P A Sebastian, founder president of International Association of People's Lawyers, says Vishnu and Vikram believe in an ideology that shuns offensive violence but accepts its defensive avatar
The founder president of International Association of People's Lawyers (IAPL), P A Sebastian, is angry at the state's attitude of branding every voice of dissent as that of a Naxalite and every protest against its authority as anti-national. The IAPL has been at the forefront in fighting cases in defence of several alleged Naxalites like Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Vishnu and Murali.
On Tuesday, the Anti-terrorism Squad (ATS) arrested its lawyer K D Rao for his alleged Naxal links. In an interview to Mumbai Mirror, Sebastian speaks of how the state machinery has now turned against IAPL for having stood for the democratic rights of Ferreira and others.
IAPL has been defending several arrested individuals who the police claim are Naxalites. The question is not whether they are Naxalites or not. The question is: do they have any democratic rights? All are equal before law. There is no special law for a Naxalite, as there is no special law for RSS. Similarly, law does not differentiate between Vikram, Vishnu or Sonia Gandhi. You can't arrest someone just because they belong to a particular group or party. You can't arbitrarily arrest people and torture them for their ideological leanings.
Are you saying that Vishnu, Vikram, Murali and Ferreira are not Naxalites. Anyone who raises a voice of dissent against the state, anyone who fights for the rights of the poor and deprived in this country is branded as a Naxalite. They are arrested and tortured to send a signal to the people to deter them from questioning state's authority and reveal its failures.
Over 83 per cent of people in India earn less than Rs 20 a day. Tribals, who have been living in the jungles since time immemorial, have been branded as encroachers as jungles are state property. Forest officials and police harass them. There is an explosive situation in the country and the Indian state is sitting on powder keg. Vikram, Vishnu, Rao and others have been fighting for the rights of these people and so the state wants to terrorise them and anyone who raises a voice of dissent. And to fight this dissent, this term called "Naxalite" has been invented. They are political workers, not Naxalites.
K D Rao has been part of IAPL for sometime and has argued in defence of Arun Ferreira. Why do you think he was picked up? If you look at the case in which he has been arrested, you will understand. The case dates back to 2001 in which a policeman was killed in the witness box while Rao was cross-questioning him. What has Rao got to do with his killing? Since then, police have not been able to arrest anyone. Suddenly after six years, they have picked up Rao. What were they doing until now? Rao was not hiding anywhere. It is all because IAPL has stood up for people like Ferreira who have fought against state oppression. The state is victimising us. They have even been keeping a watch on our movements. On Sunday night, when ATS officials raided Vikram's house in Andheri, Susan (Vikram's wife), who works with us, called me up. The inspector told Susan there was no use calling me up as I was not keeping well and had just come out from Bombay Hospital. Now, this is a fact that I had not told anyone. How did ATS come to know of it?
You are calling them political workers, but how do you justify violence in this political revolution? There is difference between offensive violence and defensive violence. Vishnu and Vikram are people who believe in an ideology that shuns offensive violence but accepts defensive violence. Defensive violence is not illegal. There is nothing in the Constitution that says you can't protect yourself, even if it requires the use of a weapon to kill someone.
The state only cries "violence, violence". It never gives the context in which a particular violence has taken place. It's the state that has been using offensive violence against the oppressed.