Intellectuals can’t be a threat to public order or humanity.

Varvara Rao Teltumbde Navlakaha Saibaba

It is deeply disturbing that 81 years old poet Varavara Rao did not get bail and now admitted to a hospital in Mumbai. Reports suggest that the said prison in Taloja, Navi Mumbai have several COVID patient. The family and friends of Varvara Rao protested in Hyderabad as they were not even allowed to visit him.

Sudha Bharadwaj dedicated her life for the cause of the workers and most downtrodden in Chhattishgarh by providing them legal aid. She was also teaching at some law university.

Similarly, Gautam Navlakha who is also 60 plus has been taken to Mumbai on remand. Delhi high court showed displeasure over this but we don’t know what are the police looking from him, which cant be discussed in Delhi.

Anand Teltumbde is already in Jail and his bail plea to has been rejected by the court.

Another man who is now mostly forgotten is Prof G N Saibaba, who need medical attention and one person to take care is suffering in jail.

One may agree or may not agree with all these gentlemen for what they have been writing. I don’t think anyone of them were writing against the state of India. They might have spoken against the government which is not a crime as they spoke of upholding the constitution of India

Waging an armed struggle against the state or working against the national integration or its unity and integrity or against the constitution of India is definitely a crime according to the law but one wonders as what have these people done in terms of all this. Did they instigate people to kill or have they ever written against any community? Rao is a poet while Anand and Navlakhas are actually human rights defenders as well as public intellectuals of their own right and have been published in all prestigious publications all these years. G N Sai Baba too is mostly an academic intellectual and physically not in a condition to move himself. Their track record is available and no one can believe that they were some ‘ring’ leaders or wanting to do an Osama Bin Laden act on India. This is absurd, to say the least.

Public intellectuals or even propagandists should be identified by their speeches and writings because except for that they don’t have anything. Most of these people have their writings and speeches available in public domain. As I said, an author or an intellectual can not force himself on people. And it is not that everyone was liking their writings or work but the governments wrong action has compelled human rights groups to stand with them because it violates the right to freedom of expression.

The best part will be that the Court should seek details of all these cases and convert them into one or may form a commission to look into such matters. Let the commission look into the writings, books, publications, public meetings of all those who are being charge-sheeted. It is ridiculous to charge a person based on heresy or fake narratives and dubious videos being supplied by those who want no freedom of expression. The Supreme Court could have formed a commission and framed categorical guidelines as what constitutes being anti-national and what not. Keeping the things ambiguous will only aggravate the situation. One wonder why students of Jamia or JNU are being charge-sheeted under UAPA?

The interesting part is that goons who attacked JNU as well as those who attacked, intimidated and threatened anti CAA protesters are enjoying not only full protection but may also be rewarded. Does any criticism amount to be being anti-national. It is therefore essential for the highest court to seriously look into this affair and act. Don’t those who have been arrested for over years deserve a sympathetic hearing and bail? They are respected citizens and paying their taxes too. They are not big industrialists who can run away in chartered flights with defrauding public wealth but then these thugs who loot people are enjoying patronage while those who raise the voice face the tyranny.

Every country has a legal process and India too has but it should not look that the process is more to stifle the voices of the freedom or rights of the poor. Life of public intellectuals, authors, poets are well known and if the powers have everything in their powers to check what have they been writing. Whether the writings violate our constitutions or any other international human rights standards?

A democracy is known for respecting divergent views and agreeing to disagree when we abide by the principles of human rights standards. We hope that the courts will take cognizance of it and do the necessary, Prisoners too have right to health and protection from viruses which is threatening lives.

Vidya Bhushan Rawat

May 30th, 2020

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