[Continuing the ever-intensifying state repression of democratic and dissenting activists, the recent arrests in Kerala State of India have brought new waves of angry protest and demands for the release of political prisoners. See the following statements from the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP), followed by the statement from the Democratic Student Union (DSU). — Frontlines ed.]
Release Thusar and Jaison Cooper!
31 January 2015
Condemn the arrest of Thusar Nirmal Sarathy, Secretary Kerala Chapter, CRPP and Jaison Cooper, People’s Activist.
Release Thusar Nirmal Sarathy and Jaison Cooper Immediately, Unconditionally
Friday, the 30th January turned out to be a day when the Kerala state machinery and its lawless police brazenly demonstrated yet again that they can’t for once uphold the law of the land while dealing with political dissent of any nature. If post-1947 India have demonstrated that successive governments at the centre or the states used its police and the state machinery for targeting political rivals from different political combinations of the day, it is incriminating to note that all the governments that occupied power throughout the last 68 years have been unequivocal in maintaining the state of permanent emergency for tackling political dissent of the people!
On the 30 January 2015, the Kerala police and the special branch arrested Jaison Cooper in Ernakulam from his work place and Adv. Thushar Nirmal Sarathy from Calicut while he was addressing the press about a protest programme to be held there the following day against the increasing violations of the fundamental rights of the people in the state. At the same time, the police raided the residences of Thushar Sarathy, Advocate Manuel Joseph who is a people’s activist, Ms. Jolly Chirayath, convener of the Women’s Collective, and a artist activist. From the residence of Thushar Sarathy the police took away several case files without even bothering to record the list of the ‘seizures’ that they have done. Even the search was conducted without any warrant being shown to the custodians of the residences.
As increasing instances of impunity have become the hallmark of the police and investigating agencies in the Indian subcontinent with the Kerala police refusing to be different, one can only foresee a motivated police out to incriminate, frame those who are critically looking at the policies of the government. For the police, the fundamental freedoms enshrined in the constitution of the largest democracy seemed to, for every practical purpose, remain in permanent suspension, all in the name of ‘national interest’, ‘national security’ and last but not the least that weapon of mass destruction—‘development’.
The preparations for the vilification and then framing of civil rights activists, public intellectuals and people’s activists had been laid well in advance in Kerala with a so-called ‘look out’ notice issued purportedly by the police with photographs of most of the prominent civil rights activists and people’s activists published in it. Adv. Thushar Sarathy’s name was also there along with other prominent civil libertarians from the state who were alleged to be working for or in the interest of a proscribed organization the CPI (Maoist). When there was a public outcry against this as a deliberate attempt on the side of the state to clamp down on people’s movements, the police and the administration including the home ministry went on a defensive mode neither denying nor accepting the veracity of such a notice. But by then the media vilification of such activists had already begun making the grounds ready for the witch hunt.
That this is nothing less than a witch hunt of those standing in favour of the poorest, deprived and discriminated majority is evident from the statements of the police officials as they make heavy weather of the literature ‘seized’ from the residence of Thushar. The most fascist way of incriminating someone is for his/her thoughts and the Kerala police makes no bones about the fact that Thushar uses the literature to spread the ideas of the CPI (Maoist) which is a proscribed organization. Needless to say that Adv. Thushar Sarathy has been charged under Sections 10 and 13 of the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act while Jaison Cooper has been put under Section 13b of the same. It is being reported that Jaison Cooper has been put in police custody for the next 6 days.
That Thushar has been quite vocal about the rights of the labourers, adivasis, Muslims and other deprived and discriminated sections makes him the most sought after target as this government in Kerala or for that matter the Narendra Modi led government in Delhi are one when it comes to turning their back against the interests of the people. Apart from being the secretary of the Kerala chapter of CRPP he is also the secretary of the Janakiya Manushyavakasha Prasthanam (People’s Human Rights Forum). Jaison Cooper is a prominent blogger and also a peoples activist who has vocal about the rights of the peopke. Civil rights activists being the conscience of the society as the mirror in the solidarities the anguish and concerns of the vast sections of the masses has to be silenced in the forward march to open up the resources and wealth of the people in the interests of private capital.
Development in the age of globalization, liberalization and privatization has become a question of ‘national interest’ though it is increasingly becoming clear that this is nothing but interests of the big corporations—domestic and international. Development has become a question of law and order. Those who talk against this model of development are anti-nationals. And hence are a subject of law and order. That many of the issues raised by Adv. Thushar and Jaison are also questions to safeguard the rights guaranteed in the constitution of India doesn’t matter as long as they come against the interests of private capital—domestic and international.
It is important that all democratically inclined people of the subcontinent raise their voice against the penalization of dissent and aspirations of the people. It is important that we all join hands and demand the immediate and unconditional release of Jaison Cooper and Thushar Nirmal Sarathy here and now! We need to be in vigil to safeguard the rights of the incarcerated to be not tortured or their right to silence as the police will force confessions on them.
We need to condemn the brazen attitude of the state which brutalizes the lives of people’s activists by subjecting them to the inhuman treatment of laying siege to their places of stay under the garb of search without even a search warrant.
We should demand stringent action against such police officials who are always ready to throttle the basic rights of the people all in the name of security.
SAR Geelani– President
Amit Bhattacharyya–Secretary General
Sukhendu Bhattacharjee–Vice Presiden
Sujato Bhadra- Vice President
MN Ravunni– Vice President
PA Sebastian—Vice President
Prof. P Koya–Vice President
Rona Wilson –Secretary, Public Relations
DSU Statement on the Arrest of Jaison Cooper and Thushar Sarathy
RELEASE JAISON COOPER & THUSHAR SARATHY IMMEDIATELY!
Condemn the branding, profiling and witch-hunt of people’s activists, intellectuals, lawyers and civil libertarians!
Resist the extension of Operation Greenhunt and its urban avatar to Kerala!
The Kerala government in the recent past has been seized with a frenzy as it has gone on a witch-hunt of several activists, intellectuals and civil libertarians. The latest ‘catch’ are two well-known activsts of Kerala – Jaison Cooper and Thushar Sarathy – who have been vocal on a whole range of issues from displacement of adivasis, rights of muslims, dalits and labourers as well as environmental concerns.
On 30th January, the Kerala police along with the Special Branch arrested Jaison Cooper (who is also a blogger) from his workplace in Ernakulam. On the same day, advocate Thushar Nirmal Sarathy, who is the secretary of CRPP in Kerala and the secretary of Janakiya Manushyavakasha Prasthanam (Peoples Human Rights Forum), was also arrested from Kozhikode while he was addressing the press for a protest programme against increasing violation of fundamental rights in the state. Both of them have now been charged under the draconian UAPA for their supposed ‘Maoist’ connections. Jaison Cooper has also been remanded in police custody for the next 6 days.
The Kerala police in a dastardly manner also raided the residences of Thushar Sarathy, Advocate-activist Manuel Joseph, artist-activist and Jolly Chirayath, the convener of Sthree Koottayma (Women’s Collective). Just 10 days prior to his arrest, Thushar Sarathy had in fact complained to the government about the police tapping his phone. The impunity with which police carries out these raids is clear for everyone to see as these raids were conducted without even displaying any warrants!
Quite ridiculously, the police is now claiming that they found literature ‘praising Maoism’ with Cooper as evidence of his Maoist connections. The police also took away several case files from Thushar Sarathy’s residence without even recording the list of ‘seized items’. And if all this was not enough, the Kerala government and police has now audaciously named several activists, including 17 activists of the organisation Porratam, and is threatening that more arrests will follow. DSU strongly condemns the arrest of Jaison Cooper and Thushar Sarathy, the raids in the houses of several activists and the open threats to many more activists by the draconian Kerala Police.
This is not the first instance of motivated attacks and hounding of people’s activists by the anti-people Kerala government and its police force. The blueprint for the branding of people’s activists as Maoists and their witch-hunt had already been under-preparation for the past two years. These are some of the actions of the Kerala police as it has gone on a rampage against several organisations and individuals:
(1) Two years back, social activists Roopesh and Shiney were witch-hunted by the police which escalated into an appalling slander campaign and hounding of even their children and family.
(2) Last April, in a targeted attempt at vilifying activists, a ‘look-out notice’ of supposed ‘Maoists’ was circulated by the Kerala police carrying the names and pictures of prominent activists from across the state. And then, this was accompanied by incessant media trials of these activists.
(3) Last July, the police seized tapes of several bulletins of Samakalikalam, a popular current affairs programme broadcast by the Kochi unit of All India Radio claiming that they contain ‘subversive messages in support of Maoists’. Bringing to fore the undeclared emergency that prevails where even media persons are not spared, Aradhana, one of the producers of the programme was questioned for several hours by the NIA.
(4) Again, last July a Swiss national Jontathan Baud was arrested by the police after he attended a meeting that commemorated a Maoist leader. It was only after pressure mounted on the govt after condemnations worldwide that Baud was released. The Kerala High Court later quashed the FIR against him and reprimanded the police for filing the case without any substance.
(5) Last December, the office of Keraleeyam, a magazine that focuses on tribal issues was raided by the police. The copies of the magazine, the computers in the office and several pamphlets were all seized and taken away. The police also forcibly kept three staff workers in custody before releasing them after several hours of questioning and intimidation.
(6) Then again in December, two college students were arrested and charged under the draconian UAPA. When asked about the lack of any evidence against them, the police simply retorted that the literature snatched from their houses showed that they were attracted to Maoist ideology! This in fact truly exposes the fascist character of the state where an individual is incriminated for her or his thoughts. Both these students still continue to languish in prison.
There are many more of such incidents and in fact the timing of this concerted witch-hunt is hardly surprising. The deployment of huge battalions of para-military forces and specialised combat forces like the Thunderbolt in the Western Ghats accompanied by increased combing operations in their supposed bid to ‘cull out Maoists’ lays bare the scheme for the extension of Operation Greenhunt here. It is no coincidence that this is happening at a time when vast tracts of land are being leased out to big corporates and numerous SEZ projects are being given clearances. And with the extension of Operation Greenhunt in the adivasi hinterland of Kerala, it was only a matter of time before its urban avatar – gagging voices of dissent, rounding up intellectuals, activists, civil libertarians – followed soon. Anyone who is vocal against this ‘development’ which is in the interest of big corporates are branded as Maoists and hounded in a bid to criminalize dissent. The speedy implementation of this criminalization of dissent amply reveals that the agenda of the Congress regime in Kerala is no different from the Brahmanical Hindutva fascist forces at the centre.
This routine exercise practiced by the state by unleashing brute terror upon the people who speak against its policies is not new to us. Jaison and Thushar’s arrest is similar to the abduction and arrest of Dr. G.N. Saibaba, who was instrumental in mobilizing considerable opinion against the state’s war on the dalits and adivasis of Central and Eastern India, or the abduction and arrest of Comrade Hem of our campus who merely articulated the same through his songs and plays. There are hundreds of political prisoners across the length and breadth of our sub-continent whose only apparent ‘crime’ is talking about the most oppressed sections of the society and their aspiration for an alternative society. But such arrests also reveal the schizophrenic fear of the state of the intensifying resistance of the people which will raise to the ground the very foundations of this oppressive social order. DSU appeals to all progressive and democratic sections to speak out against this McCarthyian withchunt of intellectuals, civil liberations and social activists. We demand that Jaison Cooper and Thushar Sarathy be immediately & unconditionally released.