Only people who agitate are alive, says Adivasi activist

Activists from various fields talk about what it means to protest, and why it’s necessary now

Updated - December 21, 2019 09:22 am IST

Published - December 21, 2019 01:05 am IST - Mumbai

Speaking up:  Adivasi activist Prakash Bhoir, who has been one of the faces of the Aarey agitation, at a public meeting in Mumbai on Friday.

Speaking up: Adivasi activist Prakash Bhoir, who has been one of the faces of the Aarey agitation, at a public meeting in Mumbai on Friday.

" Aaj na udyala maraycha, tar kashala mag saraycha (We are going to die today or tomorrow, so why should we step back?). Adivasi activist Prakash Bhoir sang the verse at a public meeting on Friday, organised by Mumbai Rises To Save Democracy, a coalition of over 40 organisations engaged in issues pertaining to human rights and civil liberties.

Mr. Bhoir, who has been one of the faces of the Aarey agitation, said, “Only people who are agitating are alive, the rest are dead.” Adivasi children, instead of studying, were having to agitate against fee hikes and caste discrimination across campuses, he said.

Manisha Dinde, a resident of Aarey who was arrested during the protest, spoke about her ordeal that night, highlighting how her family has lived for generations at Aarey.

Aisha Kader, general secretary of the students union of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, spoke about the participation of students across the country resisting the Citizenship Amendment Act. “History will judge us harshly if we don’t resist,” she said.

Economist Prabhat Patnaik spoke about the state of the economy and said the current government was unable to improve it and hence was changing the discourse to Hindutva. “Fascism will not leave power and is not easily displaced,” he said.

On a lighter note, he said no intelligent person would want to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he will only be replaced by Home Minister Amit Shah. Mr. Patnaik was referring to the nine activists arrested in the Bhima Koregaon conspiracy case who have spent over a year behind bars. The nine have been charged under sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act for allegedly having links to Naxal outfits and plotting to assassinate the Prime Minister. Mr. Patnaik demanded that the State government stop pursuing the cases or at least grant the activists bail.

Aloka Kujur, an activist from Jharkhand, said her State had the highest number of “urban naxals” and spoke about the unique case registered against 11 villages of the State. “In addition to having thousands of people, the first information report also has 37 motorcycles,” she said.

Ms. Kujur said there were areas in Jharkhand that would be severely affected by the CAA and hoped the elections would not bring the Bharatiya Janata Party government to power.

Journalist Arfa Khanum Sherwani said the protests against the CAA were not a one-time affair and people were in it for the long haul. “You have scared a community to such an extent that there is now nothing left to be afraid of,” she said.

The meeting ended with speakers unveiling a book titled, ‘A Quest For Freedom’ containing writings by the nine incarcerated activists. Sagar Gonsalves, the son of Vernon Gonsalves, who is one of the accused in the Bhima Koregaon case, read out excerpts from each of the nine stories.

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