India needs a Battle for Love, a Satya Shodhak Resistance against RSS: Arundhati Roy

The battle of Love against Hate. A battle for Love. It must be militantly waged and beautifully won.

Arundhati Roy

The second Elgar Parishad on Saturday –since the momentous one held on December 31, 2017, was organised in Pune on January 30 as a tribute to the 16 arrested activists as well as a reiteration of their anti-caste, anti-Hindutva ideologies. The date of the event marked the death anniversary of Gandhi and the birthday of Rohith Vemula, a Dalit student of Hyderabad Central University whose suicide in 2016 triggered a national students movement against casteism in educational institutes. A keynote speaker at the event was internationally acclaimed writer, Arundhati Roy. Other speakers included former bureaucrat Kannan Gopinathan, Justice BG Kolse-Patil, student leaders Sharjeel Usmani and Ayesha Renna, and journalist Prashant Kanojia.

Roy came down heavily on the repressive atmosphere prevalent in India today. “In our country laws are selectively applied depending on your class, caste, ethnicity, religion, gender and political beliefs,” she said. “So, while poets and priests, students, activists, teachers and lawyers are in prison, mass murderers, serial killers, daylight lynch mobs, disreputable judges and venomous TV anchors are handsomely rewarded and can aspire for high office. The highest, even.”

Focussing on the “Bhima Koregaon-16” – the arrested activists – she said, “Nobody, not even their captors probably believe that they have committed the hackneyed crimes they are being accused of – planning the assassination of the prime minister, or plotting murder. Everybody knows they are in jail for their intellectual clarity and moral courage – both of which are viewed by this regime as a significant threat.”

In this  detailed address, Roy came out in support of farmers, decried the majoritarian proto fascist regime in power in Delhi since 2014, spoke against both the anti-constitutional Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 and proposed NRC-NPR Regime while also strongly criticizing the ‘Love Jehad Laws’ passed by Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

Speaking of how “dozens of young Muslim men are in jail, Roy said “So now, in addition to being lynched for beef they haven’t eaten, cows they haven’t killed, crimes they haven’t committed (although for Muslims being murdered is increasingly being viewed as a criminal act), in addition to being jailed for jokes they haven’t made (as the case of the young comedian Munawer Faruqui), Muslims can now be jailed for committing the crime of falling in love and getting married. In our reading of this Ordinance I will leave aside some basic questions, such as how do you define “religion”? Would someone who persuaded a person of Faith to become an Atheist become liable for prosecution?”

“The 2020 UP ordinance provides “for prohibition of unlawful conversion from one religion to another by misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage…” The definition of Allurement includes gifts, gratification, free education in reputed schools, or the promise of a better lifestyle. (Which roughly describes the transactions involved in almost every arranged marriage in India.)

“The Accused (the person who has caused the conversion to take place) faces a jail sentence of between one and five years. The Accusers can be any family member including a distant relative. The burden of proof rests on the Accused.  The “victim” may be granted a 500,000 rupee compensation by the Court payable by the Accused. You can imagine the infinite possibilities of extortion and blackmail that this sets up. 

“Now for the best part: if the converted person is a minor, a woman, or belongs to a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe the punishment to the “Religion Convertor” is doubled—ie: two to ten years. In other words, this Ordinance accords women, Dalits and Adivasis the same status as minors. It infantilizes us: we are not considered to be adults responsible for our own actions. In the eyes of the UP Government, only the privileged-caste Hindu male has full agency. It’s the same spirit in which the Chief Justice of India asked why women, (who are in more ways than one the backbone of Indian agriculture), were being “kept” at the Farmers’ protests. And the Government of Madhya Pradesh proposed that working women who don’t live with their families be registered at police stations and tracked by the police for their own safety.

“If Mother Teresa were alive, under this Ordinance she’d be serving a jail sentence for sure. My guess is ten years and a lifetime of debt given how many people she converted to Christianity. This could become the fate of every Christian Priest working among the poor in India.

Recalling Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s words before his mass conversion in October 1956, Roy while quoting his words said Ambedkar and Phule would also be liable to be prosecuted. Ambedkar’s words:

“Because we have the misfortune of calling ourselves Hindus we are treated thus.  If we were members of another Faith, none would dare treat us such. Choose any religion which gives you equality of status and treatment. We shall repair our mistake now.”

Read her full speech here.

In 2017, a day before the Elgar Parishad held in Pune, lakhs of Dalits from across India gathered at the village of Koregaon Bhima to commemorate the 200th anniversary of a battle in which a Dalit contingent of the British army defeated the region’s Peshwa Brahmins. To mark the occasion, speakers at the Elgar event highlighted the rise of “new Peshwas” in the form of right-wing Hindutva forces across the country.

Since June 2018, 16 activists and intellectuals have been arrested and denied bail for allegedly provoking the Bhima Koregaon violence, operating as “urban Naxals” with Maoist connections and carrying out “anti-national” activities. They include educators Anand Teltumbde, Shoma Sen and Hany Babu, Adivasi rights activist Stan Swamy, poets Sudhir Dhawale and Varavara Rao, lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj and activists Gautam Navlakha, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves.

The authorities claim they were associated with organising the first Elgar Parishad, though most of them have denied this. Meanwhile, Hindutva leaders Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote – also accused of instigating the 2018 violence – have not been arrested.



What is the Elgar Parishad and who Oganised It?

Who is Milind Ekbote?

Hostile State Machinery Targets Dalits in Maharashtra

CJP Stands with Dalits

Jignesh Mevani and Umar Khalid file petition against FIR in Bombay HC

Saffron Conspiracy in Bhima Koregaon

What happened at Bhima Koregaon

The Battle of Bhima Koregaon



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