Skip to main content

Incarcerated, 'erudite' scholar Rona Wilson worked for release of political prisoners

By Atul, Sandeep Pandey*

Rona Wilson is a prison rights activist who has been in jail since April 2018 and denied bail several times. The Pune Police raided his home in Delhi on April 17, 2018, and arrested him subsequently for his alleged role in the Bhima Koregaon violence in January that year. A few months later, the agencies also accused him of being part of a larger naxal plot to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a Rajeev Gandhi style and overthrow the current government.
To substantiate their claims, the agencies allegedly produced some letter from his laptop which cyber-forensic experts believe could have been maliciously planted through malware. Nonetheless, this grave accusation was enough to land him in prison without any bail.
Rona is a founding member of the CRPP -- the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners. CRPP provides legal aid to people accused in terrorism cases and booked under repressive laws like the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and National Security Act. Rona is reported to have been working for the release of political prisoners since the early 2000s.
In the words of Meena Kandasamy, a feminist writer and activist, “People like Rona represent the last frontier, the last line of defense that dissidents have. They could feel safe knowing that people like Rona will take up your cause; that they will campaign for your freedom.” Now with an ardent campaigner like Rona behind bars, Kandasamy questions if others will also be condemned to silence.
Many activists have alleged that the government had framed these activists to shield the Hindutva leaders Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide who were accused of mobilizing an attack on the Bhima Koregaon memorial event, which attracts large Dalit crowds on January 1 every year to celebrate the anniversary of a stunning victory of a lower-caste Mahar regiment of the British army over the upper-caste Peshwas in 1818. Over the years this event has become a symbol of Dalit-Bahujan's assertion against the draconian caste system of India.
Many who know Rona personally have been pained to witness this deplorable attempt of the government to harass this defender of the most vulnerable prisoners in India. In the opinion of renowned author Arundhati Roy, not much has been written about Rona as he is “low-key” in his disposition.
Professor G Haragopal described him as an erudite and hardworking scholar with a strong moral compass. Rona’s commitment towards his values is uncompromising, and the activist’s moral universe is based on the “larger concerns of the poor people, concerns of the prisoners, concerns of the tribals,” reports the Caravan
Except during Emergency, never before so many intellectuals, writers, advocates, journalists, scholars, students, activists have been in jail
The second writer of this article had seen him with late Delhi University Professor Syed Abdul Rehman Geelani, an accused in the Parliament attack case of 2001. Geelani was first given a death sentence but later acquitted by the Delhi High Court in 2003 for lack of any evidence against him. Supreme Court upheld the decision. 
It was after the acquittal and release from jail after 22 months of Professor Geelani that CRPP was formed with Amit Bhattacharyya as Secretary General, SAR Geelani as Vice President and Rona Wilson as Secretary, Public Relations as a need was felt for a body to work for the release of increasing number of persons who were being incarcerated for political reasons.
This trend has never reversed and today we see a large number of political prisoners in jail and laws like UAPA being made more stringent to cast a larger net to nab such individuals who the establishment considers a threat. Except for the period when Emergency was imposed in India, probably never before so many intellectuals, writers, advocates, journalists, scholars, students and activists have been in jail as today.
Emergency was imposed for two years and people targeted by the Indira Gandhi regime were in jail for a duration of less than two years. Under the current dispensation some people are now lodged in jail for more than two years. The attempt by the state is to silence every dissenter so that there is no criticism of majoritarian politics.
Four such dissidents have been silenced by direct assassinations in Maharashtra and Karnataka. Needless to say these phenomena will have a chilling effect and citizens will feel threatened to raise a voice against injustice. Contempt of court proceedings against Prashant Bhushan is another case in point. The need for human rights bodies like CRPP and for activist like Rona Wilson has never been greater.
Before his arrest, Rona was in the process of heading abroad for his PhD. He had applied to the University of Surrey and the University of Leicester to pursue his doctorate. Even in jail, his quest for further studies never got extinguished and is still alight with hope and optimism.
He has urged his family members to remain in touch with the faculty-in-charge at both the foreign universities and to apprise them of his precarious situation in India. His letter in this regard also mentioned his proposed thesis: “The Fiction of the Muslim Other: State, Law and The Politics of Naming in Contemporary India” writes Aathira Konikkara.
The imprisonment of this bright scholar of our country is condemnable. The state must either prove its grave charges against him conclusively or set him free along with all other political prisoners.
---
*Atul is a final year LLB student at National Law University, Delhi; Sandeep Pandey is Magsaysay award winning social activist and is associated with Socialist Party (India)

Comments

TRENDING

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Labelling a Jesuit a Marxist? It's like saying if you use a plane, you become American

Jesuits: Cedric Prakash, Stan Swamy By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ* A thirteen- fourteen-year-old has many dreams! That's an impressionable age; at the cusp of finishing school. It is also a time when one tastes a different kind of freedom: to go for camps with boys of your own age (not with ones family). Such camps and outings were always enjoyed to the hilt. The ones, however, which still remain etched in my memory are the mission camps to the Jesuit missions in Maharashtra and Gujarat.

Did Modi promote Dholavira, a UNESCO site now, as Gujarat CM? Facts don't tally

By Rajiv Shah  As would generally happen, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tweet – that not only was he “absolutely delighted” with the news of UNESCO tag to Dholavira, but he “ first visited ” the site during his “student days and was mesmerised by the place” – is being doubted by his detractors. None of the two tweets, strangely, even recalls once that it’s a Harappan site in Gujarat.

Giant conglomerates 'favoured': Whither tribal rights for jal-jungle-jameen?

Prafull Samantara By Mohammad Irshad Ansari*  The struggle for “Jal, Jungle and Jameen” has been a long-drawn battle for the tribal communities of India. This tussle was once again in the limelight with the proposed diamond mining in the Buxwaha forest of Chhatarpur (Madhya Pradesh). The only difference in this movement was the massive social media support it gained, which actually seems to tilt the scale for the tribal people in a long time.

If not Modi, then who? Why? I (an ordinary citizen) am there! Main hoon naa!

By Mansee Bal Bhargava*  The number of women ministers is doubled in early July from the first term after cabinet reshuffle by the present government led by Narendra Modi. While there were 06 women ministers in the previous term, this term there are 11. The previous two governments led by Dr Manmohan Singh had 10 women ministers in each tenure. Are these number of women ministers something to rejoice in the near 75 years of independence? Yes maybe, if we think that things are slowly improving in the patriarchal system. This change is less likely to achieve gender balance in the parliament otherwise we require more than 11 as per the 33% reservation . This change is also less likely because the men politicians’ inability to handle the country’s mess is becoming more and more evident and especially during the corona crisis. Seems, the addition of more women ministers may be a result of the recent assembly elections where women played a decisive role in the election results. For example

Tussle between Modi-led BJP govt, Young India 'key to political battle': NAPM

Counterview Desk  In its month-long campaign, civil rights network National Alliance for People’s Movements (NAPM) carried out what it called Young People's Political Persecution and Resistance in “solidarity with all comrades facing political persecution and remembering human rights defender Stan Swamy…”

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Gujarat govt gender insensitive? Cyclone package for fisherfolk 'ignores' poor women

By Our Representative A memorandum submitted to the Gujarat government by various fisherfolk associations of the Saurashtra region of Gujarat under the leadership of Ahmedabad NGO Centre for Social Justice's senior activist Arvind Khuman, who is based in Amreli, has suggested that the relief package offered to the fishermen affected by the Tauktae cyclone is not only inadequate, it is also gender insensitive.

Debt bondage, forced labour, sexual abuse in Gujarat's Bt cottonseed farms: Dutch study

By Rajiv Shah  A just-released study, sponsored by a Netherlands-based non-profit, Arisa , “Seeds of Oppression Wage sharecropping in Bt cottonseed production in Gujarat, India”, has said that a new form of bondage, or forced labour, exists in North India’s Bt cottonseed farms, in which bhagiyas, or wage sharecroppers, are employed against advances and are then often required to work for years together “without regular payment of wages.”

Covid: We failed to stop religious, political events, admits Modi-dharmacharya meet

Counterview Desk An email alert sent by one the 11 participants, Prof Salim Engineer, on behalf of the Dharmik Jan Morcha regarding their "religious leaders' online meet" with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, even as offering "support to meet challenges of Corona pandemic", blames religious congregations, though without naming the Maha Kumbh and other religious events, which apparently were instrumental in the spread of the second wave.