6th June 2018. Revolutionary poet Varavara Rao, Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj, Advocate Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves were arrested on 28th August 2018 in the second round. Of them, Varavara Rao and Sudha Bharadwaj are out on bail.
You know who these 16 people (out of whom the system managed to finish Father Stan Swamy when he was a detainee) under arrest are and what the charges on them are. Today, we wish to make it clear that what happened to us is not exceptional. Workers, students, writers, poets, scholars, journalists and even common people who have chosen to fight against the ruling powers in the country on behalf of Dalits, tribals and the underprivileged, are all being targeted. Many are being put behind bars to stifle their dissent.
And terrorism laws are brazenly used for this purpose.
Under these laws, a person can do nothing to defend themselves. Even bail is flatly denied by courts. Statistics reveal that in India one has to spend 5 to 10 years on an average (which becomes 8 to 10 years in Maharashtra) in prison before getting bail. This is an elaborate scam created by the rulers to destroy a man’s social, economic, psychological and emotional life. But they fail to understand Man.
We all are committed to the same thought, same sensitivity. Unlike the rulers we have not abandoned our conscience. Even in the darkness of our confinement, our conscience is wide awake; on the contrary, our confinement has helped make it sharper.
All of us are committed to take up the cudgels for the labourers, the underprivileged and the downtrodden. From time to time we have raised our voice and have battled injustice, exploitation, plunder, discrimination and inequality. We know this ruthless world gives nothing without a fight and so our struggle has been first for food and then for liberation. We are proud inheritors of the thoughts and ideas of Charwak, Buddha, Kabir, Tukaram, Shivaji Maharaj, Bhagatsingh, Phule, Ambedkar and so on. Our history is full of a radiant fire which is the source of eternal inspiration for us. Naturally, we cherish being a part of this glorious heritage. We have not and we will not deviate from our course because we have unflinching faith in our ideas and our actions.
Is it any wonder that we have become like a thorn in the tender flesh of those who follow in the path of Brahminism, of Peshwa spirit, of the English and the Hitlerite imperialism? The irony is that those who are destroying the nation are being hailed as patriots and those who have toiled selflessly for the country are labeled as traitors. Logic has been abandoned to let loose the hysteric mobs. Religious polarisation is being promoted by spreading lies left right and centre. This hysteric nationalism is dragging the nation towards autocracy. In such a poisoned atmosphere, we are bound to be called traitors and jailed with the help of a web of untruths.
They think they can destroy us by imprisoning us; this hope of theirs of course, is futile. After four years, we have stayed alive and lively. In our confinement, there have been occasions when despair suffocated us momentarily; but never have we begged for mercy, nor cried nor written apologies. On the contrary, among us, one wrote poems on defiance, another composed songs on love, on freedom and we all sang them. We are writing stories and essays and books. One of us is busy exposing the sham of the case against us and another one is meticulously preparing our defence. Our counsels have demonstrated what steely resolve is. And there are those who have befriended other inmates in the jail and are working to create awareness and enlightenment among the prisoners.
A prison is a symbol of repression practiced by an anti-people regime and it automatically lacks the basic facilities which are considered by tradition as measures of development. It then follows that agitations and fights against injustice are frequent. You have to create your own space to make life in the prison bearable, humane. This is our constant fight …
The period of four years we have spent here seems little before the long years some of the prisoners have behind them. Yet they smile through their hard days and nights, they have hope in their hearts even as they face inhuman conditions. Their indomitable hope, as also the books and other reading material breathes life into us.
These compassionate and sensitive people become our solace in the midst of the terrible violence that the newspapers report… all of us are sensitive and emotional human beings of all ages from young, to middle-aged to old. And because we are human beings, we practice politics of transformation and that is why we continue to fight for humanity even inside this prison …
It is now four years since we have been detained and are deprived of the love, the company and the attachment of our near and dear ones. Our hearts too beat for love and liberty. But it is your steadfastness, your courage, your strength and your patience with which you too endure our absence; which are a great source of resolve for us. You set an example for us to understand the nature of trust and closeness of relationship; we learn from you how fight and love coexist … you show us that it is love that is being reflected in togetherness, in unity, in people’s voice and our voice.
Our family too faces confinement outside the walls of this prison; each one of us is facing their own mental and emotional conflict and finding a way to cope with it. You have the burden of caring of us and others. And yet your smile does not waver. You also have shown what it is to be a part of something bigger.
That is precisely why you have been able to defy the untruths unleashed by the Government trolls. You are with the Truth, you are on the side of the Truth. You are delving into your pocket to send us money, books, medicines and clothes. You are also our solid financial support while fighting cases; for us, you represent the love and the justice that exist in the world…
With your support and the efforts of sympathetic lawyers, Arsenal, an independent institution in the U.S., has been able to expose the fake electronic letters and evidences created by our arrogant rulers. This exposure is a clear vindication of our innocence; but it is difficult to predict how long it will take to convince the court in view of the practice of giving ‘dates’ and the matter of judges’ frequent recusing from the cases… However, the humanists and the progressive people and the elected representatives all over the world have openly lent their support right from the commencement of the trial. They have written to the Central Government demanding our unconditional release.
Some among them have organised campaigns independently and have sent us letters and greetings in prison. Such backing has not only fortified our dreams but has vindicated our belief that there are a good number of people out there who are ready to raise their voice in support of justice, truth and liberty. Many activists, students, writers, artists, former judges, lawyers, progressive parties and organisations, peoples’ movement in support of farmers have ceaselessly raised their voice and even have agitated for our release. We have no words to express our gratitude for their efforts and we are sure they would not want it. However, we are certain that this unprecedented backing, the public outcry and the relentless efforts from all over our country and beyond will bear fruit one day.
It is a fact that we have entered an age of darkness, yet history bears out that the empires built on the foundation of oppression did exist and did flourish; but in the end, all were reduced to rubble. This one too will have to go one day. It is the call of the time that we join hands to create a better world. As we will fight the attacks on our fundamental rights, we also shall fight to create a better, just, equitable and compassionate world. Millions suffering from injustice and oppression are coming together to give shape to a force that will break the shackles of those who think differently; because the oppressive regime and their white lies themselves are feeding power to the people’s resolve. Let us look forward to the day when Sahir’s prophesy comes alive:
We await the dawn when the earth stirs and the prisoners are out the abodes of sin crash and chains of injustice break and the rulers of that world will have no use of jails. We shall create that dawn.
6th June 2022
‘वो सुब्ह हमीं से आएगी
जब धरती करवट बदलेगी जब क़ैद से क़ैदी छूटेंगे
जब पाप घरौंदे फूटेंगे जब ज़ुल्म के बंधन टूटेंगे
उस सुब्ह को हम ही लाएँगे वो सुब्ह हमीं से आएगी
वो सुब्ह हमीं से आएगी
मनहूस समाजी ढाँचों में जब ज़ुल्म न पाले जाएँगे
जब हाथ न काटे जाएँगे जब सर न उछाले जाएँगे
जेलों के बिना जब दुनिया की सरकार चलाई जाएगी
वो सुब्ह हमीं से आएगी’
(Translation by the editor: The morning will come through us
When the Earth finally turns and prisoners are freed
When houses of sin collapse and torturous shackles are shattered
We are going to herald that morning, that morning will come through us
That morning will come through us
When these ill-omened social structures
No longer harbour oppression
When hands are no longer severed and heads are no longer chopped
When governing the world no longer requires jails and prisons
That morning will come through us)
६ ज २०२२ (6 June 2022)