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Post-poll meet: People's Union for Civil Liberties "ignores" human rights activists under saffron attack

Gujarat PUCL chief Gautam Thaker
By Our Representative
At a top meeting, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) ignored any mention of top human rights activists Teesta Setalvad and Father Cedric Prakash, currently target of attack by BJP rulers and their saffron supporters. Setalvad, seeking court intervention to institute a case against Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his “involvement” in Gujarat riots, for quite some time has been target. Gujarat government has initiated an inquiry into “embezzlement” of funds of the NGO she runs. Prakash is the latest target of Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar for his meetings with Goa Christians questioning freedom of religion in Gujarat in March 2014.
At a news conference a few days ago, Parrikar not only threatened action against Prakash in the same way as he booked a Facebooker for the latter’s anti-Modi posts, but compared the Jesuit rights activist with an extremist Sri Ram Sene chief from Mangalore. When asked why PUCL has “ignored” the vicious criticism by the Goa chief minister, PUCL’s Gujarat general secretary Gautam Thaker told Counterview he came to know about it “rather late”.
Worse, none of the speakers, while discussing post-poll scenario, even once recalled attacks on human rights activists, which, most voluntary organizations admit in private, may further intensify with Modi in power, known as he is for criticizing “five star NGOs”.
Called at Gujarat Vidyapeeth, the meeting, in which Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders, apart from mainly Gujarat-based well-known social activists, participated, ironically called for the need to “unite” against Modi’s “autocratic” ways. While saying that Modi will not risk communal riots, veteran advocate Girish Patel predicted, “He will certainly try to corrode existing democratic institutions”.
Congress was target of attack. “The problem was the Congress was so terribly indifferent towards winning the polls that its state party president Arjun Modhwadia was found to be playing games on his mobile most of the time. It utterly lacked self-confidence”, contended Indumar Jani, veteran social activist. Another senior activist Rajni Dave said then when it needed the NGOs’ support it came to them, but after the polls, it has not even cared to talk to them about reasons for defeat.
Harinesh Pandya, who runs Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahal, a right to information NGO, said, he apprehended attacks on the working class to intensify. “In Gujarat, the labour courts have been demolished, while minimum wages are not being implemented”, he said, adding, “Unfortunately, the Congress never took our views seriously.”
Pandya simultaneously criticized AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal saying, “I once asked Kejriwal why were so many Sangh Parivar people were there in the party, Kejriwal replied, “Bring in others, and the Sangh people will go into minority.” AAP’s Anoop Sharma blamed “lack of organization” for poor show of even activists like Kanu Kalsaria and Medha Parkar, who could not muster enough votes even to save their deposits.
Environmental expert Mahesh Pandya -- of Paryavaran Mitra -- apprehended corrosion of the NGOs’ activities by promoting corporate social responsibility (CSR). “In Gujarat, in the name of CSR, the Adanis have virtually taken control of a public hospital in Kutch”, he alleged.
There was criticism of the AAP from various speakers, who said it had initially been soft to the Sangh Parivar.
Farmers’ leader who shot into prominent for opposing Bhechraji-Mandal special investment region (SIR), Lalji Desai, one of the very few who joined the Congress ahead of the polls, said, “The corporate went against the Congress because it took a rights-based approach for jobs, for land, for forests, for food, for information, and so on.”

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