PUCL Bulletin, June 2002
Illegal crackdown on student activists at "Ayodhya Convention"
This was to be followed by an "Ayodhya Convention" on 11th May to explore the possibility of an amicable solution to the Ayodhya issue. The entire programme had all the necessary permissions and venue booking from the District Administration of Faizabad. But without any meaningful reason cited, the administration cancelled the permission at the last moment and withdrew all the bookings. This happened when thousands of students, youth, women activists, and cultural personalities had already converged on Faizabad. Clearly, this was a political decision taken at the highest level in the State. On 10th May when the Sadbhaawanaa Rally started, the police arrested more than a thousand processionists including AISA's National President Kavita Krishnan and RYA's General Secretary Lal Bahadur Singh.
They are still under arrest in jails of Mau and Sultanpur. Inspite of this crackdown, the organisers proceeded with the Convention scheduled for 11th May. Though the original venue was cancelled, local support helped them organise the Convention at the Faizabad Press Club. The Convention started on 11th May at the Press Club in a situation of massive police siege. The police kept on threatening to arrest the participants throughout the process. When the Convention was more or less through, the police entered the venue and snatched away the mikes in a bid to disrupt the event. But the Convention was duly concluded by passing several resolutions.
After the Convention was over, six persons were arrested arbitrarily which included Dr. Suvendhu Ghosh (Head of the Deptt. of Biophysics, Delhi University, and well known singer and cultural activist), Student leaders from JNU Radhika Menon and Inteshar Ahmad, All India Progressive Women Association leaders from UP Ajanta Lohit and Snehalata, AISA leader from Lucknow University. Dr. Suvendhu Ghosh was also assaulted by the police. They are in Faizabad jail.
The Convention condemned in strongest of terms the banning of 'Sadbhaawanaa March' and 'Shaheed Mela' organised on 10 May at Faizabad to uphold the legacy of united Hindu-Muslim resistance in the 1857 struggle for independence. The ban was politically motivated and was implemented by the Mayawati govt. at the behest of RSS-BJP-VHP-Bajarang Dal. The Convention considered the ban on this peaceful and democratic programme as a major attack on our minimum democratic rights and freedom and vowed to fight it back.
The Convention appealed to the common citizen to stand up and be counted in the effort to separate religion from politics. The Convention expressed confidence that once such communal elements as VHP-Bajarang Dal and other outfits of the Sangh Parivar are pushed out of the Ayodhya tangle, India's civil society has enough strength to sort out the issue amicably. Whether it is a court verdict or an out-of-court solution, the Convention believe that it is only a conscious and active mass movement committed to the cause of secularism which can ensure a just solution.
And in this effort it would be welcome if various sections of citizenry including such religious leaders of both communities, jurists and historians, who declare their firm commitment to the principles of separation of religion and politics, were to form a panel to explore solutions to the Ayodhya issue through mutual dialogue.
The Convention urged upon Chief Minister Mayawati not to play second fiddle to BJP and reinitiate the cases (earlier struck down on technical grounds) against L.K. Advani, M.M. Joshi, Uma Bharati, and others accused of Babri Masjid demolition.
The Convention demanded sacking of Modi government responsible for the State-sponsored ethnic or cleansing in Gujarat, trial of all the guilty leaders and police officials and resignation of Home Minister LK Advani. The Convention decided to join the Rashtriya Ektaa Abhiyaan conducted by the left and democratic forces in the country and appealed to every democratic and peace loving citizen to be a part of this struggle.
The declaration was
signed among others by Com. Dipankar Bhattacharya (General Secretary,
CPI(ML), Prof. MK Sherwani (All India Muslim Forum), Md. Salim Khan Pirzada
(Indian Muslim Political Conference), Krishnavatar Pandey (former Education
Director, UP and PUHR), Chittaranjan Singh (PUCL), Balram Yadav
(Senior Advocate, Allahabad High Court, Lucknow Bench), Onkar Nath Patel
(noted journalist), Sandip Pandey (NAPM)