Rights activists, civil society groups, mass organisations, tribal organisations and members of trade unions today vowed to continue their struggle to demand the abrogation of the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), sedition law, and unconditional release of political prisoners.
The activists organised a protest programme and held a candlelight vigil in memory of Father Stanislaus Lourduswamy near the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Siliguri today. The protest was part of a national campaign (9 August-28 August) to protest against the ‘institutional murder’ of Fr Stan, and to protect the freedom of expression and right to protest.
The 84-year-old ailing Jesuit priest and tribal rights activist from Ranchi died in custody in Mumbai, while waiting for bail nine months after the National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested him in the Bhima-Koregaon-Elgaar Parishad case.
“It is the day (28 August) when five people in the Bhima Koregaon (Elgaar Parishad) case was arrested three years ago. Later, charged with conspiring to assassinate the Prime Minister, 16 progressive minds that included noted rights activists, academicians, advocates, including Fr Stan, were arrested under the UAPA. The octogenarian, ailing Fr Stan, died almost without treatment. We believe it was a state-sponsored murder.
Our demands are to repeal the draconian, repressive legislation such as the anti-terror law UAPA, the sedition law, the release of all political prisoners, fixing accountability on law-enforcement and investigative agencies
for filing false cases, to protect the constitutional right of detainees to bail, compensation for victims of false cases and police atrocities” said the convener of the Fasybad Birodhi Nagarik Mancha, Ajit Kumar Roy.
Mr Roy said today’s programme marked the beginning of their continuous struggle. “We will continue to uphold the relentless campaign to press for our demands. The Centre is using such laws to spread fear and muzzle dissent,” he
said. A member of the United Forum for Adivasi Rights, Cornelius Hansda, said they were seeking justice for Fr Stan.
“Fr Stan had given his entire life to ensure the rights of the marginalized people, and he had been never silent for the rights of the poor people. But he had been arrested under false charges and he died in an inhuman, insensitive manner. We will carry forward his movement for social justice,” said Mr Hansda.
According to theatre activist Partha Chowdhury, their focus was to build public opinion for future movements. “The country has been facing unprecedented rightwing onslaught in all the sectors, and in view of the saffron camp’s efforts to transform it to Hindu Rashtra, efforts are made to curb individual’s freedom, liberties. That is why we have pressed for relentless struggle and for this the active participation of people is very important,” he said.
A Left academic, Abhijit Majumder, said that when Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee had protested against the death of Fr Stan and sought the release of all activists arrested in the Elgaar Parishad case, more than 75 persons, including social activists are languishing in prisons under the same Act in false cases in the state. “The state government should stop framing individuals under provisions of the UAPA,” he said