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India: Scholars from around the world seek immediate release of Varavara Rao and other activists from Prison

Thursday 23 July 2020, by siawi3


Scholars from around the world seek immediate release of Varavara Rao and other activists from Prison

20 July 2020

Varavara Rao, poet, writer, activist and long-time speaker of truth to power has been imprisoned for two years now, along with ten other scholar-activists. They have been charged with inciting violence in Bhima Koregaon, a charge widely regarded as false, and over the past two years, the government has failed to bring the charges to court and start the trial. Conditions in the jails in which these prisoners of conscience have been kept are said to be unhealthy and the threat of spread of infection has grown. Mr Rao, who is 80 years old, has now tested positive for COVID-19 and is seriously ill with several co-morbidities. His condition suggests clear neglect of his health by the authorities. We join other international scholars in appealing for the immediate release of Varavara Rao and the other Elgar Parishad activists.

Signed by 156:

Barbara Harriss-White, FAcSS, Emeritus Professor and Fellow, Wolfson College, Oxford University, UK
Dr Hugo Gorringe, Co-Director Centre for South Asian Studies, University of Edinburgh, UK
Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor & Professor of Linguistics emeritus, MIT, USA
Jan Breman, Emeritus Professor University of Amsterdam, Honorary Fellow of the International Institute of Social History, Netherlands.
Jens Lerche, Reader in Agrarian and Labour Studies, Dept of Development Studies, SOAS, London, UK
Dr. Indrajit Roy, Senior Lecturer-Global Development Politics, Department of Politics, University of York, UK
Patricia Jeffery, Professor Emerita, University of Edinburgh, UK
Jonathan Spencer, Regius Professor of South Asian Language, Culture and Society, Edinburgh University, UK
David Mosse, Professor of Social Anthropology, SOAS, London, UK
Dr Shubranshu Mishra, Lecturer, Politics and International Relations, University of Exeter, UK
Kalathmika Natarajan, Teaching Fellow in South Asian History, University of Edinburgh, UK
Radhika Govinda, Lecturer in Sociology, University of Edinburgh, UK
Dr. Deana Heath, Reader in Indian and Colonial History, University of Liverpool, UK
Anisha Palat, PhD Student, University of Edinburgh, UK
Roger Jeffery, Professor of Sociology of South Asia, Associate Director, Edinburgh India Institute, University of Edinburgh, UK
Colin Leys, Emeritus professor, Queens University, Canada
Dr. Lotte Hoek, Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology, University of Edinburgh, UK
Dr Kanchana Ruwanpura, Reader, University of Edinburgh, Scotland
Dr Nandini Sen, Researcher, Heriot Watt University, UK
Arnab Bhattacharjee, Professor, Economics, Heriot Watt University, UK
Meena Dhanda, Professor of Philosophy & Cultural Politics, University of Wolverhampton, UK.
Dr Amogh Sharma, Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford University, UK
Sebastian Schwecke, Associate professor, Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, Kolkata and Centre for Modern Indian Studies, Gttingen University, Germany
Dr Krithika Srinivasan, Lecturer, University of Edinburgh, UK
Barbara Smith, Associate Professor in Agricultural Ecology and Public Science, Coventry University, UK
Dr Maryam Aslany, Post-doctoral Fellow, Wolfson College, Oxford, UK
Dr Alessandra Mezzadri, Senior Lecturer in Development Studies, Department of Development Studies, SOAS, London, UK
Ravi Ahuja, Professor of Modern Indian History, Centre for Modern Indian Studies, University of Gttingen, Germany
Dr Alfred Gathorne-Hardy, Lecturer in Sustainable Resource Use, University of Edinburgh, and Senior Research Fellow, Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development, University of Oxford, UK
Ben Rogaly, Professor of Human Geography, University of Sussex, UK
Dr Vasudha Chhotray, Associate Professor, School of International Development, University of East Anglia, UK
Dr Devanshi Chanchani, Global Challenges Research Fellow, Brunel University, UK
Rashmi Varma, Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literary Studies, Warwick University, UK
Susan Newman, Professor and Head of Economics, Open University
Dr. Mukulika Banerjee, Director, South Asia Centre, London School of Economics, UK
Projit Bihari Mukharji, Associate Professor, University of Pennsylvania, USA.
Alberto Toscano Co-Director of the Centre for Philosophy and Critical Theory. Goldsmiths College, London, UK
Dr Subir Sinha, Sr lecturer in Institutions and Development, SOAS, London, UK
Dr Madhumita Dutta, Assistant Professor, Geography, Ohio State University, USA
Dr Feyzi Ismail, Senior Teaching Fellow, SOAS University of London, UK,
Balmurli Natrajan, Professor, Anthropology, William Paterson University of New Jersey, USA
Suraj T. PhD student, Department of Development Studies, SOAS, London
Jonathan Pattenden, Associate Professor, Politics and Development, University of East Anglia, UK
Deepa Kurup, D Phil Student, Oxford University, UK
Lalit Vachani, Centre for Modern Indian Studies, (CeMIS), University of Gottingen, Germany
Dr Alice Clark, Principal, Clark Research Associates, El Cerrito, California, USA
Alpa Shah, Associate Professor, London School of Economics, UK
Adam Hanieh, Professor, SOAS, University of London, UK
Dr Jacob Copeman, Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology, Edinburgh University, UK
Radhika Desai, Professor, Department of Political Studies, University of Manitoba, Canada
Haroon Akram-Lodhi, Professor of Economics and International Development Studies, Trent University, Canada
Ania Loomba, Catherine Byrson Professor of English, South Asian Studies, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA
John Harriss, Professor Emeritus, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver and Adjunct Professor, Queens University, Kingston, Canada
Kalyani Monteiro Jayasankar, PhD Student, Princeton University, USA
Durgesh Solanki, PhD Student, Johns Hopkins University, USA
Dr Bashabi Fraser, Professor Emerita, Edinburgh Napier University, Edinburgh, UK
Neil Fraser, Retired Senior Lecturer in Social Policy, Edinburgh University, Edinburgh, UK.
Christopher Cramer, Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences (FAcSS),Professor of the Political Economy of Development, SOAS, University of London, UK
Gilbert Achcar, Professor, SOAS, University of London, UK
Jonathan Galton, Research assistant, SOAS, University of London, UK
Sian Hawthorne, Senior Lecturer and Subject Head, Religions and Philosophies, School of History, Religions and Philosophies, SOAS, University of London. UK
Brenna Bhandar, Reader in Law, SOAS, University of London, UK
Tim Pringle, Senior Lecturer, Department of Development Studies, SOAS, University of London, UK
Vanja Hamzi?, Senior Lecturer in Legal History and Legal Anthropology, Associate Director of Research, SOAS, University of London, UK
Andrew Newsham, Senior Lecturer in International Development, SOAS, University of London, UK
Kenneth Bo Nielsen, Associate Professor of Social Anthropology and Coordinator of the Norwegian Network for Asian Studies, University of Oslo, Norway
Michael Levien, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Johns Hopkins University, USA
Geir Heierstad, Director, Norwegian institute of urban and regional research, Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway
Pamela Price, Professor Emerita, University of Oslo, Norway
Adrija Dey Postdoctoral Research Fellow, SOAS, University of London, UK
Hashim Rashid PhD, SOAS, University of London, UK
Sara Kazmi, PhD, SOAS, University of London, UK
Shailza Sharma, PhD, University of Essex, UK
Shailaja Paik, Associate Professor, University of Cincinnati, USA
Pranav Jani, Associate Professor of English, Director of South Asian Studies Initiative, The Ohio State University, USA
Rachel Sturman, Associate Professor, Department of History & Asian Studies Program, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, USA
Ashwini Deo, Associate Professor, Linguistics, The Ohio State University, USA
Dr Shalini Grover, Research Officer, International Inequalities Institute, London School of Economics, London, UK
Ashwin Subramanian, Centre for Modern Indian Studies (CeMIS), Gttingen, Germany
Nikita Sud, Associate Professor, University of Oxford
Dr Satoshi Miyamura, Senior Lecturer, Department of Economics, SOAS, London, UK
Rochisha Narayan, Assistant Professor, University of Central Florida, USA
David Hardiman, Emeritus Professor of History, University of Warwick, UK
Dr Mayur Suresh, Lecturer, School of Law, SOAS, London, UK
Dr Eleanor Newbigin, Senior lecturer, Department of History, Religions and Philosophies, SOAS, London, UK
Malvika Gupta, DPhil candidate, International Development, Oxford University, UK
Ajantha Subramanian, Professor of Anthropology and of South Asian Studies, Harvard University, USA
Debjani Bhattacharyya, Associate Professor, Department of History, Drexel University, Philadelphiia, USA
Jonathan Parry, Emeritus Professor, LSE, UK
Jayant Lele, Professor Emeritus, Global Development Studies, Queens University, Canada
Raju Das, Professor, Department of Geography, York University, Canada
Mihika Chatterjee, Departmental Lecturer, University of Oxford, UK
Jan Toporowski, Professor of Economics and Finance, SOAS University of London, UK
Anupama Rao, History, Barnard College, Columbia University, USA
Hira Singh, Associate Professor of Sociology, York University, Canada
Sejuti Das Gupta, Assistant Professor, Michigan State University, USA
Geoff Goodwin, Departmental Lecturer in Development Studies, University of Oxford, UK
Ajay Skaria, Department of History/Institute for Global Studies, University of Minnesota, USA
Gyanendra Pandey, Professor of History, Emory University, Atlanta, USA
Professor Leslie Elliott Armijo, International Studies, Simon Fraser University, Canada
Tapas Bandopadhyay
Meenal Shrivastava, Professor, Political Economy & Global Studies, Centre for Social Sciences, Athabasca University, Canada
Radhakrishna Sanka, Ph.D. Candidate, College of Engineering, Boston University, USA
Isabelle Guerin, Senior Research Fellow, French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD), France / Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, USA
Deepak Kapur, Distinguished Professor of Computer Science. The University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, US
Roli Varma, Carl Hatch Endowed Professor, School of Public Administration, The University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, USA
Raja Swamy, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Tennessee, USA
Dr Dolores Chew, Faculty, History and Humanities, Marianopolis College, Montreal, Canada
Rochisha Narayan, Assistant Professor, University of Central Florida, USA
S. Charusheela, Professor, Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, University of Washington, Bothell, USA
Christophe Jaffrelot, Professor of Politics, KCL, London UK, and Research Director, CERI-Sciences Po/CNRS, Paris, France
Nitya Rao, Professor Gender and Development, School of International Development, University of East Anglia, UK
Ratik Asokan, Writer, The Baffler Magazine, UK
Ilan Kapoor, Professor, York University, Toronto, Canada
Gyan Prakash, Dayton-Stockton Professor of History, Princeton University, USA
Michael Nijhawan, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, York University, Canada
Sanjeev Routray, Department of Sociology, UBC, Canada
Shyam Ranganathan, Department of Philosophy,,York Center for Asian Research, York University, Toronto, Canada
Aminah Mohammad-Arif, CNRS-CEIAS research fellow, Paris, France
Sugata Ghosh, Professor of Economics, Brunel University London, UK
Nalini Iyer, Professor of English, Seattle University, USA
Himani Bannerji, Professor Emeritus and Senior Scholar, Department of Sociology, York University, Canada
Nathaniel Roberts, Dozent, University of Gttingen, Germany
Rupa Viswanath, Professor, University of Gttingen, Germany
Michael Reinsborough, Lecturer, SOAS University of London, UK
Jostein Jakobsen, Researcher, Centre for Development and the Environment, University of Oslo, Norway
Stephen Watts, Poet, London
Alf Gunvald Nilsen, Professor, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Urs Geiser, Associate Senior Researcher, Dept. of Geography, University of Zurich, Switzerland
Shreya Sinha, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Cambridge, UK
Dan Hirslund, Associate Professor, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Pallavi Roy, Lecturer, Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy, SOAS University of London, UK
Anne Waldrop, Professor in Development Studies, Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway
Joel Lee, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Williams College, USA
Sarmistha Pal, Professor of Financial Economics, University of Surrey, UK
Sheetal Chhabria, Associate Professor of History, Connecticut College, USA
Judith Heyer, Fellow Emeritus, Somerville College, Oxford University, UK
Sant iago Izquierdo-Tort, Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute of Temperate Forest Sciences, Universit du Qubec en Outaouais, Canada.
Dr Aparna Sundar, Contemporary Asian Studies, University of Toronto, Canada
David Gellner, Professor of Social Anthropology and Fellow, All Souls College, Oxford University, UK
Dr Nicolas Jaoul, CNRS /IRIS , Paris, France
Aman Bardia, Platform Cooperativism Consortium, The New School, New York, USA
Chinmoy Banerjee, Emeritus Professor of English, Simon Fraser University, Canada
Srujana Katta, Researcher, Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, UK.
Dr. Priyanka Basu Curator, The British Library, London, UK


Release Varavara Rao, 146 scholars tell Indian Govt

Well known academics from all over the world have written to the Modi Govt to release Poet Varavara Rao, a political prisoner since 2018 who is precariously ill


20 Jul 2020

A significant group of 146 academics and scholars from across the world have come together to ask the Indian government to release 80-year-old Telugu poet Varavara Rao from prison. Varavara Rao is currently in Mumbais Nanavati Hospital for neurological and urological treatment. He has also tested positive for COVID-19 when he was brought to Mumbai last week.

Rao, one of the unfortunate victims of political vendetta and a political prisoner, has been seriously unwell in prison over the last month, and his family has alleged that his medical condition was ignored and allowed to worsen by the authorities. It was following several appeals from his family, rights activists and lawyers that Rao was moved to a hospital.

Among the signatories of the statement are Naom Chomsky, Barbara Harris-White, Jan Breman, Alpa Shah, Gyanendra Pandey, Christophe Jaffrelot, Ania Loomba and others. In the past weeks, several appeals have been made for the poets release, arguing that it is unethical to keep the undertrial octogenarian in jail in the midst of a global pandemic, especially given his frail health.

Rao, who has been in jail since August 2018, is one of 11 human rights activists and lawyers who have been arrested in the Elgar Parishad case and accused of inciting violence against Dalits at Bhima Koregaon on January 1, 2018. The police also claims that they have Maoist links.

In 2018, under the BJP-ruled government in Maharashtra, the local Pune police was assigned the investigation in the case. The police had then claimed different theories and had branded arrested persons as urban Naxals. Among several theories floated by the Pune police, those arrested were also accused of plotting Prime Minister Narendra Modis assassination. This claim was made in a press conference, but strangely never investigated or made a part of the two bulky chargesheets filed in the case.

In December 2019, soon after the coalition government of the Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress took over, the case was swiftly taken away from the local police and handed over to the central agency, NIA. This was a unilateral action of the Modi 2.0 government.


Varavara Rao family demands official, and regular health updates

Withholding health updates of a person in judicial custody from his family is illegal, unconstitutional and inhuman, say Raos kin


20 Jul 2020

Journalist and poet N Venugopal is in the middle of multiple phone calls all day now. Coordinating information about his uncle the noted poet Varavara Rao, he has not had a moment of rest since he got back to Hyderabad with the family after meeting the ailing Rao briefly on July 15. We have not met him since then. Not even his wife has met him, and now the High Court has postponed the bail matter to July 23! They have asked the NIA to let them know if the family can meet him. This after taking note of the grave health status!!!! What a great democracy! What a perfect rule of law! What a noble sense of humanity!!, he told SabrangIndia in a brief phone call, and also posted this statement on his social media wall.

N Venugopal has been articulating, and sharing with the media, that Varavara Raos family has asked for transparent, official, and regular health updates, about the 79 year old poet who now suffers from Covid-19. All the information they have had so far is from the media. On Monday they came to know that Varavara Rao had also suffered a head injury, by the time he was brought to Nanavati Hospital, his family was not informed at all about any update officially. Raos family has stated that: Not sharing health updates of a person in judicial custody with his family is illegal, unconstitutional and inhuman.

When Rao was shifted from Taloja Jail to JJ Hospital, then to St George Hospital and eventually to Nanavati Hospital the course of the past one week, his family got official information only when he tested Covid positive. All the other information is known to the family through secondary sources. When he was moved to St George and family came to know about it and tried to get confirmation, jail authorities gave confirmation only. The information of shifting him to Nanavati Hospital and worrying news of health status and deterioration for the last two days, including Nanavati finding a head injury, was known to family through friends in media and civil society only, stated the family who now has the additional burden of sifting out rumours and half truths that are also being scirculating in . In the absence of official information.

Todays news that he suffered a head injury whether in JJ Hospital or St George, but discovered on arrival at Nanavati, made us highly perturbed and worried about his safety and well-being. It is the familys right to get official transparent updates on his health status, line of treatment and probable risks, but the concerned prison, police and health administrations in a gross dereliction of their duties have not come out to family with the much needed information. This is not only a gross violation of the familys right to information, but also a grave misconduct on the part of the state government institutions, stated Raos wife and daughters in their message, posted on social media by Venugopal.

Varavara Raos wife P Hemalatha and daughters P Sahaja, P Anala, P Pavana have made the following demands:

1. To allow a family member to assist/attend since he is reportedly not in a position to do anything on his own.

2. To immediately direct the hospital administration or prison administration to provide transparent, official updates on Varavara Raos health status and line of treatment on a regular basis once or twice in a day as long as he is in hospital.

3. To provide the family a contact in the hospital to seek and get the information.

4. To make all his medical records accessible to the family.

5. To remove hurdles and enable the judicial process to grant regular bail or interim bail on health, age and Covid grounds so that his family will take care of his health in a hospital of their choice.

Meanwhile, many more voices have been rising to demand the immediate release of Prof. Varavara Rao and other rights activists currently in jain, even as Covid-19 pandemic continues to spread.

The most recent was a mass protest in Punjab called for by the Association For Democratic Rights on Sunday. Protests were held across the state including,Nawan-Shehr, Sangrur, Moga, Barnala, Patiala, Bathinda, Jalandhar, Mansa, Muktsar, Hoshiarpur, Gurdaspur, Ludhiana, and even Sirsa (Haryana). The activists protested against the conspiracy of RSS-BJP Govt to cause a slow and latently creeping death of the eminent pro-people intellectuals by incarcerating them in jails. The AFDR activists were joined by representatives of other organizations such as, Rationalist Society Punjab, Pargatisheel Lekhak Manch (Haryana), Punjab Students Union, Naujawan Bharat Sabha, Inqlabi Kender Punjab, Lok Sangram Morcha, PLS Manch,Bhartiya Kisan Union (Dakaunda), Varg Chetna, Pendu Mazdoor Union (Mashal), Punjab Radical Students Union,Krantikari Pendu Mazdoor Union, BKU (Krantikari), Democratic Teachers Front, DMF (Democratic Employees Federation), Technical and Mechanical Union, Inqlabi Mazdoor Kendar, Punjabi Sahitya Sabha, and others.

They that Raos bail has been rejected five times already and Refusing the bail to Professor Anand Teltumbde, Guatam Navlakha, Advocate Surender Gadling, Advocate Sudha Bhardwaj,Professor Vernon Gonsalves, Advocate Arun Fareira and Professor G.N Saibaba, who is 90 % handicapped, and Anti-CAA women protestors and many other activists shows that the Government wants to physically eliminate such people who question its policies by keeping them in Corona infected jails.

They added that: If any physical harm happens to Professor Varvara Rao or any other Intellectual or political activists the central BJP government, National Investigation Agency and Judges, who time and again are declining them bails, would be solely responsible for such loss, and demanded that all intellectuals and activists must be released immediately, false cases dropped and draconian laws such as UAPA be repealed.