Hum Dekhenge: Activists, lawyers and journalists stand in solidarity with Prashant Bhushan

Supreme Court will hear Senior Advocate on sentence on August 20, after it held him in contempt

On the eve of the day when the Supreme Court of India announces the quantum of sentence for the country’s best known senior lawyer and human rights advocate Prashant Bhushan, his friends and activists held a solidarity vigil, and reaffirmed their commitment to uphold the rights and liberties he advocates. The Supreme Court held Senior Advocate Prashant Bhushan guilty of criminal contempt in the suo moto case registered against him for two tweets posted by him about the Supreme Court and the current Chief Justice of India. The bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari will announce the sentence on August 20.

The online meeting on Wednesday evening was held Quaker style, where a group of people share brief opinions, and more importantly feelings and thoughts with each other.

“No matter what punishment is imposed on Prashant, it’s not a condolence meeting. It’s a meeting of resistance and celebrating what he’s done. He won’t bow down,” said senior lawyer Mihir Desai, aptly summing up the mood of the virtual room. He said the content of what Prashant Bhusham had said in his Tweets, had “touched a nerve amongst the judges”, apart from them not liking the language of what he said. “I think what he said is correct. And is justified. When he talks about erosion of democracy and the Supreme Court’s role in this he is not wrong,” said Desai. He added that it was important to say that what Prashant Bhushan had said “has a lot of truth in it. Democracy has been eroded in the last few years. We have to be bold enough to say he is right.”

According to activist and journalist Teesta Setalvad, Secretary Citizens for Justice and Peace, “When Judges speak what they say and what they do not say reverberates…resonates. We’ve had judges who’ve spoken and by what they have said, by the words of principle spoken, the unbridled arrogance of state power has been unsettled; the cynical and arrogant acts of those drunk with power, this arrogance, has also been checked. That was then.”   

And now, she added, the power of India’s higher judiciary is unparalleled, but with “such power must come both humility and responsibility. A humility that is able to apply this omnipresence to ensure that the ultimate  power, vested by our Preamble, in our people and their right to meet power eye to eye  and question, and this right is upheld. The Constitutional Mandate is upheld. When such power is used to instill fear or stifle voices, voices raised courageously against dishonest state actions, the prestige of such unblemished power stands diminished.” 

She also articulated another core value that bound this gathering of senior lawyers, journalists, activists together, courage. “It takes courage, a rare courage (based on great convictions) to withstand such an onslaught and courage. Prashant Bhushan has this and more in ample measure,” she said, calling Bhushan a “gently spoken giant of rare vintage.” He in his long career in public service has questioned “executive wrongs, speaking out against mass killings of the minorities,urging judicial accountability are the stuff that substantive public legends are made of,” said Setalvad, adding that “not only do we stand with Prashant Bhushan, wife Deepa, father Shanti Bhushanji and their children, we salute you. And feel ashamed for what you are being made of, by small and petty minds in powerful places, to go through today.”

Activist, politician and Prashant Bhushan’s long time associate Yogendra Yadav said, “We are witnessing the dismantling of our Republic. Nothing short of that. The Republic of India founded in 1950 is being dismantled before our eyes.” He added that Prashant Bhushan is being targeted now as a symbol who was “chosen carefully to send message: ‘If Prashant Bhushan cannot be protected who do you think you are?’”

This is a battle for much higher stakes, said Yadav, adding that in spite of all the efforts to send a message of fear it has not been successful, “Something has gone wrong in their calculations”. “The entire legal fraternity has stood up,” he said even he was surprised to see the massive solidarity that has emerged for Bhushan, from his own fraternity, as well as across society.

Senior activist and defence expert, retired Admiral Ramdas, recalled the early days of India’s independence that he had witnessed as a young man, and said he remembers the struggles of that time. “Now I see things [struggles] coming over and over. We are in the throes of this nation being completely destroyed,” said the vetran navy man comparing democracy to a structure, “If the pillars are knocked out, the building will collapse. This is what they are doing.” However, he added, “You cannot take away freedom of speech!” He hailed the gallantry of Prashant Bhushan and his family, “I am sure we will overcome it. Hum dekhenge…”

Rights activist Meera said that the National Alliance of People’s Movement (NAPM) stood in solidarity with Bhushan adding that the senior lawyer had stood up and won the ethical and political battle, “It’s up to us to speak more [now]. Many instances of SC not living up to it’s constitutional responsibility. We must continue to question with the spirit of resistance. Important to talk about judicial accountability as a people’s movement. Prashant has been talking about it for long. It’s about the people of the country holding institutions accountable.”

According to Anjali Bharadwaj, this “is an attack on free speech and expression. Not just on Prashant. It’s across the board. Attempt to stifle free speech. Attack on any form of dissent. We know Prashant is not somebody who keeps quiet on what is wrong in the country. First among dissenters. He’s being taken to task by the judiciary.” She said that Prashant Bhushan, as a whistleblower was now being attacked in this inexplicable public way, “sad this is happening in the SC.”  This “sends a chilling effect on people who look up to Prashant and draw courage. We must not give in, not give up,” she said a lot of systemic changes were needed now, a campaign of judicial reform as courts were now seen as stifling “voices of criticism. Should lawyers not even tweet?

The activists hailed Bhushan as a “source of strength for the marginalised.” “He did not fear any punishment. He stands for democratic voice. All women’s groups stand with him. We salute him,” said activist Hasina Khan, adding that there was a conspiracy against the senior lawyer because he raised issues. “He is above any punishment he may get tomorrow. He will not be affected. Nor will his supporters,” she said in salutation. According to advocate VP Sarathi it is the “Supreme Court of India stands convicted in the court of the people,” in this case. 

However, Shabnam Hashmi was firm that what was happening was not a surprise, “We have seen the dismantling of the Republic over the years. It feels like Germany. This government has infiltrated every space,” she said, “but we realise they are afraid of us, our diversity. They can’t finish us. In Delhi, she said many activists were called for questioning by the National Investigation Agency and the Special Cell of Delhi Police, and have not spoken about it. “Prashant is not such a voice. We have to stand with Prashant,” she said adding that perhaps the time has come for exploring the possibility of creating a new political front, “Prashant can now be a prime ministerial candidate!”

He shared that Hum Dekhenge, a nationwide virtual solidarity campaign will be live on social media, and will update information from 10:30 A.M on August 20, as the Supreme Court sentences Prashant Bhushan, “the nation stands with him and for Freedom of Conscience.” 



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Citizens for Democracy urges SC to reconsider decision on Prashant Bhushan
Prashant Bhushan is an undeclared conscience keeper of the highest court: Odisha activists
SC holds Prashant Bhushan guilty of contempt; next hearing to decide sentence
Virtual collapse of rule of law on the street: Prashant Bhushan
Prashant Bhushan contempt case: A mute hearing



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