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Denial of bail to 'public intellectuals': Will courts inquire into their writings, speeches?

Varavara Rao
By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*
It is deeply disturbing that 81-year-old poet Varavara Rao has been denied bail and has now been admitted to a hospital in Mumbai. Reports suggest that the prison in Taloja, Navi Mumbai, where he was lodged, has several Covid-19 patient. The family and friends of Varavara Rao have protested in Hyderabad, as they were not even allowed to visit him.
The bail plea of Sudha Bharadwaj, who dedicated her life for the cause of workers and the most downtrodden people in Chhattishgarh by providing legal aid, has also been rejected. She was teaching at a law university.
A civil liberties activist and journalist, Gautam Navlakha, who is 60 plus, has been taken to Mumbai on remand. The Delhi High Court showed displeasure over this but we don’t know what are the police looking from him which can’t be discussed in Delhi.
And, well-known scholar Anand Teltumbde is already in jail, and his bail plea has been rejected by the court.
Another man who is now mostly forgotten is Prof GN Saibaba, who actually needs medical attention and one person to take care of him. He too is also suffering in jail.
One may agree or disagree with all these persons for what they have been writing. I don’t think any one of them was writing against the state of India. They might have spoken against the government, which is not a crime. All of them have spoken for 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 law, but one wonders as to what these people have 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 Teltumbde and Navlakha are human rights defenders as well as public intellectuals in their own right, and have published in all prestigious publications all these years. Bharadwaj is known for her defence of workers’ rights. Saibaba is an academic; he is physically not in a condition to move himself.
Their track record is publicly available and no one can believe that they were some ring leaders or wanting to do an Osama Bin Laden-type 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.
Let a court-sponsored commission look into writings, books, publications, public meetings of all those who are being charge-sheeted
An author or an intellectual will never force himself on people. It is not that everyone was liking their writings or work, but the government’s wrong action has compelled human rights groups to stand with them because the authorities are violating the right to freedom of expression.
It is desirable that the court seeks details of all these cases and converts them into one, or may be forms 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.
Sudha Bharadwaj, Anand Teldumbde, Gautam Navlakha
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 does not.
Keeping things ambiguous will only aggravate the situation. One wonders why students of Jamia Millia Islamia or Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) are being charge-sheeted under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). 
The interesting part is that goons who attacked JNU as well as those who attacked, intimidated and threatened anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protesters are enjoying not only full protection but may also be rewarded. Does any criticism amount to being anti-national?
It is essential for the highest court to seriously look into this state of affairs and act. Don’t those who have been arrested for over years deserve a sympathetic hearing and bail? They are respected citizens and are paying their taxes, too. They are not big industrialists who can run away in chartered flights with defrauding public wealth. The thugs who loot people are enjoying patronage while those who raise their voice face the tyranny.
Every country has a legal process and India too has, but it should not look as if the process is more to stifle the voice of the freedom or the rights of the poor. Life of public intellectuals, authors and poets is well known. Surely, the powers-that-be have all the resources to check what have they been writing, whether the writings violate our constitutions or any other international human rights standards.
A democracy is known to respect divergent views and agree to disagree by abiding by the principles of human rights standards. We hope that courts will take this into cognizance and do what is necessary. They must remember: Prisoners too have the right to health and protection from viruses, which is threatening lives.
---
Human rights defender. Source: Author’s Facebook timeline

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