Committee for the Defense of Bhim Army Formed Amidst Continuing Repression

Image courtesy Indian Express

Even as the state government’s repression on Bhim Army continues, most of its leaders still in jail and some forced to leave Saharanpur, a committee has been formed for the defense of Bhim Army. (For background information, please see the ‘Note on Bhim Army’, appended at the end of this post, which carries links to informative videos as well). A group of activists and committed lawyers have been following up the legal struggle practically at their own expense – which at the moment involves getting the arrested activists, including the founder-President Chandrashekhar out of bail as the topmost priority. Some of the activists have started getting bail many still remain, including just ordinary people simply picked up by the people and framed by the police as Bhim Army activists.

However, getting the jailed activists out on bail is simply the first step in a long battle. The deliberate campaign of vilification that has been going on about Bhim Army has tried to paint the organization as ‘antinational’ and ‘instigators of violence’ who apparently have ‘Naxalite’ connections. Even though none of this could be substantiated and thus brought by the police into their charges against the jailed activists, the campaign of demonization has nevertheless continued through some sections of the media. Needless to say, such misleading campaign is meant to incite popular feelings against such groups who have been working mainly for education and self respect among the Dalit population in their area. Such a campaign of vilification cannot but affect the chances of wining the legal battle as well. It also ends up driving people who may have initially been sympathetic to their cause by sowing doubts about them in the popular mind.

It is with this concern in mind that a large number of citizens from different walks of life have come together to form the Committee for the Defense of Bhim Army, in order to mobilize all possible support for the embattled activists.

The Committee for the Defense of Bhim Army has been constituted comprising the following members from different walks of life:

Coordinators: Pradeep Narwal and Sanjeev Mathur

Treasurers: Presenjit Gautam and Nakul Singh Sawhney

  1. Anand Teltumbde, Civil rights thinker and activist, Mumbai
  2. Jignesh Mewani, Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch
  3. Kancha Ilaiah, Political scientist, thinker and writer, Hyderabad
  4. Chandrabhan Prasad, Dalit thinker
  5. Radhika Ramaseshan, Senior journalist with Business Standard
  6. Harsh Mander, Human rights activist and Director, Centre for Equity Studies, Delhi
  7. Syeda Hamid, Former member, Planning Commission
  8. Om Thanvi, Senior journalist, former editor, Jansatta
  9. Sambhaji Bhagat, Cultural activist, Maharashtra
  10. Meera Velayudhan, Academic, Centre for Development Studies, Trivandrum
  11. Martin Macwan, Social activist, Gujarat
  12. Ratan Lal, Academic, Hindu College, Delhi University
  13. Sachin Mali, Cultural activist
  14. Sheetal Sathe, Cultural activist
  15. S.R Darapuri , Former IPS officer, social activist
  16. Colin Gonzalves, Lawyer
  17. Anand Patwardhan, Film maker
  18. Anil Chamadia, Journalist
  19. Subhash Gatade, Writer and social activist
  20. Akram Hassan, Social activist, Shamli
  21. Surender, Dalit youth activist, Delhi University
  22. N. Sukumar, Academic, Delhi University
  23. Rehana Adib, Social activist, Saharanpur
  24. Banojyotsna Lahiri, Academic and independent researcher
  25. Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub, Actor
  26. Amar Singh, SC/ST Trade Union, Delhi University
  27. Dr. Mahesh Chandra, Bhim Army
  28. Sanjay Tegwal, Bhim Army
  29. Zakia Soman, Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan
  30. Presenjit Gautam, Jati Todo Manch, Ghaziabad
  31. Pradeep Narwal, Dalit youth activist, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  32. Saroj Giri, Academic, Delhi University
  33. Tushar Parmar, IRS
  34. Sanjeev Mathur, Journalist
  35. Nakul Singh Sawhney, Film maker
  36. Praveen Verma, Research scholar, Delhi University
  37. Aditya Nigam, Academic, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi
  38. Amar Paswan, Ambedkarvadi Chhatra Sabha, Gorakhpur
  39. Dhirendra, Poorvanchal Sena
  40. Anil Yadav, Rihai Manch
  41. Sagar Raghunath, Chhatra Bharati activist
  42. Dr J.K. Gautam, Doctor
  43. Dr. Sushil Kumar Gautam, Dalit Youth Activist, Chaudhary Charan Singh University, Meerut

Continue reading “Committee for the Defense of Bhim Army Formed Amidst Continuing Repression”

No to ‘Geri Route’, Bekhauf Azadi/ Reclaim the Night in Chandigarh: Janaki Srinivasan

Guest post by JANAKI SRINIVASAN

Reclaim the Night

If you are a resident of Chandigarh and came across pictures of the Bekhauf Azaadi Reclaim the Night and the Streets march of August 11 in the newspapers, it is most likely that you assumed it to be just another routine protest.  Protests in ‘the city beautiful’ do tend to follow a standard template. A small number gather in the Sector 17 plaza, banners are held, a few speeches made, photographs taken and a brief news report gets generated for the inner pages of the city supplement. In a small city, finding a mention in the newspapers is no indicator of the importance of one cause or one protest over others. Over the past decade, the administration has ensured this indifference, by physically redirecting political rallies- any event with the potential for large numbers- away from both government offices and public spaces to the outer perimeter of a severely gridlined map. The ‘Rally Ground’ neighbours the crematorium and the garbage landfill. Yet just as Le Corbusier’s monotonous plan and strict guidelines have been subverted by its residents to infuse vitality and uniqueness to the city, the protest template too sees a rare upheaval. Continue reading “No to ‘Geri Route’, Bekhauf Azadi/ Reclaim the Night in Chandigarh: Janaki Srinivasan”

Noida’s Domestic Workers’ Take on the ‘Madams’ – A Report from Ground Zero: Maya John, Sunita Toppo and Manju Mochhary

This guest post is an investigative report by MAYA JOHN, SUNITA TOPPO and MANJU MOCHHARY, who are associated with Gharelu Kamgar Union and actively involved in organizing domestic workers.

Recently, the otherwise docile workforce of domestic workers – most of whom are migrant labourers from the poorest states in the country – showed remarkable collective zeal against their wealthy employers in Noida (Uttar Pradesh). On the morning of 12th July 2017, a confrontation broke out between wealthy residents in a posh housing society, Mahagun Moderne in Noida Sector 78, and a gathering of agitated domestic workers and their families. The rampant exploitation of domestic workers, and the huge antagonism between their interests and those of their employers was directly exposed with the outbreak of this agitation.

The 12th July incident and subsequent developments have also revealed the sickening nexus between the police, employers, and right-wing politicians who have extended support to the wealthy residents. Within hours, an obvious labour issue, and the struggle of workers against the alleged illegal confinement of a female domestic worker was projected as a communal confrontation. With the accused employers and their sympathizers identifying the protesting workers and the missing domestic worker as ‘Bangladeshis’, the social media exploded with communal diatribe and messages of hate. Conditions for communal discord were consciously sown by Mahagun residents, putting at risk the lives of hundreds of workers living in neighbouring slums.

Continue reading “Noida’s Domestic Workers’ Take on the ‘Madams’ – A Report from Ground Zero: Maya John, Sunita Toppo and Manju Mochhary”

Under the sign of security – Why the bogey of ‘the illegal Bangladeshi immigrant’ is so powerful across urban Indian homes: Sahana Ghosh & Rimple Mehta

Guest Post by SAHANA GHOSH & RIMPLE MEHTA

From the night of July 11 when Zohra Bibi did not return home to the evening of July 16 when union minister Mahesh Sharma, member of parliament for Gautam Budh Nagar, UP met with residents of Mahagun Moderne, much has transpired. Promptly after the minister’s assurances of ‘justice’ and even retribution to the flat-owners, the settlement of tin walled shacks in which Zohra Bibi and other workers like her lived with their families was demolished the next day. Many of the ‘facts’ of the matter remain disputed – while Zohra Bibi maintains that she neither admitted to the theft of cash nor hid in the basement of the building, the allegation that her employers Harshu and Mitul Sethi harassed and detained her, confiscating her mobile phone is denied by them. Meanwhile, thirteen men, a majority of them Bengali Muslims from West Bengal, arrested from the workers’ settlement are denied bail on the charge of attempted murder on the might of three FIRs filed by residents of Mahagun Moderne and languish in judicial custody. The Noida police are yet to commence any investigation of the Sethis as required by the FIR filed by Zohra Bibi and her husband Abdul Sattar. What does this language of the riot, of murderous mobs with which residents of the swanky apartment complex took to social media with #MaldainNoida accomplish? As security cards, required by domestic and other workers to enter the gated community, were revoked for 80-odd workers under the cry of ‘ban the Bangladeshi maid’, the bogey of the illegal Bangladeshi immigrant reared its ugly head. Continue reading “Under the sign of security – Why the bogey of ‘the illegal Bangladeshi immigrant’ is so powerful across urban Indian homes: Sahana Ghosh & Rimple Mehta”

Have Indian Muslims become the new ‘Make in India’ Punching Bag? Sabiha Farhat

Guest Post by Sabiha Farhat

[ A month ago from yesterday, a teenager called Junaid was lynched and murdered on a train in Haryana. Sabiha Farhat writes in the wake of visiting his house and meeting his family. The news cycles may have moved on to other stories, but we need to keep remembering Junaid, and why he was killed. – Kafila]

Once upon a time there  was a 15 year old boy called Hamid, who went shopping on the day of Eid with his Eidi .  A few days ago there was Junaid who went shopping on the eve of Eid.  Premchand’s Hamid was an orphan and lived with his grandmother in extreme poverty.  Junaid lived surrounded with love of his brothers, a sister, a doting mother, father and friends. Instead of the old, decrepit house of Hamid,  Junaid’s house has two rooms, it is not falling apart but it’s size and unplastered walls, do speak about the economic condition of his family.

As we approached Khandawli, Junaid’s village in Ballabhgarh a fear gripped me.  I did not have the courage to walk upto the house.  Junaid was brutally murdered on 22nd and here I was on 25th.  It was too soon, my mind said.  I should have let Eid pass.  But how could I have prepared Sewai in my house when a mother like myself had lost a young, healthy, happy child to hindutva fanatics?  I am a mother, I was angry and ashamed at home. And here, standing outside Junaid’s door, I was weak and helpless. Useless too.

Continue reading “Have Indian Muslims become the new ‘Make in India’ Punching Bag? Sabiha Farhat”

No Flag Large Enough – Jubilation in India and Collateral Damage in Kashmir

The recent incident of violence that led to the death of a police officer, DSP Ayub Pandith, was condemned by all kinds of people in Kashmir, as well as elsewhere. It prompted introspection, sadness and regret – like any tragedy of this nature should.

Yesterday two unarmed civilians, Tahira Begum, a forty three year old woman and a young man called Shahdab Ahmed Chopan of Brenty Batapora Village in Anantnag district in South Kashmir were killed along with two Kashmiri combatants (Bashir Ahmed Lashkari and another person who may or may not be called Abu Maz) in the course of a joint operation by the 19th Rasthriya Rifles of the Indian Army, CRPF and the Special Operations Group of Jammu & Kashmir police.

Continue reading “No Flag Large Enough – Jubilation in India and Collateral Damage in Kashmir”

After #NotinMyName at Jantar Mantar on June 28: Sanjay Kak for NotinMyName, Delhi

Guest Post by Sanjay Kak, for  #Notinmyname / Statement from Not In My Name, Delhi

Last evening’s (June 28th) spirited protest at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, under the banner of Not In My Name, was an autonomous citizens protest against the recent spate of targeted lynchings of Muslims in India – the most recent of 16 year old Junaid, stabbed to death on 23 June 2017 in Delhi (NCR).
For an audience that was estimated to be 3500 strong, the torrential downpour at a little past 8 pm may have rained out a part of the programme. But something remarkable had already been achieved: the evening had washed away, even if temporarily, an almost overwhelming sense of despondency, of hopelessness, and of fear. 


Since the Not In My Name protest had announced that the platform was not meant for political parties, and their banners and slogans, the stage saw the marked absence of the speeches (and faces) of routine protest meetings at Jantar Mantar. Rhetoric was displaced by feeling, and it was left to the poets and musicians to carry the sharp political messages of the day. On an evening that was often very emotional, the most difficult moments came when a group of young men from Junaid and Pehlu Khan’s extended families (and residents from their respective villages) came on stage and spoke to the audience.

When the call for a protest meeting went out last Sunday we were hoping that a few hundred people would gather to express their outrage at what is happening around us. For the attacks on Muslims are part of a pattern of incidents that targets Dalits, Adivasis, and other disadvantaged and minority groups across the country. In almost all these incidents the possibilities of justice seem remote, as the families of the victims are dragged into procedures they are ill-equipped to handle. Through all these heinous crimes the Government has maintained a silence, a gesture that is being read as the acquiescence of all Indians.

Not In My Name aimed to break that silence. But the scale and spirit of the protest meeting at Jantar Mantar became amplified many times over, as similar gatherings were spontaneously announced all over the country. As word spread through social media, groups in 19 other locations announced Not In My Name protests, and this phenomenal synergy inevitably drew media attention to all the events, and gave the protest a solidarity and scale that was truly unprecedented – there were at least 4 protests in cities abroad too. (And more protests have been announced for later this week…) The protest meeting ran on the shoulders of a group of volunteers who managed to put together everything in less than four days. No funds were received (or solicited) for the expenses from any political party, NGO, or institution. Instead volunteers worked the crowd and our donation boxes received everything – from Rs 10 coins to currency notes of Rs 2000, and everything in between.

Citizens hold placards during a silent protest Not in My Name against the targeted lynching, at Janter Manter in New delhi on wednesday. Photo by Parveen Negi/Mail Today, June 28, 2017

The impact of the Not In My Name protest at Jantar Mantar yesterday only points to the importance of a focused politics to deal with the crisis this country seems to be enveloped by. Less than a day after the protests Prime Minister Modi broke his silence on the matter of lynchings. It could not have been a coincidence: speaking in Ahmedabad he said killing in the name of gau bhakti is unacceptable. But to protect the life of a 16 year old being brutalised in a train needs more than a tweet, and we all wait and watch.

This fight has just begun. In the days to come the exceptional solidarity attracted by the protest in New Delhi will have to become less exceptional, and more everyday.


Sanjay Kak is a filmmaker and writer based in Delhi.

The #NotinMyName protests, which began in a response to a Facebook post uploaded by Delhi filmmaker Saba Dewan, have since taken place in more than twelve cities in India, and also in the UK, USA and Pakistan. More protests, under the #NotinMyName tag, as well as independently of it are being planned by citizens groups, organizations and individuals in many places.

Tomorrow, July 2nd, 2017 will see a sit in at Jantar Mantar from 11 in the morning, at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi called by families, individuals and panchayats from Nuh, Ballabhgarh and Faridabad, they will be joined by students, activists and other individuals.

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