Skip to main content

Dubbed urban Naxal, Arun Ferreira a 'victim' of BJP govt's sectarian, vendetta politics

By Atul, Sandeep Pandey*

Arun Ferreira is a civil rights activist and human rights lawyer. He has been behind bars since June 6, 2018, when he was arrested in connection to the Bhima Koregaon event held earlier that year. Like many other activists, he was slapped with Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, sedition and other anti-terror related offenses allegedly for inciting the ensuing violence that police claimed was calculated to disturb public peace.
Ferreira has spent years in jail on similar charges previously as well. He was first arrested in 2007, for an alleged conspiracy to blow up the Deekshabhoomi in Nagpur, the site where the Dalit icon Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar converted to Buddhism in October 1956 along with more than 300,000 of his followers. Ferreira later said that police concocted this story to drive a wedge between Dalits and Naxalites.
During the trial, the prosecution could not prove any of these grave allegations in court. As a result, he was finally declared innocent and acquitted of all charges in 2014. Needless to say, this acquittal was too little to compensate him for the four tormenting years he spent in jail and the brutal custodial torture that he underwent therein.
Referring to such cases, human rights defenders point towards the inefficiency of the Indian legal system. They claim that such lengthy trials in itself are akin to punishment, even if the accusations are eventually dismissed years later. Moreover, the officials are rarely held accountable for their excesses as arrests made by the state are presumed to be in good faith.
While recounting one of his prison experiences in an article, Ferreira says that they stretched out his body completely, using an updated version of the medieval torture technique of drawing. His arms were tied to a window grill high above the ground while two policemen stood on his outstretched thighs to keep him pinned to the floor.
Later, Ferreira also wrote a book titled ‘Colors of the Cage-A Prison Memoir’ on his nerve-racking torture and suffering inside the prison. In the words of Arundhati Roy, this book provides “a clear-eyed, unsentimental account of custodial torture, years of imprisonment on false cases and flagrant violation of rule of law. His experience is shared by tens of thousands of our fellow countrymen and women most of whom do not have access to lawyers or legal aid”. 
Due to the political nature of his work Ferreira has always been an easy target of hostile right-wing governments for many years. Ferreira is said to have had a humble upbringing. According to India Civil Watch, during his college days, he began exploring strong connections between poverty and lack of social justice. 
As a student, he passionately assisted blind children and orphans. And after graduating, he worked for the well-being of slum-dwellers and squatters of Mumbai, where he played a constructive role in the relocation of slums from Colaba to Goregaon in Mumbai.
After his acquittal and release in 2012, Ferreira became a budding lawyer and worked closely with other legal professionals of the country to secure the release of other political prisoners arrested on trumped-up charges of sedition, UAPA, etc. 
Arun Ferriera became a victim of sedition charges in June 2018, when he was arrested for facilitating Bhima Koregaon violence
Sadly, he too became a victim of similar charges in June 2018, when he was arrested for facilitating the Bhima Koregaon anti-Dalit violence and promptly labeled as Urban Naxal by the media. He has been in jail since then along with many other acclaimed activists of the country like Varavara Rao, Gautam Navlakha, Sudha Bharadwaj, Rona Wilson, and Vernon Gonsalves, etc.
Nonetheless, his resolve to fight against state oppression has only become stronger despite being tortured and abused in prison on numerous occasions, says Ferreira. Many civil rights organizations of the country have demanded the dropping of all charges against Arun Ferreira and his immediate release.
It is a national waste that such talented and committed individuals are being kept in jail indefinitely and even during the coronavirus crisis. For most of them it would have been a natural inclination to work for relief during the lockdown period and later. 
Instead of utilising their services during a national emergency the government not only continued to keep the ones arrested before lockdown in incarceration but during the lockdown arrested Professor Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha.
It shows the misplaced priorities of the Bharatiya Janata Party government which did not rise above its sectarian ideology politics even during the lockdown period and pursued its agenda of vendetta. No good can happen to a country and society which keeps some of its best citizens in jails for such long duration.
If the most competent of citizens will rot in jail or will be thrown out of or marginalized in various institutions they serve, only mediocre will rule and the country and society will pay a heavy price for this. We are already witness to fallout of some misguided decisions taken in ignorance and arrogance by the government.
The country is facing internal economic crisis and external crisis at the Chinese front. The Prime Minister wants people to be united to face this situation but at the same time his government is going after its political opponents as is clear from the victimization of students and activists in the Delhi riot cases. If the government will target people based on their religion and ideology how does it expect unconditional support of people?
One would have expected that the government will learn a lesson or two from the coronavirus pandemic and pursue just policies in the interest of the people. But the introduction of anti-farmer and anti-labour legislation in the shortened Monsoon session of Parliament shows that it continues to hold a pro-corporate and anti-people viewpoint as earlier further hurtling the country towards misery and disaster.
Keeping some of its most brilliant citizens in jails and acting with vengeance against more such individuals when the country is going through multiple tragedies is just a symptom of the myopic outlook and constricted thinking of the government.
---
*Atul is 5th year LLB student at National Law University, Delhi; Sandeep Pandey, a Magsaysay award winning social activist, is Vice President, Socialist Party (India)

Comments

TRENDING

North Gujarat gram panchayat bars villagers from dealing with Muslim hawkers, traders

By Our Representative  A gram panchayat in North Gujarat has barred its residents not to buy anything from Muslim traders and hawkers. An order of the Waghasan group gram panchayat of Tharad taluka of Banaskantha district dated June 30 states that the decision has been taken in the wake of beheading of a Hindu tailor after he posted a derogatory writeup on Prophet Mohammad in Udaipur. The gram panchayat resolution says, anyone seen buying or selling any commodity from a Muslim hawker or trader would be fined Rs 5,100. Bringing this to light, Mujahid Nafees, convener, Minority Coordination Committee, in a letter to Gujarat chief minister Bhupendra Patel, says, the state government should take legal action against the panchayat chief who has signed the “unjust” order. The letter says, the act of the sarpanch and other signatories is a violation of rule of law of the state and threat to peace, pointing out, the move is in violation of Article 15 of the Constitution, which says that none

Technocratic globalism, tyranny? Health Ministry warned: bill to 'enslave' Indians

Sandeep Pandey, Tushar Gandhi By Rosamma Thomas*  Union of Concerned Citizens, a group comprising Magsaysay Award winner Prof Sandeep Pandey, human rights activist Tushar Gandhi, former judge of the Bombay High Court BG Kolse Patil, pediatrician Dr Jacob Puliyel and several renowned Indian citizens have written to the Union Health Minister cautioning him against tabling the draft Public Health Bill in the Monsoon Session of Parliament. “The Public Health (Prevention, Control And Management Of Epidemics, Bio-Terrorism And Disasters) Bill, 2017 and a Prospective Bill of 2022 as discussed in news articles, is straightforwardly violative of Fundamental Rights of the citizens of India and therefore, Ultra Vires of the Indian Constitution. It contravenes several International Treaties and Conventions including the Nuremberg Treaty of 1947 which was enacted to ensure that no country would repeat such inhuman medical atrocities on fellow human beings”, the 12-page letter reads. “Strangely, t

Unlike Soviet Union, Russia is no friend to India: Ukrainian scholar tells 'Indian friends'

Counterview Desk In an open letter to "dear Indian friends", Anastasia Piliavsky, born in Odessa, Ukraine, studied at Boston and Oxford Universities (on a Rhodes Scholarship), and now teaches at King’s College, London, has said that she faces "deep moral dilemma", personally and professionally, over the "astonishingly unified Indian response to the war in Ukraine." Based on her interaction with a "number of thoughtful and caring Indian friends", in this letter, she says, she is "reeling at the ubiquitous silence at, justifications of or outright support for Putin’s terror, which now prevails in India, at the ubiquitous #IStandWithPutin and #istandwithrussia hashtags." She insists, India must understand, "Unlike the Soviet Union, Russia is no friend to India. Soviet leaders, beginning with (the Ukrainian) Nikita Khrushchev – who declared hindi rusi bhai bhai – built up deep political and cultural exchange with India." Text : I

PLFS data: Is rising employment good news? Deeper analysis suggests contrary results

By Ishwar Chandra Awasthi, Puneet Kumar Shrivastav*  Results of the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS), 2020-21 , released by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India (GoI) on June 14, 2022, show improvement in work force participation rate (WPR) and labour force participation rate (LFPR) and declining unemployment rate. Four rounds of data have been released from 2017-18 to 2020-21 based on PLFS. The general trend in the last four rounds clearly shows consistent increase in WPR and LFPR and falling unemployment rates by usual status (PS+SS). Though increase in WPR and LFPR is reported highest in 2019-20 over 2018-19, yet rising trend in these two key indicators continues throughout, and similarly fall in unemployment is registered highest in 2019-20 over 2018-19. Clearly, the recent results give some solace and relief after unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic that has entailed enormous loss of human lives and livelihoods and crippled economic activit

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

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".

'Drop all falsed charges': 150 citizens demand early release of AltNews co-founder

Counterview Desk  About 150 concerned citizens have demanded the release of Mohammed Zubair, co-founder of the fact-checkng newsportal AltNews, arrested over a 2018 tweet which allegedly hurt religious sentiments, even as booking for criminal conspiracy and having received foreign funds in violation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). Denied bail last weekend and sent to 14-day judicial custody, the concerned citizens, in a statement, regretted that while the Delhi High Court issued notice to the Delhi police on a petition filed on behalf of Zubair challenging the legality and propriety of his police remand and the seizure of his electronic devices, the “frivolous case” continues. Excerpts: The illegal arrest of Mr. Mohammed Zubair happened on June 27, 2022, by the Delhi Police for allegedly hurting religious sentiments and promoting enmity over a tweet from 2018. The IPC Sections included 153(a) (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race,

Chennai residents 'suffering': Faulty design, implementation of storm water project

By NS Venkataraman*  The Greater Chennai Corporation is now implementing storm water drainage project in 559 roads, covering a distance of 1033 kilometres, which cost around Rs 4,070 crore. For this massive project, which is targeted to be completed between April and September this year, huge loan has been availed from World Bank, Asian Development Bank and others. Several technocrats have pointed out that the project has been designed with outdated technology and quality of the implementation is so poor that the residents have been put to great hardships. As part of the project, digging of the road has been done to around 5 to 6 feet deep and width of around 4 to 5 feet. The drains are being constructed using steel reinforced cement concrete with two walls on either side with provisions for manhole, chute etc. This has been done in front of several houses leaving little space between the gate of the house and that of the drainage structure. As the work has been going on for mor

Prime Minister's 'affordable' housing policy fails to help Gujarat slum dwellers: Study

By Rajiv Shah  A new study on the implementation of one of the major policy initiatives for the urban poor by the Narendra Modi government after it came to power, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY), has said that in Gujarat, which happens to be the Prime Minister’s home state, has quoted state officials as “confirming” that no progress towards tenure regularization, a key requirement for providing housing to the state’s slum dwellers. Stating that this particularly true of smaller town, the study, carried out by the non-profit Homes in the City (HIC), which is based in Bhuj, district headquarter of Kutch that saw a devastating earthquake in 2001, says, the failure to provide affordable housing is there despite the fact that there has been “significant demand” in all the 83 out of 153 Gujarat municipalities studied by experts involved in the study. According to the study, out f a total of 1.41 lakh demands for housing under the Beneficiary Led Construction (BLC) category, 94,232 (66.7%)

'Contractor-official nexus led to RTI activist's murder': Fact-finding team seeks probe

Courtyard inside of PWD office where Ranjeet Soni was killed Counterview Desk  A fact-finding team* visited Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh (MP) on June 19, 2022 to meet with the family of Ranjeet Soni, who was shot dead on June 2, 2022 inside the premises of the PWD office in Vidisha. The objective was to gather information about the circumstances surrounding the death of Ranjeet Soni and his work on exposing corruption through the use of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. A report prepared by the team members says that Ranjeet had been extensively using the RTI Act to access information from the government, and upon receiving documents showing misuse of public funds or corruption, he was filing complaints to various authorities including the Lokyukta, Publi Works Department (PWD) and the Chief Minister’s Office. It notes, Ranjeet used to work as a contractor and often undertook government works in collaboration with other contractors, including those being investigated for his murder. A f

Electricity Bill: Centre's reform measures contain 'carrot and stick package' for states

Counterview Desk  The Peoples’ Commission on Public Sector and Public Services (PCPSPS), claiming to be a network of eminent academics, jurists, erstwhile administrators, trade unionists and social activists, seeking consultations with stakeholders with those who are against the government’s decision to monetise, disinvest and privatise public assets/enterprises, has said that the proposed Electricity (Amendment) Bill-2022 will have far-reaching impacts on the finances of states. Insisting that the proposed Bill would lead to “assault on India’s federal structure”, in a statement, it says, it would weaken the finances of states’ power distribution companies, have adverse impact on utility employees, cripple the states' finances, impose a heavy cost burden on the smaller subsidized consumers (especially farmers), and benefit only corporate business houses. “States cannot afford to ignore the far-reaching implications of the Bill on their economy, finances, agricultural and industria