Intellectuals, civil society come out in support of Kanwal Bharti

Dalit scholar Kanwal Bharti on Sunday described his recent arrest by the Uttar Pradesh Police for a Facebook post taking on the Samajwadi Party (SP) as a move aimed at encouraging anti-social elements.

Mr. Bharti came down heavily on Uttar Pradesh Minister Azam Khan, calling him “communal in the garb of a socialist”.

The post had criticised the U.P. Government, led by the SP, for suspending IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal and its policy on reservations. It said that senior SP leaders such as Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Shivpal Singh Yadav and Azam Khan were blind to the fact that the public did not consider them fit for democracy. This led to the registration of a case against Mr. Bharti at his hometown, Rampur, based on a complaint purportedly made by Mr. Khan’s media in-charge.

At a press conference held at the Press Club of India here, Mr. Bharti, who was granted bail on the same day as his arrest, said the complaint was made at Mr. Khan’s behest.

“Mr. Khan is instigating Ulemas and other Muslims in the State to run a campaign and demand that the National Security Act be slapped against me besides putting pressure on the State government to expedite actions against me. I just highlighted that demolitions, like the one for which Mr. Nagpal was suspended, had taken place in Rampur also but no action was taken against officers there as they enjoyed Mr. Khan’s patronage and backing. Perhaps this is what irked him,” Mr. Bharti said.

Recalling the day he was arrested, the scholar said he was taken to the police station in the vest and pyjama he was wearing. He claimed the police personnel who came to his house did not even give him time to change his clothes.

“I was made to wait at the police station for five hours and wasn’t even told what the charges against me were or who the complainant was. I found this out when I reached the court later in the day,” he said.

At the conference, held under the aegis of Jan Sanskriti Manch, several intellectuals and those from different spheres of society expressed their solidarity with Mr. Bharti. Citing recent examples, the speakers said regimes, of late, have become increasingly intolerant when it comes to individual freedom of expression.

Comparing Mr. Bharti’s case with that of BJP leader Varun Gandhi, who allegedly made a hate speech in U.P. a few years ago, speakers said the State government has different standards for dealing with the two cases despite the fact that Mr. Gandhi’s speech posed a threat to communal harmony.

Without naming anyone, the speakers said that on one hand “the biggest rioter in the country is being glorified” but on the other, a witch hunt is on to target those standing up for civil liberties.

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