Know About The Five Petitioners Who Are Fighting For The Five Activists Arrested

4 Sep 2018 9:56 AM GMT
Know About The Five Petitioners Who Are Fighting For The Five Activists Arrested

On August 28, Maharashtra police arrested five prominent activists, lawyers and writers after their houses were raided. Among the five arrested were-Sudha Bharadwaj, Vernon Gonsalves, Varavara Rao, Gautam Navlakha and Arun Ferreira. The police arrested these five people on a myriad of charges. Reportedly, the searches and detentions were carried out under the anti-terror Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and Sections 153A, 505(1)(b), 117, 120(b) and 34 of the Indian Penal Code. After the arrests, five eminent people moved to the Supreme Court with a petition to “prevent stifling of honest dissent”. However, the prosecution decided to describe these five as “strangers” who could not seek bail for “someone else”.

These petitioners are all renowned academicians, who have excelled in their fields. Historian Romila Thapar, Padma Bhushan awardee economist Devaki Jain, social activist and a Oxford scholar Prabhat Patnaik, sociologist and Delhi University teacher Satish Deshpande and Human Rights activist and daughter of late Field Marshal, Sam Manekshaw, Maja Daruwala are among the five people who have alleged that the Pune police’s action was the “biggest attack” on freedom and liberty of citizens by arresting the people without any credible evidence.

The petitioners also pointed out that no actions were taken against the right-wing workers. “The State government and police have not taken purposeful and decisive action against right-wing leaders Bhide and Ekbote, who were behind the Koregaon-Bhima violence and instigated the attacks,” read the petition.

Here is a brief introduction of the five “strangers” who are fighting “to protect democratic values and the democracy” of our country.

A woman of many words- Romila Thapar

The 86-year-old historian Romila Thapar is a Professor Emerita at JNU, where she taught history for most of her career. She has also declined Padma Bhushan award (a third-highest civilian honour in the Republic of India) from the government of India twice, abiding by the principle that she only accepted honours from academic bodies for her work.

She is one of the founding members of the varsity’s Centre for Historical Studies. She has been elected to the British Academy and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The author and pioneer in history, she has written ‘Asoka’ and ‘Decline of the Mauryas (1961) and ‘Early India: From the Origins to AD1300′, for which she won the US Library of Congress’s Kluge Prize in 2008. The universities of Oxford and Chicago have awarded the scholar honorary doctorates.

As India’s one of the most celebrated historian, she has given new insights into ancient India by studying primary sources like archaeology and revealed that Aryans were a linguistic group, not a race. While talking to the Hindu in an interview, she says, “History is generally not written by committees but by individual historians.”

In an essay on The Public Intellectual in India, she pointed out that “a society like the one we live in needs its public intellectuals”. She further elaborated the same in an interview saying, the last three or four years of the government (BJP), is when asking questions has been discouraged.

She has studied in Punjab University and London’s School of Oriental and Asian Studies. As an outspoken intellectual, during the time of Babri Masjid demolition, she spoke against the communal interpretation of history. At the time when Late Atal Bihari Vajpayee was in power, she has also spoken against the change in text in school history books- the one she had authored.

Renowned development economists- Devaki Jain

Devaki Jain has worked with many national bodies including the Planning Commission and the National Commission for Women, as well as several international organisations like the UNDP and the South Commission. She is a founding member of Development Alternatives for Women for a New Era (DAWN) and the Indian Association of Women’s Studies (IAWS).

Indian writer and economist, Devaki Jain is a Padma Bhushan awardee for her contribution to social justice and the empowerment of women. She is the founder of the Indian Social Studies Trust in Delhi and former chairperson of the Advisory Committee on Gender for the United Nations Centre in Asia-Pacific. Author of, ‘Women in India’, Jain has involved herself in feminist issues. She is a writer and lecturer who has been networking, building, leading, and supporting women. She was also appointed by the UN to assess the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children.

Daughter of the Dewan of the erstwhile Gwalior princely state, M. A. Sreenivasan, Jain has also been the member of the advisory panel of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for the 1997 Human Development Report on Poverty and the 2002 Report on Governance.

Mother of Television journalist Sreenivasan Jain and Supreme Court advocate Gopal Jain, she has been influenced by Gandhian Philosophy.

Situation is worse than Emergency: Prabhat Patnaik

Leading left communist and political commentator, Prabhat Patnaik is a Professor Emeritus of JNU for more than three decades. He is a former Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. He has also taught in Cambridge University.

The former Vice-Chairman of the Kerala State Planning Board from 2006 to 2011 (advisory board under the Government of the State of Kerala), Patnaik is the editor of the journal Social Scientist. He was a part of a four-member task force of the UN to recommend reform measures for the global financial system in 2008.

A columnist at many National Daily like The Indian Express and Telegraph, he has specialised in macroeconomics and political economy and had published seminal works such as Time, Inflation and Growth (1988), Economics and Egalitarianism (1990).

As an active voice, Patnaik has time and again has spoken about many issues. After the arrest of the five activists in an interview, he said “In the time of the Emergency, there were arrests, but no lynch mobs… Now, we see both arrests by the State, as well as lynch mobs. This is worse than Emergency.”

The 60-year-old youngest petitioner- Satish Deshpande

Currently, a teacher at the Delhi University, Satish Deshpande is the youngest petitioner who has questioned the Pune police. The well-known sociologist, Deshpande is the winner of the Malcolm Adiseshiah Award for distinguished contributions to development studies. He has done an extensive study on Dalits and has highlighted their absence in academia.

He has been the member for various Government of India’s expert committee on the proposed Equal Opportunity Commission. He has also been a guest lecturer at the University of Chicago and the EHESS, Paris.

A former student of JNU, Deshpande has also been a member of committees for publishing school textbooks.

Activist, Author, Lawyer- Maja Daruwala

For almost 20 years, Maja Daruwala has headed the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, where she focused on prison and police reforms. The author of Conditions of Detention in the Prisons of Karnataka, The Missing Guards, is a lawyer by training. Apart from India, she has worked in England, Singapore and Sri Lanka.

She is also the board member of several charitable boards, including the International Women’s Health Coalition, NAMATI, International Record Management Trust and Public Affairs Centre, Bangalore. She has also received Nani Palkiwala Award for protection and preservation of civil liberties in India.

Also Read: Activists In House Arrest: Before BJP, Congress Did The Same To Curb Dissent

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