The news of Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami and two others getting interim bail by the Supreme Court has been all over the social media. The senior journalist and two others were arrested last week in connection to the abetment of the suicide case of architect Anvay Naik and his mother.
Amidst this cacophony, we are missing out some of the people who desperately need bail, unlike Arnab Goswami. People talking about “Emergency Days returning”, “Fascism” and “Freedom of Press”, which includes BJP leaders, are also extremely comfortable ensuring the arrest of activists, journalists and preachers. And unlike Goswami, mainstream media is only too happy to ignore their plight.
The unjustified incarceration of people like activist Sudha Bharadwaj, poet Varavara Rao, tribal rights activist Stan Swamy, DU professor GN Saibaba, journalist Kishore Chandra Wangkhem, journalist Asif Sultan, activist Safoora Zargar must be discussed, reviewed justice must be ensured. Because the law must be the same for everyone.
Sudha Bharadwaj: Activist
Sudha Bharadwaj was arrested in the infamous Bhima Koregaon/Elgar Parishad case. Even after two years with her declining health and the several serious ailments she has been suffering from during her imprisonment– heart disease, arthritis, hypertension, diabetes, depression, she has been denied bail and is being held without a trial.
The Pune police had filed a charge sheet against the 59-year old Bharadwaj in 2018 claiming that some documents recovered from her co-accused mention her activities and proved that she is an ‘active member’ of banned organisation Communist Party of India (CPI) Maoist.
Varavara Rao: Telugu Poet
In 2018, Varavara Rao was arrested for his alleged role in the Elgar Parishad case, on false charges of trying to incite violence in Bhima Koregaon. He has not been offered a fair trial in the last two years and has been imprisoned for an unjust length of time, along with other public-spirited activists, writers and advocates.
Rao, 81, had fallen ill in jail a few months ago and had reportedly not recovered. According to his family, his speech is slurred, and he is hallucinating and unable to take care of himself. He is unable to recognise is wife. Rao was also undergoing treatment at St George Hospital after testing positive for COVID-19 earlier this year.
Stan Swamy: Tribal rights activist, Jesuit priest
In the time it took Arnab Goswami to go to jail, create a national outrage and come out on bail, Stan Swamy could not get a straw and sipper issued for himself in prison. He needs a sipper as he has Parkinson’s disease and is unable to take care of himself. Octogenarian activist Swamy’s simple request was deferred by the National Investigative Agency for 20 days.
Stan Swamy, 83, was taken into custody from Ranchi in the Elgar Parishad-Bhima Koregaon case.
GN Saibaba: DU professor
Wheelchair-bound Delhi University professor G N Saibaba was sentenced to life imprisonment under various sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for aiding and abetting Naxal activities. The police in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, claimed he had links with Maoists.
With over 90% physical disability, weak health, along with co-morbidities, Saibaba had filed a bail application on medical grounds stating he was suffering from various life-threatening ailments and was prone to contracting COVID-19 after the outbreak of the disease in the jail.
Kishore Chandra Wangkhem: Journalist
Manipuri journalist Kishore Chandra Wangkhem was arrested in October this year on charges of sedition for responding to a viral social media post, made by the wife of a BJP politician. It was the second time Wangkhem had been arrested. In 2018 too, he was arrested under the National Security Act and charged with sedition for social media posts criticising the RSS, Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In 2019, the high court had annulled the charges against him, and the arrest of 39-year-old TV journalist under the stringent NSA drew worldwide criticism.
Wangkhem had been suffering from illness since March 2019 and was admitted to Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences in Imphal after his sugar level was reported very high.
Asif Sultan: Journalist
Kashmiri journalist Asif Sultan was charged under various sections of the Jammu and Kashmir State Ranbir Penal Code and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and other relevant statutes by the police in Srinagar and had been in detention for over 10 months. He was charged with harbouring militants, months after he wrote a story in a local magazine called Kashmir Narrator, where he worked as an assistant editor, about how Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani had inspired hundreds of youths into militancy.
Safoora Zargar: activist
Safoora Zargar, a 27-year-old research scholar in sociology at Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi, was arrested on April 10 this year, on charges of blocking a road and obstructing traffic. At the time of her arrest, Safoora Zargar was pregnant.
After securing bail in that case, she was re-arrested on April 13 under the draconian provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. She was implicated in a conspiracy that allegedly sparked the violence that engulfed Delhi at the end of February and placed in judicial custody.