Defend the Defenders: Human Rights Law Network

Seema-Vishwavijay Rihai Manch formally launched at Allahabad as a Broad, Open-ended Coalition

Seema and Vishvavij

Seema and Vishvavij

Allahabad, July 7. In a significant breakthrough after two and a half years of the aura of terror built here around the arrest, denial of bail and the recent sentencing to life of Seema Azad and VIshwavijay, the founding conference of the Seema-Vishwavijay Rihai Manch was successfully held yesterday evening at the historic Students’ Union Hall of the Allahabad University. The hall reverberated with staunch opposition to the devious frame-up of the activist-journalist couple by UP’s Anti-terrorist Squad under the then Mayawati Government. The June 8 judgement by Mr Sunil Kumar Singh, Additional District and Sessions Judge, considered bad in law by a number of legal experts, was described as proof of the fact that in matters concerning alleged anti-state offences, sections of the judiciary, particularly the lower rungs, were fast degenerating into mere extension of the police apparatus.

The Seema-Vishwavijay Rihai Manch, originally intended to be a people’s forum at the level of Allahabad or at the most, the state of Uttar Pradesh, at the very stage of its formation seemed poised to develop into a countrywide coalition, not without firm roots among mass organizations and democratic formations of students, peasants, workers and various sections of the intelligentsia. With the active participation of the leadership of the People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) and the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP), the event transcended the local and state boundaries.

Convened and conducted by Mr Anjani Kumar, now a Delhi-based free-lance journalist and formerly an Allahabad-based student activist with and relative of Seema and Vishwavijay, the founding conference was chaired by the PUCL National Secretary Kavita Srivastava; the UP President of the PUCL, Chittaranjan Singh; the renowned social activist and Magsayasay Award holder, Sandeep Pandey; the doyens of progressive Hindi literature Dr Rajendra Kumar and Neelabh; and the veteran trade unionist GP Mishra.

After a couple of inspiring songs by an activist of the Varanasai-based Bhagat Singh Chhatra Manch, Mr Avinash Mishra, a central figure in Allahabad’s Trade Union Co-ordination Committee set the tone of the conference by exhorting the supporters of Seema Azad and Vishwavijay to take on the challenge posed by the anti-democratic judgement by demonstrating on the streets of the city with Maoist literature. “Possessing and reading Maoist literature cannot be allowed to be considered as a crime in a democratic society,” he said, even while pointing out the fact that the incriminatory literature shown as seized from the possession of Seema and Vishwavijay was actually pointed by the police themselves.

The four central slogans of the Rihai Manch and the campaign were displayed on the banner on the stage: 1. Release Seema Azad and Vishwavijay forthwith and unconditionally; 2. Release all the prisoners incarcerated under the draconian Acts and Sections of the law; 3. Repeal the UAPA and other draconian Acts and Sections of the law; 4. Stop the ongoing state repression of people’s struggles all over.

Beginning at around 3:30 pm, the conference went on for all of 5 hours till about 8:3O pm, with a magnificent politico-literary sum up of the proceedings by Dr Rajendra Kumar. In a nutshell, he called the founding conference of the Seema-Vishwavijay Rihai Manch a signal that the silence had at last been broken in the seat of the state’s judicial apparatus. He shared the sentiment of the majority of speakers that Seema and Viswwavijay were well-known faces and popular for their exemplary work among the progressive and democratic sections of the city, if not the entire eastern part of the state. By first framing them up in a false case and then convicting them, the state machinery had unwittingly filled a vacuum in the arena of people’s struggles. The conviction of June 8 had transformed Seema Azad and Vishwavijay into the much-needed icons for the younger and the older generations of activists and would-be activists of various radical streams within the people’s movement.

Kavita Srivastava held the audience spell-bound as she began with her personal experience in crusading for the cause of Seema Azad and Vishwavijay and went on to generalize about how with a plethora of the relatively new draconian laws like the UAPA and the obsolescent sections of the IPC, such as 121, 121A and 124A and the panicky responses of the security agencies and the increasingly pliant role of the judiciary, an undeclared state of Emergency had come to prevail over the country. It was a major challenge now confronting the defenders of justice and civil and democratic rights. The fight to ensure the release of Seema Azad and Vishwavijay had become crucial for the defence of the right of political dissent.

Sandeep Pandey, while exhorting every single person in every nook and cranny of the country to mobilize under the banner of the Seema-Vishwavijay Rihaai Manch and all such fora, said the time had come to realize the dream that even school children would demonstrate with placards for the release of the activist couple.

Rona Wilson, Public Relations In-charge of the CRPP, in his narration of the experiences of working for the cause of political prisoners and the various issues and fronts of struggle that are being thrown up in this process, asserted that the release of Seema and Vishwavijay would and should be the point of common struggle for all political streams, both within and outside the jails across the country.

A structure was formed to address the tasks of the SV Rihai Manch. There would be a Presidium at the head of this coalition, comprising at present Sandeep Pandey, Neelabh and GP Mishra. As per the needs of the hour and the directives of the Presidium, a Convening Committee would shoulder the responsibility of organizing the campaign for the release of Seema Azad and Vishwavijay. The Convening Committee, a body ever-expanding by mutual consent, would have Kavita Srivastava, Rona Wilson, Mohammed Shoaib, Arundhati Dhuru, KK Pande, Chittaranjan Singh, Dr Doodhnath, SR Darapuri, Ajay Singh, Ajani Kumar,Zia ul-haque, Avinash Mishra, Shahnawaz Alam, …… The list of members to carry out the necessary tasks for the release of Seema Azad and Vishwavijay as per the directives of the leading bodies would include the following: Prashant Rahi, OD Singh, Shams Vikas, Saheblal Nishad, Ashok Kumar, Rajeev Yadav, Ritesh Rai, Dinesh Kumar, Suryanarayan Singh, Mohammed Jaid, Krishna Murari Singh, Aseem Satyadev, Sunil Maurya, Prasen, Rampyare Singh. Individuals and representatives of various friendly organizations and groups of various hues and colours would be expected to join voluntarily.

It was decided that a blog/website would be set up soon in order to facilitate interaction between the host of sites and blogs already posting stories about the issues related to the campaign. The email id: would welcome all inputs from far and near.

Among the activities to be finalized shortly by the newly instituted organizational structure are a series of seminars and demonstrations at local levels, a leaflet on the campaign, a folder showing the profile and details of the case, some more designs for posters, banners, and other forms of propaganda. Meetings of journalists, bloggers, creative writers, and conventions at the state and regional levels would be encouraged.

Celebrations on Seema Azad’s birthday August 5, a Convention in the state capital Lucknow at the end of July or beginning of August, another convention at Allahabad towards the middle of August (most likely 11th August) are some of the programs already lined up. A seminar at Press Club, Gorakhpur on Sunday 8th July from 11 am onwards would be the first among the series of programs to follow in eastern UP.

All are requested to consider this as their own task and common cause and take their own initiative and inform us of their activities, plans and suggestions at our email id or at whichever telephone no you may have access to.

Report issued by: Prashant Rahi, Mobile no: +918394875017.

Filed Under: Seema Azad

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