human rights

The country needs an anti-fascist force, says activist acquitted after 40 months in jail

Sudhir Dhawale, a dalit rights activist accused of having Maoist links, was declared innocent on May 15.

On May 20, after spending three years and four months in Nagpur Central Jail for crimes he did not commit, dalit rights activist Sudhir Dhawale finally walked out as a free man.

His arrest in January 2011 had outraged social activists in Maharashtra. Dhawale is a well-known poet, political commentator and publisher of Marathi magazine Vidrohi, and had attended a dalit literary gathering in Wardha district just before he was detained by the police. He was charged with sedition and, under the controversial Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, accused of being a member of a terrorist organisation and waging war against the state. Meanwhile in Mumbai, the police barged into his modest home where his young sons were alone, gathered several books as evidence and allegedly coerced his wife to sign the list of seized articles.

Last week, after the prosecution failed to prove even a single case against him, the sessions court finally acquitted Dhawale – and eight other political prisoners – of all charges. His acquittal has come four months after Arun Ferreira, another Mumbai-based social activist who spent five years in jail for being an alleged Maoist, was cleared of all charges against him. Just two weeks before Dhawale’s release, however, GN Saibaba, a Delhi University professor, was arrested by the Maharashtra police for allegedly having links with Maoists.

Despite being forced to spend 40 months in prison without bail, Dhawale is cheerful and completely unresentful. “I have been saying for a long time that the Indian state is fascist, anti-people and has been involved in the atrocities committed against marginalised people,” Dhawale told Scroll.in in Mumbai just before a meeting with members of the organisation that he founded, the Republican Panthers Jatiya Antachi Chalwal (annihilation of caste movement). The group works across Maharashtra to organise marginalised groups and respond to hate crimes, and Dhawale has already plunged back into work.

Unsurprisingly, his biggest concern these days is India’s newly-elected Bharatiya Janata Party-led Democratic Alliance government under Narendra Modi. “As such, the BJP and Congress are two sides of the same coin, with similar ideologies that disregard the poor and the marginalised,” said Dhawale. “But the BJP – which is essentially the RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh] – is more openly fascist, so we will have to be prepared for more oppression.”

For nearly a year, the BJP has been criticising the former Congress-led government for being too soft on Naxalism, despite the fact that thousands of paramilitary troops are stationed all over central India’s Maoist-affected areas. “Usually, actual military forces are used to protect foreign borders, not fight a country’s internal wars. But who knows, the Modi government could do anything,” said Dhawale.

Most of the development that Modi has been promising, he claimed, will actually benefit multinational companies. “Most of these multinationals have their eyes set on acquiring land in central India, which is rich in natural resources but is also the place where most adivasis live,” said Dhawale.

Throughout his jail term, Dhawale had been occupied with trying to understand the nature of fascism and people’s movements. He wrote five political commentaries in prison, of which two have been published. One is about the Shiv Sena’s deceased founder Bal Thackeray. The second is on Anna Hazare and his movement against corruption. “Hazare did start a jan andolan, but it was obvious that it was a movement for the middle-classes, attempting to address only the symptoms of a corrupt system and not the system itself,” said Dhawale.

While Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal have become the face of people’s movements, Dhawale believes the focus needs to shift to the many smaller, scattered grassroots movements across the country that are already working for the marginalised. “With this new government, it is time for all these movements to come together, be vigilant and create a strong anti-fascist force.”

 
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Eleven ways Indian college life teaches you not to waste anything

College, they say, prepares you for life. Sometimes in the most unexpected ways.

Our quintessentially Indian ability to make the most of every resource has weathered us through many a storm in life. But this talent, as it were, is developed and honed to a fine art only in college. Frugality is a prominent feature of college life—more by circumstances than by choice and perhaps the most important skill we learn is nearly 100% efficiency when it comes to making the most of resources or opportunities. This “no wastage” policy is learned through many ways in college.

Academics
When it comes to studying, the art of “no wastage” is refined in college.

1. Exam papers. We’ve all been there before: you’re in the flow and trying to pen answers quickly in your answer sheet but you’re running out of space. What do you do? Fill up your existing one, of course. Write in tiny handwriting and occupy every bit of space without wasting the margin either. A great example of how college teaches you to waste nothing.

2. Photocopier bulk deals. In college, after you convince a kind-hearted classmate to let you copy their notes, you negotiate a bulk rate discount with the photocopier uncle and share the wealth with your classmates. It saves you time, money and the collective shame of failing together.

3. Stationery. Pencils are worn till they reach a stub. Broken rulers are used as long as you can still draw a straight line on them. Pens are borrowed and reused until their ink is sucked dry. Stationary is rarely wasted in the life of a college goer.

Food
Food occupies a special part of a college goer’s life and there is only one rule when it comes to food: don’t waste any.

4. Thalis. College kids are always hungry, and there are few options that provide better value for money than thalis. Thalis come in all sorts—the Gujarati kind on copper plates, the south Indian variety on palm leaves, or even the Punjabi “mini thali” found in restaurants all over the country. No matter what form they take, no food goes waste.

5. Shaadis. Speaking of food, you never say no to a wedding invitation when you’re in college. An invitation missed is a buffet meal wasted. The only price is to put on a half-decent looking dress or a pant and shirt that have been pressed. Then enter the hall, say your hi-hellos, and onto the food. No opportunity to attend shaadis is wasted during college, and rightly so.

6. 50p toffees. Those were heady times when things had the decency to cost nine rupees fifty paise instead of a full ten. The remaining 50 paise left over as change would not go waste either, and would return more often than not in the form of a chewy toffee or mint.

7. One-by-two coffee. Because coffee shared is friendship enhanced. In college, a full cup of canteen coffee was always cheaper than two half cups, and nearly impossible to finish owing to its milky sweetness. Converting it into a one-by-two courtesy an extra white styrofoam cup ensured that neither the extra coffee went to waste, nor a chance to make a friend happy.

Travel
Space is to be shared, not hogged. Every seat in college be it on the bench or a bike or a rickshaw would be occupied till its last inch.

8. Triple seat scooter rides. College-goers of a certain vintage remember that scooters were made to accommodate more people than cars. One person riding, another in the back, and at least one if not two people sandwiched between them. While this ensures no wastage of space, it’s not to be tried by the faint-hearted.

9. Share autos. The cheapest way to travel, of course. Share autos are a lifeline for college goers. Load up your friends in an auto, share the fare, and end up with more money in your wallet.

10. RAC tickets. Among the great innovations of the Indian Railways is the RAC or Reservation Against Cancellation ticket, which ensures that travelers can travel on the train even if they do not get a full berth to themselves. More often than not, two travelers split a seat. A boon to college students who don’t mind roughing it a little to get to their destination on time.

Freebies
College teaches you many things. The ability to not waste freebies is prominent on the list.

11. Buy one, get one free. The five little words that every college student wants to hear. Be it movie tickets, rock concert tickets, clothes, books or meals, a “one-on-one free” offer would always be utilized even if you didn’t need what the offer was selling. An unwritten if long-standing rule in college.

The fine art of “no wastage” is learned painstaking through college. But it’s good to know that you can enjoy “no wastage” after you’ve left too. Airtel’s MyPlan ensures that customers make the most of their mobile expenditure and waste nothing. Airtel’s MyPlan allows you to pick data, local, SMS, STD and roaming according to your needs. You also have the flexibility of changing your plan whenever you want and can optimize your phone bills to save up to 30%. Not just that, under the plan, you can also share the benefits with their family. For more information, see here.

This article was produced on behalf of Airtel by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.

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