Petition: Withdraw Sedition Charges against Dr. Rati Rao

Shri B S Yeddyurappa,
Chief Minister,
Karnataka

Sir,

We the undersigned are writing to you in the backdrop of the fact that Dr E Rati Rao, a senior scientist, long-standing activist of the women’s rights movement, Vice-President of PUCL-Karnataka and Vice President of the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) has recently been charged with sedition by the police of the state that you govern – Karnataka.

Dr. Rati Rao was Editor of an in-house PUCL-Karnataka Kannada language bulletin (called PUCL Varthapatra) for private circulation among PUCL members – and it is this bulletin (last published in 2007) that is the supposed basis for the charges of ‘sedition’.

The FIR against Dr. Rati Rao accuses her of publishing the PUCL bulletin that is “favoring naxals and Muslims and is propagating that the police are killing innocent people in the name of encounter”; that “calls upon dalits, women, minorities, farmers and adivasis to build organizations in order to fight for their rights”; that “accuses the Sangh Parivar in Karavali (coastal Karnataka) of indulging in false propaganda and fueling communal disharmony” and “calls upon the secular forces to raise their voice against such spread of communal hate”; and “by raising such issues incite and spread intolerance, disbelief, discontent amongst the public”; that “in the name of doing good to the dalits, women, minorities, & adivasis the said bulletin is spreading false information against the casteist & communal Government…It is propagating intolerance, disbelief, and discontent amongst the Government officials.”

The sections under which Dr. Rati Rao has been booked are Section 124 A (Sedition), Section 505 (False statement, rumour, etc., circulated with intent to cause mutiny or cause communal discord) and sections of the Press Act that relate to knowingly spreading false information. The PUCL Bulletin in question had discussed the attacks on the Christian community in Karnataka and had indicted the Government for failing to do enough to protect the minority community from attack.

Going by the FIR against Dr. Rati Rao, are we, the citizens of India, to believe that in the eyes of the BJP-ruled Karnataka today, it is ‘sedition’ to avail the basic democratic right (and duty) of resisting communal hate campaigns and extra-judicial killings by the police; of asserting secularism; of encouraging dalits, women, minorities, farmers and adivasis to organize for their rights; and of asking why the Government is failing to prevent attacks on minorities and dalits?! Is it because the Karnataka Government itself is colluding in the attacks on women, dalits, minorities and human rights that it feels so threatened by democratic activists who take up such issues? Is the Government of Karnataka out to muzzle every voice of democracy and dissent?

We find it ironic that while the Karnataka police does not book the Sangh outfits for spreading rumours galore of ‘love jehad’ and ‘forced conversion’ etc to target Muslims and Christians, nor for violating the Constitution by indulging in communal violence – people like Dr. Rati Rao who have devoted their lives to defending constitutional liberties are accused of sedition and activists seeking to bring facts to light are booked for ‘spreading rumour’!

Dr Rati Rao is a scientist and researcher specializing in food microbiology, and retired as the Deputy Director of the CFTRI (Central Food Technological Research Institute). She has a history of several decades of democratic activism – first in the student movement, then in the women’s movement with the Samata Progressive Women’s Forum, Mysore since 1978 and as a prominent figure in the autonomous women’s movement right since the 1980s; and long associated with the Left and progressive movement and the human rights movement, especially the PUCL.

Why was a bulletin last published in 2007 dug out now, three years later, for punitive action by the Karnataka Government? We believe it is merely a pretext to intimidate Dr. Rati Rao, who has in recent times, as National Vice President of the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) been visiting Karnataka villages to organize rural poor women to fight for their rights, who was recently part of a fact-finding to expose the atrocities against Dalits in Chitradurga district of Karnataka, and who recently participated in a National Convention against Sexual violence and State Repression in Raipur, Chhattisgarh.

To us it is clear that the charge against Dr. Rati Rao is part of a calculated campaign of harassment of civil liberties and democratic activists and crackdown on dissent that has marked the BJP regime in Karnataka and the ‘Operation Greenhunt’ of the central government.

We the undersigned condemn the trumped up charges against a respected member of the democratic rights and women’s movement and demand your immediate intervention to ensure that the charges be immediately withdrawn.

PLEASE SIGN

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