He is a lawyer, poet, priest, educationist, social worker, activist, leading artist, eminent intellectual. Most are old. Sixteen men and women known for their commitment to oppressed communities and lower castes were arrested in India between 2018 and 2020 under a draconian law on the Prevention of Illegal Activities. Thrown behind bars without trial, they have since been languishing in two overcrowded jails near Bombay, with no prospect of their case being probed by the courts.
The eldest, Stan Swami, an Indian Jesuit priest, has dedicated his life to protecting indigenous tribal communities, the Adivasis. Suffering from Parkinson’s disease, he died behind bars on July 5, 2021, at the age of 84, despite several requests for release on medical grounds. Since his disappearance, which caused great emotion, four detainees in poor health have been granted bail.
Indian authorities charge them all with links to a banned Maoist armed group, plotting to overthrow the government of Narendra Modi and even planning the assassination of the Indian prime minister – crimes punishable by life imprisonment.
The facts of the sixteen activists who have been charged took place in 2018, on the occasion of the bicentenary of a legendary Dalit-led battle at Bhima-Koregaon. In 1818, this modest village in the district of Pune (Maharashtra state) was the scene of an epic clash between a small battalion of the East India Company’s British army, composed mainly of Dalit soldiers, formerly known as “untouchables” Was. The lowest caste in India, and the army of a Brahmin kingdom, was made up of Peshwas, who were representatives of the upper castes. The battle brought an end to the Marathi kingdom which then dominated the region.
each year, 1er In January, Dalits from across the country flock to Bhima-Koregaon to celebrate the event, considered the first victory of the oppressed against the upper castes. Until then the festivities had gone off without a hitch, but 1er In January 2018, violent clashes broke out when Dalits opposed a mob of Hindu extremists, armed with saffron flags in large numbers, and chanting religious and political slogans. One person was found dead. A complaint was then filed against two members of the Hindu nationalist galaxy and the ruling party, who were suspected of perpetrating the anti-Dalit violence. He was never arrested.
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